The Arkansas Valley Super Ditch files pilot rotational fallowing application with the CWCB

July 23, 2014
Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Arkansas Valley Super Ditch is planning a pilot program next year under a 2013 state law encouraging water sharing programs as an alternative to permanent dry-up of farm ground. The plan, filed with the Colorado Water Conservation Board last week, would lease up to 500 acre-feet (163 million gallons) annually from the Catlin Canal to Fowler, Fountain and Security. About 1,128 acres would be dried up on a rotational basis to deliver the water.

“What we’re trying to do is see if a lease-fallowing program is viable,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “We’re trying to keep the water in the Arkansas basin. That’s what it’s all about.”

The application is the first to be filed under HB1248, passed last year by the state Legislature, which allows the CWCB to look at 10 test projects throughout the state. The projects are supervised by the state water board, with input from the state engineer. It may finally launch Super Ditch pilot projects that have stalled because of drought and second thoughts by farmers.

The Super Ditch submitted a substitute water supply plan with the state Division of Water Resources in 2012 for a lease-fallowing pilot project with Fountain and Security that failed because there was not enough water to move. The state restrictions that were placed on the project, fueled by objections from other water users, made moving any water in that dry year futile, Winner explained.

Last year, the Super Ditch was prepared to move some High Line Canal water to Fowler, but the deal was stopped when farmers pulled out. Fowler leased 125 acre-feet of water for $25,000 from the Pueblo Board of Water Works instead.

Under the plan outlined in the application, Fowler would lease up to 250 acre-feet, while Fountain and Security would lease up to 125 acre-feet each annually.

State law provides that the plan can be operated for 10 years.

“I think we’ll try it for a year or two, just to see if lease-fallowing is feasible,” Winner said. “We have to see if we can move water to Lake Pueblo. One of the drawbacks of HB1248 is that it only allows for municipal leasing, but if this works, there’s the possibility for industrial or agricultural leases as well.”

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.


The Lower Ark District alleges misallocation of Fountain Creek funds

July 20, 2014
Fountain Creek Watershed

Fountain Creek Watershed

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A feud between two water districts over how Fountain Creek grant money is being spent deepened this week. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District Monday mailed letters to state and federal agencies claiming that the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District “illegally spent or committed” funds that were used as matching funds for grants.

Fountain Creek District Director Larry Small denied there is any wrongdoing.

“We have a record of all decisions and those making these charges were a part of the decision,” Small said. “Maybe they need their memories refreshed.”

Lower Ark board members said the money from their district and Colorado Springs Utilities, more than $450,000, is supposed to be used in the Fountain Creek corridor — defined in statute as the area in the flood plain south of Fountain and north of Pueblo.

Additionally, any money applied under Pueblo County’s 1041 permit toward Colorado Springs’ $50 million obligation for flood control must benefit Pueblo.

But grants for fire mitigation studies on Upper Fountain Creek and for trails in the Colorado Springs area have been pressed by the Fountain Creek district without proper consultation, the Lower Ark board said.

“It continues to anger me that these people in El Paso County continue to believe that the state line ends at southern El Paso County,” said Anthony Nunez, a former Pueblo County commissioner who represents Pueblo County on the Lower Ark board.

On Wednesday, he and other board members were fuming that Small had canceled a meeting in Rocky Ford to discuss the issues.

Small had notified the Lower Ark and other participants in the district by email that the July 25 meeting would be in Fountain, rather than Rocky Ford as planned at last month’s meeting.

The state statute does not allow meetings outside Fountain Creek district boundaries, which includes Pueblo and El Paso counties, Small explained.

That infuriated Nunez, who complained that the Upper Fountain grant includes Woodland Park, which is in Teller County.

Contacted after the meeting, Small said Woodland Park is paying its own way in that grant, and agreed with the Lower Ark board that no Fountain Creek district money can be spent outside its boundaries.

More Fountain Creek coverage here.


Fountain Creek: “Is there a way to balance the needs of flood control and water rights?” — Larry Small

July 11, 2014
Fountain Creek Watershed

Fountain Creek Watershed

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Overshadowing the need to look at the technical details of a study for a dam or detention ponds on Fountain Creek is how it would be funded. As of this week, the study has been battered about with all the care of an uprooted tree bobbing in the water. Other water issues may be getting snagged on it.

In May, Colorado Springs City Council stonewalled funding the study.

This week, the Arkansas Basin Roundtable couldn’t get past the issue of water rights and shrugged off consideration of a state grant for $135,000 that would have been part of a $220,000, 2-year study to look at the consequences of a dam and the feasibility of building it.

Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, was frustrated after the meeting. Small walked the roundtable through the years of studies that led up to the conclusion that the best way to protect Pueblo from stormwater runoff in Colorado Springs — much of it made worse by development in the last 40 years — is to stop the water upstream of Pueblo.

“Is there a way to balance the needs of flood control and water rights or do we just throw up our hands?” Small said at one point during the meeting. “It may not be possible, but we need to find out.”

After the meeting, he was clearly frustrated.

“This is such a small part of the overall costs,” he said, slapping his hand against a folder of supporting information for the study.

During the meeting, several roundtable members made the point that junior agricultural water rights could be harmed during a flood.

The Fountain Creek district has attempted to deal with that in the past, including a comprehensive workshop on the topic, attended by some farmers, in December 2011.

Some saw value in looking at the water rights question just to determine if the rest of the study could proceed.

“This at least gets the conversation on the table,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

In the end, the water rights question became a deal stopper.

There also are side issues that play into the question, such as a simmering feud between the Fountain Creek and Lower Ark districts about how matching money for grants has been applied under an intergovernmental agreement among the districts and Colorado Springs.

“I would encourage the IGA partners to come together soon and resolve their differences,” said Alan Hamel, the basin’s representative on the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Hamel was one of the few roundtable members who spoke in favor of the grant.

“I think this is a wakeup call for the Fountain Creek district,” Winner said. “You don’t just sit up in Fountain and pretend to rule the world. The district needs to realize it’s in the water business.”

More Fountain Creek watershed coverage here and here.


Southern Delivery System update: $359 million spent so far, >44 miles of pipe in the ground

June 23, 2014
Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation

Southern Delivery System route map — Graphic / Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Tunneling under Fountain Creek is proving more difficult than expected for the Southern Delivery System. Some pipeline near Pueblo Dam has been laid in solid rock. And the temporary irrigation system to provide water for native vegetation over the pipeline scar through Pueblo County contains 50 miles of pipe (main line and laterals) and 15,000 sprinkler heads. Those were some of the highlights of a progress report by Mark Pifher, SDS permit manager, to the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District Wednesday.

“The tunneling project was more difficult than we thought,” Pifher said. The work was being done just over the El Paso County line from the west side of Interstate 25, with a tunnel-boring machine 85 feet below ground.

Because of the difficulty, a second borer from the east side one mile away is being used.

“They had better meet in the middle,” Pifher joked.

More than 44 miles of the 50 miles of 66-inchdiameter pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs has been installed; a treatment plant and three pump stations are under construction; and a Fountain Creek improvement project has nearly been completed, he said. All of the pipeline in Pueblo County has been installed, and revegetation has begun on 323 acres that were disturbed in Pueblo West and on Walker Ranches. The irrigation system is so large that it has to run in round-the-clock cycles seven days a week, Pifher noted.

“It’s apparently the largest sprinkler system in the state,” he said.

Another 484 acres has been planted with native seed in El Paso County.

As of March, $359 million has been spent on SDS, with $209 million going to El Paso County firms, $65 million to Pueblo County companies, $900,000 to Fremont County contractors and $84 million to businesses in other parts of Colorado.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here.


Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

June 20, 2014
Orr Manufacturing Vertical Impact Sprinkler circa 1928 via the Irrigation Museum

Orr Manufacturing Vertical Impact Sprinkler circa 1928 via the Irrigation Museum

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

More than 28,000 acres of Arkansas Valley farm ground — roughly a tenth of all irrigated land — is being covered by group plans that guard against increased consumptive use from surface irrigation improvements.

The state pushed consumptive use rules for irrigation through Division 2 Water Court in 2010. The rules are meant to protect Colorado in its 1949 Arkansas River Compact with Kansas.

Rule 10 allows groups to file plans in order to save on legal, engineering and administrative costs.

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District is administering two Rule 10 plans this year.

One covers farms on the Fort Lyon, which represents 18,000 acres. About 12,000 of those acres are under sprinklers, while the remainder are flood irrigated.

The second plan covers 10,000 acres not on the Fort Lyon Canal, with two-thirds of that under sprinklers and 105 acres using drip irrigation.

“About two-thirds of the farm are in the Fort Lyon plan. The goal is eventually to have them in their own group plan that would be self-sustaining,” said the district’s engineer Jack Goble during a presentation at Wednesday’s board meeting.

This year’s Lower Ark plans cover 235 improvements on 92 farms that should require almost 1,900 acre-feet of replacement water. The amount owed is determined by a mathematical model devised by the Colorado Division of Water Resources that determines how much water would have been used before and after improvements.

“It’s a guess of what we’ll owe,” Goble said. “The model is almost like a parallel universe.”

The more water used in irrigation increases the amount owed to replace depletions in the river.

“The more water that comes through the ditch, the more is owed,” Goble said.

Goble walked the board through the complicated model, which takes irrigation flows, precipitation, seepage and runoff into account.

The Lower Ark district is in the second year of a study on pond leakage, which so far is showing that more water is escaping than accounted for in the state’s model. Data from the study in some cases has been applied to specific ponds.

More Ark Valley Consumptive Use Rules coverage here and here.


The Lower Ark and Otero County enter into IGA to form the Arkansas Valley Rural Water Authority

April 21, 2014
The water treatment process

The water treatment process

From the La Junta Tribune Democrat (Bette McFarren):

On Wednesday, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District entered into an intergovernmental agreement with Otero County for the purpose of creating the Arkansas Valley Rural Water Authority. As Bill Hancock of the LAVWCD explained, this organization has been a long time coming about and is much needed in the valley so that small water companies may deal with new regulations on drinking water.
The organization will help the companies in many ways. First, it will enable them to apply for grants and loans to maintain or replace outdated equipment. More important, they can now speak as a group. They can get together a portfolio that will enable them to connect with the conduit (to receive higher quality water from Pueblo Reservoir). Perhaps the most important point of all, said Hancock, is that they will be able to hire a full-time person to deal with the extremely complex problems involved with water distribution and getting funds for improvement.

After passing the intergovernmental agreement which makes the organization possible, the LAVWCD appointed its two members of the AVRWA board, Wayne Snyder and Jolean Rose. Snyder has been working with the three founding members of the AVRWA for months to find a way to create the organization. Rose’s husband was one of the originators of the idea of the independent water companies joining forces. These companies are Valley Water, represented by Sam Fosdick; Vroman Water, represented by Kenny Wilson; Fayette Water, represented by Alan Franz. Other companies may join the association. The Otero County Commissioners entered into the IGA on Monday at their regular meeting. They will be taking applications for their two spots on the board. The other board member will be selected by the members of the AVRWA.

Terry Dawson, standing in for Roy Vaughan for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, gave the group the good news that we may actually be having a wet year. The Pueblo Reservoir is up to average for the first time in many years. As of April 14, 195,543 acre-feet are stored in Pueblo; 129,145 a/f of project water, 35,266 a/f of excess capacity water, 127,804 a/f of Project space in Pueblo, 70,161 a/f of Project space in Twin and Turquoise.

The melting of the snowpack will start early this year, predicts the Bureau. The problem with pumping the water from Turquoise to Twin Lakes has been solved with fixing the troublesome pump. In other words, the water situation looks good for agriculture. Dawson said the wet weather will continue through the spring to early summer, followed by a dry period, then another wet period in the fall, according to best predictions. A cautionary note: weather may be predicted with any degree of accuracy for only a week at a time.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage <a href="


HB14-1026: “In theory, it sounds good [flexible markets], but there are still not enough sideboards on it” — Jay Winner #COleg

April 19, 2014
Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Local officials still are skeptical of pending legislation that would establish a flex marketing water right. The bill, HB1026, as introduced would have allowed agricultural water to be used anywhere, any time and for any purpose, apparently in contradiction of the state’s anti-speculation doctrine.

[...]

It breezed through the state House, but has been snagged for weeks in the Senate agriculture committee.

“In theory, it sounds good, but there are still not enough sideboards on it,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

Winner has been trying to get a provision added to the bill that would limit fallowing of farmland to three years in 10 — a staple of current law regarding temporary transfers. Backers of the bill have pushed for allowing transfers to occur five years in 10, with nearly unlimited dry-up of farm ground during that time.

The bill was supposed to be heard in the Senate ag committee Thursday, but was again delayed. Winner thinks it should be referred to the interim water resources committee to work out differences.

Meanwhile, the Pueblo Board of Water Works also is backing off from supporting the bill. Even though provisions were added that prevent moving water from the water district where it originally was used, farms might be permanently dried up, said Terry Book, executive director of the water board.

“Our question is does it do what it’s intended to do?” Book said. “We would support something that allows farmers to market water, but not this bill.”

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.


The Lower Ark, Otero County, et.al., start the process to create a rural water authority for the county

April 17, 2014
Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The groundwork for a rural water authority in Otero County was put in place Wednesday. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District agreed to partner with Otero County commissioners to sign on three water providers to participate in the authority. The authority will give the water providers, which are small private companies, the ability to apply for government grants in order to bring their water systems into compliance with public health standards. It also will allow them to share operating expenses, deal with issues relating to the upcoming Arkansas Valley Conduit and to speak with one voice. Eventually, it could allow participants to hire staff members to deal with water issues.

“We have a lot of issues with compliance, because 14 out of 28 private water providers in the valley are out of compliance,” said Bill Hancock, conservation manager for the Lower Ark district.

Right now, only three of the districts have signed on, the Fayette, Vroman and Valley districts, all in Otero County. Combined, they serve fewer than 500 people. Other water companies are expected to sign on as the authority develops.

“We have the ability to expand in Otero County, as well as other counties in the valley. This is a good place to start,” said Otero County Commissioner Keith Goodwin.

One of the first projects of the authority will be to apply for a state loan to fund adding membrane filters to the systems, Hancock said. The filters are made by Innovative Water Technologies, a Rocky Ford company.

Otero County commissioners voted Monday to approve the authority, but appointed no board members. The Lower Ark appointed Wayne Snider and Jolean Rose, both of Fowler, to the authority.

“We’re at the point now where we have the vehicle, but we still need to add the engine, steering and wheels,” Snider said.

The Lower Ark board praised the agreement.

“Anyone who has been involved with rural water knows how important this is,” said Lynden Gill, chairman of the board.

“Not only is compliance important, but some of these systems are 40-50 years old and this provides a way to maintain them.”

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


HB14-1026: ‘…seems like a Trojan horse for a permanent buy-and-dry’ — Peter Nichols

March 25, 2014
Flood irrigation -- photo via the CSU Water Center

Flood irrigation — photo via the CSU Water Center

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A flex marketing water right bill that passed the state House earlier this year would, in effect, overturn a state Supreme Court decision that prevented moving water out of the Fort Lyon Canal. That’s the opinion of Peter Nichols, water attorney for the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, who has been working to change the bill, HB1026, to provide more assurances that agriculture would remain the primary use under the new type of water right.

“The way the bill has been amended overturns the High Plains decision,” Nichols said, referring to a 2004 ruling by former water judge Dennis Maes that was upheld by the state Supreme Court.

High Plains claimed multiple uses for unnamed end users in counties throughout Eastern Colorado in its attempt to move water out of the Fort Lyon Canal. Maes rejected the application under the state’s anti-speculation doctrine that requires an end user to be named in a water change case.

“The way it’s written, if you had 1,000 acres, you could dry up 999 acres every year,” Nichols said. “That seems like a Trojan horse for a permanent buy-and-dry.”

The district is working with key lawmakers to try to put better limits on the bill that would make it conform to current laws which limit the frequency of years when water could be put to alternative uses and the amount of land that can be dried up.

The Lower Ark district promotes the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch, but helped create it with the intent that water would be treated as another “crop” and not permanently removed from the land.

Nichols also suggested that removing ag water too often from fields would create environmental consequences for wetlands and return flows to rivers.

“For some reason, the environmental community has not paid attention to this bill,” Nichols said.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.


Southern Delivery System on track to be online in 2016

March 20, 2014
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

he Southern Delivery System is on course to begin operating in 2016.

“It will be complete for testing purposes in 2015,” SDS Permit Manager Mark Pifher told the Lower Arkansas Conservancy District in an impromptu update Wednesday.

SDS is a 50-mile pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs. When completed, it will serve Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West. Nearly all of the pipeline is in the ground, and construction has begun at three pumping stations, including one near Pueblo Dam, Pifher said. While all parts of SDS will be complete by next year, the system will require months of testing before it is put into use.

“When it’s finished, the water won’t be delivered,” Pifher said. “It won’t be pushing water to customers until 2016.”

The Lower Ark district has been in negotiations for years with Colorado Springs on the impacts of SDS, particularly increased flows on Fountain Creek. Pifher updated the Lower Ark board on the progress of stormwater meetings in Colorado Springs.

A committee of El Paso County citizens is working toward putting a stormwater enterprise proposal on the November ballot. Fees would be about the same as under the former enterprise, which Colorado Springs City Council abolished in 2009, Pifher said.

The Lower Ark board also got a review of the U.S. Geological Survey of dams on Fountain Creek from USGS Pueblo office chief David Mau. Noting the study was funded by Colorado Springs (under its 1041 agreement with Pueblo County), Pifher said an alternative for 10 side detention ponds south of Fountain held the most promise for reducing flood impacts on Pueblo. Pifher also downplayed the immediate impacts of SDS on Fountain Creek.

“When we turn it on, it will carry 5 million-10 million gallons per day,” Pifher said.

Over 50 years, that will increase flows up to 96 million gallons per day.

“It will take some time to grow into demand on that system,” Pifher said.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


Farmers pull out of first Arkansas Valley Super Ditch project

March 11, 2014
Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The first pilot program under a new state law that would allow temporary water transfers under the supervision of the Colorado Water Conservation Board has been scuttled. The planned lease of water to Fowler by the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch was pulled from the table last week after farmers who were leasing the water pulled out. It was the first plan introduced under last year’s HB1284, which allows the CWCB to monitor pilot programs that develop alternatives to buy-and-dry water transfers.

“It’s disappointing that we weren’t able to put the program in place,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “We need to make sure Fowler survives. The first job of the Super Ditch is to keep small towns viable. This is really about the Arkansas Valley solving the Arkansas Valley’s problems.”

Fowler uses wells to supply its water, but needs an outside supply to augment those wells, City Manager Dan Hyatt explained. The town has been under water restrictions.

“It appears Fowler will be fine with water this year,” Hyatt said.

Monday, the town council considered its options, which could include leasing water from the Pueblo Board of Water Works. The water board has not taken action on water leases this year.

This is the second pilot program that has fallen through for the Super Ditch. In 2012, the group set up a pilot program with Fountain and Security, but could not pull all of the pieces together in time to execute the lease. Severe drought played a role in that program.

Last year, Aurora made an offer to Super Ditch to lease water, but farmers rejected it because the asking price was too low.

The Super Ditch and Lower Ark district supported HB1248 because of the technical backlash from other water users that surfaced under the existing rules for a substitute water supply plan.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.


2014 #COleg HB14-1026: ‘…would turn Colorado’s time-honored anti-speculation doctrine on its head’ — Pueblo Chieftain

February 3, 2014
Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

From The Pueblo Chieftain editorial staff:

THE WATER buffaloes are relentless in their devious pursuit of easier, quicker ways to take Colorado’s irrigated agricultural water and market it to the urban Front Range. If they have their way, these voracious urban-suburban interests would destroy rural communities while fueling lucrative but unwise population growth up north.

The latest wolf at the door is House Bill 1026, which cleared the state House Agriculture Committee on a 10-3 vote Monday. This so-called “flexible water markets” — or flex water rights — bill would turn Colorado’s time-honored anti-speculation doctrine on its head by allowing speculators to convert ag water rights to any use of their choosing — essentially at any time.

“Our big fear is that this could be a Trojan horse for municipalities to come in and take water from farms,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

We share Winner’s alarm at the threat of speculation, which current Colorado water law prohibits.

However, even if speculation somehow was prevented with a bill amendment, [HB14-1026, Water Flexible Markets] still would pose a grave threat to the Arkansas Valley’s rural economy and future viability.

House committee amendments that did make it into the bill were touted as making it more palatable. However, that’s just so much propaganda.

One amendment would allow a change to flexible markets water rights only within the basin of origin. This might prevent Aurora, which is in the South Platte basin, from raiding the Lower Arkansas Valley again. However, it wouldn’t stop the same damage from being inflicted within our basin by, say, Colorado Springs.

Another amendment would allow a water judge to reconsider previous approval of a “flex water right” to “remedy or preclude” injury to other water rights. But it’s stated in such convoluted language that the “big guy’s” high-priced water lawyers and experts would bury the opposition in court.

There’s a lot of other things wrong with HB1026 and absolutely no compelling reason to pass it. The wolf is again at the door and must be stopped before destroying its prey.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.


Arkansas Valley Super Ditch update: ‘The objective is to develop a tool to look at lease-fallowing effects’ — Rick Parsons

January 22, 2014
Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A comprehensive study of Arkansas River water use that will aid the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch in temporary water transfers is nearing completion. “The objective is to develop a tool to look at lease-fallowing effects and quantify the amount of water to be exchanged,” Rick Parsons, an engineering consultant, told the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District on Wednesday. The district has helped Super Ditch since its formation in 2008 as a way to allow farmers to lease water without selling their underlying water rights, preventing the dry-up of farmland. The district and Super Ditch are working on a pilot program with Fowler this year.

The Super Ditch has contemplated several strategies for moving water, including filing an exchange decree in water court, using existing substitute water supply plans and creating pilot projects under last year’s HB1248. The problem has been getting water users to agree to how those exchanges will avoid damaging other water rights.

Since 2011, Parsons has been compiling information about how water is used in the Arkansas River basin, looking at river operations from 1980-2013. His model should be complete in May. The Super Ditch needs a model that will be generally accepted by other water users, Parsons said. Parsons has met with the state, Colorado Springs Utilities, Aurora and the Pueblo Board of Water Works to glean information. He also has worked with ditch companies to obtain additional data.

The major obstacles at this point are reconciling data from different sources and understanding reservoir operations. Some Lake Pueblo operations related to Southern Delivery System are not clear because of proprietary information held by Colorado Springs Utilities, Parsons said. Reservoirs on the Colorado, Holbrook and Fort Lyon systems are operated by private companies.

“There are a million numbers in this model, and a million in the state database. Some of them are wrong,” Parsons said. “If this is used in a court document, it will be challenged to the nth degree. It has to be as transparent as possible.”

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.


Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

December 19, 2013
Upper Arkansas Valley

Upper Arkansas Valley

From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

During the monthly meeting of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board of directors, consultant Ken Baker discussed preliminary efforts to develop a bill that would create a “flexible water market,” saying he believes some form of bill will be enacted during the next legislative session.

Baker said the bill would allow the amount of water attributed to historical consumptive use on irrigated land to be put to other uses during temporary fallowing of that land and allow the water to be put to any beneficial use without designating the specific use, as is currently required. Through a flex market, Baker said, agricultural water rights holders could implement rotational fallowing of their farmland and lease a portion of their water for other beneficial uses, while retaining sufficient water to sustain agricultural activities and keep the land in production. A key element of this approach, Baker said, is that the bill would grant the state water engineer the authority to approve flex market filings and agreements, removing Water Court from the process except for appeals.

Baker also noted that nothing proposed in the bill to date addresses storing or transferring water leased through the proposed flex market system. Baker said one concern with the legislation is basin-of-origin protections for water in the Arkansas River Basin because similar bills passed in 2013, HB-1248 and HB-1033, do not protect the Arkansas Basin from transbasin diversions.

In other business, directors:

  • Learned that a final decree was issued granting absolute storage rights for all district water in O’Haver Reservoir and all but 100 acre-feet of district water in North Fork Reservoir.
  • Learned that the Colorado Water Conservation Board approved a grant to fund phase 2 of the Helena Ditch project, which will include construction of concrete components to ensure sufficient capacity in the ditch and a bypass to return excess diverted water back to the river.
  • Learned from hydrologist Jord Gertson that Arkansas River Basin snowpack has reached 139 percent of average and that the district is gaining native and transbasin winter water in Twin Lakes Reservoir.
  • Heard comments from attorney Kendall Burgemeister indicating U.S. Sen. Mark Udall’s proposed Browns Canyon National Monument legislation “seems favorable to the district.”
  • Heard from Director Tim Canterbury that preliminary discussions have begun in an effort to craft legislation concerning livestock ponds that have no water rights, some of which the Colorado Division of Water Resources officials have ordered drained.
  • Discussed the exemption from the priority system of livestock that drink from a free-flowing stream or ditch.
  • Received a list of projects from the Personnel and Finance Special Committee and were asked to prioritize projects and submit those priorities to the committee prior to the January meeting.
    Heard from Cañon City Water Superintendent Bob Hartzman about ongoing efforts to protect the watershed through erosion prevention and revegetation in areas burned by the Royal Gorge Fire.
  • Heard from Director Frank McMurry that the U.S. Forest Service will no longer pursue its plan of forcing ski resorts to surrender their water rights, a plan that agricultural water rights holders had opposed.
  • Approved, by an 8-4 vote, dropping opposition to the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District’s Super Ditch case if the Lower Ark district agrees to drop its opposition to the Upper Ark district’s 04CW96 case. McMurry, Canterbury, Tom French and Bill Jackson voted against the measure.
  • Renewed the U.S. Geological Survey contract for the Groundwater Network Study.
  • Approved stipulations negotiated with St. Charles Mesa in case 04CW96 relating to basin-wide exchanges.
  • Learned from Burgemeister that the deadline for filing oppositions in the district’s Cottonwood Creek exchange case had been extended into February because the Aspen newspaper failed to post notice of the filing.
  • More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


    Arkansas River Basin: “We’re getting screwed here. Does Kansas owe me water?” — Dale Mauch

    December 15, 2013
    Augmentation pond photo via Irrigation Doctor, Inc.

    Augmentation pond photo via Irrigation Doctor, Inc.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Farmers are still not happy with the state’s accounting of the impact of surface irrigation improvements on return flows to the Arkansas River.

    “We’ve got to change the formula,” Lamar farmer Dale Mauch told officials Friday after learning of preliminary results from a two-year pond study at a meeting hosted by the Prowers County Soil Conservation District. “We’re getting screwed here. Does Kansas owe me water?”

    The pond study is being conducted under a state grant through the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and won’t be finished until next year. But results from 2013 show that ponds leak about twice as much as assumed under a state formula adopted in 2010 surface irrigation rules.

    The rules are meant to assure that Colorado does not take more of its share than it is entitled to under the Arkansas River Compact with Kansas, said Assistant Division Engineer Bill Tyner.

    The Lower Ark district provided 1,160 acre-feet of replacement water to make up for calculated deficits caused by sprinklers on 107 farms under Rule 10 plans this year. Most of the sprinklers are located on the Fort Lyon Canal. Those included 81 ponds, which were presumed to leak at a rate of about 10 percent under the state formula.

    But a study of 20 ponds by engineers Jerry Knudsen and Brian Lauritsen shows they leaked anywhere from 3-45 percent, averaging about 18 percent. Those numbers were used in the state calculations, but only for ponds that were measured.

    Ponds with higher leakage tend to crack as they dry up between irrigation runs, Knudsen said. Because of the drought, irrigation runs were less frequent this year, and most of the 50 farmers who attended the meeting expressed doubts that a water-short ditch like the Fort Lyon Canal owed any water to the river under those conditions.

    Cutting back the amount of augmentation water needed for the Rule 10 plans is critical to making irrigation affordable. The price of augmentation water is expected to increase, especially in years such as this one when it is not readily available. Water used for this year’s Rule 10 plans ranged in cost from Fry-Ark water, which costs $7.50 per acre-foot, to water leased from the Pueblo Board of Water Works, at a cost of $250 per acre-foot (including storage). Other sources included the Larkspur Ditch and Twin Lakes water owned by the Lower Ark district.

    While the cost is going up, water leasing also competes with well groups, said Jay Winner, manager of the Lower Ark district.

    “Buying water on the spot market in the future is not promising,” Winner said.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.


    Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

    November 21, 2013
    Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

    Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A district committed to keeping water in the Lower Arkansas Valley has joined a network that provides real-time water quality data on the Arkansas River from Leadville to the Kansas state line. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board Wednesday approved spending $34,000 in the next year to help operate stream gauges and gather information from wells below John Martin Reservoir. The information is widely available on the Internet. The district’s contribution will be matched by $17,000 in federal funds from the U.S. Geological Survey.

    “The focus is on the reach from Pueblo to the state line,” said David Mau, head of the Pueblo USGS office.

    The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Pueblo Board of Water Works and St. Charles Mesa Water District also participate in the program.

    Measurements track salinity and temperature of water in the river, as well as groundwater levels. The information provides a baseline that allows water users to track changing water conditions from either natural causes or new uses along the river, Mau said.

    Past measurements show salinity increases when water levels are low and as water moves downstream. Crowley County board member Jim Valiant asked if selenium also will be studied. Mau replied that selenium is studied, but not as a part of this project.

    Water temperature varies most by the time of year, but can increase when levels are low. Mau said the information is valuable to track fish habitat and to establish the relationship between surface flows and groundwater. Water levels are tracked in 130 wells along the river, some with more than 50 years of data to provide historic comparison.

    The board enthusiastically supported the study, and encouraged Mau to provide more frequent updates.

    “We need to keep up with the information,” said Leroy Mauch, a board member from Prowers County.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Ponds that feed irrigation systems in the Lower Arkansas Valley are leaking twice as much as farmers are given credit for, a study is showing. But farmers will have to wait another year for the study to be completed before they can even begin to hope for a change in the state’s formula. In the meantime, those who measure the water coming into and leaving the ponds will be able to apply that to state calculations for replacement of water under surface consumption rules.

    The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District is sponsoring a two-year study of pond leakage for farmers who use the ponds to collect water for use in sprinkler systems. There are 26 ponds in the study, but there have been problems with the timing of measurements and malfunctioning meters on some of the ponds. The amount of leakage is complicated to measure, depending on the size of ponds, soil conditions, how often the ponds are filled and lag time for water to return to the river, said consultant Brian Lauritsen.

    This year, the state’s model showed leakage of about 8 percent on the ponds, while measurements averaged about 18 percent, said Bill Tyner, assistant division engineer for the Colorado Division of Water Resources. Individual ponds ranged from 2-40 percent leakage. “We’re giving credit for any pond with a meter,” Tyner said.

    Farmers have joined Rule 10 group plans set up by the Lower Ark district that allow them to account for sprinkler systems fed by surface water supplies. The Lower Ark provides replacement water, but farmers must pay to join and use the plan.

    They’re not happy.

    “It’s ironic that we go through all these numbers and nitpick them,” said Lamar farmer Dale Mauch. “But no one ever looks at flood ground, and the HI model isn’t even close.”

    The Hydrologic-Institutional model was adopted as part of the U.S. Supreme Court case Kansas v. Colorado over the Arkansas River Compact.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A conservation easement on the Bessemer Ditch will preserve 105 acres in farmland. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District accepted the easement Wednesday. The board uses such easements as part of its mission to keep water in the Lower Ark Valley. It is the custodian for more than 50 easements. Typically, property owners pay for the easement, which undergoes periodic inspections, and are eligible for state and federal tax benefits.

    The Bessemer Ditch farm is owned by the Wild Rose Ranch Inc., which is a company formed by the Wally Stealey family. It is located on 43rd Lane and has about 35 shares of Bessemer Ditch water, explained Bill Hancock, who manages conservation programs for the Lower Ark district.

    Each share of the Bessemer Ditch provides enough water to irrigate an acre in an average year.

    Most of the land is a reclaimed gravel pit or used for pasture land and has not fared well during the drought. An area beneficial to wildlife, Six Mile Creek, crosses the property, Hancock said.

    Stealey has donated other easements on the Wild Rose Ranch in Fremont County to the Lower Ark District in the past.

    The board voted unanimously to accept the conservation easement.

    More Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District coverage here.


    The Lower Ark District is moving to file a complaint against Reclamation over SDS Record of Decision

    September 20, 2013
    Southern Delivery System route map -- Graphic / Reclamation

    Southern Delivery System route map

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A federal decision on the Southern Delivery System is headed to court. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District is preparing a complaint to file in federal court over the Bureau of Reclamation’s refusal to reopen its record of decision on SDS. The central issue is the abolishment of the Colorado Springs stormwater enterprise in 2009, which was in place when Reclamation granted approval of a 40-year contract for storage, exchange and connection at Pueblo Dam for SDS.

    “I’m asking our board to draft a legal complaint against the Bureau of Reclamation,” said Melissa Esquibel, a Pueblo County board member. “We’ve asked the Bureau of Reclamation to reopen the record of decision, and gotten no action. We need to direct staff to draft a lawsuit.”

    Lower Ark board members say SDS should not be allowed to deliver water until the stormwater issue is resolved. “If there had not been a stormwater enterprise, SDS never would have gotten a 1041 permit,” said Anthony Nunez, a Lower Ark board member who was a Pueblo County commissioner in 2009.

    Last year, the Lower Ark district sent letters to Reclamation asking to reopen the record of decision on the stormwater issue. Reclamation declined to take any action.

    This will be the second lawsuit the Lower Ark district has filed against Reclamation, if the board approves it at its October meeting. In 2007, the Lower Ark sued Reclamation over a 40-year storage and exchange contract with Aurora, claiming it illegally allowed the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to move water out of the Arkansas River basin. The lawsuit was settled in 2009, after Aurora and the Lower Ark signed an agreement for mitigation of some of the issues surrounding the contract.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Flood protection for the Lower Arkansas Valley should not be an afterthought. That message was delivered to Colorado Springs Wednesday during a presentation about regional stormwater efforts in El Paso County to the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Protection District. “We quibble about data. What I want to see is the problem fixed,” Lower Ark General Manager Jay Winner told Mark Pifher, point man for the Southern Delivery System.

    Colorado Springs Utilities disputes the Lower Ark’s interpretation of state and federal data about water quality. The Lower Ark claims it shows higher flows have increased sedimentation and bacteria in Fountain Creek since Colorado Springs got rid of its stormwater enterprise in 2009. Pifher countered that’s just because of higher peak flows in the past three years. Fountain Creek monitoring has begun and safeguards are built into the Bureau of Reclamation’s contract through an adaptive management program if unexpected pollution occurs, he said. A stormwater task force and Mayor Steve Bach are close to coming to consensus and moving a stormwater issue to the 2014 ballot.

    All of which served to aggravate Pueblo County members of the Lower Ark board:

    “My heartburn is that the discussions center around the Black Forest and Waldo Canyon as far as Fountain Creek is concerned, but nothing for us” said Melissa Esquibel. “I don’t think anything substantive has happened.”

    “It’s been a fractured thing up there since I was a commissioner. It almost doesn’t seem real. We’ve heard the same thing over and over and over,” said Anthony Nunez. “I have to say there is a small amount of trust.”

    “We have to put limits on SDS until the stormwater issue is taken on,” said Reeves Brown.

    Colorado Springs voters defeated a Doug Bruce measure in 2008 to make payment of stormwater fees voluntary by 30,000 votes, but City Council abolished the stormwater enterprise after a second ballot measure that did not even mention it by name passed in 2009, Winner said. While Bruce campaigned against a “rain tax,” the 2009 Proposition specifically tried to sever utility payments from the Colorado Springs general fund. Council has not ended Utilities payment in lieu of taxes, Pifher said in response to a question by Winner.

    Pifher said stormwater fees would be collected again beginning as soon as 2015 if voters approve it in 2014. That didn’t do much to allay fears. “You got what you needed and the stormwater enterprise went away,” Winner said. “Do you see the pattern here?”

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    Colorado Springs Utilities and the Lower Ark District are still scuffling over stormwater and Fountain Creek

    August 25, 2013

    ecoli.jpg

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Colorado Springs Utilities disagrees with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District’s interpretation of the city’s stormwater discharge data.

    Last month, Lower Ark attorney Peter Nichols said the data showed the volume of discharges had gone up and increased sedimentation and E. coli bacteria in Fountain Creek. Nichols said the data were taken from Colorado Springs state stormwater reports, and his comments were reported in a Chieftain story.

    In response to the story, Colorado Springs Utilities looked at the same data and believes there is no correlation of flows or increased contamination due to the dissolution of the stormwater enterprise. Mark Pifher, Southern Delivery System permitting manager for Utilities, made the comments in an Aug. 14 letter to the Lower Ark district. If anything, there is evidence that there is a downward trend of flow, sedimentation and contamination based on reports from a continuous gauge at Security. “Springs Utilities would like to reiterate that it takes stormwater control and water quality within the Fountain Creek basin very seriously,” Pifher wrote in the letter.

    He repeated the stance that Colorado Springs officials have taken that a stormwater enterprise or a certain level of funding for stormwater is not required by Pueblo County’s 1041 permit for SDS.

    He added that a U.S. Geological Survey study shows there is more benefit to Pueblo from building stormwater retention ponds downstream from Colorado Springs than by building retention ponds within or upstream from Colorado Springs. Pifher said he wants to talk to the district about its conclusions.

    More stormwater coverage here and here.


    Arkansas River Basin: ‘If Jay Winner cared about agriculture, he would be asking us about that story’ — John McKowen

    August 10, 2013

    arkbasinditchsystem.jpg

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Two Rivers Water & Farming Co. not only plans to continue farming, but wants to expand its operations on the Bessemer Ditch. But the company is facing challenges from the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District that it violated a conservation easement by not irrigating a property it owns. “We’re here because we want to grow vegetables,” John McKowen, Two Rivers CEO, shot back Wednesday as he surveyed newly planted rows of sorghum on the 15-acre property. “This is a great place to farm and the only people trying to move water out of this valley are the Lower Ark district and (its manager) Jay Winner.” The Lower Ark board last month notified Two Rivers of a potential violation of the easement. Two Rivers answered the complaint, saying it is in compliance with the easement. McKowen has bumped heads with Winner in the past over his plan to build reservoirs on the Excelsior Ditch.

    “So far, he’s taken two potshots at us and neither one is true,” McKowen said. “We’re walking our talk. He’s not.” He produced documents filed with the federal Farm Service Agency showing wheat, corn and hay were planted on the ground last year, while there was a failed crop of onions earlier this year.

    In fact, the land is getting more water from its 36 shares of the Bessemer Ditch under Two Rivers than it would as a freestanding farm, said Russ Dionisio, who manages Two Rivers’ farms. “The way we combine our water (from Bessemer shares and augmented wells), we’re able to irrigate 15 acres,” Dionisio said. “If all somebody had was this farm, this year it would be about 5 acres.”

    Two Rivers, which also has farms in other parts of Pueblo and Huerfano counties, has plans that include lease-fallowing possibilities similar to the Lower Ark district’s Super Ditch in the future. But for now, the company is focused on farming. It’s planning to double vegetable production next year and create opportunities for neighboring farmers in the process. “We’re a private enterprise that wants to improve the value of farming, not a government agency,” McKowen said. “If Jay Winner cared about agriculture, he would be asking us about that story.”

    Winner defended the Lower Ark district’s action, saying nothing appeared to be growing on it. If crops are now planted on it, that’s all that the district had asked for, he said.

    “We represent the people of the Arkansas Valley, not a Wall Street farmer who lives in Denver,” Winner said. “People receive a huge amount of money for conservation easements, and as a land trust, it’s our duty to see the ones we hold are enforced.”

    On the water question, Winner reiterated his past statement: “We have not moved a drop of water out of the valley.”

    More about Two Rivers from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

    Box upon box of cabbages the size of volleyballs line a refrigerated warehouse at Dionisio Farms near Avondale. “This is our cooling facility,” Two Rivers Water and Farming Co. CEO John McKowen shouted over the hum of a refrigeration unit. “We’re planning on expanding it, doubling the size, next year.”

    The cabbages grown in nearby fields have to be cooled to 38-40 degrees before shipment to processing plants in Colorado Springs, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Most of the cabbage will wind up as cole slaw for restaurant chains.

    The purchase of Dionisio Farms by Two Rivers last year has allowed nearly full planting of the acres dedicated to vegetables this year, while grain crops have been cut back due to drought, said Russ Dionisio, who oversees all Two Rivers farming operations. “Two Rivers has benefitted us, because we’ve been able to farm 60 percent of our ground this year, while only about 40 percent of the ground is planted on the rest of the ditch,” Dionisio said. Two Rivers made water available from a five-year lease with the Pueblo Board of Water Works this year to its own and other farms in the Arkansas Groundwater Users Association. While many other farmers have had to cut back production, Dionisio will ship more than 10 million pounds of cabbage this season.

    In addition, another 100 acres of pumpkins will be harvested, and some corn is being grown for the first time in decades on Two Rivers land in Huerfano County. McKowen said the vegetables are important crops. “The corn will bring about $800 an acre, but the cabbage will be many multiples of that,” McKowen said.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Two Rivers Water & Farming Co. is refuting the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District’s claim that the terms of a conservation easement on the Bessemer Ditch were violated. “Water from the 36 Bessemer Ditch shares has been and continues to be used solely on the property to aid in the production of agricultural crops,” Two Rivers attorney John Keilbach of Pueblo wrote last week. His letter was in response to a July 17 letter from the Lower Ark district claiming the property was not in agricultural production, which is a condition of a conservation easement placed on the property by a former owner.

    Dionisio Farms, owned by Two Rivers, grew corn on the land last year, planted onions which froze this spring and is now growing 15 acres of sorghum on the farm, according to the letter. “In comparing the general agricultural purposes of the easement, the specifically authorized crops and the fact these crops are commonly found in the community surrounding the property . . . we do not understand your conclusion that no irrigated agriculture is being practiced on the property,” Keilbach’s letter stated. “Nothing that Dionisio Farms or Two Rivers has done would indicate or even imply any interruption of agriculture or any intent to move water rights off the property.”

    The letter also says the inspection was made without informing Two Rivers, although the easement has a notice requirement.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.


    CWCB: Study for the Lower Ark shows that the average unlined farm pond leaks as much as 20%

    July 31, 2013

    farmponddryingup2011droughtoklahomanoaa.jpg

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Most ponds used by farmers to feed sprinkler systems are losing more than 20 percent of the water stored in them because of leakage.

    A preliminary written report was released this week detailing the findings of the study, being conducted by Agritech Consulting and Valley Ag Consulting for the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. The study is being conducted in hopes of altering a state formula that assumes only 3 percent loss. At a meeting earlier this month, the district reported that farmers in the study already are able to claim greater leakage, but officials held out little hope the assumptions of the state formula could be changed. The study found 13 of the 22 ponds in the study had leakage rates higher than 20 percent. Measurements were taken as water flowed into ponds and as it ran through sprinklers. Overall, seepage cost farmers 300 acre-feet of the 1,340 acre-feet that flowed into ponds. The state’s formula would have given them credit for just 40 acre-feet.

    Gerald Knudsen of Agritech, who analyzed the results of the study, said drought may have been a factor in the data from the first year of the study. The study will continue next year that will help researchers evaluate the relationship between seepage and physical or environmental conditions. “This further review may be significant since the data collected to date represents drought conditions when there is a longer period of time between runs and more frequent use of the ponds may reduce the seepage rates,” the report stated.

    The study is being funded by the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    The state uses pond leakage as one factor in its formula to evaluate consumptive use of surface irrigation improvements under 2010 rules designed to head off future disputes with Kansas. The Lower Ark district offers a group plan that helps farmers repay water the state says is owed to the river.

    More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

    A study of leakage in ponds that feed field irrigation systems already is saving some farmers thousands of dollars in water cost.

    But a state formula that assumes only 3 percent of the water leaks won’t be changed until the study results are final — and maybe not even then. The formula is used under Rule 10 of the state engineer’s 2010 consumptive use rules to prevent expansion of water rights under surface irrigation rules. The state pushed for the rules to avoid further challenges by Kansas of Arkansas River Compact violations.

    Farmers have to pay for replacement water, so if they can show they are losing more than presumed, they spend less.

    The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District is funding the study by Gerry Knudsen of Agritech and Brian Lauritsen of Valley Ag Consulting to determine how much water leaks out of the ponds.

    Seepage varies from 3-5 percent in some ponds to 44 percent at others, depending on how dry the ponds are when they first fill and the type of soil. A total of 26 ponds are in the study, located mostly on the Fort Lyon Canal, where most of the sprinklers are.

    The ponds had 1,340 acre-feet of inflow, and lost 300 acre-feet, or 22 percent.

    The results from individual ponds already are being used by the Colorado Division of Water Resources to calculate losses on specific farms, but have not altered the presumptive model.

    The study, funded by a $60,000 grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board that was obtained by the Lower Ark district, won’t be complete until 2014. Even then, it might not change the state’s outlook on pond leakage.

    “My view is that the ponds will have to be measured forever,” said Jay Winner, manager of the Lower Ark district. “The ponds which have instrumentation will get the credit.”

    Knudsen agreed, saying it’s similar to how GPS systems were incorporated into cultivation several years ago because the initial technology soon became essential rather than optional.

    Lauritsen added that better meters are needed and must be properly calibrated to get the best results.

    More Arkansas Valley consumptive use rules coverage here and here.


    Colorado Springs briefs the Lower Ark about their stormwater program in 2013

    June 25, 2013

    fountaincreekmonsoonjuly2012.jpg

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Colorado Springs is moving on multiple fronts to address how Fountain Creek will be protected from damaging floods and how water quality will be improved. Some feel more could have been done all along, however.

    Mark Pifher, an executive with Colorado Springs Utilities, updated the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District last week on the efforts to address stormwater needs. A regional stormwater task force will finish its second phase this fall. The group determined there are $900 million in stormwater needs in El Paso County, with $680 million of that in Colorado Springs. The next phase will determine how much funding is available and what strategies are needed to secure funds for the remainder. “We have been busy in the last few months, looking at Waldo Canyon and now the Black Forest Fire,” Pifher said. “We will be looking at a longterm solution in Phase 2.”

    The task force is looking at different structures for funding, including property tax assessments and a regional authority of a fifth utility — on top of gas, electric, water and wastewater — to fund stormwater projects.

    There are other efforts:

    Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach also has hired a consultant to review and prioritize stormwater needs.

    El Paso County has adopted its own 1041 regulations that address stormwater control in new development.

    Colorado Springs is nearing completion of a drainage criteria manual that regulates new construction.

    “Whatever happens, there will be a need for an election, even if there is a fee,” Pifher said.

    The Lower Ark District has been critical of Colorado Springs for eliminating its stormwater enterprise in 2009. The enterprise would have provided a steady stream of funding toward stormwater projects that would protect Fountain Creek. “I applaud your efforts, but it’s two or three years too long,” said Reeves Brown, a Pueblo County board member.

    More stormwater coverage here and here.


    ‘Super Ditch has no contracts on either side, no end user and no firm supply’ — Terry Nelson

    June 14, 2013

    arkbasinditchsystem.jpg

    Terry Scanga from the Upper Arkansas River Water Conservancy District called the Super Ditch the “Mother of all change cases” a couple of years ago. Here’s an update on a water court filing by objectors from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

    Water users on the eastern end of the Lower Arkansas Valley want water judge Larry Schwartz to dismiss a court case that would allow the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch to exchange water upstream. The motion to dismiss was filed last month in Division 2 water court.

    The Super Ditch envisions exchanging water upstream under leasefallowing programs that would allow farmers to sell water to cities temporarily while keeping ownership of the water rights.

    But several large water interests below John Martin Reservoir say the proposal is speculative and claims too much water — the entire flows of six canal companies that amount to 58,000 acre-feet per year. Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association, District 67 Ditch Association and the Amity Canal filed the motion to dismiss the application by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and Super District on May 22. The exchange is being sought before water rights on the canal have been changed to allow other uses, they say.

    At the same time, the Lower Ark District and Super Ditch have sidestepped water court by lobbying for changes in state law that allow water to be moved under state water officials without court adjudication, they said. Two bills were passed by the state Legislature this year — HB1130 and HB 1248 — that give the state engineer or the Colorado Water Conservation Board direct authority over water transfers. The Lower Ark District backed HB1248, and Rocky Ford area farmers involved with the Super Ditch testified in favor of HB1130. The bills were actively opposed by Tri-State lobbyists.

    “It scares the hell out of us that multiple thousands of acres could be dried up and the state’s the policeman,” said Colin Thompson, who farms near Holly and is a member of the Amity Canal board. “I don’t want to have to run up and down the valley and police 2,000 fields.”

    “Super Ditch has no contracts on either side, no end user and no firm supply,” said Terry Nelson, a Tri-State executive. “They’ve taken every effort to sidestep the court process. They’re setting it up to make it easier for the municipalities to take water out of the Arkansas Valley.”

    Jay Winner, manager of the Lower Ark District, defended the Super Ditch proposal, saying it protects water in agriculture. “What we’re trying to do is enhance the water options for agriculture,” Winner said. “The state now has a gap in municipal supplies. Super Ditch provides an alternative to permanent transfers.”

    More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.


    ‘The goal is to help young farmers while tying water to the land’ — Jay Winner

    December 17, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A conservation easement that will keep water on the land while preserving the ability to lease water was approved last week by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board. The board voted unanimously to accept a conservation easement donated by Wes and Brenda Herman in exchange for paying about half of the purchase price for a neighboring farm. The Hermans, who already farm in the area, are buying the farm now owned by Ray and Susan Pieper at the end of the High Line Canal. About one­ third of the 320­acre farm is irrigated. The Colorado Water Conservation board is funding up to $270,000 toward the purchase under a program proposed by the Lower Ark District that would allow a municipality to reimburse the state for the cost at a future date. In return, the city would be able to have certainty that the water rights of the farm Jay Winner General manager, Lower Ark District — 12 shares of the High Line Canal — would be available for future leases. A High Line share irrigates 10 acres.

    “The goal is to help young farmers while tying water to the land,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark District.

    Winner said the Lower Ark’s idea is gaining traction in the South Platte basin, and has been used on at least one farm in the Rio Grande. “What people like about it is that it ties the water to the land in perpetuity, while giving municipalities some certainty of a stable water supply in the future,” Winner said.

    Meanwhile, the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District has approved their 2013 budget. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

    The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District approved a $2.5 million budget for 2013 at its meeting last week. The district, formed in 2002 to protect water in the Arkansas River basin, gets most of its money from a 1.5 mill levy on property in Bent, Crowley, Otero, Prowers and Pueblo counties. Roughly 75 percent comes from Pueblo County.

    About $638,000 of the budget goes to administration of the district, half of that for salaries for the five employees of the district. Most of the district’s expenses are for the enterprise fund, with about $962,000 going toward support services for programs such as Super Ditch and group plan that helps farmers comply with state surface irrigation rules. Another $1 million goes toward water rights acquisition, including the purchase of conservation easements, water storage and water assessment fees.

    More conservation easements coverage here and here.


    Fountain Creek: ‘The creek we used to play in is a filthy mess’ — Melissa Esquibel

    November 7, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A stormwater structure for Colorado Springs and the surrounding communities has to be in place before Southern Delivery System goes online. That’s a must for a downstream water district, and a top priority for Colorado Springs.
    Two members of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board met Tuesday with two Colorado Springs City Council members to begin talks aimed at clearing the air on stormwater issues. The meeting was hosted by Pueblo County Commissioner Anthony Nunez; more meetings are expected.

    “I’m cynical. I grew up a block from Fountain Creek,” said Melissa Esquibel, a member of the Lower Ark board. “The creek we used to play in is a filthy mess.”

    “Waldo Canyon (Fire) has created a sense of urgency for you,” Nunez added. “We’ve had that sense of urgency for 100 years.”

    Colorado Springs council members Merv Bennett and Brandy Williams sat at the other end of the table and said they are diligently working on a regional stormwater solution. Bennett said the collections of $15 million per year that would have occurred under the now­ defunct stormwater enterprise may not have been enough to fix Fountain Creek. He touted the $28 million for stormwater in next year’s Colorado Springs budget and asked for patience and trust.

    “We’ll prove our trust by our behavior,” Bennett said.

    Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district, emphasized that the district met with a different set of council members in 2005, only to start over on the same issues now. He said Colorado Springs will be a regional water provider through SDS, which makes it imperative that Colorado Springs takes the lead in controlling flows into Fountain Creek.

    “We’ve set a lofty goal with the stormwater task force,” Williams said. “We have to establish what the region’s needs and expenditures are.”

    More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


    Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board meeting recap: Many eyes are on the spot market for water

    October 18, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    That was the theme of a far ­ranging meeting of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District Wednesday. About 40 people from well augmentation groups, ditches and other farm interests attended the meeting. State Engineer Dick Wolfe and John Stulp, water adviser to John Hickenlooper, also attended the meeting.

    While the state officials were there to talk about the high level of scrutiny for a Super Ditch pilot program which failed to get off the ground this year, the discussion quickly changed to increased competition for water on the spot market, which is drying up as the drought deepens.

    Scott Lorenz, manager of the Arkansas Groundwater Users Association, asked the Lower Ark board to adopt a resolution supporting cooperation and refraining from competing for the same sources of replacement water. The Lower Ark district provides replacement water for farmers under state surface irrigation rules.

    “We’re asking the district to refrain from taking water from some farmers and giving it to others,” Lorenz said.

    Lower Ark board members said the district’s goal is to help all farmers, and cited instances where the district has assisted well groups.

    “The spot market may not even be there in the future,” said Lynden Gill, Lower Ark chairman. “We appreciate your efforts to bring these things to our attention.”

    “Why don’t we take a step forward, and put on a positive attitude?” said Reeves Brown, a Pueblo County director.
    The well groups first met with the Lower Ark board in February to address the issue, but no follow­up meetings have occurred. Recently, Lorenz publicly accused the district of trying to undercut its water sources, which the district denied.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A time­out from Arkansas Valley surface irrigation rules is unlikely, even though farmers say they’re paying for water they’re not even using.

    At this week’s meeting of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, Dale Mauch, a Lamar farmer on the Fort Lyon Canal, asked State Engineer Dick Wolfe if the 2010 surface irrigation rules could be suspended until a study of pond leakage is complete.

    “Dick, we’d like to have the state help us, because sometimes it seems like you’re the enemy,” Mauch told Wolfe at one point.

    Mauch explained that under 2010 surface irrigation rules, he was required to purchase replacement water to augment his pond­fed sprinklers, even though he hasn’t been able to irrigate since mid­June because of the drought.

    Mauch is among farmers trying to loosen up state water­replacement requirements by trying to prove that irrigation ponds that feed sprinklers leak more than presumed by a state formula.

    The state presumes 3 percent leakage, while farmers say it’s closer to 20 to 25 percent.

    Wolfe replied that the state’s actions are bound by court­decreed rules that make it difficult to alter or suspend any of the provisions.

    “Dale, the state’s computer model doesn’t agree with you,” another farmer joked. “I live in reality,” Mauch laughed.

    Pueblo County farmer Tom Rusler, who farms on the Bessemer Ditch, asked if the accounting for the rules could be done after the irrigation season, rather than in advance.

    Wolfe said the rules require a plan prior to the irrigation season and can’t be altered without a change in the court decree. Wolfe said the rules could be amended to reflect the results of the pond study. Additionally, the Lower Ark district, which administers a group plan for water replacement under Rule 10 of the rules, can amend its report.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


    Arkansas Basin: The Arkansas Groundwater Users Association accuse the Lower Ark of competing for the same supplies

    October 5, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A well augmentation group thinks the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District is “picking winners and losers” in providing supplemental water.

    Lower Ark manager Jay Winner says that’s not the case. The district is trying to protect all water rights — surface or groundwater — in the Lower Ark Valley.

    “We have to scrape water together wherever we can,” said Scott Lorenz, manager of the Arkansas Groundwater Users Association. “We operate with the other two groundwater groups with mutual respect, and we don’t go after each other’s water.”

    AGUA, the Colorado Water Protective and Development Association and the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association provide replacement water for well owners under 1996 rules, called Rule 14 plans.

    The Lower Ark district operates a Rule 10 plan under 2010 surface irrigation rules.

    AGUA fears the Lower District is attempting through its ongoing negotiations with Colorado Springs to lock up one of its main sources of replacement flows — return flows from the city. The fears stem from last year’s five-year lease from Pueblo Board of Water Works at more than double the going rate for one-year leases.

    “We rely on that water,” Lorenz said. “I oppose taxpayer funds being used to pick winners and losers.”

    Winner said negotiations with Colorado Springs will not create competition with the well groups for supply.

    “My goal is to get the Rule 10 guys on surface water rights . . .

    to be able to use their own water for replacement water,” Winner said.

    Like the well groups, the surface irrigators have to pay for management of the program and the cost of water. While state grants helped set up the Rule 10 program, local taxes are not being used.

    “It’s all pass-through costs,” he said.

    The Lower Ark district provided more than 10,000 acrefeet of water to make up stateline deficits for overuse of water by wells in 2005-06. Otherwise, the burden would have been on well users, Winner added.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.


    SDS: ‘It seems like Colorado Springs Utilities and city officials are doing a lot of talking’ — Jay Winner

    August 24, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District has made a formal request to the Bureau of Reclamation to reopen environmental studies for the Southern Delivery System because the 2008 study assumed a Colorado Springs stormwater enterprise was in place…

    “It seems like Colorado Springs Utilities and city officials are doing a lot of talking,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district Wednesday. Forming a regional task force isn’t enough, he said. “They talk as if this could be done by the end of the year, but that’s not going to happen. While they meet with a task force, we’re the ones who suffer.”

    Last week’s letter identified broad concerns about the repeal of the stormwater enterprise, while this week’s letter from Peter Nichols, attorney for the district, deals with more specific points related to SDS documents. The letter points out that the $15 million annually generated by the former stormwater enterprise would have been sufficient to cover the nearly $500 million in backlog of stormwater projects and maintenance identified in Colorado Springs. “Reclamation has a continuing duty to analyze significant changes in conditions that affect the environment and that call into question the original decision,” the letter stated.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    50th anniversary celebration of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Saturday at Lake Pueblo

    August 14, 2012

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    The project got its start with a visit to Pueblo from President Kennedy back in 1962. Here’s the first installment from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through and read the whole article, Woodka is a terrific writer. Here’s an excerpt:

    But on that day [August 17, 1962], work began to address the problem. Kennedy came to Pueblo to celebrate the signing of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Act the previous day. Local water leaders will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Fry-Ark Project Saturday at Lake Pueblo…

    The Twin Lakes Tunnel was constructed by the Colorado Canal Co. during the Great Depression, while the old Carlton railroad tunnel was used by the High Line Canal Co. to bring in water. In addition, Colorado Springs and Aurora were already building the Homestake Project, which would be intertwined with the Fry-Ark Project as both were built.

    But the government project, a scaled-down version of an earlier, larger plan to bring water from the Gunnison River basin, represented a larger cooperative effort between farmers and municipal leaders in nine counties.

    Since the first water was brought over in 1972, about 2.1 million acre-feet of water has been brought into the Arkansas River basin for irrigation and municipal use. The project also generates electric power at the Mount Elbert Power Plant.

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    Woodka details some of the early water history along the Arkansas River mainstem in this report running in today’s Chieftain. Here’s an excerpt:

    The Water Development Association of Southeastern Colorado was incorporated in 1946. Pueblo business leaders worked with valley water interests to investigate a Gunnison-Arkansas Project. By 1953, the project was scaled back to the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, and the first hearings began in Congress.

    During the congressional hearings in subsequent years, the project evolved from one primarily serving agriculture to one that included municipal, hydroelectric power, flood control and recreation as well.

    The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District formed in 1958.

    The U.S. House passed the Fry-Ark Act on June 13, 1962; the U.S. Senate, Aug. 6, 1962. President John F. Kennedy signed it into law on Aug. 16, 1962.

    Here’s a short look at Jay Winner, current general manager of the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District, from Chris Woodka Writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    Back in the 1960s, his father Ralph Winner was the construction superintendent for Ruedi Reservoir, the first part of the Fry-Ark Project to be constructed and his family lived on the job site. His father came back in the late 1970s to supervise construction of one of the last parts of the collection system to be built, the Carter-Norman siphon. The siphon draws water across a steep canyon.

    For three summers, Winner, then a college student, worked on the latter project. “It was the most fun I ever had,” he laughed. “I got to play with dynamite.”

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A retired outfitter, [Reed Dils] is now a Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board member and a former representative from the Arkansas River basin on the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “Initially, the flows got worse,” Dils said. “They (the Southeastern district and the Bureau of Reclamation) had chosen to run water in the winter…

    “It became apparent to everyone there was another way to run the river,” Dils said. “Why the Fry-Ark act was passed, recreation mainly meant flatwater recreation. Over time, they learned there are other types of recreation.”

    Here’s the release from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    Reclamation and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District invite the public to celebrate the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project’s 50th Anniversary at Lake Pueblo State Park on Sat., Aug. 18. The event is located at Lake Pueblo State Park Visitor’s Center from 9 a.m.to 2 p.m.

    Reclamation, the District and Colorado State Parks and Wildlife are offering free pontoon boat tours around Pueblo Reservoir and free tours of the fish hatchery located below Pueblo Dam. There will also be historical displays and several guest speakers.

    Signed into law by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project is a multipurpose trans-basin water diversion and delivery project serving southeastern Colorado.

    The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project provides:

    - Water for more than 720,000 people
    – Irrigation for 265,000 acres
    – The largest hydro-electric power plant in the state
    – World renowned recreation opportunities from the Fryingpan River to the Arkansas River.

    For more information the 50th Anniversary Celebration – and to see a teaser of the upcoming film! – visit our website at www.usbr.gov/gp/ecao.

    More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.

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    Meanwhile, Alan Hamel is retiring from the Pueblo Board of Water Works this month:

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “Little did I know how important the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project would be as I was watching the president’s car traveling down Abriendo Avenue that day,” Hamel said. “Look at all that it has done for our basin and what it will do in the future.”

    Hamel became executive director of the water board in 1982, and was president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the local agency that oversees the Fry-Ark Project, from 2002-04. He is currently serving on the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.


    Fountain Creek: Lower Ark board declines opportunity to fund study of Waldo Canyon Fire effects on water quality

    July 19, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board voted unanimously not to fund the request by Colorado State University-Pueblo scientists, saying it’s time for other agencies to step up on water quality studies. “The biggest problem is that there need to be more funding partners,” said Lynden Gill, acting chairman of the board. “We have limited resources and are in a situation where we feel uncomfortable.”[...]

    [Scott Herrmann] said the water in Upper Monument Creek, near Cascade where the fire started, was as black as charcoal, turning grayer downstream. Further analysis also could detect whether there are higher levels of phosphorus in the water, a byproduct of ammonia phosphate and sulfate ions, the chief ingredients of the slurry dumped on wildfires. The researchers previously told the Lower Ark board they would like to expand the Fountain Creek study to the reach of the Arkansas River from Pueblo Dam to Baxter.

    However, the Waldo Canyon Fire presented unique opportunities to study Fountain Creek, [Del Nimmo] said. “The fire has already had a profound impact,” Nimmo said. “There have been incredible changes on the Upper Fountain.”

    More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


    Southern Delivery System: Did Colorado Springs violate their federal permit when they abolished their stormwater enterprise?

    April 19, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A district formed to protect water in the Lower Arkansas Valley instructed its water attorney to investigate whether Colorado Springs violated a federal permit when it abolished its stormwater enterprise. “This is irresponsible behavior by Colorado Springs. They owe the rest of the area a service,” said Melissa Esquibel, who represents Pueblo County on the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board. “It’s unconscionable.”[...]

    The board approved Esquibel’s motion to have Peter Nichols investigate whether Colorado Springs is in violation of a record of decision by the federal Bureau of Reclamation for SDS. The federal permit makes the assumption that Colorado Springs would have a certain level of funding annually under the former enterprise. Instead, Colorado Springs has spent about $1.2 million annually since voters instructed City Council to disband it in 2009. Stormwater funding is listed at $1.9 million this year, according to a budget comparison of Front Range cities distributed at the meeting. Colorado Springs spends $4.63 per capita on stormwater funding, less than 10 percent of the Front Range average. Pueblo is at half the average, at $25.81 per capita…

    Last month, Colorado Springs Attorney Chris Melcher said Colorado Springs is obligated to spend $13 million-$15 million annually for stormwater improvements. At a Fountain Creek meeting last month, Councilwoman Brandy Williams said the council is working on a plan of how to come up with the money.

    More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


    Arkansas Valley Super Ditch: Proponents tout the project as a way to meet increased demand for basin supplies

    March 21, 2012

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    Terry Scanga, General Manager of the Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District is calling the water court filing for the Super Ditch the Mother of all Change Cases. And so it may be. Re-quantification is the name of the game nowadays whenever an entity gets in water court. Objectors hammer applicants on consumptive use calculations, historical use, the reservoir one-fill rule, etc. The Super Ditch plods on however. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

    While the program was set up as a way to allow farmers to retain water rights while selling water through lease programs, it could become a way to meet increasing demands within the basin. The boards of the Super Ditch and Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District met jointly for the first time Tuesday to brainstorm how water needs throughout the valley could be met through Super Ditch…

    The key is to develop enough flexibility in how the water is used to make what is now agricultural water more valuable in the future. A hint of that is seen in the Lower Ark’s exchange application in water court, which lists 85 points of exchange [ed. emphasis mine]. A report accompanying the application explains the needs of augmentation water for sprinklers or wells, as well as a new supply for the Arkansas Valley Conduit that will require more than 50,000 acre-feet annually in the next 50 years…

    While the Lower Ark’s goal is to keep water in the valley, those in the Super Ditch are looking to maximize the value of water. Some believe both can be accomplished. “The Super Ditch is about the gap in the Arkansas basin,” said Lower Ark General Manager Jay Winner. “The goal is to make the water so valuable that nobody wants to sell.”

    Here’s a report about the Super Ditch pilot project substitute water supply filing from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    The pilot program would lease 500 acre-feet of water to Fountain, Widefield and Security this year. A substitute water supply plan has been filed with the state engineer’s office, and a comment period will continue through April 9. The price will be $500 per acre-foot…

    Opponents have put the program under a microscope, engineer Heath Kuntz told the boards.“We had 20 requests for specific information,” Kuntz said. “One engineer asked for less complicated accounting, and another wanted simpler accounting. They spent an hour arguing about it.”

    At one point, he was asked to justify every cell on a spreadsheet. There were more than 10 million cells. The Super Ditch sponsored a meeting in Rocky Ford in January to explain the application to potential opponents. There have been several technical meetings since then to hash out details. Among the chief objections are that the Lower Ark should file a change of use case before seeking a substitute water supply plan for the program. The water for the pilot program would come from nine farms on the Catlin Canal.

    More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.


    Colorado Water 2012: Jay Winner — ‘Acquiring irrigation water is the easiest, most efficient and lowest cost way for growing Front Range municipalities to obtain additional water supplies’

    March 14, 2012

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    Here’s the latest installment of the Valley Courier’s Colorado Water 2012 series. Today, Jay Winner, General Manager, Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, discusses rotational fallowing. In particular he explains the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch project being spearheaded by the Lower Ark district. Here’s an excerpt:

    In 2002, residents of the Lower Valley voted two to one to create the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District (“Lower District”) to protect the Valley’s water resources, and with them, their social and economic future.

    While the Lower District has aggressively fought additional agricultural to municipal transfers, it has just as steadfastly worked to develop an alternative that will meet inexorable municipal demands while protecting and enhancing the value of remaining irrigation water.

    LEASING. Water leasing, pioneered during California’s 1990s drought, emerged as the most promising answer for several reasons.

    First, leasing would not require current irrigators to sell their water to realize its current value, preserving the long-term ownership of the water in the Valley.

    Second, most irrigated land would remain in production every year.

    Third, water leasing would create a “new crop,” one with a predictable cash flow that irrigators could use for on-farm improvements, debt reduction, equipment upgrades and the like.

    Fourth, cities could obtain the water supplies they need – an irrigated field is functionally equivalent to a reservoir that can be tapped (dried up) when needed for municipal uses…

    Shareholders of the Rocky Ford High Line Canal, Oxford Farmers Ditch, Otero Canal, Catlin Canal, Holbrook Canal, and the Fort Lyon Canal (later joined by the Bessemer Ditch) met in Rocky Ford on May 7, 2008. They incorporated the Lower Arkansas Valley Super Ditch Company, a Colorado for-profit corporation managed by a Board of Directors elected by Valley irrigators. The Super Ditch negotiates on behalf of irrigators to make water available to other water users through long-term leases, interruptible water supply agreements, and water banking.

    Meanwhile, Aurora is assuring the Arkansas Basin that their new contract with water bottler Niagara Bottling will be for single-use, non-transbasin water. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    “It’s an industrial use in the city of Aurora,” said Greg Baker, spokesman for Aurora Water. He said there are few other industrial users in the Denver suburban community.

    Aurora gets about one-quarter of its supply from purchases of water rights it has made in the Arkansas River basin, one-quarter from the Colorado River and half from the South Platte.

    “This is single-use water, so the paper accounting for it will be from the South Platte,” Baker said.

    Return flows from water brought in from either the Arkansas or Colorado basins can be reused, and Aurora built the $650 million Prairie Waters Project to directly recapture those flows.

    A bottled water plant would use all of the water, however, so Aurora will credit supplies to its Platte River water resources.

    More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.


    Colorado Springs Utilities’ Steve Berry: ‘In looking at the numbers in this executive summary, it does not appear that many of our comments were considered’

    March 5, 2012

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    Last week, the day before the Statewide Roundtable Summit, Western Resource Advocates, et. al., released a report titled, “Meeting Future Water Needs in the Arkansas Basin.” Colorado Springs and Pueblo are taking a hard look at the report, according to this article from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Here’s an excerpt:

    There may be a question whether water providers accept the figures used in the reports. “Colorado Springs Utilities was asked to peer review the draft version, and made extensive and substantial comments on it. In looking at the numbers in this executive summary, it does not appear that many of our comments were considered, and many of our suggested changes or corrections were not made,” said Steve Berry, spokesman for Utilities. The largest amounts of water, and presumably the largest conservation and reuse savings, come from Colorado Springs.

    The Pueblo Board of Water Works is also reviewing the final report for accuracy, said Alan Ward, water resources manager…

    The environmental groups say a combination of projects already on the books — conservation, reuse and temporary ag-urban transfers — could provide as much as 140,000 acre-feet, more than enough to meet the needs. Those numbers are being examined by urban water planners, who say the savings might not be attainable. “In general, we were unable to verify or recreate most of the numbers cited in their report, and their estimates for conservation and reuse are significantly greater than what our water conservation experts have calculated as realistic,” Berry said…

    When asked how conservation savings would be applied to new supplies, a practice cities find risky, Jorge Figueroa, water policy analyst for Western Resource Advocates, said they could be put into “savings accounts” for future use. When asked where the water would be stored, he cited the T-Cross reservoir site on Williams Creek in El Paso County that is part of the Southern Delivery System plan…

    Drew Peternell, director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project, said the group supports [the Southern Delivery System]. Because the project already is under way, the groups look at SDS as a key way to fill the gap. The report also supports programs like Super Ditch as ways to temporarily transfer agricultural water to cities without permanently drying up farmland.

    Meanwhile, here’s a look at a report from the Northwest Council of Governments, “Water and Its Relationship to the Economies of the Headwaters Counties,” from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

    The report, released in January at a Denver water conference, takes a fresh look at the critical importance to the economy of water in West Slope rivers, and why Colorado leaders may want to take careful thought before making future transmountain diversion policy decisions. Visit the NWCCOG website for the full 95-page report.

    “This report makes an important contribution to the on-going dialogue about adverse economic impacts associated with losing water by focusing attention on Eagle, Grand, Gunnison, Pitkin, Routt and Summit counties,” said Jean Coley Townsend, the author of the report. “This has never been done before. The report provides an important counterbalance to earlier studies that show economic impacts of losing water from the Eastern Plains.”

    Balancing the supply and demand of water could be the State’s most pressing issue. The report does not take issue with Front Range municipal or Eastern Plains agricultural water users — all parties have important and worthy concerns and points of view — but is meant as a thorough review of water as an economic driver of headwaters economic development.

    The report provides a balance to the existing solid body of work that measures the potential economic effects of less water on the Front Range and the Eastern Plains and the loss of agriculture in those parts of the state.

    “If we … are going to solve our Statewide water supply shortage challenges there must first be statewide mutual respect and true understanding of each other’s water supply challenges,” said Zach Margolis, Town of Silverthorne Utility Manager. “The report is a remarkable compilation of the West Slope’s water obligations and limitations as well as the statewide economic value of water in the headwater counties of Colorado.”

    More transmountain/transbasin diversions coverage here.


    Woodmoor Water and Sanitation withdraws water court change case, cites purchase of JV Ranch as reason

    December 16, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Woodmoor completed its purchase of the JV Ranch near Fountain in late November, and its board last week voted to pull a water court case that sought to deliver water by exchange from three ditch systems east of Pueblo. Woodmoor also has terminated all of the contracts on the Holbrook, High Line and Excelsior ditch systems…

    The water court application had been moving toward trial after the Pueblo Board of Water Works refused to settle the case. The Pueblo water board objected to the plan partly because it could involve the removal of water from Pueblo County to another basin. Woodmoor straddles the Arkansas and South Platte basins…

    The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District also opposed the move, and took steps to help a farmer buy one of the farms Woodmoor was seeking on the High Line Canal, putting it in a conservation easement to ensure continued farming. “We ensured the water will run to the end of the High Line Canal forever,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district…

    After dropping its plans for Lower Ark water, Woodmoor opted to purchase the 3,500-acre JV Ranch, which has water rights of 2,500-3,500 acre-feet of water as well as a 70-acre reservoir. The purchase price will be $25 million to $35 million, depending on the historic average amount of water determined when a water rights change case is filed.

    More Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District coverage here and here.


    Rules designed to limit consumptive use now cover nearly 20,000 acres in the Arkansas Valley

    December 10, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Understanding irrigation in the Lower Arkansas Valley

    Consumptive use refers to the amount of water a crop uses to grow, either through uptake into the plant and transpiration, or through evaporation. Usually it is measured in inches, but presumptive factors have been incorporated into the hydrologic-institutional model under the U.S. Supreme Court Kansas v. Colorado case.

    Return flow is excess water applied to fields that runs off as tailwater or infiltrates soil. Water also can seep out of earthen ditches as it makes its way to the fields.

    Water-short ditches, such as the Fort Lyon Canal or Holbrook Ditch, typically have more ground available to irrigate than water supplies will cover. Other ditches, such as the Catlin or High Line canals, have plentiful water except in very dry years.

    Sprinklers, drip irrigation and ditch lining allow water to be applied more efficiently to fields. In the process, more water could be consumed as more acreage is planted on water-short ditches or used more often on ditches with adequate water. Return flows could be reduced as a result.

    State engineer rules were adopted in Division 2 water court in 2009 to prevent shortages of return flows on the Arkansas River, to downstream users in both Colorado and Kansas…

    This year, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District established a group plan for farmers who use ponds to feed sprinklers to comply using formulas under Rule 10 of the surface irrigation rules. The plan also covers other types of improvements such as ditch lining and drip irrigation, but sprinklers account for nearly all of the impact so far. The Lower Ark district will use water from other sources, such as a five-year lease agreement with the Pueblo Board of Water Works, to provide augmentation water to make up depletions from increased consumptive use.

    While the group plan requires a retainer fee and payment for augmentation water if the formula shows depletion, the payment is far less than farmers otherwise would spend on engineering at each site to show losses. So far, 88 farms with 104 improvements covering 19,767 acres are enrolled in the Lower Ark’s Rule 10 plan, said Heath Kuntz, the district’s engineering consultant. “We’re anticipating a lot of growth over the next few years,” Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district, told the compact administration.

    From the state’s point of view, the program has been the backbone for enforcing the new rules. About 75 farms were signed up at the beginning of the program in April, and the others have signed on at the end of the irrigation season as the state assessed impacts, said Bill Tyner, assistant engineer for Water Division 2. “The Rule 10 plan has turned out to be the most successful part of the rules,” Tyner said, thanking the Lower Ark district and the Colorado Water Conservation Board for the seed money which launched the group plan.

    More Ark Valley consumptive use rules coverage here and here.


    Arkansas River Compact Administration meeting recap: Colorado is 44,000 acre-feet in the black for deliveries at the Kansas border

    December 9, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Accounting for flows through 2010 shows that Colorado has credits of about 44,000 acre-feet in a 10-year running average of flows, said Kevin Salter, of the Kansas engineering staff. The accounting is required as part of the Kansas v. Colorado U.S. Supreme Court lawsuit filed in 1985 and concluded in 2009…

    Despite below-average precipitation and river flows in the Arkansas River basin the past decade, actions by water users have been paying off, said Bill Tyner, assistant Colorado Water Division 2 engineer. “LAWMA (the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association) has really helped themselves with the Kessee Ditch purchase in 2004. It has increased their ability to supply water to the appropriate account.”

    More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    “We see the water lease-fallowing program to be an alternative to buy-and-dry in the Western United States,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, which has supported the [Arkansas Valley Super Ditch] with legal and engineering help. Winner was speaking Thursday at the annual meeting of the Arkansas River Compact Administration. He also updated the administration on the Lower Ark district’s assistance to farmers in forming a group plan for compliance to surface irrigation rules and on the progress of Fountain Creek studies and projects. A pilot program next year will involve a one-year sale of up to 500 acre-feet of water from the Catlin Canal, one of seven ditches which could participate in Super Ditch. No contracts for the lease have been signed, but El Paso County water users such as Fountain have been approached. The district is doing engineering work to determine how to mimic return flows from land temporarily taken out of production for the pilot program. The district is looking at options like ponds on the ditch itself to provide them…

    “I think the transparency of the project is important and that you continue to keep us informed,” said David Barfield, chief engineer for Kansas.

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    More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    The administration board heard a report on the pipeline in its engineering committee, but did not refer it to a special engineering committee that has been formed to resolve issues during and after the U.S. Supreme Court case filed in 1985 and resolved in 2009. The move means it would be at least another year before the pipeline could even be discussed, barring a special meeting.

    “My suggestion is that we wait until they make a filing in water court and then decide on how to move forward,” said David Barfield, chief engineer for Kansas. “There’s clear language under compact article 5H on moving water out of District 67. It’s never been done before.”

    “We have to let the proponent move forward and then determine the best process to address this,” said Matt Heimerich, of Olney Springs, a Colorado administration member.

    More Arkansas River basin coverage here.


    Mark Pifher (Aurora water): ‘We don’t plan to buy or lease any more water in Arkansas basin in the near future’

    December 8, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Aurora’s water rights include nearly all of the Rocky Ford Ditch in Otero County, about one-third of the Colorado Canal in Crowley County and water from 1,750 acres of ranches in Lake County. Those rights provide an average yield of 22,800 acre-feet per year — the equivalent of 80 percent of the potable water used by Pueblo each year.

    - Aurora also uses the Homestake Project, Twin Lakes, Busk-Ivanhoe diversion and the Columbine Ditch to bring water from the Western Slope through the Arkansas River basin and into the South Platte basin. The average yield of those water rights is about 21,500 acre-feet annually.

    - The city can reuse its Arkansas and Colorado basin water imports, and has built the $650 million Prairie Waters Project to directly recapture flows, rather than exchange them.

    - Aurora’s South Platte water rights include wells, ranches, ditches and direct flow from the South Platte. They total about 46,000 acre-feet annually.

    - Aurora has an agreement to trade 5,000 acre-feet of water a year with Pueblo West from Lake Pueblo to Twin Lakes beginning next year. It will replace a similar agreement with the Pueblo Board of Water Works that expires this year.

    - The Pueblo water board sells Aurora 5,000 acre-feet of water each year.

    - Aurora has a contract with the Bureau of Reclamation to store 10,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Pueblo and to move the same amount to Twin Lakes by paper trade.

    - The water is moved from Twin Lakes to Spinney Mountain Reservoir through the Homestake pipeline system…

    “We don’t have any current plans beyond what we’re already doing,” said Mark Pifher, director of Aurora water. “We don’t plan to buy or lease any more water in Arkansas basin in the near future.”

    Instead, the city will continue developing Prairie Waters, a reuse project that pumps sewer return flows through a filtration and purification system, only at about 20 percent capacity so far. Aurora calculates that its average yield from its Arkansas River basin water rights is about 22,800 acre-feet annually. That’s roughly one-fourth of its total yield from its entire system, which includes South Platte and Colorado River basin rights. From a practical standpoint, Aurora does not move all of its water out of the Arkansas River basin each year.

    More Aurora coverage here and here.


    The Preferred Options Storage Plan surfaces again after dismissal of lawsuit over Aurora’s excess capacity contract with Reclamation

    December 7, 2011

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    In the late 20th century the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy Board floated the idea of expanding Pueblo Reseroir since new mainstem reservoirs are nearly impossible to permit nowadays and more storage is identified as one of Colorado’s big needs going forward. Aurora’s insistence on being part of the authorization legislation stalled the project. They are out now so expansion of storage in Lake Pueblo is back on the table. Here’s report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    “This allows us in the basin to concentrate on storage and move the PSOP process ahead,” said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works.

    PSOP stands for the Preferred Storage Option Plan, developed by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy district in the late 1990s, when Hamel was president of the Southeastern board.

    Aurora remained at the table during PSOP discussions through 2007, when talks organized by U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar broke off when the Lower Ark district sued the Bureau of Reclamation over an Aurora storage contract. In the newest agreement, reached as part of the conditions of a motion to dismiss a federal lawsuit, Aurora has dropped its claim to be included in PSOP legislation, while agreeing to support the 2001 PSOP implementation report.

    Here’s a look at the settlement that led to the dismissal, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    A joint motion filed by all parties in the case asks federal District Judge Philip Brimmer to dismiss the case with prejudice, meaning it cannot be reopened. Stipulations attached to the case require Aurora to abide by an intergovernmental agreement reached with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District in 2009.

    “It means the lawsuit is completely over,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district. “I think this puts the final part of the fence around Aurora. Our agreement restricts them from putting any more infrastructure into the valley to move more water out of here.”

    The agreement also reinforces past agreements Aurora has made to limit the amount of water it can move from the valley and defines the service area in which water from the Arkansas River basin can be used. Aurora also has agreed to withdraw its claims from any future legislation to study the enlargement of Lake Pueblo.

    Aurora, a city of 300,000 east of Denver, owns water rights in Otero, Crowley and Lake counties and pumps it from Twin Lakes into the South Platte River basin through the Homestake Project, which is operated jointly with Colorado Springs…

    One year ago, the case was administratively closed by Brimmer, but Aurora and the Lower Ark initially continued to work for federal legislation to study the enlargement of Lake Pueblo, a condition of the 2009 IGA…

    As part of the final IGA, Aurora agreed to withdraw its insistence for a clause allowing it to use the Fry-Ark Project in any legislation to enlarge Lake Pueblo. That has been a sticking point for 10 years, and was one reason for the 2003 agreement. Aurora will unconditionally support a federal study of the enlargement of Lake Pueblo. Aurora also has agreed to fully support projects backed by the Lower Ark District, including Fountain Creek improvements, the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch and the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The city will contribute $2 million over 10 years to such projects. It will also continue funding and support of water quality projects in the Arkansas River basin. The agreement also strengthens Aurora’s commitment to continue revegetation of farmland it dried up with the purchase of water from Crowley County.

    More Preferred Options Storage Plan coverage here and here. More Aurora coverage here and here


    The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District files change case for the Larkspur Ditch

    December 6, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District has spent $1 million over the past three years to purchase the ditch from the Catlin Canal. It owns about 73 percent of the Larkspur. In November, the district filed for a change of use in Division 2 Water Court to allow for domestic and augmentation uses in addition to agriculture for the water. “It’s a transmountain water right, so it’s valuable because the water can be reused after it is brought over,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district.

    Larkspur Ditch brings 300-500 acre-feet of water annually from the Gunnison River basin into the Arkansas River basin through several collection ditches and a high-mountain ditch at Marshall Pass southwest of Salida. The Lower Ark district has improved the yield over the last seven years under a cooperative arrangement with the Catlin Canal Co.

    Under a 1041 land-use agreement with the Otero County Commissioners, the Lower Ark has committed to offering first use of the water to users within the county. Initially, some of the water will be applied to Rule 10 group plans under the surface irrigation consumptive use rules approved in water court in 2010. The water is used to augment on-farm sprinkler systems. Several Otero County farms are enrolled in the Lower Ark’s augmentation plan.

    More transmountain/transbasin diversions coverage here.


    Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

    November 30, 2011

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    From the La Junta Tribune Democrat (Bette McFarren):

    The financial report was presented by Director Wayne Whitaker, treasurer. October revenues were $17.91. Expenses were $37,575.37, for a net deficit of $37,557.46 for the month of October. “Sounds like farming,” commented Director Leroy Mauch. There are other assets, as shown on the LAVWCD Enterprise-Activity Account Balance Sheet as of Oct. 31, 2011. Total current assets are $462,903.82 and total property and equipment are $16,916,269.78. Total current liabilities are $125,686.97.

    More Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District coverage here and here.


    The Fountain Creek Master Plan was the topic of discussion at Friday’s meeting of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District

    November 5, 2011

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    Here’s a in-depth report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    A corridor master plan Friday was combed over by the citizens advisory group to the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board. The panel could not agree on whether a dam or series of dams is needed to protect projects that beautify the creek with trails and parks on Fountain Creek, a normally gentle stream prone to occasional violent floods. There also was no consensus on whether water quality should be improved before or after people are encouraged to enjoy the water…

    The corridor plan addresses just the area in the flood plain between Pueblo and Colorado Springs, and is aimed at projects that will fit within the $50 million the district expects to receive five years from now. The district also needs to have projects that could convince voters to approve a mill levy when the time comes, said Larry Small, general manager of the district…

    A dam on Fountain Creek could require moving railroad tracks and Interstate 25 or acquiring private land. A series of dams could be built on any of 21 tributaries along Fountain Creek and would be easier to clear as they periodically filled with sediment, Ready said. “You need a greenway so the creek can meander to slow down the water,” [Tom Ready, a Pueblo member of the committee] said. “You need to keep construction away from the creek. But no big dam will ever work.”[...]

    [Larry Howe-Kerr of Better Pueblo] questioned the wisdom of drawing people to the creek if the water quality remains impaired. Small, Ready and others on the committee said the corridor plan does recommend actions that would improve water quality. They said recreation on the creek would get people to care about it, and does not necessarily mean coming in contact with the water…

    The district is awaiting information from a U.S. Geological Survey study of the impact dams would have on Fountain Creek. In addition, Colorado Springs is developing a stormwater criteria manual which the district wants other communities to consider as well. It won’t be finalized until 2013. A white paper that looks at a comprehensive stormwater plan for El Paso County communities also is being drafted and should be presented to the district in the near future.

    Meanwhile, two technical advisory committee meetings are on the horizon to discuss dam proposals and water rights issues on the creek, according to Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    The technical advisory committee of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District will discuss the U.S. Geological Survey study of Fountain Creek dams at 10 a.m. Nov. 30 at the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments office, 15 S. Seventh St., Colorado Springs.

    The committee will have a panel discussion of water rights by experts from various organizations at 1 p.m. Dec. 7 at Fountain City Hall.

    The USGS study is looking at the impacts of putting dams at various points along Fountain Creek to control floods. The study would not design or recommend dams, but is designed to measure the effectiveness of single projects or combinations of projects. The study is expected to be ready for review late next year and completed in 2013. The study is funded, in part, by $300,000 from Colorado Springs Utilities as a condition of the Pueblo County 1041 permit for the Southern Delivery System.

    The water rights discussion is needed as the district and its partners develop demonstration projects for Fountain Creek, said Dennis Maroney, chairman of the technical committee.

    More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


    The Fountain Creek Corridor Restoration Master Plan is hot off the press from the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District

    October 25, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The plan builds on past studies of Fountain Creek by recommending specific actions and strategies for reaches south of Colorado Springs to the confluence with the Arkansas River in Pueblo. The plan includes the 100-year floodplain for about 46 miles of the creek. The plan is the completion of efforts to improve Fountain Creek that began in 2007 with negotiations between Colorado Springs and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. The Fountain Creek district signed a partnership with those entities in 2009 to complete the plan…

    A total of $1 million has been spent on the plan, which was financed equally by Colorado Springs and the Lower Ark district. THK Associates was the primary contractor. “This plan defines the elements that are included in a healthy reach of the creek versus an unhealthy reach of the creek,” said Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek district. “The plan establishes a series of restoration techniques, including conservation, that are intended to be the toolbox of techniques used as a part of revitalizing Fountain Creek.”

    The plan notes that most of the land in the unincorporated areas along Fountain Creek is privately owned, and generally healthy. The problem areas in Fountain and Pueblo, on mostly public land, receive the most attention. To improve the health of the stream, the plan recommends bank restoration, side detention ponds, wetlands and removal of invasive species that choke out other vegetation. The plan also seeks ways to connect communities to Fountain Creek to treat it as an asset rather than a problem…

    The U.S. Geological Survey, in connection with the district, is studying the impact of a dam or series of dams on Fountain Creek. Results from that study are expected next year.

    Comments on the corridor master plan may be made to fountainck dist@aol.com.

    More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.


    The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District has contracted with the Pueblo Board of Water Works for a five year augmentation plan supply

    October 21, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District will buy 500 acre-feet of water from the Pueblo Board of Water Works each year for the next five years under the lease agreement. The Lower Ark board approved the lease Wednesday, while the Pueblo water board is expected to consider it in November. The price is $196.54 per acre-foot, the same rate as paid by Two Rivers, which is using the water in its project to restore agriculture on the Huerfano-Cucharas Ditch in Pueblo County…

    The water is needed to fill augmentation needs calculated under the district’s group plan that allows farmers to comply with state rules adopted last year. The district has other water resources, but some are dedicated to other purposes. The Pueblo water board, in nearly every year, has surplus water available for leases and has the option to curtail the deliveries if supplies run short. “We want to make sure we have a reliable supply of water for the Rule 10 plan,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district.

    State Engineer Dick Wolfe successfully guided the rules through Water Court to ensure that improvements such as large irrigation sprinklers, drip irrigation and canal lining did not increase consumptive use. Increasing consumptive use would decrease return flows used by ditches downstream and possibly reduce Arkansas River flows at the Kansas state line…

    Rule 10 allows farmers to join a group plan rather than go through more costly engineering on individual systems. The Division 2 engineer’s office developed a model that assures compliance with the formula governing well augmentation under the federal lawsuit. More than 70 wells signed up for the Rule 10 plan under this year, its first year. More are expected next year. Lower Ark has the only group plan in the Arkansas Valley…

    Water Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte said six owners of 10 irrigation sprinklers were issued notices of violation of the rules this year. One of those proved the sprinkler was installed prior to 1999, and thus exempt; one is in appeal; and the rest are apparently joining the Rule 10 plan.

    More Arkansas Valley consumptive use rules coverage here and here.


    Lamar pipeline: The Lower Ark Board listened politely (and critically) to GP Resources’ project preview yesterday

    October 20, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The board had questions about the projected yield of the project, the problem of brine disposal from a proposed treatment plant and the idea of moving water out of the Arkansas Valley — which goes against the mission adopted by the district after voters formed it in 2002. “I compliment your approach, opposed as I am to any water leaving the valley,” said Reeves Brown, a Beulah rancher who sits on the Lower Ark board. “There’s a limit to what we think agriculture can give up in order to support growth in Colorado.”[...]

    Upon questioning from the Lower Ark board, Nyquist said the only definite use for the water is in Elbert County. The Cherokee Metro District in Colorado Springs and Castle Rock in Douglas County have been approached, but decided on other options, at least in the short term, Nyquist said. “Right now, the pipeline ends at Falcon,” Nyquist said.

    “It’s only a short distance to Reuter-Hess Reservoir (in Parker), which has 60,000 acre-feet of empty storage space,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district…

    GP is looking at either deep injection of brine or a solar heating system that would evaporate the water [ed. by-product of the proposed reverse osmosis water treatment plant]. The heating system, which could also generate steam to power turbines, has not been tested on a large scale, Nyquist said. It would also generate 16 truckloads of salt per week. “It could be used as sidewalk deicer,” Nyquist said. “As a private business, we will figure out another manufacturing opportunity for something that would just be waste.”[...]

    [Karl Nyquist] said the assessed valuation of the ground on which the treatment plant is built would be greater than the value of the ground dried up. The combined wages from jobs at the treatment plant, reservoir and continued farm operations would more than make up for the temporary farm jobs that would be lost as a result of the dry-up, Nyquist said.

    More Lamar pipeline coverage here.


    The need for more storage in the Arkansas River basin was a discussion point at last week’s meeting of the UAWCD

    October 17, 2011

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    From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

    District Manager Terry Scanga said his counterparts Jim Broderick, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, and Jay Winner, Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, attended the meeting, as did Alan Hamel, executive director with Pueblo Board of Water Works.

    Scanga said the men agreed that more storage in the Arkansas basin is crucial for meeting future municipal and industrial water demand as identified by the Statewide Water Supply Initiative, which projects a significant supply shortfall by 2050.

    Scanga also said new storage capacity would be needed if more Western Slope water were to be diverted into the Arkansas Basin and additional storage is needed to support effective environmental conservation along basin waterways.

    The Multi-Use Project recently proposed by the Upper Arkansas district would increase basin storage capacity and has generated interest among other conservancy districts and municipal water providers, Scanga said.

    More Arkansas River basin coverage here.


    Results of a $42,000 study of Upper Arkansas River streamflows show the need for increased communication and more storage

    October 14, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Those conclusions are the result of a $42,000 study of the Upper Arkansas River by Paul Flack, a former hydrologist for the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation area, who was contracted last year under a grant sponsored by the Southeastern Colorado and Upper Arkansas water conservancy districts. Flack shared some conclusions of his study Wednesday with the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, saying there is a need for all of the users who are concerned about flows in the upper basin to get together to reach solutions. In addition, about 20,000 acre-feet of new reservoir storage is needed to meet all the needs.

    The Upper Arkansas has, for years, become a complicated operation as water users have tried to balance releases from Turquoise and Twin Lakes and levels in Lake Pueblo with flows for recreation and fish.

    Flows also have to be kept in check below Turquoise in the Lake Fork watershed to avoid disturbing old mine tailings that could leach heavy metals into the Arkansas River…

    Chaffee County recreational in-channel diversion rights, which support boat courses in Buena Vista and Salida, are problematic because they depend on other river operations…

    Flows in the river to meet the needs of fish, a component of a 20-year-old voluntary flow agreement among several agencies, could be a potential source of conflict. “The fishing flow can be in opposition to the needs of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project,” Flack said.

    At Lake Pueblo, Flack looked at the possibility of changing the timing of spring releases for if-and-when or winter water storage accounts. “There could be significant water savings, up to thousands of acre-feet,” he said. “But, there would be a ripple effect upstream.”[...]

    Adding 20,000 acre-feet of storage is needed to smoothly operate the increasingly complex river system. Planning should involve those affected, and not just with phone calls to Reclamation in an emergency, Flack said.

    More Arkansas River basin coverage here.


    ‘Colorado Water 2012′ scores $25,000 from the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District

    September 23, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District allocated $25,000 Wednesday to help with the Colorado Water 2012 initiative in the Arkansas River basin.

    The initiative is an effort by the state’s water community to commemorate several events, including the 50th anniversary of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, and the 75th anniversary of the Colorado Big-Thompson Project, which led to the formation of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado River Conservation District and Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District…

    The Lower Ark board intends to stay involved for the planning of Colorado Water 2012 as a way to promote its mission of keeping water in the Arkansas River basin. [Perry Cabot, a research scientist with Colorado State University Extension] outlined a broad approach that builds on activities in the state and in the valley to celebrate water next year. For example, it will tie into the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s plans to mark the 50th anniversary of Fry-Ark and the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum in Leadville next spring. There are other water education programs being initiated by CSU Extension as well.

    More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.


    Reeves Brown: Why should agriculture, which is already short on water, be the reservoir for the state?

    August 22, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “Why should agriculture, which is already short on water, be the reservoir for the state?” Brown asked. “We need to go forward with a better analysis of the shortage and what is needed to support agriculture.” Brown also is a member of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and Arkansas Basin Roundtable, and has often tried to keep the issue in front of those groups…

    Earlier this month, the [Arkansas Basin] roundtable formed a committee to address Brown’s concerns. In the process, he hopes to guide the state to a new way of thinking about its water needs. At last week’s Lower Ark meeting, Brown expanded on the need for the committee, which is closely aligned with the district’s goals. “The agriculture industry deserves to be more than the stepchild for water supply in the future,” Brown said…

    Water users in El Paso County — Fountain, Widefield, Woodmoor and Donala — have been buying farms and ranches for water in recent years. Large blocks of water have been purchased on the Fort Lyon and Bessemer canals for future municipal use. Half of the Amity Canal was sold to Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association for a future power plant. And there are agricultural operations that easily could turn into municipal supply projects throughout the valley, potentially catching the valley off-guard as GP’s plan did. Large blocks of agricultural water have been consolidated in Pueblo and Otero counties, causing public officials to worry about where the water could be headed…

    The Lower Ark board is one of few water agencies in the state that firmly supports a Flaming Gorge pipeline. Last year, it supported Aaron Million’s idea for the 560-mile line from the Green River in Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range because it would develop unused state entitlement in the Colorado River basin and take pressure off Arkansas Valley farms. Million has always insisted that some water from the pipeline be set aside for agricultural and environmental uses. The state’s roundtables have committed to investigating Million’s plan, along with a similar proposal by the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition, as a way of filling the water supply gap…

    At a roundtable meeting earlier this month, Fremont County rancher Tom Young asked whether the state should seriously consider importing water from the Missouri River basin in South Dakota, rather than looking for more out of the Colorado River basin from Flaming Gorge Reservoir.

    More Arkansas River basin coverage here.


    A June agreement between the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and Aurora may pave the way for the expansion of Pueblo Reservoir

    August 19, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “I think this [June agreement] has opened the door for success in the Arkansas basin,” Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board on Thursday. Aurora would not be included in any federal legislation to enlarge Lake Pueblo under its agreement with the Lower Ark in June meant to settle the Lower Ark’s 2007 federal lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation over a 40-year contract that allows Aurora to store and ex- change water in the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project…

    Now that Aurora has removed its demand to be included in the federal legislation, the district could move ahead in seeking the legislation. No new PSOP bill has been introduced. While there are 27 intergovernmental agreements that “put a fence” on Aurora’s future activities in the Arkansas Valley, the new Lower Ark agreement does other things to prevent Aurora from taking even more water from the Arkansas River basin, Winner said. One of those is stopping Aurora’s ability to build new infrastructure to move water out of the valley. “It’s cheaper to build infrastructure in 2011 than 40 years from now,” Winner said. “This stops Aurora.”[...]

    “I think this agreement can open the door for more storage in Pueblo Reservoir, which this basin needs,” Winner said. “It is very protective of the Arkansas basin.”

    More Arkansas River basin coverage here.


    Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board meeting recap: The board approves dropping challenges to Aurora’s 2007 deal for excess capacity storage in Lake Pueblo

    July 21, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A new agreement that removes Aurora’s connection with federal legislation that would look at enlarging Lake Pueblo was approved Wednesday by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. The Aurora City Council would have to approve the agreement to put it into place. The agreement would end any further attempts by the Lower Ark district to challenge Aurora’s 2007 contract with the Bureau of Reclamation. the district sued Reclamation in federal court shortly after the contract was awarded…

    Under the new agreement with the Lower Ark district, Aurora would support federal legislation to enlarge Turquoise Lake and Lake Pueblo without its previous insistence on including provisions that allow Aurora to use Fry-Ark facilities. The new agreement also would require Aurora to support using its payments on the contract to help fund the Arkansas Valley Conduit.

    More Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District coverage here.


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