Montezuma County commissioners sanctioned a McElmo Flume grant application Monday. If approved, all of the required financing would be available to start renovating the dilapidated waterway.
Linda Towle, chairwoman of the Cortez Historic Preservation Board, told commissioners Monday, March 3, nearly $20,000 was needed to secure all of the matching funds for a $125,000 State Historical Society grant. Towle is hopeful to secure the outstanding funds from a Southwest Basin Roundtable grant.
“We won’t know if we are approved until May,” Towle told commissioners.
Now owned by Montezuma County, the ancient waterway has received pledges from multiple agencies for the renovation effort, and Towle is hopeful the work could start as early as next fall. She believes the flume is worth saving, because water infrastructure shaped Montezuma County into what it is today.
“Cortez wouldn’t be here if the water delivery system wasn’t developed in the late 1800s,” she said.
Last summer, an engineering firm conducted a structural assessment of the steel and concrete support beams of the flume. Towle said the grant funds would be utilized to reinforce the structure.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the McElmo Flume is located along Highway 160 near the Montezuma County Fairgrounds.
Towle is also working to secure a $63,000 GOCO grant to fully fund a pullout and interpretive panels project for the flume. Highway 160 is part of the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway. A $252,631 grant from the Federal Byways Program has already been secured for the pullout.
When intact, the flume resembled an elongated barrel sawed in half, about 10 feet in diameter. Curved pieces of wood, called staves, were bound together with steel hoops and sealed with creosote to stop water from leaking. Irrigation water flowing through the flume caused the wood to expand, tightening the seams.