Published on November 7, 2012 by Amy
Cochiti Lake is located within the boundaries of the Pueblo de Cochiti Reservation on the Rio Grande about fifty miles upstream from Albuquerque. Cochiti is one of the four units for flood and sediment control on the Rio Grande, operating in conjunction with Galisteo, Jemez Canyon and Abiquiu Dams.
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Cochiti Dam is one of the ten largest earthfill dams in the United States, containing more than 65,000,000 cubic yards of earth and rock. It rises 251 feet above the Rio Grande streambed and stretches out more than five miles to impound waters of the Rio Grande and the Santa Fe Rivers. Its control tower is 260 feet above the streambed, the equivalent of a 20 story building. A 474-foot bridge connects the tower to the dam’s main embankment. Originally Cochiti was authorized only for flood and sediment control. However, officials of the state of New Mexico and counties surrounding the site expressed interest in a permanent pool for fish and wildlife enhancement and other recreational purposes. Congress then modified its authorization for Cochiti Lake to include a 1,200 surface acre lake for recreation. Water for this lake is imported from the Colorado River Basin to the Rio Grande Basin via the San Juan Diversion Project across the Continental Divide. Construction of Cochiti Lake began in 1965; the main embankment was completed in 1975; and the lake opened to the public in July, 1975. In 1976, the Cochiti Recreation area on the west side of the lake was opened to the public. Another recreation area, Tetilla Peak, on the east side of the lake was opened to the public in 1983. A visitor’s center on the west side of the lake, adjacent to the operations building is available to the public. Recreational facilities include campsites, electrical hookups, picnic sites, group shelters, restrooms/showers, drinking water, dump stations, universally accessible fishing area, and boat launching ramps. The Pueblo de Cochiti operates and maintains a small marina. Cochiti Lake is an all Federal project constructed at a cost of $94.4 million. The project controls water form an 11,695 square- mile drainage area.
The Cochiti Dam and Reservoir has had and will have a long standing history with the Pueblo de Cochiti past, present, and future members. From the early interactions with the Federal Government in the early 1960′s, the objections of the Pueblo against construction, the establishment and implementation of the Condemnation Act, the construction of the Dam and Reservoir, the structure testing that led to inundation of the Pueblo’s agricultural lands, a twenty year loss of farming and way of life, the lawsuit filed by the Pueblo as a result of the inundation, the victory in the lawsuit, the establishment of a drainage system by the Corps of Engineers (COE), the longstanding up and down relationship of the Pueblo and the COE, the reconciliation activities and public apology of the COE to the Pueblo de Cochiti in 2001, and the current cooperative efforts between the pueblo and the COE to characterize the reservoir on various aspects, and to help management of the dam and reservoir for the long term.