Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

April 14, 2014
Graphic via the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District

Graphic via the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District

From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District directors agreed to continue pursuing the district’s proposed Multi-use Project during the monthly board meeting Thursday in Salida. Director Greg Felt, Salida, provided an overview of the project, which has remained largely dormant for the past 2 years, and noted the widespread appeal of the project among diverse state agencies, local government entities and the conservation and recreation communities.

Benefits of the project would include:

• Preservation of agricultural irrigation.
• Two water storage reservoirs.
• Alluvial aquifer water storage.
• Conservation easements.
• Wildlife corridor protections.
• Protections for deer and elk populations.
• Drought water supply.
• New public access to the Arkansas River.
• New boating access to the river.
• Hydroelectric electricity generation.

Felt pointed out that these benefits align almost perfectly with Colorado water management objectives as identified by the Statewide Water Supply Initiative, or SWSI (swahzee), 2010 report.

Major components of the project would include Chaffee County’s most senior water right, the Trout Creek Ditch; the Helena Ditch; Moltz Reservoir; a proposed gravel pit reservoir; and 6,000-12,000 acre-feet of proposed aquifer storage.

Felt said significant challenges facing the project include financing and working with five different property owners.

District Manager Terry Scanga said he sent a proposal to the Colorado Water Conservation Board concerning the project and the potential for financing through the CWCB and said he would follow up to get a meeting set.

District Engineer Ivan Walter said, “The project is there” from an engineering standpoint and in terms of SWSI objectives. “It would be a missed opportunity if the Upper Ark (district) didn’t do it.”

Director Jeff Ollinger, Buena Vista, has a background in finance and suggested using the CWCB finance application to prepare for the CWCB meeting. He also noted the potential for the district to leverage other assets as collateral to obtain sufficient financing for the project.

Ollinger also stressed the need to accurately assess the risks associated with the project, citing the potential for wildfire in the Trout Creek drainage and the potential for a hazardous material spill along U.S. 24/285 between Johnson Village and Trout Creek Pass.
Either of these events could significantly affect water quality and, therefore, the ability of the Multi-use Project to generate revenue to make loan payments.

Prior to the regular board meeting, directors met as the Enterprise Committee. Agenda items for the committee meeting included a financial report, an augmentation report, a reservoir and water storage report, and a precipitation and streamflow report.

In other business, Upper Ark directors:

Learned that Upper Colorado Basin snowpack conditions are similar to those in 2011 when the Frying Pan-Arkansas Project delivered 98,900 acre-feet of water to the Arkansas River and that the district has requested 1,000 acre-feet of project water for 2014.

Heard a legislative report from consultant Ken Baker, who said the Flex Water Market bill had been changed to prevent leased water from being diverted outside the basin of historic use for the water right in question.

Voted to drop Water Court case 95CW234, involving district efforts to extend augmentation services into the Texas Creek drainage.

Heard a presentation by U.S. Geological Survey Southwest Colorado Office Chief David Mau about the detrimental effects of wildfire runoff on water quality and how to mitigate those effects.

Learned the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District approved a stipulation in Water Court case 04CW95 and signed a storage agreement with the Upper Ark district.
Were reminded that four directors’ seats are up for reappointment, and candidates have until May 1 to submit an application.

Learned district staff members are developing a memorandum of understanding with the town of Buena Vista for the Cottonwood Creek Integrated Management Plan.

Agreed to have legal counsel draft comments regarding the U.S. Environmental Protection

Agency’s proposed rules pertaining to water resources.

More Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District coverage 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.


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

    June 14, 2013

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    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.


    Upper Ark District board meeting recap: All district reservoirs are full, except DeWeese (89%) — Jord Gertson #COdrought

    May 12, 2013

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    From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

    Recent weather patterns in the Upper Arkansas River Valley precipitated discussion of snowpack and water supplies during the Thursday meeting of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District. District hydrologist Jord Gertson reported that all district reservoirs are full, except for DeWeese Reservoir in Custer County, which is at 89 percent of capacity.

    Gertson presented Natural Resources Conservation Service data compiled May 1 that show Upper Arkansas River Basin snowpack at 93 percent of average and 287 percent of 2012 snowpack levels. Gertson said Snowpack Telemetry sites at Fremont Pass and Brumley show the snow water equivalent at 101 percent and 109 percent of median, respectively. The Fremont Pass SNOTEL site also reports precipitation at 106 percent of average for the current water year, which began Oct. 1. Gertson also showed snowpack charts indicating measurements at upper basin SNOTEL sites are “way better than last year,” including sites at Porphyry Creek, Independence Pass and St. Elmo.

    District directors also reported good news about the Frying Pan-Arkansas Project, which is expected to import 47,000 acre-feet of water from the Western Slope this year, compared to 14,000 acre-feet in 2012. Diversions of Fry-Ark Project water into the Arkansas Basin average approximately 52,000 acre-feet of water per year. In 2011, the project imported 98,000 acre-feet of Western Slope water, the second highest amount in the project’s 50-year history of operations.

    In other business, directors heard a legislative report from consultant Ken Baker. Baker’s report mainly focused on House Bill 1130, which, he said, targets Arkansas Basin water and is expected to be signed by the governor.

    Baker said HB 1130 would create a “selective application” of a 130-year-old Colorado water law. The bill would create the potential for 30 years of interruptible-supply agreements that are currently limited to a maximum of 10 years. The state engineer would have authority to approve these agreements, changing the use of the water and bypassing Water Court proceedings that are currently required to change the use of a water right. Baker said the bill mainly benefits Aurora, allowing the city to take Arkansas Basin water without having to pursue a change-of-use case in Water Court.

    To gain the votes needed to pass the bill, Baker said a special exclusion was added that exempts Western Slope water.

    In other business, Upper Ark directors:

  • Approved a modification to a Nestlé Waters North America augmentation agreement for 200 acre-feet of Fry-Ark Project water per year for 35 years.
  • Agreed to stipulate out of Poncha Springs case 09CW138, subject to favorable review of the stipulations by district engineer Ivan Walter.
  • Approved an agreement with law firm Wilderson, Lock and Hill to provide legal counsel for a flat fee of $2,000 per month.
  • Received an update on an integrated water agreement with Buena Vista.
  • Approved a cooperative water agreement with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
  • Learned that the gate wheel at O’Haver Lake has been replaced after the old one was damaged by a vehicle.
  • Received an update on the Trout Creek Ditch exchange case, 08CW106, which is scheduled to go to trial June 11 if the Department of Corrections, division engineer and Colorado Water Conservation Board do not agree to proposed stipulations.
  • From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

    Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District directors heard a report about the potential for underground water storage in Chaffee County during their Thursday meeting. Tammy Ivahnenko and Ken Watts with the U.S. Geological Survey said areas identified for further study include aquifers near Salida, Nathrop, Johnson Village, Buena Vista and north of Buena Vista.

    Watts said the locations were identified based on slope (less than 3 percent), soil texture at a depth of 5 feet (loam, sandy loam or gravel preferred) and surface geology (alluvial or gravel deposits).

    Another important factor, Watts said, is the “stream-accretion response time factor,” which provides an indication of how long water will stay in an aquifer before draining into a stream.

    Ivahnenko described “water budgets” she developed for Cottonwood, Chalk and Browns creeks and the South Arkansas River.
    The water budgets include irrigated acres, consumptive use by crops and amount of water diverted for irrigation, and help determine how much water may be available for storage at a given time.

    Watts said he conducted “slug tests” at 29 wells to determine hydraulic properties in the aquifers, including conductivity and permeability. He also reported on findings from Colorado State University monitoring wells. Hourly readings from the monitoring wells documented seasonal changes in water level and temperature, showing seasonal changes in groundwater levels and surface-water infiltration.

    Some wells showed significant influence from surface irrigation while others indicated a more stable, natural water level.
    Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District officials are developing plans to increase water storage capacity in the Upper Arkansas River basin. An important component of those plans is underground storage in alluvial aquifers, which would eliminate evaporative water losses and provide augmentation water through natural recharge to surface waters.

    Conservancy district officials said they will rely on USGS findings to help determine possible locations for underground water storage projects.

    More Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District coverage here.


    Aurora hopes to lease 10,000 acre-feet of water in 2013 via the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch Company #CODrought

    December 19, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Two Rocky Ford­ area ditch company boards agreed Tuesday to work with the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch to lease water to Aurora next year. The boards of the High Line and Catlin canals cleared the way for the leases, which will be made through the Super Ditch.

    “It’s a voluntary program, and shareholders can either agree to participate or not to participate,” said John Schweizer, president of both the Catlin Canal and Super Ditch boards. “How many choose to participate determines how much each person will get.”

    Aurora has offered to buy up to 10,000 acre-­feet of water from the Super Ditch next year because its reservoir storage is below 60 percent of available capacity. That is a trigger for leasing in drought­ recovery years under the 2003 agreement with the Southeastern Colorado and Upper Arkansas water conservancy districts. Aurora initially offered $500 per acre­-foot, but that figure is under negotiation, Schweizer said. “The boards agreed that wouldn’t work at all,” Schweizer said.

    Super Ditch attorney Peter Nichols will negotiate the rate with Aurora.

    The $500 per acre-­foot figure was part of an agreement reached in 2010 with the Super Ditch and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. Since then, the price of corn and hay — the major crops grown here — in the Arkansas Valley has nearly tripled during the drought.

    “That was a different time,” Schweizer said.

    Either an interruptible supply plan or substitute water supply plan would have to be filed with the Division of Water Resources for the lease to occur. That would require engineering and legal resources to meet a possible challenge from other water users in the valley. Schweizer said those costs also will be negotiated with Aurora.

    More Aurora coverage here and here.


    The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board approves a $2.9 million budget for 2012

    November 29, 2011

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    From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

    Directors approved a budget resolution adopting the $2.9 million 2012 budget prepared by Swartz and Young Certified Public Accountants [November 10] during the monthly Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board meeting in Salida. The total budget includes the general fund and the enterprise fund, and Rich Young of Swartz and Young said the 2012 budget includes $465,779 in projected property tax revenue, an increase of $2,000-3,000 compared with this year.

    More Arkansas River basin 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.


    The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, Pueblo Water Works, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Salida, Buena Vista, Cañon City, Florence and others are in prelimary talks about forming a coalition to develop storage closer to the point of use

    August 24, 2011

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    From The Mountain Mail Joe Stone:

    Terry Scanga, conservancy district manager, said committee members identified several possible options that would support a concept of developing water storage at a variety of locations to benefit multiple Arkansas River basin water users. Because of the cost of developing this type of storage system, Scanga said the project would require collaboration…

    Scanga said response to the idea was “enthusiastic.” The concept is appealing, he said, because it would provide flexibility allowing participating entities to store water closer to the point of use instead of in large, distant reservoirs…

    As a result of the meeting, Scanga said two committees were formed. One will investigate possible organizational structure for the coalition and another to create a “white paper” outlining things such as mission and principles of the coalition…

    He said potential storage sites include reservoirs, gravel pits and alluvial aquifers in which water could be stored underground.

    More Arkansas River basin coverage here.


    The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board voted 13-1 against expansion of federal wilderness areas in the Arkansas River basin

    August 21, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    At issue is a bill by Diana DeGette, D-Colo., to create additional Colorado wilderness areas, as well as wild lands and wilderness study designations approved by Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar. The federal legislation has been reintroduced several times without success.

    The [Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District] believes any of those actions could prevent water development. “Development of storage or enlargement of existing storage and other beneficial uses of water on streams that are included in these wilderness designations, such as Grape, Badger or Beaver Creeks, will be precluded as a consequence,” Upper Ark chairman Glenn Everett said.

    The Southeastern District still has conditional decrees for canals that could serve hydroelectric power generation. The canals haven’t been built, but could be in the future, explained Bob Hamilton, engineering supervisor for the district.

    Most board members agreed, except for Reed Dils. “In my mind, considering what’s going to happen to the legislation, we should do nothing at all,” Dils said. “I support wilderness legislation.”

    More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


    Custer County: Committee recommends against signing up for Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District augmentation plan

    July 5, 2011

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    From the Wet Mountain Tribune (Nora Drenner):

    The ad hoc committee determined there is no immediate need for any new water augmentation in the county. The committee used U.S Census Bureau statistics to determine there would be no need for any new water augmentation plan within the next ten years. The projected growth the unincorporated portion of the county for the next ten years, said the committee, is 63-to 99 new households, which is less than two percent a year.

    Also, said committee members, the trend for those newcomers is to buy existing homes instead of vacant land, according to recent Custer County Sales Transaction History statistics.

    In conclusion, the ad hoc committee said they would be making recommendations to the county commissioners:

    –The county continue to work with the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District to address potential water needs and to insure county conditions are included in any new augmentation plan being considered.
    –The commissioners become more informed and proactive in regards to local water issues.
    –The commissioners convene the ad hoc committee as needed to re-evaluate the situation.
    –The commissioners continue to support the current U.S. Geological Survey organization’s survey of some 60 wells in the county.

    Those recommendations will be presented during the commissioners meeting slated for…Thursday, June 30.

    More Custer County coverage here.


    Upper Arkansas River Water Conservancy District board meeting recap: Glenn Everett, the last remaining original member of the district, makes way for new board

    June 13, 2011

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    Salida City Councilman Jay Moore was appointed to fill the Division 2 (School District R-32-J) directorship vacated by Everett. Moore and three re-appointed directors were sworn in at the meeting.

    The re-appointed directors are:

    • Tim Canterbury, Division 1 – area encompassed by School District RE-3.

    • Bob Senderhauf, Division 4 – Custer County.

    • John Sandefur, Division 6, Seat B – area encompassed by School District RE-2, excluding the part of RE-2 within Custer County.

    After the swearing in, Bob Senderhauf was elected chairman, Tim Canterbury was elected vice chairman, Greg Felt was re-elected secretary, and Jim McCormick was re-elected treasurer. The new officers all expressed appreciation for Everett’s service to the conservancy district…

    District Manager Terry Scanga discussed preliminary efforts to form a coalition in the Upper Arkansas Valley to construct new water storage vessels or enlarge existing ones. “It’s time to formalize that coalition and move forward,” Scanga said, based on the need for augmentation plans in the upper Arkansas basin.

    More Upper Arkansas River Water Conservancy District coverage here.


    There are four seats open for directors of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District

    April 28, 2011

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    From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

    Expiring terms are: Division 1, Fremont County School District RE-3, Timothy Canterbury; Division 2, Chaffee County School District R-32-J, chairman Glenn Everett; Division 4, Custer County, vice chairman Robert Senderhauf; and Division 6, Fremont County School District RE-2, John Sandefur.

    Property owners at least 18 years old who have lived in one of those divisions at least one year may apply for appointment to the directorship for the division in which they live. Terms begin June 1 and continue four years. Applicants should have backgrounds reflecting agricultural, municipal, industrial or other interests in beneficial water use within conservancy district boundaries.

    More Arkansas River basin coverage here.


    Custer County: Commissioners agree to give a fresh look at the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District’s proposed augmentation plan for the county

    February 13, 2011

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    From the Wet Mountain Tribune (Nora Drenner):

    On Jan. 19 commissioners Lynn Attebery, Jim Austin and Allen Butler recapped the water forum held here on Jan. 15, and decided to meet with the county’s planning commission chair and co-chair to discuss the viability of the planning commission investigating the feasibility of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District bringing a water augmentation plan to the county and making a recommendation to that effect to the commissioners. That meeting with the two county planning commission members – chairman Vic Barnes and vice-chair Keith Hood – took place during the Jan. 31 commissioners’ regular meeting. Following a lengthy discussion, with Barnes and Hood agreeing that the planning commission’s role should be to gather data only, the county commissioners decided to discuss the matter with county attorney John Naylor before making a final decision regarding the planning commission’s role, if any. Also during the Jan 19 meeting, commissioner Austin made a motion to send a letter to the UAWCD stating the county commissioners were not to blame for UAWCD’s recent decision to pull its proposed blanket water augmentation plan for Custer County from water court. Instead, said Austin, the commissioners objected because the UAWCD did not honor its agreement with the former county commissioners. That agreement, noted Austin, was that the commissioners be allowed to review the water augmentation proposal before UAWCD submitted it. “That didn’t happen,” said Austin.

    More Custer County coverage here and here.


    Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

    January 17, 2011

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    From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

    Witte said he believes the vast majority of seep water affected by the new rules is in southeast Colorado “because there are big ditch companies out there with large canals that cross dry arroyos.” Witte explained water from the big ditches seeped into arroyos through time and people claimed rights to that water instead of allowing it to return to the river. Because seep rights are more recent or junior rights, failure to administer them under the priority system has deprived senior rights holders of their water – particularly in the Upper Arkansas River Basin, Witte said. “I’m absolutely convinced we’re doing the right thing,” Witte said, adding he sees no basis for distinguishing between ditch seepage and natural springs.

    On a separate topic, Witte said water storage in the basin is down about 15 percent because of dry fall weather. He said an environmental impact statement process is under way for the Arkansas Valley Conduit.

    More Arkansas River basin coverage here.


    Custer County augmentation plan update

    December 30, 2010

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    From The Wet Mountain Tribune (Nora Drenner):

    If all goes according to plan, the Custer County commissioners and Upper Arkansas Conservancy District will meet after the first of the year to talk about the implementation of a blanket water augmentation plan for the county.

    More Custer County coverage here and here.


    Custer County: The Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District withdraws its proposed blanket augmentation plan

    November 26, 2010

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    Here’s an in-depth look at the Upper Ark’s augmentation attempts for Custer County from Nora Drenner writing for The Wet Mountain Tribune. From the article:

    In a phone interview with the Tribune following UAWCD’s decision on Friday, Nov. 19, to withdraw its proposed plan, [Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District Manager Terry Scanga] said the UAWCD board of directors took the action due to opposition from the Custer County commissioners and others within the community. He also said he felt the concerns raised by the commissioners and others were due to a lack of understanding in regards to how a water augmentation plan works and as such UAWCD would strive to educate Custer County residents and elected officials.

    Scanga also said the UAWCD hoped to sit down with the Custer County commissioners in the near future to hash out a plan to bring a water augmentation plan back on the table.

    Scanga also said a memorandum of understanding outlining all details would be signed by the UAWCD and commissioners before a proposed water plan would be submitted to water court.

    More Custer County coverage here and here.


    Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy board meeting recap

    October 18, 2010

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    From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

    The act would designate 850,000 additional wilderness acres in Colorado at 34 sites, including six in the Upper Arkansas River Basin and three along streams of “particular importance to the Upper Arkansas region,” district manager Terry Scanga said.

    He identified the three tributaries as Beaver, Badger and Grape creeks and presented a letter from attorney John Hill describing negative impacts of the wilderness designation on water rights in those areas. All are downstream from developed areas. Hill wrote that wilderness designation would require the Secretary of Interior to claim all unappropriated water in these areas for in-stream flow, which “would preclude any future appropriations upstream of the wilderness area.”

    In the case of Grape Creek, Hill wrote, “The proposed wilderness area … would significantly impact the operating regimen of DeWeese Reservoir.”[...]

    Tim Canterbury, district board member and immediate past president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, said he recently spent four days in Washington on behalf of cattlemen urging DeGette to “go back and rewrite the implementation” that directly affects cattle grazers, water districts and other water users. “She said, ‘Absolutely not,’” Canterbury reported. “We (the association) are not opposed to wilderness, but to the effects on cattle grazing … . Since she’s not willing to talk about it, we have to oppose this.” Canterbury added, “The agencies have no choice on implementation, and that’s the problem because it eliminates all activity.”

    More Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District coverage here.


    Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

    September 19, 2010

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    From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

    During their business meeting before the [field trip to see new district gauges at Cottonwood Lake and Cottonwood Creek and a tour of Moltz Reservoir on Trout Creek], directors adopted a resolution opposing November ballot Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101.

    Discussing the ballot initiatives, district manager Terry Scanga noted water projects are expensive and are generally financed using 30-year loans. Passage of the initiatives, Scanga said, would limit financial agreements to a maximum of 10 years, requiring increased revenue – primarily maintenance and storage fees – to pay off loans within 10 years. For augmentation certificate holders, Scanga said, fees would double from $150 to $300 per unit. For holders of multiple certificates such as Poncha Springs which has about 100, the increase would have significant impact, he said.

    District consultant Ken Baker and director Greg Felt suggested the district has obligation notify certificate holders about fiscal consequences of the initiatives, but district legal counsel Julianne Woldridge said such notice isn’t allowed under current law.

    District treasurer Jim McCormick, also a Salida City Councilman, said Salida will face a budget shortfall of $250,000 if the initiatives pass…

    In other business, directors:

    • Learned of a feasibility study for installation of a hydro-electric generating system on DeWeese Reservoir.

    • Learned from the treasurer’s report the district general fund has $178,868.15.

    • A legislative update from Ken Baker showed calls on the Colorado River are approaching the point they could affect transmountain water diversions into the Arkansas River.

    • Heard a report about the Colorado Water Congress summer conference

    • Discussed dates and times of upcoming water-related events, including “Managing the Politics of Water,” the Sept. 30 annual conference of Colorado Water Officials Association at Salida SteamPlant.

    Other events included the Oct. 1 State Engineer’s Forum at Salida SteamPlant, a Sept. 24 watershed meeting in the district Water Enterprise Building and a Sept. 22 meeting of the governor’s “right-to-float” task force in the Water Enterprise Building.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.


    Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District: Four board seats up for grabs June 1

    April 19, 2010

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    From The Mountain Mail:

    Applications are being accepted for potential directors representing Division 2 and Division 3, (areas encompassed by School District R-32-J and R-31, both in Chaffee County, Division 4 (Custer County) and Division 5 (Fremont County School District RE-1). Any person 18 years or older owning property within the appropriate division of Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District and residing within the division for which appointment is sought, is eligible. Applicants should have backgrounds reflecting agricultural, municipal, industrial and other interests in the beneficial use of water within the district.

    Terms of office will commence June 1 for a four-year term expiring June 1, 2014…

    Applicants should submit letters in writing describing desire and qualifications to be on the board. Application deadline will be May 2. Applications should be made to all of the following:

    • The Honorable Charles M. Barton, Chief District Judge, 11th Judicial District, P.O. Box 279, Salida, CO 81201.

    • The Honorable O. John Kuenhold, Chief District Judge, 12th Judicial District, Alamosa County Courthouse, 702 Fourth St., Alamosa, CO 81101.

    • The Honorable Kirk S. Samelson, Chief District Judge, 4th Judicial District, P.O. Box 2980, Colorado Springs, CO 80903.

    More Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District coverage here and here.


    Upper Ark data collection project moving along swimmingly

    February 21, 2010

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    From The Mountain Mail (Audrey Gilpin):

    The $815,000 project began in September 2008. Seven of 15 collection platforms have been installed as of Feb. 11, district general manager Terry Scanga said. Using Campbell Scientific Equipment of Utah, platforms measure surface water and will be used for reservoir regulation in connection with filling and releasing. Data platforms on reservoirs will also have weather stations. A transmitter on the platform sends data via Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites, administered by the National Environmental Satellite Data Information Service. Scanga said measurements are collected every 15 seconds and are used with a computer program providing scenarios for water exchanges. The information, Scanga said, will help with reservoir operation and assist in exercising exchanges to storage without injury to water rights.

    Data collection platforms are completed and on-line at North Fork Reservoir on the North Fork of the South Arkansas River, Lester-Attebery augmentation station in Fremont County, Cottonwood Reservoir on the South Fork of Cottonwood Creek; Rainbow Lake Reservoir, North Fork of the South Arkansas River gauge, Cottonwood Creek stream gauge near the hot springs and on the South Arkansas River below Tenassee Ditch. Scanga said the platform on the Tenassee Ditch cost $90,000. It will be administered by the state and was paid for jointly by Salida, Poncha Springs, Lower and Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy districts and Mount Massive Lakes…

    Additional platforms set for installation by September are the Texas Creek stream gauge in Fremont County, Trout Creek Ditch, Poncha Creek stream gauge, Gray’s Creek-O’Haver Reservoir, Boss Lake, South Arkansas River near Hydro No. I below Garfield, Deweese Reservoir in Custer County and the Grape Creek gauge in Custer County.

    More Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District coverage here.


    Custer County looking closely at Upper Ark’s augmentation plan

    November 11, 2009

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    From the Wet Mountain Tribune (Nora Drenner):

    On Tuesday, Aug. 11, county commissioners Lynn Attebery, Jim Austin and Carole Custer [hired] the law firm Duncan, Ostrander and Dingess of Denver to represent the county in its objection of the proposed water augmentation plan for Custer County submitted to water court by the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District in late June. Commissioner Austin will serve as contact person with the law firm. Commissioner Attebery also wanted to serve as contact person, however, commissioner Austin and Custer voted in favor of Austin. Also, attorney fees will be split with the city of Aurora as they have also retained the same law firm to handle the same matter. Austin noted Aurora is also objecting to the proposed water augmentation plan.

    More Custer County coverage here.


    Upper Ark gets first look at budget

    October 12, 2009

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    From The Mountain Mail (Ron Sering):

    Cost-cutting in several areas totaling about $79,000 is part of the preliminary 2010 budget presented to Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District directors Thursday. District general manager Terry Scanga presented the initial budget draft, proposing cost reduction in key areas, including legal and engineering. “I have told our engineering people and our attorneys to prioritize our projects a little better, to focus their activities and get our expenditures down,” Scanga said. “If this all works with our income numbers we have here, we should have about $30,000 in actual surplus revenue.” Included in district plans is money to hire a staff engineer. “I think we need to look in earnest to get somebody hired.” Scanga said. A public hearing regarding the final budget is tentatively set for the November board meeting.

    More Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District coverage here.


    Buena Vista: Town board of trustees cooperating with Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District augmentation plan

    October 4, 2009

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    From the Chaffee County Times (Kathy Davis):

    In a letter to town administrator Sue Boyd dated Sept. 17, town water attorney Cindy Covell said that the UAWCD filed a water court application seeking approval of a global augmentation plan to allow the UAWCD to provide augmentation to wells, reservoirs and surface diversions that divert water from the upper Arkansas River and its tributaries, including Cottonwood Creek. This plan supplements UAWCD’s earlier plans and allows augmentation water to be provided from many sources, Covell said. The decree would allow UAWCD to have considerably more flexibility in the use of its water supplies, Covell said. The goal is to have an augmentation plan for UAWCD in which new users can subscribe without going to water court themselves, she said. According to the resolution approved by the trustees, the town originally filed a statement of opposition. Covell said the initial proposal had very few safeguards to assure protection of the town’s Cottonwood Creek water rights. The current proposed decree contains provisions that will provide greater protection of the town’s water rights than provided by the original proposals, she said. “The revised decree says that Buena Vista can monitor and make sure the town has accountability on decisions they make on augmentation,” town administrator Sue Boyd said. This is a tool, she said. Covell cautioned that the town must pay attention to this plan to make sure that it is operated properly. The plan may also result in the availability of water supplies for other projects. Town water engineer Patricia Flood of Wright Water Engineers has also reviewed the proposed decree and the technical issues involved in this proposed augmentation plan, Covell said.

    More Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District coverage here.


    Runoff news

    September 8, 2009

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    From The Mountain Mail (Ron Sering):

    The Arkansas River reached its low summer flow at about 235 cubic feet per second late Friday at the Wellsville gauge – the lowest since March…Although low water makes boating difficult, “This is actually very favorable for the fish,” Greg Policky, aquatic biologist for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, said. “They don’t have to fight the current.” Low water enables fish to feed efficiently, he said and added it is especially favorable for brown trout. “It will put them in good shape for the fall spawning season. Flow between 250-400 cfs is optimum for fishing,” Policky said.”

    More Arkansas Basin coverage here.


    Upper Arkansas River augmentation plan update

    September 6, 2009

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A blanket augmentation plan for the Upper Arkansas River is being extended to include portions of Custer County…

    “This is the augmentation plan we already have, but includes Texas Creek and Grape Creek,” said Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Ark district. “It saves the water rights owners the expense of $50,000-$150,000 to file their own augmentation plan.” An augmentation plan assures that water will be released to the river to make up for out-of-priority depletions. Water usually is released from storage to make up for well-pumping or surface diversions at times when the water is needed. “The benefit to the district is that it puts a plan in place to protect the senior water rights,” Scanga said. The plan touches other water operations in the Arkansas Valley and attracted the attention of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District last week, which voted to enter the case.

    More Upper Ark coverage here.


    Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project: Climate science and the project

    July 11, 2009

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    Lee Hart continues her coverage in the Salida Citizen of the Chaffee County Commissioners deliberations over Nestlé Water’s Chaffee County Project 1041 permit.

    First up is a long post about the lack of discussion about climate change in the debate over Nestlé’s plans to truck 200 acre-feet or so of water out of basin to Denver for bottling. Read the whole article, here are a couple of excerpts:

    Yet here in Chaffee County, conservation and climate change didn’t merit so much as a passing mention as the Board of County Commissioners began deliberations on a multi-decade commercial water harvesting proposal, even as an overwhelming majority of scientific studies anticipate a reduction of total water supply by the mid-21st century is likely to exacerbate competition for over-allocated water resources especially in the fast-growing West. The county’s own consultants, Colorado National Heritage Progam, cautioned commissioners: “In the interest of maintaining the wetland plant communities, any proposed development plan that impacts water resources should take into consideration global climate change.” Yesterday, CNHP ecologist Delia Malone, writing as a private citizen, spoke out on what she called the commissioners’ “short-sightedness” in dismissing climate change from deliberations on the water harvesting project proposed by Nestle Waters North America. Without a trace of ambiguity, a 2008 report by Western Water Assessment asserts, “Climate change will affect Colorado’s use and distribution of water.” The report notes that “changes in long-term precipitation and soil moisture can affect groundwater recharge rates; coupled with demand issues this may mean greater pressure on groundwater resources.”[...]

    As inextricably as hyrdrogen is linked to oxygen at water’s most basic level, so too it seems the scientific community believes climate change must be factored into any decision-making that impacts natural resources. “Basically anybody in 2009 who is thinking about water resources, water planning, water supply . . . if they’re not thinking about climate change, they’re missing the mark,” explained scientist John Katzenberger, executive director of the Aspen Global Change Institute. Katzenberger was also a contributor to a 2008 report published by the National Resources Defense Council and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization entitled, “Hotter and Drier, The West’s Changed Climate.”

    Hart and the Salida Citizen are running a letter sent to the Chaffee County Commissioners from Ecologist Delia Malone. From the article:

    Regardless of all the good, hard data out there, Malone lamented the commissioners dismissing the role of climate change in their deliberations about Nestle. Indeed, countless scientific books and research papers from all corners of the globe have written about the certainty of impending water shortages due to climate change that is already measurable…“Accessible water is rare and for Chaffee County to just give it away is really short-sighted,” Malone said. “You can’t get it back and when you really need it, it will be too late.”

    More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.


    Nestlé Chaffee County Project: Recap of commissioner’s July 1 meeting

    July 8, 2009

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    Here’s the next part of Lee Hart’s recap of the July 1 meeting of the Chaffee County Commissioners working meeting for Nestlé’s Chaffee County Project. She writes:

    Commissioner Tim Glenn tried to explain the gravity of Scanga’s testimony to fellow commissioners who either didn’t seem to understand the intricacies of water law and prior appropriation or simply did not share Glenn’s concerns. Glenn noted it was Scanga’s role to go “to bat for every water right and ag producer” in the valley and that he found Scanga’s testimony “fairly compelling.”[...]

    “If you have a senior water right (as Aurora does), you can take it unless something in writing says you can’t take it,” Glenn explained to his fellow commissioners. Glenn said he’d feel better if Nestle’s augmentation came from a local entity that would probably care more about protecting local water resources than Aurora. Alternatively, Glenn suggested getting an agreement in writing that Aurora won’t draw down depletions and invoke its ability to exchange in a drought year and will only use water sources outside the Arkansas River Valley to supplement any municipal shortfalls created by the Nestle lease. But Glenn, always the pragmatist, said, “I seriously doubt that could happen.”

    It’s really pretty simple. Aurora is leasing Twin Lakes water to Nestlé. The Twin Lakes decrees are pretty senior in priority. In times of low water — say, a drought — the river is governed by calls in any given stretch. Calls are made when someone with a decreed water right asks for their water. If current demand in that stretch exceeds the volume of water called for, water is doled out in order of priority, oldest first. So, again in a given stretch, a decreed party might just fall out of priority. This is determined by the decree and ditch company or project rules. Ditch companies generally allocate water equally — so much water per share.

    The water that Aurora is leasing to Nestlé is for augmentation. The water will be released from storage at Twin Lakes to the Arkansas mainstem to pay the river for the water that Nestlé plans to pump at Hagen Spring. They’ll always pay this water to the river unless they fall out of priority which has been rare. Remember, Twin Lakes water comes from the rainy side of Colorado. The folks that will be effected in a drought are those junior to Aurora’s Twin Lakes rights.

    Nestlé plans to truck 200 acre-feet or so of spring water per year to Denver for bottling.

    More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.


    Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District welcomes new commissioners

    June 16, 2009

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    From The Mountain Mail (Ron Sering):

    Three returning directors and a new one were sworn in Thursday during the regular Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District meeting in Salida. Taking the oath of office for four year terms were returning directors Jeff Ollinger of Chaffee County and Tom French and William McGuire, both of Fremont County. Tom Goodwin of Fremont County, appointed by a panel of three district judges, was sworn to the at-large seat vacated by Pat Alderton of Poncha Springs. Goodwin is former Bureau of Land Management field office manager and U.S. Forest Service district ranger for the Saguache district field office. He retired from the Forest Service in 2007. Goodwin is the son of former UAWCD member and long-time board chairman Denzel Goodwin.

    More Coyote Gulch coverage here.


    Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District: Tom Goodwin appointed to board

    May 21, 2009

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    From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka/Tracy Harmon):

    Goodwin, a retired district ranger with the U.S. Forest Service, is the son of Denzel Goodwin, a longtime Fremont County rancher who was instrumental in forming the district and was a member of the board for many years.

    Three other directors were reappointed for four-year terms: Tom French of Howard, Jeff Ollinger of Buena Vista and William McGuire of Penrose. They will serve with Glenn Everett of Salida, Robert Senderhauf of Westcliffe, Timothy Canterbury of Howard, Gregory Felt of Salida, Bill Donley of Westcliffe, Frank McMurray of Nathrop, Bill Jackson of Canon City, Mannie Colon of Canon City and John Sandefur of Penrose. The district, formed in 1979, represents water interests in Fremont, Custer and Chaffee counties and board appointments follow the boundaries of school districts in the three counties. Its purpose is to protect and secure water in the Arkansas River Valley west of Pueblo…

    Judges making the appointments were Kirk Samuelson, chief of the 4th district; C.M. Barton, chief of the 11th district; and O. John Kuenhold, chief of the 12th district.


    Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project: More county commissioner’s hearings

    May 8, 2009

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    Here’s a recap of this week’s meeting of the Chaffee County Board of Commissioners regarding Nestlé Waters North America’s Chaffee County Project, from Joe Stone writing for The Mountain Mail):

    The fifth marathon hearing regarding permit requests from Nestlé Waters recessed at 11 p.m. Tuesday with participants setting 1 p.m. May 21 for continuation in a location to be determined…

    After future hearings are officially closed, commissioners will have 60 days to reach a decision regarding issuance of the Nestlé permits…

    Consultants for Nestlé and Chaffee County attended the meeting and addressed eight areas of concern regarding the special land use and 1041 permit applications: economic impacts, groundwater impacts, water rights, wetland impacts, traffic concerns, air quality impacts, visual impacts and planning document consistencies. Analysis provided Tuesday by THK Associates of Aurora clarified economic impacts of the project, indicating several benefits to the county, including $2.3 million in total wages for project labor and $4.8 million for materials. The only items contracted outside the county would be specialized work, such as directional drilling to route a pipeline under the Arkansas River. It would add $2.4 million in assessed property value, generating more than $18,000 in property taxes for 2010 and more than $500,000 during the next 30 years. THK analysis projected annual tax payments of more than $8,000 for Chaffee County Fire Protection District, $5,000 for Northern Chaffee County Library District, $2,500 for Salida Hospital District and about $1,000 for Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District. In addition to a $500,000 community endowment, Nestlé committed to an annual giving program and reimbursement of extraordinary county expenditures not covered by tax payments.

    Representing Nestlé, Steve Sims, former senior water counsel for the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, clarified questions associated with Nestlé’ proposed lease of Aurora water for augmentation. Sims stressed the Aurora water would come from the Colorado River Basin and would be augmented upstream from the Nestlé project site. A plan proposed by Salida and Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District would have relied upon augmenting water downstream from the site, creating in-stream flow issues and other concerns. Sims reported, “Aurora’s water portfolio includes 52,000 acre-feet and will increase to 100,000 acre-feet in 2010 when their Prairie Waters project comes online.” Given the small percentage of Aurora water leased by Nestlé, Sims said drought-year worries are unfounded and emphasized the plan would be strictly controlled by Colorado Water Court. Sims noted Chaffee County agricultural rights are senior to the Aurora rights and could not be affected by the augmentation plan.

    Martina Wilkinson explained the Nestlé traffic study in detail indicating uphill truck traffic isn’t associated with wrecks between Johnson Village and Trout Creek Pass summit. In fact, she said, wildlife and excessive downhill speed create most crashes in the corridor.

    More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.


    Nestlé Chaffee County Project: Opposition update

    May 3, 2009

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    Here’s an update on the opposition to Nestlé Waters North America’s Chaffee County Project, from R. Scott Rappold writing for the Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article

    Tempers have flared and barbs have been traded at three marathon public hearings as county officials wrestle over whether to issue a land-use permit to Nestle Waters North America. The company owns the land and water rights near Nathrop and says it is investing $15 million in its effort to withdraw 65 million gallons a year. It has an agreement with Aurora for that city to release 200 acre-feet a year from an upper reservoir to compensate for the water Nestle would remove from the Arkansas basin.

    At the heart of the debate is whether a community benefits when a company takes water from its springs to sell on grocery store shelves. Some communities have fought such efforts – with mixed results – and the conflict in Salida could presage fights elsewhere in Colorado. Nestle has plans to tap springs in three or four more locations in the state. “I think they could buy and dry our valley,” said Vicki Klein, a board member of Chaffee Citizens for Sustainability, a group formed to fight the project. “Two hundred acre-feet might not be a huge amount initially, but where they can go from there is frightening…

    Nestle says it will draw 10 percent of the springs’ flow, and the impact to the Arkansas River “will not be measurable, even in low-flow conditions.” The company touts the benefits to the county: temporary construction jobs for the pipeline and related facilities; increased tax revenue for the county; removal of a dilapidated trout hatchery along the Arkansas; and preservation of the area as open space…

    At a hearing Wednesday, Terry Scanga, manager of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, said it could be “very injurious” to the Arkansas basin. Aurora doesn’t take all the water it owns from the mountains, and in a drought that city could draw more to make up for what it releases for Nestle, he said. “I think it’s kind of ironic that an out-of-basin entity would be leasing water to another entity who will be taking it out of the basin,” Scanga said…

    It was many newcomers – retirees and others – who want to see the mountain splendor preserved, versus old-timers who say the county needs economic development…

    Some of its legal difficulties with host communities, usually small, rural towns, include: a four-year legal battle with Fryeburg, Maine, to build a pumping station; a lawsuit by citizens in McCloud, Calif., who oppose a plan by the company to tap springs and build a bottling plant; and a public outcry in Enumclaw, Wash, about proposed wells and a bottling plant that led Nestle to abandon the plan…

    Nestle’s Lauerman said the opposition “has very little to do with the specifics of the project itself, the viability of the project…It’s more people with a distrust for corporations, people who are anti-growth no matter what the project is. It’s people who have a philosophical bent against bottled water,” he said.

    Jeanine Zeman, spokeswoman for the opposition group, admits she doesn’t like bottled water. She also believes Nestle has a poor record of working with communities where it sinks wells. With the arguments impassioned on both sides, county commissioners are in no rush to make a decision. The hearing resumes Tuesday.

    More coverage from Joe Stone writing for The Mountain Mail:

    The public hearing conducted by Chaffee County commissioners will continue at 1 p.m. Tuesday in the Salida Steam Plant Theater regarding two separate permit applications by Nestlé Waters. County consultants and staff members will discuss the extent to which new information from Nestlé satisfies 1041 permit application criteria. Commissioners will continue to hear public comments, but only regarding new information and unresolved 1041 permit requirements. Written comments must be received by noon Monday for consideration at the meeting Tuesday, county officials said…

    The 1041 permit process requires county commissioners to approve or deny the permit by May 15 unless the applicant requests an extension, Don Reimer, county development director said…

    Lauerman’s points included:

    • Nestlé modified the project to address local concerns.

    • Shallow nature of the wells will eliminate possibility of over-pumping the aquifer.

    • The 50,000-acre aquifer recharge area indicates a sustainable source for water harvest.

    • Nestlé’s annual 200-acre-foot extraction represents 2 percent of annual aquifer recharge and 1.5 percent of water available in the aquifer.

    • In addition to a $500,000 local trust fund, Nestlé would provide educational opportunities and annual contributions of $25,000 to $30,000 to local organizations and events.

    • Nestlé has invested more than $2 million in the project and would be investing $15 million in Chaffee County. The investment will take years to recoup at the 6-7 percent company operating profit.

    • The project would provide protection for the environment that other types of development cannot offer.

    • By collecting water in Chaffee County and bottling it in Denver, the company would reduce trucking by 5 million miles a year.

    • A 72-hour pumping test in January revealed no effects to the water table beyond 200 yards.

    • Colorado Department of Transportation found no significant traffic concerns when issuing an access permit on U.S. 24/285 at Johnson Village.

    • Colorado Division of Wildlife found no significant adverse impacts.

    • Colorado Trout Unlimited expressed no concerns.

    Here are some comments offered up by John Emerick, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of the Colorado School of Mines, Division of Environmental Science and Engineering at Wednesday’s public meeting, from the Salida Citizen.

    More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.


    Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project: Commissioners hear more testimony

    April 29, 2009

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    Here’s a recap of today’s proceedings with the Chaffee County Commissioners, from Lee Hart writing for the Salida Citizen. From the post:

    For the first time in four months of public hearings, Nestle was obviously on the warpath as first Nestle project manager Bruce Lauerman, then Nestle lawyer Holly Strablizky took aim at Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District Manager Terry Scanga…

    Lauerman called Scanga’s testimony “fuzzy math.”

    Buena Vista resident John Cogswell also cross-examined Scanga challenging the veteran water manager’s assertion that the Aurora-Nestle lease would have a significant adverse net affect. “(UAWCD’s) water argument doesn’t hold water,” Cogswell told the Salida Citizen.

    Cogswell tried to get Scanga to agree that Nestle’s lease with Aurora would be no more impactful to water in the basin than irrigating 100 acres of agricultural land. Scanga agreed that while the depletion is the same, the beneficial use of the water is not. A local rancher’s use of the water creates beneficial use within the county while Nestle’s bottled water project creates beneficial use outside the county, Scanga said.

    During questioning from Commissioner Tim Glenn, Scanga said the Nestle-Aurora lease compounds the impact to the Upper basin in ways that would not occur if Nestle secured its leased water from another in-basin entity such as Pueblo Board of Water Works or the joint Salida-UAWCD proposal.

    On that last point, longtime resident and local Realtor Karin Adams brought more math to light. The Aurora lease will cost Nestle approximately $200,000 for 200 acre feet of water for each of ten years, with an option to renew for another 10-year term. Aurora’s lease to Nestle could be interrupted in the event of a severe drought. Nestle rejected a joint offer from Salida and the UAWCD that would have cost $500,000 but would have provided an in-basin, uninterruptable supply of water that would have protected Nestle and other water rights users in the event of a drought. Scanga said if Nestle had agreed to the Salida-UAWCD proposal, the UAWCD would have re-invested the money to enhance the county’s water portfolio.

    On another point, despite Scanga’s assertion to the contrary, Lauerman told the commissioners unequivocably that UAWCD has expressed interest in participating with Aurora in Aurora’s lease to Nestle.

    Even if the Chaffee County commissioners approve Nestle’s Special Land Use Permit, Nestle still has to get water court approval for its augmentation plan. The stage has been set for a battle of the titans in water court. Based on Scanga’s predications, there will likely be at least two if not more objectors to the Nestle-Aurroa lease when it goes before the water court in a process that typically takes at least two years.

    More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.


    Pat Alderton will not serve second term on Upper Ark board

    April 23, 2009

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    From The Mountain Mail (Ron Sering): “‘Their public service philosophy doesn’t go along with mine,’ Alderton said. Alderton served a single four-year term on the board. She is also town administrator for Poncha Springs.”

    More Coyote Gulch coverage


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