Settling pond breaks ground, expands water security

Southern Ute employees, directors and council members break ground on the new Southern Ute settling pond on Wednesday, Sept. 11.
Southern Ute Vice Chairman, Cheryl Frost listens as Southern Ute Growth Fund Executive Director, Shane Seibel shares opening remarks about the groundbreaking ceremony at the Southern Ute settling pond on Wednesday, Sept. 11.
Southern Ute Councilman, Bruce Valdez shares his enthusiasm of the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a new Southern Ute settling pond. The ceremony was open to all Southern Ute tribal members and elders on Wednesday, Sept. 11.
Southern Ute Tribal Council, Utilities Division and Growth Fund employees stand together for a photo before breaking ground on the new Southern Ute settling pond on Wednesday, Sept. 11.
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum

The Southern Ute Tribal Council, Utilities Division, Growth Fund and tribal membership were all in attendance for the raw water settling pond’s groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday, Sept. 11. The ceremony was held to bless and showcase the location of the settling pond which will be built just north of Ignacio.

In the opening remarks of the ceremony, all Tribal Council members stressed the importance of water. “We hold water very sacred to us [Utes]—it is the essence of life nothing can survive without it,” Tribal Council Treasurer, Lorelei Cloud expressed.

The new settling pond will allow for a 20-day storage of raw water that will be accessible by the Tribe and community during emergencies as opposed to the one day of water storage that the current reservoir can provide.

Construction for the pond will begin on Monday, Sept. 16 by JITA Contracting Inc. and F&M Construction. Respecting local eagle habitats near the location, heavy construction times will operate until November 2019. From November 2019 until March 2020 crews will be working to install pipeline which will connect the pond to the water treatment plant. The Southern Ute Utilities Division expects the pond to be operational by April of 2020.

The settling storage used now, was built in the late 80’s and its last system upgrade was in 2010, when a new plastic raw water line replaced the old concrete one, that piping now runs between the existing water pond and the Southern Ute Utilities Water Plant.

The Utilities Division currently provides all water and sewage treatments to the local tribal members, tribal buildings and to the Town of Ignacio.

“This has been a project that has been going off and on for the past eight years,” stated Southern Ute Growth Fund Operations Manager, Madelenia Chavarillo. Due to changes in leadership, funding, lack of support and environmental restrictions the pond has always been a project left unfinished — until now.

Tribal Council greenlighted the pond project in April the Utilities Division then secured a grant from Indian Health Services (IHS) for $900,00. The Tribe will be the primary funder, as the cost of the pond has been estimated to be $3 million upon completion. This project is independent, it is not related to the recent utility rate increase.

“In my mind the construction of this pond is a sign of the times—as the West gets dryer and more prone to droughts, and populations grow, it’s essential to expand the storage capacity for the community,” said Southern Ute Utilities Manager, Hayes Briskey. During the heavy drought season last year, the pond actually ran out of safe water. Water was still running to all users, but that didn’t happen without struggle for the utilities staff.

“This [pond] will serve the community, the membership, the Casino, the Town of Ignacio and so many more,” Briskey stated. “Water is not just an important resource—it really means more to the Tribe.”





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