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How $500M in federal infrastructure money is being spent in Colorado

The state’s share of the 10-year, $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure act has mostly gone to water resources and scientific innovation
Nearly 1,000 feet of welded pipe lays next to the Arkanasa Valley Conduit ditch in eastern Pueblo County. Upon completion, the 130-mile long project will deliver filtered water to as many as 40 communities and 50,000 people in southeastern Colorado. (Mike Sweeney, Special to the Colorado Sun)

Colorado projects and programs have so far netted $496 million in federal infrastructure funds, with the bulk going to water resources and scientific innovation, according to data from the U.S. Department of Interior.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed in 2021, authorizes spending of $1.2 trillion over 10 years.

About $4 billion in funding has gone to the Mountain West, including the nearly half-a-billion dollars in Colorado, according to an analysis by the nonprofit Center for Western Priorities.

Nationally, $8 billion has been awarded to 1,458 projects scattered across all the states and five U.S. territories, according to the Interior Department data.

The largest Colorado award was $167 million for a new Energy and Minerals Research Center being built at the Colorado School of Mines. The U.S. Geological Survey will pay for the remaining cost of the $240 million facility.

When the center is completed it will house researchers from the school and the USGS.

In addition, $627,000 in infrastructure funds were allocated to programs aimed at reconnaissance and inventory of critical minerals.

Combined those awards accounted for nearly three-quarters of all the infrastructure law scientific innovation grants in the county, according to Interior Department data.

“This is a unique investment in Colorado in Earth mapping and critical minerals research,” Kate Groetzinger, a Center for Western Priorities spokeswoman, said.

Water projects – both restoring waterways and handling drinking and wastewater – is another heavily funded area.

Eighteen projects, totaling $248 million, are seeking to address drought, the report said, either through upgrading aging infrastructure or adding new water and irrigation projects.

The Arkansas Valley Conduit, a 130-mile pipeline to serve 40 communities east of Pueblo, has received $160 million in infrastructure funds. The $600 million project, financed through federal and local funds, broke ground in April.

An upgrade and overhaul of the water treatment plant for Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel received $56 million. The plant, operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, has been treating acid mine drainage filled with heaving metals, such as lead, zinc and iron, since 1991.

“This funding will allow us to replace aging infrastructure that is critical for continued protection of the water resources of the Arkansas River, benefiting both the river itself, as well as the people who rely on it,” Jeff Reiker, the bureau’s Eastern Colorado Area office manager, said when the grant was first announced in May.

There were 22 ecosystem restoration grants including $6.4 million for fish screens on the upper Colorado River and $88,000 for upper Colorado River habitat restoration.

Watershed restoration of the upper Animas River received a $160,000 grant, Dolores River restoration received $85,000, the San Miguel Wet Meadow restoration $210,000 and Gunnison Basin restoration program received $945,000.

There was also $435,000 in funding for hazard mitigation at Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, south of Boulder.

Arizona has received the most in infrastructure funds, $504 million for 73 projects. The largest grant was $109 million for the design and construction of a rural water system for the White Mountain Apache Tribe.

Among the eight Mountain West states – Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, Nevada, Arizona and Idaho – the infrastructure act disbursed almost $100 million for wildfire management, with Colorado receiving $13.1 million.

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