PUEBLO COUNTY — Saturday marked a major milestone as state and national leaders celebrated the Arkansas Valley Conduit water pipeline finally becoming a reality.
It's been a long time coming.
"It was nearly 100 years ago, in the 1930s, that the residents of southeastern Colorado recognized that the water quality in the lower valley of the Arkansas River was quite poor," said Bill Long, President of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.
Back in 1962, President Kennedy visited Pueblo to sign legislation approving the construction of the pipeline.
"It was the belief and hope at the time with the signing of the legislation that the development and construction of the conduit would soon bring safe, high quality drinking water to the area," Long said.
That area is a sparsely populated area including parts of Pueblo, Crowley, Bent, Prowers, Kiowa and Otero counties---where they need the infrastructure to keep thriving.
"You can't have rural America if you don't have schools. You can't have rural America if you don't have clean water," Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), said.
Unfortunately in 1962, those counties couldn't afford it on their own.
But it's finally becoming a reality. The federal government approved $28 million, and the state of Colorado approved $100 million to get the pipeline built, with construction beginning in 2022.
"Here we are in 2020, an unusual year, to celebrate the works of those who came before us," Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) said.
It took commitment to get here.
"Lobbying congress and selling these gold pans... to finance the efforts of the group who continuously traveled back and forth," Long said.
It took politicians putting aside their partisan differences.
"It's a fight I've been glad to be a part of as well as Cory Gardner, we've had a great partnership on this," Sen. Bennet said.
"...The Arkansas Valley Conduit, it's not just a pipeline... it's a conduit of leadership as well," Sen. Gardner said.
Most of all, it took a community unwilling to give up no matter how long it took.
"Those folks who came before us. Who have long passed, and whose wisdom, and dedication to community and country, and whose willingness to plan and invest for the well-being of future generations, cannot be forgotten or dismissed," Long said.