UPDATE: The Gunnison Tunnel will be closed Friday, October 30, 2020.
The Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association was developed in 1902 to organize a plan to divert the Gunnison River into the valley. The UVWUA quickly ran out of funds. However, the Federal Government was also interested in getting water into the valley and provided the funds. In 1903, the Uncompahgre Project was the first major project approved by the Secretary of the Interior under the Reclamation Act.
The diversion dam in the Gunnison River allows the water to flow into the Uncompahgre Valley through the Gunnison Tunnel. Drilling the tunnel began in 1904 and was completed in 1909. The tunnel is 5.8 miles long from the East Portal in the Black Canyon to the West Portal where the canal emerges into the valley.
The irrigation water had an immediate positive impact on agriculture in the valley. The land became more productive allowing an increase in the yield of commodities.
This is a United States Government Project, but in 1927, the Bureau of Reclamation turned the tunnel and irrigation system over to the UVWUA as operating agents under a repayment contract.
In 1948, the Bureau opened more land for irrigation and reclassified some of the land already in the project. The employees of the Bureau mapped out these changes and classifications. At that time the UVWUA entered into a new contract with the Bureau.
We are still using these excellent maps from 1948 and operating under the 1948 contract to deliver irrigation water.