San Luis Valley: Groundwater sub-district #1 trial concluded

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

A couple of points in the sub-district’s operating plan, which was implemented for the first time this year, were the focus of the two-day trial this week before Judge Swift. Most of the discussion revolved around the inclusion of augmentation plan wells in the sub-district’s 2012 operating plan and the use of Closed Basin Project water in the 2012 plan…

In his closing argument on Tuesday afternoon, RGWCD Attorney David Robbins said the district acknowledged it made two errors of omission in the 2012 Annual Operating Plan (ARP): 1) list of augmentation wells; and 2) map of those wells’ locations. Robbins said the un-augmented well depletions from those wells within the sub-district were identified and replaced, however. Robbins suggested the way to handle the compliance errors this year would be for the court to enjoin the sub-district in the future to ensure it complies with the required information.

Attorney Tim Buchanan, representing surface water users who filed objections in this case, said he believed the court should go a step further. He said a message must be sent that the court decrees must be complied with. “The 2012 plan did not comply with the plan as decreed by this court and as approved by the Supreme Court,” Buchanan said. “Therefore in my view we need to fashion a remedy that does not approve the plan but directs the plan be amended to reflect the augmentation wells were not properly included, that they should have been separately identified and they should be separately accounted for.”[...]

The other contested topic in this trial was the use of Closed Basin Project water to replace well depletions to streams this year.

In his closing argument attorney Bill Paddock, representing sub-district supporters, reminded the court the judge’s October 4 order resolved the question of legal suitability of Closed Basin Project water for use in the plan of management. The question argued during the trial was a factual question regarding whether the water was an appropriate source of replacement water for injurious depletions, he said. Paddock argued the project water was appropriate to replace depletions and said the state engineer agreed.

When [State Engineer Dick Wolfe] was on the stand on Tuesday, he said he and his staff, with advice from their legal counsel, determined the sources of replacement water in the sub-district’s 2012 ARP, including the Closed Basin Project water, were suitable. Wolfe said the water court’s May 2010 decree stated this possible source of replacement water was not prohibited. He testified the sub-district’s plan of water management approved by the water court and Supreme Court specifically referenced Closed Basin Project water as a replacement water source.

More SLV groundwater coverage here and here.

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