The Dolores Project, located in the Dolores and San Juan River Basins in southwestern Colorado, develops water from the Dolores River for irrigation, municipal and industrial users, recreation, fish and wildlife, and hydroelectric power.
It also provides vital water to the Dove Creek area, central Montezuma Valley area, and to the Towaoc area on the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Reservation.
McPhee Dam and Reservoir is the principle storage feature of the Dolores Project which includes a system of canals, tunnels, and laterals to deliver water to over 61,000 acres of land. The economy of the area will benefit from increased agricultural production and strengthened service-related enterprise dependent on agriculture. The municipal and industrial water supply of 8,700 acre-feet will permit a moderate, but healthy, future growth rate for the area.
A quality catch and release trout fishery has been created below the dam with releases of water from McPhee Reservoir. When reservoir inflow is high enough during spring runoff, releases will be made for white-water rafters. Today, the reservoir and boat ramps, campgrounds, roads and other constructed facilities have created recreational opportunities for the enjoyment of the public.
- House Creek Recreation Area – east side of McPhee Reservoir
- McPhee Recreation Complex – west side of McPhee Reservoir
- Four fishing access sites around McPhee
- Three recreation facilities between McPhee Dam and Bradfield Bridge, all of the above are administered by the U.S. Forest Service
- Four recreation facilities along the Dolores River that are administered by the Bureau of Land management which include boat launching facilities for whitewater rafting.
History of the Dolores Project
During the summer of 1776, the Spanish Fathers Dominges and Escalante, envisioned the Dolores Project as they camped on the spot that is now known as the Escalante ruin. In the mid 1880’s, private developers constructed both the tunnel and the great cut diversions to bring water from the Dolores River basin into the Montezuma Valley. By 1920, the private ditch companies were broke and their systems were in disrepair. Montezuma Valley irrigation Company was formed in 1920 to consolidate several systems, rehabilitate them and continue to operate and maintain them. All went well, except there never was enough late season water. Cortez Bootstraps, following the advice of Congressman Wayne Aspinall formed the Dolores Water Conservancy District in November of 1961. The District was successful in obtaining authorization of the Dolores Project in 1968. Local voters, by a 94% margin, approved the concept of the project and accepted up to $26 million repayment obligation to the United States. After President Carter delayed construction in 1978, due to settlement of Indian water rights and influence of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, construction of McPhee Dam began in 1980. By 1986 irrigators in Montezuma Valley, the Ute Tribe and Dolores Project farmers finally had a long term, dependable supply of water.
Board of Directors Meetings
For dates and an agenda of the Dolores Water Conservancy District Board of Directors Meetings, please follow this link.
Lake Elevation and Active Capacity