From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):
[Attorney Tim] Buchanan updated SOS on where the appeal [of the management plan for the Rio Grande Water Conservation District's first groundwater management subdistrict] stands before the Colorado Supreme Court. Testimony in this case was submitted to the Supreme Court three weeks ago. Briefs from both sides will now be filed, and oral arguments will be scheduled before the seven-member Supreme Court, Buchanan explained. He anticipated those oral arguments to be heard in the time frame from February to April. Each side will only have half an hour to present its case, but the judges will have an opportunity to ask questions afterward.
Buchanan said the Supreme Court’s options include: upholding Kuenhold’s decision and approving the sub-district plan; ruling that parts of Kuenhold’s decision should be changed, so the plan would be sent back to him; or ruling that the entire process was flawed so Kuenhold’s decision was incorrect, and the process would have to start over.
Buchanan reminded the group of some of the reasons SOS believes Judge Kuenhold made a mistake in approving the sub-district plan. He said one of the reasons was the provision in the plan that the state engineer would make a decision every year as to how the plan would operate.
Buchanan said Senate Bill 222 said the water court would approve a comprehensive plan regarding how water was going to be managed to prevent injuries to senior water rights. If the sub-district did not have a comprehensive plan, the water judge should not approve it, Buchanan said.
“The legislature didn’t say ‘let the state engineer approve it and if anybody complains you appeal to the judge’,” Buchanan said. “I don’t have a lot of confidence in what the state engineer might do.”[...]
Buchanan also argued against the sub-district taking Closed Basin Project water as credit for depletions. “The Closed Basin Project is just another group of wells pumping from the aquifer,” Buchanan said. “That just shifts the burden. It doesn’t put new water into the system.” Buchanan also questioned the sub-district’s figure of 8,000 acre feet as the amount the sub-district must replace back to the river. He indicated the amount of replacement water should be higher. Assuming the 8,000-acre-foot figure was correct, however, Buchanan said the sub-district does not have any water to replace that amount now. “They don’t have any contracts for water. They don’t have any agreements for purchasing water, nothing in place to replace the water, so how do we know they are actually going to replace those depletions?
Another issue Buchanan raised with Judge Kuenhold’s decision was “he revised the plan himself … I don’t think he has that authority.” Buchanan said he believed the most likely decision of the Supreme Court in this case would be to reject the plan and send it back with direction to Judge Kuenhold to require revisions of certain parts of it.
More Rio Grande River basin coverage here.