The SECWD pulls applications for increased storage in Lake Pueblo and Turquoise Lake

November 25, 2012

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Two water court applications, filed in 2000, claiming storage rights in Lake Pueblo and Turquoise Lake are being pulled because federal legislation has stalled. “Because we don’t have the federal legislation on (dam) enlargement, we wouldn’t be able to meet the can­andwill provisions of state law,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

The district filed for the storage rights after its Preferred Storage Options Plan was completed. The plan identified enlargement of Lake Pueblo and Turquoise Lake as the best ways to increase storage in the Arkansas River basin. But after 12 years, PSOP looks increasingly unlikely.

The district sought federal legislation to study enlargement of the reservoirs, which were built as part of the Fryingpan­Arkansas Project, but hit its first snag when it opposed Aurora’s inclusion in storage plans. A revised version of PSOP included Aurora, which made certain concessions to the Southeastern district in 2003. New agreements were reached with the city of Pueblo in 2004 that would have allowed PSOP to progress.

Ken Salazar, D­Colo., attempted to broker a settlement among 11 entities that would have allowed PSOP to progress in 2007, but those efforts failed when the Lower Ark sued the Bureau of Reclamation over its storage contract with Aurora.

Since then, Aurora has dropped its insistence to be included in the legislation.

Meanwhile, the “reoperations” of Lake Pueblo — another part of PSOP that defines how nonproject water is stored — have moved ahead through long­term excess capacity contracts for the Pueblo Board of Water Works, Aurora and the Southern Delivery System. The Bureau of Reclamation also is considering a master contract sponsored by the Southeastern district. Southeastern continues to fund studies related to reservoir enlargement, with $132,000 included in next year’s proposed budget, to be adopted in December.

More Preferred Storage Option Plan coverage here and here.


Pueblo: The city’s raw water supplies are sufficient to cover anticipated growth

March 11, 2012

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Pueblo’s advantage is that it has not grown into its existing supply, unlike many other Front Range communities. While storage is the key to ongoing statewide strategies, few new projects have been built since the completion of Lake Pueblo in the 1970s. The Preferred Storage Options Plan, which would look at enlarging Lake Pueblo, is 14 years old and “still at Step 1,” [Executive Director Alan Hamel] said. The water board bought 28 percent Bessemer Ditch in 2009 as a way to reduce dependence on Colorado River water, but half of Pueblo’s supply still comes from the Western Slope. It will be at least 10 years before the Bessemer shares are converted to municipal use in water court, Hamel said. At the same time, Pueblo water customers have voluntarily cut their use 17 percent and the water board is looking at other strategies for conservation…

The water board is pricing water service rates to new large users at the true cost of providing water — $16,200 per acre-foot. As it has developed the policy, staff members have worked behind the scenes with city staff and met with the Pueblo Economic Development Corp. to make sure the rates don’t scare off companies that could bring jobs to Pueblo, Hamel said.

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.


Terry Scanga: ‘Lease-fallowing does a lot of good things and preserves ag water’

January 9, 2012

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“There has to be better ways of using agricultural water,” said John Stulp, water policy adviser for Gov. John Hickenlooper, at a Super Ditch summit meeting Friday. “Rotational fallowing is one of the tools in the tool box,” he said…

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, which supported and funded the startup of Super Ditch, plans to file a substitute water supply plan in February that would allow the program to be up and running by April. State Engineer Dick Wolfe said he believes the Super Ditch fits into the 2002 legislation that allows substitute water supply plans under certain conditions. The law initially was applied to the High Line Canal’s lease of water to Aurora in 2004-05. It allows for a three-year program with return flows accounted for over a five-year period…

If the leasing program continues, it would require a change of use decree in Division 2 water court, a process some have called “the mother of all change cases.” That would be an expensive proposition for both sponsors and objectors, so the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, part of the IBCC process, has discussed ways to develop a common platform to look at engineering as Super Ditch grows.

“Lease-fallowing does a lot of good things and preserves ag water. We might want to use it in the upper valley,” said Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, primary sponsors of a grant to develop an administrative tool for measurement during water transfers. “We need to know how to calculate water use. We are in this together.”

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

“We need to be working on new water projects, but that takes time,” said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works. “We don’t want ag dry-up to be the main fallback.”

Hamel and fellow CWCB member Travis Smith addressed a water summit Friday on a proposed pilot program that would allow the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch to sell 500 acre-feet of water next year to El Paso County water providers. “Super Ditch is not without controversy, but is a local solution to determining our future,” Smith said…

Smith, superintendent of the San Luis Valley Irrigation District, hailed the state Supreme Court’s decision last month to approve a plan for subdistricts, which are needed to prevent overpumping of Rio Grande groundwater. “We’re going to fallow 80,000 acres, and the question is how do you do that and take care of the local economy,” Smith said. “In the San Luis Valley, we hurt ourselves with uncontrolled pumping up until 2002. We’re still recovering from the drought.”

Smith said the plan, like Super Ditch, was developed as farmers worked together to find ways out of a dilemma. “I’m optimistic that the ag community can work together and be successful,” Smith said.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch 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


Pueblo County sends letter to Senator Udall requesting a seat at the table with regard to new storage legislation

December 8, 2010

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

In a letter sent this week, commissioners asked Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., to include the county and other community leaders in the Arkansas Valley in any discussions about new water storage legislation. “You reportedly have been meeting with water users in their effort to reintroduce legislation for the Preferred Storage Options Plan at Pueblo Reservoir,” the letter from commissioners stated. “We ask that you coordinate not only with water users but with this board and other county commissioners and community leaders in the Arkansas Valley.”

Udall replied that he will not move forward without consensus from all members of the Colorado congressional delegation, as well as the agreement of all stakeholders. “I would never move forward with any legislation until reaching out to the parties to the litigation, my colleagues in the congressional delegation, and all parties concerned and ensuring that there was public input from all groups and communities that would be directly affected,” Udall said Tuesday…

The PSOP bill primarily looks at a feasibility study for enlargement of Lake Pueblo and Turquoise Lake, which is located near Leadville. It is inextricably tied to a series of intergovernmental agreements and further discussions that were conducted by former U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar that broke down in 2007 when the Lower Ark filed its lawsuit.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here. More Preferred Options Storage Plan coverage here and here.


Fryingpan-Arkansas Project: Senator Udall is seeking consensus from Colorado’s congressional delegation for Aurora’s use of project facilities to move water out of basin

November 17, 2010

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“It’s not fair to suggest that I’ve put my thumb on the scales toward Aurora or the Arkansas Valley,” Udall said. “The role I was playing was in assuring the court that if the parties would agree, then I would be a mediator in the process.” Udall also said there would have to be consensus from the entire congressional delegation, including newly elected Republicans Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner, who will be in the U.S. House.

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District is suing the Bureau of Reclamation in the Denver federal court over a 40-year contract awarded to Aurora by Reclamation in 2007. The Lower Ark contended the contract violated the 1962 legislation authorizing the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, but signed a 2009 agreement with Aurora to stay the case for two years. Part of the agreement was to seek federal legislation that legitimizes use of the Fry-Ark Project by Aurora.

Udall looks at the possibility of such legislation as “one last attempt” to avoid costly court battles over the issue in the future. “If the parties reach agreement, then I would help them vet it,” Udall said. “If there’s not an agreement, then I’m not going to introduce legislation.”[...]

“I’m relying on the parties who come to the table to keep the valley whole, if those parties can come to an agreement,” Udall said. “If the parties don’t agree, I’m doing nothing.”

More Fryingpan-Arkansas coverage here and here.


Senator Udall intends to sponsor legislation next year authorizing Aurora to use Fryingpan-Arkansas facilities to move water out of the Arkansas Basin

November 14, 2010

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The information was included in a report by attorneys for Aurora and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District filed late Friday in the Denver U.S. District Court. The report says Udall has agreed to circulate draft legislation along the lines of past attempts to change federal law to allow Aurora to use Fry-Ark storage and exchange contracts to move water from farms dried up in Lake, Crowley and Otero counties into its South Platte collection system. “Senator Udall indicated that he intends to circulate draft legislation in the next Congress so that the congressional delegation can reach consensus on language that will implement the settlement agreement,” wrote attorneys Stuart Somach, for Aurora, and Peter Nichols, for the Lower Ark, in the joint filing.

The legislation is expected to be much the same as language included in earlier versions of the Preferred Storage Options Plan, a provision of a 2003 agreement with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, and in the 2004 intergovernmental agreement among Pueblo, the Pueblo water board, Colorado Springs, Fountain, the Southeastern district and Aurora…

The report indicates that if Congress has not enacted legislation by May 13, 2011 — the two-year anniversary of the settlement agreement [In 2009, the Lower Ark and Aurora reached a settlement that included additional concessions by Aurora and placed a stay on the case for two years. Among the provisions was new federal legislation that cleared Aurora to use the Fry-Ark project.] — Aurora and the Lower Ark will provide an amended settlement agreement recommending administrative closure of the case that preserves the right to reopen the case. Periodic status reports also would be included.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.


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