From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar’s upcoming resignation and the political climate in Washington could have consequences for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. “We need to double our effort at Interior to secure funding for the conduit,” lobbyist Christine Arbogast told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Thursday.
Salazar, who battled for the conduit when he served in the U.S. Senate, understood the project, which is being studied by the Bureau of Reclamation, which is part of Interior, she said. “If funding slips, the schedule slips and the costs go up,” she said.
The environmental impact study for the $500 million conduit should be complete before the end of this year. Reclamation will decide the best route for the pipeline which would supply water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo. While funding for the study has remained in place through shaky fiscal times in Washington, the funding for the conduit itself never has been guaranteed. If everything stays in place, the conduit could be built by 2022. That implies annual appropriations would be made by Congress.
“Water resources are not a priority with this Congress,” Arbogast said. “Water is a back-burner issue. It has a low profile and a low priority.”
The conduit was part of the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, but was not built because of the expense. A 2009 bill passed by Congress provided funding through excess-capacity contract revenues to repay the costs of building the conduit.