Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

June 20, 2014
Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

New wrinkles in the federal budget process have improved chances for funding of the Arkansas Valley Conduit.

Appropriations bills in the U.S. House and Senate have increased funding for the Bureau of Reclamation, with emphasis on capital projects that are in the design phase.

While that does not provide an increase for the conduit’s $500,000 funding level next year, it could mean a shift in funding to the conduit by Reclamation, lobbyist Christine Arbogast told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Thursday.

“We have incredible support from those in Congress who represent the area to be served by the conduit,” Arbogast told the board. “They are fighting for the funding of it. Clearly, it is unprecedented, the levels they are going to for this.”

She was referring to U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats, and U.S. Reps. Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton, both Republicans.

For instance, during meetings in Washington, D.C., last week, the senators met with top Department of Interior and Office of Management and Budget officials to make the case for more funding for the conduit.

The $400 million Arkansas Valley Conduit would have a main line of 130 miles from Pueblo Dam to Lamar, serving 50,000 people in 40 communities.

Federal money for the project would be repaid through Fryingpan-Arkansas Project excess storage contracts and user fees.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here.


CWCB: Does the draft #COWaterPlan rely too much on unproven alternative ag transfers?

May 23, 2014
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A state water plan may be putting too much weight on alternative transfer programs that seek to temporarily provide water to cities from farm lands. While the goal of such programs is to reduce the possibility of permanent dry-up of agriculture, there is little evidence to prove they would work, said Patricia Wells, a member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, meeting in Pueblo this week.

“Has any transfer method actually happened with rotational fallowing?” Wells, general counsel for Denver Water, asked during Wednesday’s CWCB meeting at the Pueblo Convention Center.

The board was reviewing draft chapters of the state water plan being developed by CWCB staff. Other topics included conservation, water quality and project permitting.

“This chapter paints a rosy picture of alternative transfers,” Wells added. “This doesn’t mean alternative transfer methods can’t be done, but they haven’t been done.”

The Arkansas Valley Super Ditch formed in 2008, but has had difficulty launching pilot programs because drought reduced water availability, permit complications and farmer participation.

In 2013, the Legislature passed HB1130, which set up a framework for long-term lease arrangements, and HB1248, which allowed for 10 pilot programs that have not materialized.

Super Ditch attempted to run a pilot program under HB1248 with the town of Fowler this year, but plans fell through.

This year, a proposal to create a flex marketing water right failed because opponents said it amounted to legalizing speculation.

In 2004-05, Aurora and the Rocky Ford High Line Canal engineered a temporary transfer program that was successful, although it raised questions of moving water from one river basin to another.

Since then, the state has spent millions of dollars on grants to study alternative transfer methods, but large metro providers are reluctant to enter long-term deals without more certainty.

“Unless we find some way to do this, there are barriers,” Wells said.

Board member John McClow, a Gunnison attorney, questioned CWCB staff for using language from the Interbasin Compact Committee’s report rather than taking a fresh approach.

Travis Smith, a board member of both the CWCB and IBCC, responded that the IBCC reached agreement on using alternative transfers several years ago, and thought that should be reflected in the state water plan.

Meanwhile the Arkansas Valley Conduit was also a topic at yesterday’s CWCB meeting in Pueblo. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

The state showed more support for the Arkansas Valley Conduit Thursday, pledging cooperation in helping to obtain federal funding for the $400 million project.

“This is the last piece of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “It’s been a long wait for something that was promised 50 years ago.”

Broderick gave an update of the conduit to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which met Thursday at the Pueblo Convention Center.

Contract negotiations will begin later this year for the conduit and two associated federal contracts to provide a master storage lease in Lake Pueblo and a cross-connection between south and north outlets on Pueblo Dam.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here. More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here. More CWCB coverage here.


Arkansas Valley Conduit backers hope to make deal for excess capacity in the Pueblo Dam south outlet works soon

March 27, 2014
Pueblo Dam

Pueblo Dam

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A plan is hatching to get pipe in the ground ahead of schedule for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. It would reduce the initial costs of the project and allow some negotiations to proceed even with a reduced amount of federal funding, said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, project sponsor.

“We were under the impression that all the money had to be in place up front before negotiations began, but the Bureau of Reclamation decided that’s not the case,” Broderick said. “If those negotiations are successful, we’ve got pipe in the ground and the conduit can begin to move ahead.”

That means Reclamation will be able to begin negotiations with the Pueblo Board of Water Works and Colorado Springs Utilities for use of the joint use pipeline that leads from the south outlet of Pueblo Dam to the Whitlock Treatment Plant.

The Pueblo water board owns the pipeline and the treatment plant. Colorado Springs Utilities paid the water board $3.5 million to upsize the pipeline by one foot in diameter, planning to use it for the Southern Delivery System. Since that time, SDS has taken a different route to move water from Lake Pueblo through the north outlet on the dam, and would not need the additional capacity.

The pipeline from the south outlet has a total capacity of 248 million gallons per day. Of that, 40 mgd is reserved to serve Comanche power plant and 140 mgd to serve Pueblo.

By paying to upsize the pipeline, Colorado Springs reserved 68 mgd, but the conduit would only require 14 mgd, said Terry Book, executive director of the Pueblo water board.

Reclamation also must negotiate with the Pueblo water board for locating a treatment plant at Whitlock to filter water used in the Arkansas Valley Conduit. By moving those discussions ahead, the federal cost will be reduced from $12 million to about $3 million in the coming year, but more funds would be required to begin actual design work, Broderick said.

Meanwhile, Colorado lawmakers continue to fight for more federal funding.

During a U.S. House committee hearing this week, Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., told Reclamation officials the conduit is a high priority.

“The members of the Colorado delegation are committed to the Arkansas Valley Conduit. Reclamation knows that this project offers an effective regional answer to meeting federally mandated Safe Drinking Act standards,” said Tipton.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


Arkansas Valley Conduit: Seeking adequate appropriations from the feds

March 21, 2014
Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Sponsors are working to increase funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit in next year’s federal budget. The conduit recently received the green light to proceed from the Bureau of Reclamation, which released a record of decision on Feb. 27 for it, a master storage contract and an interconnect on Pueblo Dam. But the approval did not translate into funding when President Barack Obama released his budget one week later and included only $500,000 for the conduit.

“We were disappointed in the dollars,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsor of all three projects. He spoke at Thursday’s monthly board meeting.

The conduit has $3.1 million in funding this year, which includes $2.1 million that was not spent in past years. To keep it on pace for construction sometime in the next decade would require at least $7 million to $10 million, Broderick said. Last year Reclamation internally shifted $44 million for projects, but it’s too soon to tell how much could be available this year.

“There is a lot of activity, particularly because of the drought in California,” Broderick said. “We have to keep the pressure on.”

To do that, officials will again travel to Washington, D.C., to lobby Department of Interior and Bureau of Reclamation officials as well as Congress. Last week, Colorado Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both Democrats, and Reps. Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner, Republicans, called for more funding to support the conduit.

“We have to realize this is the president’s budget. Congress sees it a different way,” said lobbyist Ray Kogovsek, a former congressman. “I would say we can certainly get more than $500,000.”

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here.


Arkansas Valley Conduit: Engineering and design requirements = $14 million to keep project on track

March 12, 2014
Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado’s congressional delegation is calling on the administration and Congress to boost funding levels for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The administration’s budget numbers for the conduit, released late Monday, included just $500,000 for the conduit, which last month received final approval, a record of decision, from the Bureau of Reclamation. But about $14 million is needed to keep engineering and design for the project on track in order to break ground in 2016.

The project sponsors, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, currently have secured about $3.1 million — which includes carryover funding — to begin work on the conduit.

The $400 million conduit would include 227 miles of pipeline along a 130-mile route from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads. Along the way it would serve 50,000 people in 40 communities, many of them facing regulatory pressure to improve drinking water quality. The conduit was part of the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, but never built because of expense. A renewed effort to build it began about 15 years ago, and culminated in late February when Reclamation issued a record of decision identifying the route of the pipeline through Pueblo and along the Arkansas River.

The letters were sent to congressional leadership and the Department of Interior Tuesday, just hours after the budget figures were known, by U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats, and U.S. Reps. Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton, both Republicans. They said the budget for the conduit is insufficient for the second year in a row.

“The budget numbers released for fiscal year 2014 and 2015 are troubling. At a time when planners are trying to scale up significantly and move forward toward the construction stage, the Administration budget figures have threatened to delay work on this critical priority,” the letter stated.

The lawmakers called the Conduit a “top priority” and reminded the Administration and the Appropriations Committees that “the federal government has repeatedly promised to build this Conduit.”

The budget numbers likely were prepared last year, before the conduit had a record of decision in place, so they could conceivably be improved, say some observers.

The $14 million would complete design and engineering work, which includes connection to the south outlet of Pueblo Dam, initial filtering at the Pueblo Board of Water Works Whitlock Plant, routing the pipeline south of Pueblo by the Comanche power plant and construction that basically follows the north side of the Arkansas River to Lamar. There are numerous spurs and loops along the way that deliver water to communities in Pueblo, Crowley, Otero, Bent, Prowers and Kiowa counties.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


Arkansas Valley Conduit: Master storage contract next activity for project

March 5, 2014
Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit is years away, but other parts of last week’s federal record of decision to approve the project are expected to move more quickly. But not too quickly, as sponsors are watching to see how pieces fall in place. The record decision by the Bureau of Reclamation also cleared the way for a master storage contract in Lake Pueblo and an interconnection at Pueblo Dam between the north and south outlets.

“Once you have signed the record of decision, those discussions can start,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsor for all three projects. “But we don’t want to move too quickly.”

The master contract is likely the first piece to move forward. It will allow communities within the Southeastern District to secure up to 30,000 acrefeet of storage through the year 2060. The storage is possible because Lake Pueblo seldom fills to capacity with water brought across the Continental Divide under the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. So-called excess capacity contracts allow water users to store other water in Lake Pueblo. The long-term contract would provide more certainty that the space will be reserved than one-year contracts as well as flexibility between wet and dry years.

In recent years, 37 water districts and cities indicated they wanted to be a part of the contract — 25 also are conduit participants. The other 12 include water users in Fremont, Pueblo counties aren’t part of the conduit, but anticipate the need for storage. Among them, Pueblo West, Security and Fountain are seeking to partner in the contract, even though they already have contracts under Southern Delivery System.

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District also wants storage for projects such as the Super Ditch.

“We need to sit down with all of them and say, ‘All right, this is what we studied. Now how much are you going to need?’ ” Broderick said.

Another reason for waiting to begin negotiations is to see how similar talks are progressing. In 2010, Broderick watched with interest as SDS participants, led by Colorado Springs, learned that Reclamation was changing its basis for the contract from cost of service to a market-based approach. Right now, Reclamation is negotiating a similar contract with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Broderick plans to sit in on those public meetings to see what he can learn.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


Arkansas Valley Conduit: Reclamation issues record of decision

March 4, 2014
Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

It would make sense to include as few turns as possible in a mostly gravity-fed pipeline from Point A to Point B. But the realities of geography, land ownership and a complex network of large and small water districts make the Arkansas Valley Conduit a much more complicated proposition.

The Bureau of Reclamation signed off on a record of decision last week that clears the way for the conduit to be built, once funding is approved by Congress. While the main trunk of the conduit will run 130 miles, spurs and loops will increase its total length to 227 miles under the concept approved by Reclamation.

“The total includes everything, all the pipes to where the water providers have facilities to do final treatment and deliver the water,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsors of the conduit.

The pipe, all of which will be buried underground, will range in size from 36 inches to just 4 inches as it delivers water to 40 sites serving 50,000 people. An estimated 10,256 acre-feet of water will be delivered annually through the system to large users such as St. Charles Mesa, La Junta and Lamar, to smaller water companies that use only a fraction as much water.

The most circuitous reach of the pipeline will be used in moving the water from Pueblo Dam to its first stop at St. Charles Mesa. It will first flow from the south outlet on the dam to the Pueblo Board of Water Works’ Whitlock Treatment Plant on the north side of the Arkansas River. From there, the pipeline will run south, again crossing the Arkansas River, through City Park to Thatcher Avenue. It will cross to the west side of Pueblo Boulevard somewhere along Elmwood Golf Course and then head to the prairies west of Pueblo along Red Creek Springs Road, then jog south, under the conceptual plan included in Reclamation’s study.

“Any time you get out into rural land, it drops the cost and cuts down the time needed for construction,” Broderick said.

The pipeline will swing east by the Comanche Power plant, then head north to the St. Charles treatment plant, and then north to Avondale and Boone (crossing the Arkansas River again). Spurs will take water to six districts in Crowley County and 24 districts in Otero County. Near the end of the line, the conduit will head about 25 miles north to Eads. While the total cost of the conduit is estimated to be about $400 million, the engineering phase is expected to be about $28 million.

“A lot depends on which segments we are working on,” Broderick said.

Getting a stream of federal funding to begin that process is a top priority for the Southeastern district.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here.


Reclamation issues record of decision for the Arkansas Valley Conduit

March 1, 2014
Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado’s U.S. senators hailed the federal record of decision for the Arkansas Valley Conduit this week, calling it a major milestone to bringing clean drinking water to communities in Southern Colorado.

The record of decision affirms the choice of the North Comanche route for the pipeline, as well as setting up a master contract for storage of nearly 30,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Pueblo. It also sets the path for a cross-connection at Pueblo Dam that eventually will link the north and south outlets.

Construction of the conduit, which could cost up to $400 million, still requires funding from Congress. When completed, it will provide water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo.

“Colorado knows well that water is an extremely precious resource, and the Arkansas Valley Conduit will help ensure families in Southeastern Colorado have access to a safe and healthy water supply,” said Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. “Today’s announcement couldn’t be more important to southeast Colorado, and it demonstrates the Interior Department’s commitment to getting this project done.”

“This project, the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, will help strengthen Colorado’s agricultural economy, our quality of life and rural communities throughout Southeastern Colorado,” said Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo. “Water is our most valuable resource in Colorado, and we need to make every drop count.”

Bennet and Udall have led efforts to secure resources and move forward with the construction of the Conduit. In addition to advocating for quick approval of the EIS, the senators have written to the Department of Interior to provide adequate resources for construction of the Conduit in future federal budgets.

The Arkansas Valley Conduit is the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. Once constructed, the Conduit will deliver clean drinking water to families, producers and municipalities throughout Southeastern Colorado.

Bennet and Udall worked together to enact legislation in 2009 authorizing the construction of the Conduit, and have pushed ever since for funding to keep the project on schedule. The legislation also allows revenues from federal contracts to be applied to the cost of building the Conduit.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


I am proud the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation heeded my calls and quickly approved the Arkansas Valley Conduit — Senator Mark Udall

February 28, 2014
Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Tyler Johnson):

Bureau of Reclamation Great Plains Regional Director Michael Ryan has signed the Record of Decision for the Arkansas Valley Conduit and Long Term Excess Capacity Master Contract Final Environmental Impact Statement. The selected alternative is construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit using the Comanche North Alternative.

“This project will help water providers throughout the Arkansas River Basin meet existing and future demands,” said Ryan. “While funding details remain to be coordinated, it is prudent this project move forward to be in a position to take advantage of federal, state or local funding opportunities when they arise.”

The Arkansas Valley Conduit is a feature of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. It will provide treated water to communities in southeastern Colorado. When complete, the pipeline for the Arkansas Valley Conduit could be up to 227 miles long. The Comanche North Alternative includes three federal actions:

  • Construct and operate the Arkansas Valley Conduit and enter into a repayment contract with Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.
  • Enter into a conveyance contract with various water providers for use of a pipeline interconnect between Pueblo Dam’s south and north outlet works.
  • Enter into an excess capacity master contract with Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District to store water in Pueblo Reservoir.
  • “For the many small rural water providers the conduit will serve, this critical step in the process of building the project is greatly welcomed. Facing the water quality and waste water discharge compliance challenges has been daunting for this area, and the congressional approval in 2009 and now the Record of Decision from the Bureau of Reclamation provide real hope for an effective and efficient way to meet those challenges,” said Bill Long, President of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

    A Record of Decision is a decision document; it concludes the environmental impact statement prepared in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. It does not provide or allocate funding for the project. Reclamation published the final environmental impact statement in August, 2013.

    “The District is grateful for this decision, which is one more milestone in a half-century journey to a clean water supply for southeastern Colorado. As federally-mandated standards have changed, the need for the solution the preferred alternative provides is even greater. The promise to build this piece of the project was first made in 1962 by President Kennedy and was restated in 2012, right here in Pueblo, Colorado, by President Obama. Now let’s move forward to the next phases of design and construction,” said Jim Broderick, General Manager for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

    For more information on the Record of Decision, please visit http://www.usbr.gov/avceis. To obtain a hard copy of the Record of Decision, contact Doug Epperly at (406) 247-7638 or depperly@usbr.gov.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Bureau of Reclamation approved the final construction plan for the Arkansas Valley Conduit Thursday.

    “It’s been a long haul,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsors of the conduit. “This critical step in the process of building the project is greatly welcomed.”

    The record of decision for the project was signed by Michael Ryan, Reclamation’s regional director. The record of decision includes the environmental impact study for the conduit, but the next step will be to obtain funding from Congress to build the project.

    Long, a Bent County commissioner and Las Animas business owner, has been working to get the conduit built since he joined the Southeastern board in 2002. The conduit was included in the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Project legislation, but never built because of the expense.

    “In the last few months, it’s become clear that this will help, not only with drinking water, but at the other end with wastewater quality as well,” Long said.

    Reclamation Thursday approved a record of decision for the Comanche North route of the 227-mile pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Lamar. The chosen route includes initial treatment at the Pueblo Board of Water Works’ Whitlock treatment plant and a pipeline that swings south of Pueblo near the Comanche power plant.

    The conduit will deliver fresh drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo. It is estimated to cost $400 million, which would be repaid partly through revenue from Fry-Ark contracts.

    Also included in the decision is a master storage contract in Lake Pueblo for the Southeastern district and a cross-connection between north and south outlets at Pueblo Dam.

    The storage contract will set aside space for conduit participants and other water users in the district.

    The Southeastern district is focused on funding the project. Political wrangling delayed the record of decision and federal belt-tightening limited appropriations to about $2 million this year, rather than the $15 million the district hoped for.

    “I think this is a really important step forward, and I’m very happy,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern district. “We still have a lot of work to do in funding the project.”

    From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

    The Bureau of Reclamation signed the Record of Decision today for a project that’s been in the planning stages since Pueblo Dam was built in the 1960s.

    Part of the Frying Pan-Arkansas project, the conduit has never been built due to lack of money.

    U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, Democrats of Colorado, issued a news release after the ROD was signed, which follows approval of an Environmental Impact Study last year.

    Here’s a release from Senator Udall’s office:

    U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet welcomed today’s signing of the Record of Decision for the Arkansas Valley Conduit, which represents a major milestone for the project that will bring clean water to communities in southeastern Colorado. The decision comes after Bennet and Udall urged the Bureau of Reclamation to quickly approve the Conduit’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS) that was finalized last August.

    “I am proud the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation heeded my calls and quickly approved the Arkansas Valley Conduit. This project, the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, will help strengthen Colorado’s agricultural economy, our quality of life and rural communities throughout southeastern Colorado,” Udall said. “Water is our most valuable resource in Colorado, and we need to make every drop count. This project will ensure we continue to smartly develop our water resources.”

    “Colorado knows well that water is an extremely precious resource, and the Arkansas Valley Conduit will help ensure families in southeastern Colorado have access to a safe and healthy water supply,” Bennet said. “Today’s announcement couldn’t be more important to southeast Colorado, and it demonstrates the Interior Department’s commitment to getting this project done. With today’s announcement, we are one step closer to completing this historic conduit that will benefit many future generations of Coloradans.”

    Udall and Bennet have led efforts to secure resources and move forward with the construction of the Conduit. In addition to advocating for quick approval of the EIS, the senators have written to the Department of Interior to provide adequate resources for construction of the Conduit in future federal budgets.

    The Arkansas Valley Conduit is the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, a water diversion and storage project in the lower Arkansas Valley. Once constructed, the Conduit will deliver clean drinking water to families, producers and municipalities throughout Southeastern Colorado. Bennet and Udall worked together to enact legislation in 2009 authorizing the construction of the Conduit, and have pushed ever since for funding to keep the project on schedule.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit update: Project caught up in the federal Record of Decision slog

    January 21, 2014
    Preferred route for the Arkansas Valley Conduit via Reclamation

    Preferred route for the Arkansas Valley Conduit via Reclamation

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Plans for the Arkansas Valley Conduit continue to be in a holding pattern. Federal processes have slowed the completion of a record of decision for the conduit, a master storage contract and interconnection of outlets on Pueblo Dam.

    The conduit is a plan to bring clean drinking water to 40 communities and 50,000 people from St. Charles Mesa to Lamar.

    The master contract would allow conduit users and others to purchase long-term storage in Lake Pueblo, while the cross-connection would give water users redundancy of water supply sources.

    An environmental impact study was finalized in August, but changes in the Bureau of Reclamation leadership and a federal shutdown have delayed the ROD for five months, said Christine Arbogast, lobbyist for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsors of the projects.

    “Five months seems like a long time, but it’s looking good,” Arbogast said.

    She said a decision could be made in a few weeks.

    The lack of the ROD for the projects means very little work is progressing.

    “Anything moving forward will be on hold until we get to the point where we have a ROD,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern district.

    This year’s federal budget includes $1 million for the conduit, but larger appropriations are needed in future years to move the project ahead.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Udall Helps Secure Critical Arkansas Valley Conduit Funding in Bipartisan Budget Deal

    January 18, 2014

    arkansasvalleyconduitproposed

    Here’s the release from US Senator Mark Udall’s office:

    Mark Udall, a strong advocate for smarter water conservation and storage, heralded the inclusion of $1 million for the Arkansas Valley Conduit in the bipartisan budget deal the president is expected to sign into law. The funding, which Udall has championed in Congress, is a down payment on the completion of this water project, which will improve water quality for the counties along the Arkansas River.

    The Arkansas Valley Conduit is the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, a water diversion and storage project in the lower Arkansas Valley. Once constructed, the Conduit will deliver clean drinking water to families, producers and municipalities throughout Southeastern Colorado.

    “Water forms the very foundation of Colorado’s agricultural economy, our quality of life and rural communities throughout southeastern Colorado. This funding, which I helped secure in the bipartisan budget deal, will ensure that this final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project is up and running as quickly as possible,” Udall said. “I will keep fighting to ensure the Bureau of Reclamation continues robust funding for this project, while we work to develop and smartly conserve Colorado’s most important resource — its water. We must make every drop count.”

    “Given the budget battles and constraints of late, I am glad to see the full $1 million appropriation for this fiscal year,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “We are at a critical juncture with the completion of environmental compliance and moving forward with next steps of design and engineering, which will require significantly higher funding in fiscal year 2015 and beyond. We are grateful for the support of our congressional delegation, which has been and will continue to be key to getting the project under construction, completed and providing safe drinking water in compliance with federal mandates. The lower Arkansas Valley has been waiting a long time for this final but important piece of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project.”

    Udall has been a tireless advocate for Colorado’s water users, water managers and communities. He helped broker a deal last year to maintain funding for the Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting Program, which monitors snowpack in Colorado’s mountains and helps water managers forecast supply issues before they occur. Udall also worked with the U.S. Forest Service in November 2013 to end the agency’s effort to transfer ski area permit holders’ water rights. Udall also has been the leading advocate of protecting the Colorado River and finding innovative ways to better manage water to meet rising demand throughout the West.


    IBCC: John Stulp stumps for the #COWaterPlan in Prowers County

    December 17, 2013
    Governor Hickenlooper, John Salazar and John Stulp at the 2012 Drought Conference

    Governor Hickenlooper, John Salazar and John Stulp at the 2012 Drought Conference

    From the Prowers County Journal (Russ Baldwin):

    John Stulp, former Prowers County Commissioner and current Director of the Interbasin Compact (IBCC), and Special Policy Advisor to the Governor for Water, met with the Prowers County Commissioners on December 12 to provide an update on the water plan. Stulp was accompanied by another former commissioner, Leroy Mauch, who also represents the region on water issues.

    Representatives from nine different water basins throughout the state have been meeting for the past several years, providing updates on each basin’s water needs, best use policies and how those future needs will interact with each other. Stulp said that some trends have been evident for years such as gaps between water supplies and water demands, agricultural water has been undergoing a buy and dry policy to meet municipal demands along the Western Slope and Front Range and water supplies are uncertain in light of the continued drought which has impacted much of the state for the past decade. He added that the various Basins in the Compact will have their own areas of focus, “The Rio Grande will look at wells and the Arkansas is concerned about wells and surface water. The North Platte is nearly all surface and some wells,” he explained.

    Stulp said, “We could see our state population double in the next 40 to 60 years and we need to know where we can find the water to supply those needs.” Reports have shown that with a widening gap between supply and needs, the state could face a shortfall that exceeds 500,000 acre feet annually. “We don’t want to see a buy and dry situation that hit Crowley County,” Stulp explained. That county had over 92% of its water go away and supplies were also used by two prison systems that located there. The end result was dry land and brush fires, one that was fatal to responders several years ago.

    “Water conditions became critical on the Western Slope due to the drought that’s lasted about 12 years now and our interests along the Front Range and the eastern portion of the state takes about half the water from the Slope,” Stulp explained to the commissioners. “We drilled from 20 to 30 tunnels through the Continental Divide over the years to bring in about 550,000 acre feet a year from parts of the Western Slope to the Front Range. Half of that is junior to the Colorado River Compact. There could be concern over various obligations and a potential for a water call on the Colorado River. The junior diverters will have to reduce their diversions.” He added that Denver is getting half its water from the East and the Western Slope.

    Conservation measures could help reduce the demand in metro areas, Stulp stated. He said Front Range communities along with Denver have done well, cutting back demand per capita by 20% the same time the population has increased by about 10%. There may be more restrictions pertaining to lawn watering and there’s grey water legislation being considered which will reuse shower and similar used water to flush toilets, all within municipal water use decrees. The system that recycles water in that fashion won’t be mandated for household use, but will be an option. Other legislation will require water-“sense” fixtures for additional efficiency such as lavatories, shower heads, aeration toilets and urinals and other flush systems. “The big box retail outlets will be the first point of sale for such items, and will be the only type available for sale in the future if this legislation is approved,” he explained. “We’re not going to be seeing toilet cops running around, but according to Denver water, we could save from 20 to 40,000 acre feet a year with these changes,” Stulp added. He thinks the legislature will see these measures introduced next year…

    Stulp also touched upon the status of the Ark Valley Conduit, first proposed in the 1960s to bring water by pipeline from Pueblo to Lamar. Funding for environmental studies has become available from Congress over the past several years, but the 120 mile long project is still years away. Over 30 entities along the route would be served by the water stored in Pueblo. STulp said because of water quality concerns for the Arkansas River, there have been several groups from western Kansas that have expressed interest in having the pipeline extended across the border.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit update: $15 million needed for engineering

    August 19, 2013

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The exact route and cost of the Arkansas Valley Conduit won’t be known until engineering is complete, but the water line to serve 40 communities in Eastern Colorado is becoming a reality. “There are a whole lot of people who thought we’d never get to this point,” Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District told the board Thursday. “The work we’ve done so far is preliminary. We still have to get this done.”

    The Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental impact statement on the project was released Aug. 9. A record of decision is expected to be issued after a 30-day comment period, meaning work on the actual project can begin. It took just two years for the EIS to be completed, which is less time than a typical project would take. However, the conduit was approved by Congress in the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Act.

    District officials and members of Congress are working on strategies to get the estimated $15 million needed for engineering in the 2015 fiscal year, and possibly to shift some Reclamation funding sooner than that. Construction of the conduit could begin as soon as 2016, largely depending on funding. The EIS also covers Southeastern’s master storage contract that will serve 37 communities and a federal project to interconnect the north and south outlet works.

    Negotiations still are ongoing to build the first leg of the conduit, which would go from the south outlet works to Pueblo Boulevard. From there, the pipeline would head to the Pueblo Board of Water Works Whitlock Treatment Plant, where it would be filtered and moved south through City Park, along Pueblo Boulevard and then south of Pueblo and the Comanche Power Plant. It would run east from there to the St. Charles Mesa treatment plant, then head north of the Arkansas River where it would begin its route eastward with spurs to serve communities along the way.

    In all, there would be 227 miles of pipeline tapering from 48 inches in diameter to 6 inches.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit Final EIS Available

    August 12, 2013

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    Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Kara Lamb/Buck Feist):

    The Bureau of Reclamation announces the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit and Long-Term Excess Capacity Master Contract. To access the document, its Executive Summary, and supporting appendices please visit http://www.usbr.gov/avceis. A list of local libraries housing hard copies of the Final EIS is also included on the website.
    In the Final EIS, Comanche North is identified as the agency-preferred alternative. It minimizes cost and urban construction disturbance, avoids the U.S. Highway 50 expansion corridor, and maximizes source water quality and yield. It is a hybrid alternative developed in response to comments on the Draft EIS by using components of other alternatives analyzed in that document. Of the AVC alternatives, Comanche North would be least costly and provide the most benefits.

    “After extensive public involvement and consideration of comments, scientific data and regional water needs, Reclamation is pleased to release this Final Environmental Impact Statement and announce Comanche North as the agency-preferred alternative,” said Mike Ryan, Regional Director for Reclamation’s Great Plains Region, which includes eastern Colorado.

    Reclamation completed the Final EIS in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. In it, the agency proposed and analyzed three federal actions pertaining to AVC and the Master Contract:

  • Construct and operate the AVC and enter into a repayment contract with Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District;
  • Enter into a conveyance contract with various water providers for use of a pipeline interconnection between Pueblo Dam’s south and north outlet works; and,
  • Enter into an excess capacity master contract with Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District to store water in Pueblo Reservoir.
  • When completed, the pipeline for the AVC could be up to 227 miles long.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Colorado’s congressional delegation wants more funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit, and sent a joint letter last week to the Department of Interior arguing for more funds in 2015. The letter came at the same time as the final environmental impact statement by the Bureau of Reclamation for the Arkansas Valley Conduit, which recommends construction of a 227-mile pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads, serving 40 water districts and a population of 50,000 that is expected to grow to 75,000 by 2070. The conduit route would move water through the Pueblo water board’s Whitlock Treatment Plant for filtration, swing south of the Comanche Power Plant, then run primarily north of the Arkansas River east of Pueblo. In the letter, U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats, and U.S. Reps. Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner, both Republicans, asked Anne Castle, Interior undersecretary for science and water, for increased funding in the 2015 budget, when construction of the conduit could start.

    The EIS also recommends an interconnection at Pueblo Dam between the North Outlet Works construction by Colorado Springs for the Southern Delivery System and the South Outlet Works, which will primarily serve the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The south connection also serves Pueblo West, the Fountain Valley Conduit and the Pueblo Board of Water Works. The EIS also recommends 40-year Lake Pueblo storage contracts for 25 conduit participants and 12 other water providers. The contracts would total almost 30,000 acre-feet annually. The total cost for all three projects is estimated at $400 million in the EIS, and some of that would be repaid by storage contract revenues under 2009 federal legislation.

    While the conduit itself benefits 50,000 people, the interconnect benefits more than 665,000, by providing redundancy for SDS and Pueblo. About 178,000 people would be served by the master contract, including some El Paso County communities outside of Colorado Springs and several Upper Arkansas water users.

    But the push for funding in austere federal times continues. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which sponsors the projects, sought $15 million in funds for the 2014 fiscal year, but received just $1 million. With the record of decision for the projects expected in 30 days, Colorado’s congressional representatives asked Castle to consider more “robust” funding for the conduit.

    Here’s the full text of their letter from the Boulder iJournal:

    Dear Assistant Secretary Castle and Commissioner Connor:

    As the Department of Interior begins consideration of its FY 2015 budget, we write to express our strong support for robust funding of water conservation and delivery studies, projects and activities. In particular, we want to highlight the Arkansas Valley Conduit project in southeastern Colorado. Adequate funding is essential in order to meet federally mandated water quality standards in the region.

    The Arkansas Valley conduit is a planned 130-mile water delivery system from the Pueblo Dam to communities throughout the Arkansas River Valley in Colorado. The conduit is the final phase of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which Congress authorized in 1962. When completed, it will help bring clean drinking water to up to 42 municipalities, towns, and water providers in the lower Arkansas valley.

    Many of the wells in these areas have been contaminated with radon or uranium. As a result, many of the water providers in the region are out of compliance with federal water quality standards. More importantly, however, because of the lack of funding for water projects like this, the populations of these regions have been denied clean high quality water. Providing clean and safe water to all Americans should be at the forefront of the Department’s mission, and these water quality issues underscore the urgent need for progress on the conduit.

    The federal government has already funded planning and feasibility studies for four years in order to make the conduit a reality, and President Obama signed legislation in 2009 committing to fund a substantial share of the project costs. Unfortunately, the Administration’s budget proposal for FY 2014 did not fund the project adequately. While planners in the Arkansas valley expect costs to exceed $15 million in FY 2014, the Bureau of Reclamation’s budget justification requested just $1 million for the project. Adequate funding to compensate for this shortfall in 2015 will be essential to complete the project on schedule.

    As you know, the final Environmental Impact Statement will be released this month. Following a 30-day comment period, a Record of Decision (“ROD”) will be announced. The issuance of an ROD stating a preferred alternative removes any regulatory barrier to moving forward with the project, and signals the start of the design and engineering phase. The Office of Management and Budget indicated that the lack of the ROD was the reason for reducing the funding to only $1 million for FY 2014. With the ROD due to be announced soon, adequate project funding is essential for moving this vital infrastructure and water quality project forward in a timely manner.

    Thank you for your consideration of this request.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit: Reclamation is expected to complete an environmental impact statement by this fall

    June 21, 2013

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Arkansas Valley Conduit would swing south of Pueblo, crossing to the north side of the Arkansas River at Avondale in a preferred option identified by the Bureau of Reclamation. Reclamation is expected to complete an environmental impact statement on the conduit, a master storage contract and a cross-connection of outlets at Pueblo Dam by this fall. The pipeline route takes parts of several alternatives that have been considered for the past two years in the EIS.

    “By studying all of the elements separately, we were able to take a piece of each to create a new alternative,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsors of all three projects. “This project alternative addresses the concerns that have been raised.”

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Lamar: The city is lining up financing for a $2 million pipeline replacement project

    June 20, 2013

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Lamar’s looking to get its pipes cleaned. But the city of 7,800 needs some state assistance to get the job done. The Arkansas Basin Roundtable last week sent a request for a $200,000 state grant to the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The money will assist in a $2 million project that would be funded with a $985,000 grant from the Department of Local Affairs, and a $785,000 CWCB loan. Lamar water customers would pay an additional $1.07 per month if all of the state funds are approved.

    The money is needed because of heavy corrosion and leakage in the pipes that bring water from wells to the city. Water from two separate well fields is high in dissolved solids, and must be blended in order to use it. “If they clean the pipes, they burst,” said Gary Berngard, an executive for Honeywell Building Solutions, the consultant on the project.

    The project also will upgrade parts of the water system in anticipation of completion of the Arkansas Valley Conduit, which is several years down the road.

    The replacement of the pipes will recover between 378-662 acre-feet of water per year that now are being lost. It also would free up water from other sources for other uses, including industrial and agriculture. “This affects half of the population of Prowers County,” Commissioner Henry Schnabel told the roundtable in supporting the project.

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    The Arkansas Valley Conduit scores and extra $4 million from Reclamation funds

    May 23, 2013

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Arkansas Valley Conduit will receive an additional $4 million in federal funds this year thanks to reallocation of unused or leftover funds within the Bureau of Reclamation. “It will allow us to start working on engineering and the drafting of a design,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsors of the project.

    Broderick learned of $3.79 million in additional funds being steered to the conduit during a visit with Reclamation Commissioner Mike Connor in Washington, D.C., earlier this week. The money comes at a time when the district anticipated getting far less than it needed to keep the project moving. Last month, the district’s board received the grim news that under sequestration, only $1 million would be included in the 2014 budget. The district had sought $14 million.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit update: Federal budget slashes funding to $1 million

    May 7, 2013

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., is asking the Senate energy appropriations subcommittee to provide additional funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The conduit’s funding stream hit a snag in the 2014 budget request by President Barack Obama, which allocates $1 million. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District had asked the Bureau of Reclamation for $15 million to keep the project moving forward.

    At April’s meeting, the Southeastern board learned that Reclamation projects across the board had been slashed, including some already under construction. “I don’t know what will happen,” said Southeastern Executive Director Jim Broderick. “We are going to Washington in a couple of weeks to try to learn more.”

    In a letter to committee chairman Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Bennet pointed out other long-term projects in California and Idaho that had received additional funding. “As the subcommittee prepares for the coming fiscal year, we must ensure that states and local communities have the resources to continue work on large-scale, multiyear projects,” Bennet said.

    The conduit’s environmental impact statement is being prepared by Reclamation, and the conduit already has a built-in repayment mechanism through 2009 legislation that devotes Fryingpan-Arkansas contract revenue to conduit costs.

    The cost of the project is estimated at $500 million. It would deliver fresh drinking water from Pueblo Dam to 40 communities as far east as Lamar. Many of those communities could face even higher treatment costs if the conduit is not completed.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit funding at risk

    April 19, 2013

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The funding pipeline for the Arkansas Valley Conduit has sprung a leak. Federal funding pressures could reduce conduit funding to one-third of its current levels and far less than Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District officials had hoped for in next year’s budget. “The conduit is not the only project affected. There are projects under construction that got cut,” Southeastern lobbyist Christine Arbogast told the board Thursday. “Delays cost money, so it’s going to make it more difficult as we move forward.”

    The district discussed a figure of $14 million to begin design and construction of the conduit in 2014. However, the budget President Barack Obama submitted to Congress last week included only $1 million for the conduit. The Bureau of Reclamation is on pace to complete an environmental impact statement for the conduit by the end of this year. But several other water projects already being built saw cuts of 75 percent or more in the president’s budget.

    If Congress adopts another continuing resolution, rather than a budget, the conduit might retain its current level of funding, $3 million, in 2014, said Executive Director Jim Broderick. Otherwise, the district appears to be out of options to increase funding. “It’s clear the game is different than it used to be,” Broderick said, recounting last week’s visit to Washington, D.C. “This doesn’t stop the project, but it will move at a different pace.”

    A federal law in 2009 provided a way to repay the federal government for conduit costs through storage contract payments to Reclamation for use of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. But payments would not start until after the project is completed.

    The conduit could cost up to $500 million to build and would deliver fresh drinking water from Pueblo Dam to 50,000 people in 40 communities along the Arkansas River. “We’re concerned about the drop in funding, but we’re still in the pre-construction phase,” Broderick said.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Arkansas River Valley well users may end up owing water to the river from 2012 #codrought

    March 23, 2013

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    More bad news for farmers. Earlier this year, groundwater associations determined that there would be limited or no replacement water for wells in the Arkansas Valley. Upon reviewing plans submitted March 1, the state is working with the well groups to determine if more water still is owed from 2012. “Depletions have occurred that have not been paid back,” Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Thursday.

    Witte’s staff is reviewing wellpumping plans from the three large well groups to determine how much water might be owed under Rule 14 of the 1996 Arkansas Valley groundwater rules. It could mean a ban on pumping or allowing minimum pumping to occur this year. The state also is looking at domestic and municipal users who may need to implement restrictions in order to keep wells operating this summer. “We are encouraging conservation measures to meet critical needs,” Witte said.

    One well association, the Arkansas Groundwater Users Association, factored the 2012 depletions into its 2013 Rule 14 plan, said manager Scott Lorenz after the meeting. He said farmers should be able to pump at 30 percent on the mainstem of the Arkansas River and 48 percent on Fountain Creek. The Colorado Water Protective and Development Association informed its members who did not have their own sources of replacement water that no water would be available. The Lower Arkansas Water Management Association plan called for 30 percent pumping.

    The Southeastern board received more gloomy news about snowpack and stream flow conditions. Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Flows could be as low as last year — the second-lowest on record — while storage and soil moisture conditions are even worse.

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    Meanwhile the Southeastern board also heard an update for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

    A route for the Arkansas Valley Conduit will be recommended when the final environmental impact statement is released later this year. It could be a hybrid of alternatives being studied by the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which can match components of various alternatives. “The Pueblo routes have raised concerns about what’s already in the ground, so the goal is to find a route that alleviates concerns without additional costs,” Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Executive Director Jim Broderick told the district board Thursday.

    Reclamation still is working on cost-benefit ratios for the project, which includes storage in Lake Pueblo for the conduit and other needs.

    The estimated cost of the conduit, which will provide clean drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo, is $500 million. But that could be high because of standard contingency rates added to early stages of construction projects. Benefits are likely to be in the $500 million range as well, said Broderick, who traveled to Washington, D.C., last month to discuss the project with federal officials.

    No route for the pipeline was recommended in the draft environmental impact statement last year, but routes through Pueblo and south of the city are being considered. But the routes generated concern with the city of Pueblo. On Oct. 29, Pueblo interim City Manager Jim Munch, in a comment to Reclamation saying that any of the routes for the underground pipeline through the Pueblo area have the potential to interfere with infrastructure. Pueblo’s letter also detailed concerns about how water quality could be affected by reduced flows in the Arkansas River through Pueblo.

    The city’s comments were among 25 received by Reclamation. Most dealt with mapping errors or water quality concerns.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit: ‘Water resources are not a priority with this Congress’ — Christine Arbogast

    January 20, 2013

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar’s upcoming resignation and the political climate in Washington could have consequences for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. “We need to double our effort at Interior to secure funding for the conduit,” lobbyist Christine Arbogast told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Thursday.

    Salazar, who battled for the conduit when he served in the U.S. Senate, understood the project, which is being studied by the Bureau of Reclamation, which is part of Interior, she said. “If funding slips, the schedule slips and the costs go up,” she said.

    The environmental impact study for the $500 million conduit should be complete before the end of this year. Reclamation will decide the best route for the pipeline which would supply water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo. While funding for the study has remained in place through shaky fiscal times in Washington, the funding for the conduit itself never has been guaranteed. If everything stays in place, the conduit could be built by 2022. That implies annual appropriations would be made by Congress.

    “Water resources are not a priority with this Congress,” Arbogast said. “Water is a back-burner issue. It has a low profile and a low priority.”

    The conduit was part of the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, but was not built because of the expense. A 2009 bill passed by Congress provided funding through excess-capacity contract revenues to repay the costs of building the conduit.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit update: Cost estimates drop to $400 million

    October 20, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    As the Arkansas Valley Conduit moves closer to reality, there has been some “nervousness” among participants.

    “We have been meeting with some (smaller) communities to answer questions,” said Jim Broderick, executive
    director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Thursday. “We have new people coming into
    the discussion.”

    While the cost of the conduit is estimated at $500 million in a draft environmental impact statement by the Bureau
    of Reclamation, nearly half of that represents contingency costs that reflect a low level of engineering, Broderick
    said.

    “We think these numbers will drop,” Broderick said.

    The district’s own engineering is further along, and indicates costs will be in line with earlier estimates in the $300
    million to $400 million range.

    Public meetings on the conduit were conducted last month and produced about seven comments, mostly in favor
    of the conduit. A final EIS should be released sometime next year. The next step is to review the cost­benefit
    analysis. “We are putting time into it in order to make sure the right details are in it when benefits are calculated,”
    Broderick said.

    The project has been seriously discussed for the past decade and would not be built for another decade, if federal
    funding is in place. In the meantime, water providers large and small are dealing with increased water quality
    requirements, particularly for radionuclides and salinity.

    Communities may be uncertain of the process and actions they need to take in the meantime, Broderick said.
    More frequent updates of the conduit’s progress are planned to keep them informed, he added.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit update: Source water quality problems would be improved by the conduit

    September 30, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Besides providing a reliable amount of water, the Arkansas Valley Conduit would improve water quality for the 40 communities that have indicated an interest in the project.

    Salinity and radiation in local water supplies exceed federal drinking standards. The levels have created regulatory pressure from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to find sources of better water, said Signe Snortland, who heads the Bureau of Reclamation team evaluating the conduit.

    Meetings were held last week in Salida, Pueblo, La Junta and Lamar on the draft environmental impact statement.

    Of the conduit participants, 14 are in violation of radiation standards.

    Meanwhile, Reclamation has cut a contract with Vine Laboratories in Denver to do the geological work. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

    The Bureau of Reclamation has awarded a $715,000 contract to Vine Laboratories of Denver to conduct geologic investigations, including drilling, testing and sampling of unconsolidated material and bedrock necessary for design of the proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit project. The contract will provide some preliminary data describing geological conditions and other variables.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Reclamation Awards Contract for Arkansas Valley Conduit Investigations

    September 28, 2012

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

    The Bureau of Reclamation has awarded a $715,477.50 contract to Vine Laboratories of Denver, Colo., to conduct geologic investigations, including drilling, testing, and sampling of unconsolidated material and bedrock necessary for design of the proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit project.

    Vine Laboratories is a woman-owned small business in Colorado.

    “Reclamation is pleased to award this contract to one of Colorado’s small businesses,” said Michael J. Ryan, Great Plains Regional Director.

    The contract will provide some preliminary data describing geological conditions and other variables.

    If constructed, the AVC would convey water from Pueblo Reservoir to communities in southeastern Colorado.

    For more information, please visit www.usbr.gov/avceis.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit: Construction costs come in at $500 million

    September 27, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The costs of building the Arkansas Valley Conduit would be about $500 million no matter which alternative is chosen, according to a preliminary analysis by the Bureau of Reclamation. Four routes from Pueblo Dam are being considered and the costs of annual maintenance range from $3.4 million-$4.6 million. More detailed cost estimates are being prepared and will be released in a report later this year, said Signe Snortland, who is heading a Reclamation team evaluating the conduit, master storage contract for Lake Pueblo and an interconnection at Pueblo Dam. The projects have been requested by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

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

    While the Arkansas Valley Conduit would meet water supply and quality needs of 40 communities east of Pueblo, it first has to make it out of the city. “The conduit must go through or around Pueblo,” said Signe Snortland, head of a Bureau of Reclamation team evaluating the environmental impacts of the conduit and two other projects. Reclamation hosted two hearings in Pueblo on Tuesday on the conduit, a $500 million project that would bring clean drinking water to the Lower Arkansas Valley. Few comments were received, but the public has until Oct. 30 to provide input. Other hearings have been at Salida and La Junta. The hearings end today in Lamar.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Reclamation Hosts Public Hearings on AVC Draft EIS

    September 23, 2012

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

    The Bureau of Reclamation announces five public hearings to be held as part of the public comment period for the Arkansas Valley Conduit and Long-Term Excess Capacity Master Contract Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Comments will be accepted through October 30, 2012.

    Meetings will be held September 24-28 in Salida, Pueblo, La Junta and Lamar, Colo. There will be an afternoon and an evening meeting in Pueblo. For dates and locations, please visit the website at http://www.usbr.gov/avceis.

    The hearings will include an open house, presentation, question and answer forum, and an opportunity for oral comments from the public. The schedule for evening meetings is 6:30 pm open house and exhibits, 7:00 pm presentation with questions and answers, and 7:30 pm hearing. The afternoon meeting starts at 1 pm with the open house and exhibits, 1:30 pm presentation with questions and answers, and 2 pm hearing.

    In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, Reclamation is analyzing three proposed federal actions for the AVC and Master Contract that would tie into its Fryingpan- Arkansas water project. The Draft EIS summarizes the analyses to date and can be accessed via the aforementioned website.

    “Public comments are a key component to our environmental compliance process,” said Mike Ryan, Regional Director for Reclamation’s Great Plains Region.

    Comments outside of the hearings must be sent to the attention of J. Signe Snortland, Reclamation Environmental Specialist, via mail or e-mail at Bureau of Reclamation, Dakotas Area Office, PO Box 1017, Bismarck ND 58502; or jsnortland@usbr.gov.
    For more information please contact Kara Lamb at (970) 962-4326 or klamb@usbr.gov.

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

    A series of meetings this week will give area residents the opportunity to review a draft environmental impact statement for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The meetings will be hosted by the Bureau of Reclamation, which prepared the draft EIS on the conduit and a master storage contract requested by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Comments on the draft EIS will be accepted through Oct. 30. The draft EIS does not list a preferred alternative for the conduit.

    From The Prowers Journal (Russ Baldwin):

    Residents along the Arkansas River will be given an opportunity to comment on an environmental impact statement regarding the Arkansas River Conduit project, running between Pueblo and Lamar.

    The Bureau of Reclamation has set up a series of public hearings between September 24 and 27 in various locations. One will be held in La Junta on Wednesday, September 26 at Otero Junior College from 6:30pm to 8pm and one will be held in Lamar, Thursday, September 27 in the multi-purpose room at the Lamar Community Building, also between 6:30 and 8pm. Each of the public hearings will be preceded by an Open House. The Reclamation Bureau will accept written comments on the EIS until October 30, 2012.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Reclamation releases draft Arkansas Valley Conduit environmental impact statement

    August 30, 2012

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

    The Bureau of Reclamation announces the public comment period for the Arkansas Valley Conduit and Long-Term Excess Capacity Master Contract Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Comments will be accepted through October 30, 2012.
    “Public comments are a key component to our environmental compliance process,” said Mike Ryan, Regional Director for Reclamation’s Great Plains Region.

    As part of the National Environmental Policy Act, Reclamation is analyzing three proposed federal actions for the AVC and Master Contract that would tie into its Fryingpan-Arkansas water project. The Draft EIS summarizes the analyses to date.

    To access the Draft EIS, Executive Summary, and supporting technical reports please visit http://www.usbr.gov/avceis. A list of libraries where the Draft EIS is available is also included on the website.

    In late September, Reclamation will host five public hearings to present the Draft EIS to the public, answer questions, and accept both written and oral comments. The hearings will include an open house, presentation, question and answer forum, and an opportunity for oral comments from the public. Meetings will be held in Salida, Pueblo, La Junta and Lamar, Colo. For dates, times and locations, please visit the website at http://www.usbr.gov/avceis.

    Comments outside of the hearings must be sent to the attention of J. Signe Snortland, Reclamation Environmental Specialist, via mail or e-mail at Bureau of Reclamation, Dakotas Area Office, PO Box 1017, Bismarck ND 58502; or jsnortland@usbr.gov.

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

    The Bureau of Reclamation Wednesday released a draft environmental impact statement for the conduit and a master storage contract proposed by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District…

    The 40 communities that would receive clean drinking water from the conduit would pay some of the costs, but many face more costly alternatives to remove salts and radionuclides.

    The master contract would provide more certainty for long-term storage of nonproject water in Lake Pueblo both for use by the conduit participants and other users within the Southeastern district. The 400-page report does not recommend an alignment for the conduit, but instead lists a no-action alternative, five possible alternatives for the conduit and an alternative that includes only the master contract.

    Meetings are planned next month to discuss the report in Salida, Pueblo, La Junta and Lamar.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit: The one last big piece of the Fryingpan-Arkansas project yet to be constructed

    August 17, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    As water is used and reused along the Arkansas River, it picks up and releases salt. By the time the Arkansas River reaches the state line, it can be up to 10 times more saline than at Pueblo. In addition, many of the wells used to supply water to the cities and towns of the Arkansas Valley have radionuclide (a class of atom that exhibits radioactivity) contamination. As state restrictions tighten, they will be forced to either clean the water or turn to a new supply through the conduit. Building the conduit always has been a chicken-or-egg proposition. The population of the valley has never been large enough to afford the conduit, but it is vital for its future growth…

    The Bureau of Reclamation is doing an environmental impact study for the conduit — along with associated long-term storage contracts — that should be completed next year.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “It is still a struggle to provide good water to newcomers,” said Bill Long, the conduit’s most tireless advocate…

    Long is a Las Animas businessman, Bent County commissioner and president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. His view of the Fry-Ark Project is one in which future generations will enjoy the work going on today.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Pueblo Dam: Key infrastructure for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project

    August 16, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    …despite the prominent presence of fun at Lake Pueblo, its primary purpose is to store water for the farms and cities of the Arkansas River basin, as well as provide flood protection.

    Built as terminal storage for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, Lake Pueblo has taken on other uses over the years. Because it is not always full, excess-capacity contracts with the Bureau of Reclamation allow others to use it. The most controversial contracts have been awarded to Aurora, which uses the Fry-Ark Project to take water out of the Arkansas River basin — a purpose not included in the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Act. The Southeastern Colorado and Lower Arkansas Valley water conservancy districts waged protests against that practice, but settled differences through additional payments and conditions placed on Aurora.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The winter water storage program began voluntarily in 1975, after the completion of Pueblo Dam, but had been a part of project planning since the 1930s.

    “We had dirt ditches and deep canals that would fill with weeds and snow. You would spend days cleaning them out, and they’d fill again when you got your next run,” [John Schweizer] said, recalling freezing winter days.

    “As far as I’m concerned, the Pueblo Reservoir was the greatest improvement to the valley. It has been a real boon to agriculture.”

    More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project 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.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit: Reclamation public open houses July 17 and 18

    July 16, 2012

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

    Who: Neighboring communities, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District need your help.

    Why: Access to private land is needed in order to conduct geology and environmental studies for the proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit. The AVC would bring clean and safe drinking water to Arkansas River valley communities.

    What: The proposed AVC is a feature of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project that was never built, but its possibilities are now being investigated. Pipeline routes are being analyzed and engineering details are being designed. Collection of soil and geotechnical data from land parcels in eastern Colorado as well as environmental resource investigations will help with this planning process. The Bureau of Reclamation is preparing an environmental impact statement to evaluate the effects of this proposed project.

    By allowing access to your land, Reclamation engineers and their contractors might dig or drill for soil samples, or record environmental data, which includes cultural or biological resources. Residents in the area might also see drill rigs or survey crews on adjacent properties.

    Where: If constructed, the pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir would bring drinking water to communities east of Pueblo to Lamar in the Arkansas Valley.

    When: This summer through 2013, the Bureau of Reclamation is conducting its geotechnical study,
    drill sampling program, and cultural and biological resource studies to analyze possible pipeline routes and design project features. Public hearings for the environmental impact statement will be held in September 2012.

    To obtain more information regarding right of entry on private lands for the AVC Project:

    1. Attend local public open houses hosted by City of Las Animas, McClave Water Association, and Hasty Water Company. Each meeting will run from 6-8 p.m.

    • Tuesday, July 17, 2012, Hasty Fire House, South Main Street, Hasty, CO
    • Wednesday, July 18, 2012, Las Animas City Hall, 532 Carson St., Las Animas, CO

    2. Visit our website at www.usbr.gov/avceis.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit: Reclamation to collect soil and rock samples along proposed pipeline routes

    May 8, 2012

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    Update: Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    The Bureau of Reclamation will be taking samples of rock and earth as part of an Environmental Impact Study for the Arkansas Valley Conduit and a master storage contract for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District….

    A Reclamation crew will use a truck-mounted, heavy duty drill rig to sample ground on about 1,600 parcels up to 120 feet deep. While most are on public rights of way, some are on private property, and Reclamation will contact landowners and provide a right-of-entry form, said Kara Lamb, spokeswoman for Reclamation.

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

    Reclamation drill crews will begin geotechnical investigations from Pueblo to Lamar, Colo. in early May. The drill crews will be collecting soil and rock samples along the possible routes of the proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit, a water project being evaluated by Reclamation.

    The investigations are part of the surveying research Reclamation is conducting for its preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement. This environmental document will evaluate three proposed federal actions: the proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit; an interconnection between the north and south outlets works of Pueblo Reservoir; and a possible long-term excess capacity Master Contract with Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District to store water in Pueblo Reservoir.

    Drilling for geotechnical surveying is performed by Reclamation’s Great Plains Regional Geology and Exploration crew. The crew operates a truck mounted CME-85 rig for drilling up to 120 feet below the ground surface to collect samples of rock and earth. The samples are then tested for standard physical properties that will help determine design requirements for the Arkansas Valley Conduit.

    While most of the 1600 parcels to be surveyed are in public right-of-ways, some may be on private land. In those cases, Reclamation will contact property owners and provide them with an explanatory letter and a Right of Entry form.

    To learn more about the proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit, proposed Master Contract, and the related environmental review process, please visit: www.usbr.gov/avceis. Media is invited to contact Kara Lamb, Reclamation Public Information Officer, for follow-up questions at (970) 062-4326 or klamb@usbr.gov.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Reclamation to use aerial photography for Arkansas Valley Conduit

    March 9, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Bureau of Reclamation announced Monday that planes will be taking aerial photographs along the proposed route of the conduit from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads as part of its Environmental Impact Statement for the project. The EIS also is looking at a long-term master storage project requested by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. The draft EIS is expected to be completed late this year. Reclamation has identified five possible pipeline routes from Pueblo to Lamar that will be surveyed.

    From Thursday until March 17, survey crews will place white panels shaped like giant plus signs in conjunction with aerial photography to map the potential routes, said Kara Lamb, spokeswoman for Reclamation.

    The 11-foot panels are constructed flat on the ground and the locations are calculated using global positioning equipment. Once placed, they will remain on the ground for up to three weeks. The panels are used with aerial photography from an airplane flying at 5,000 feet to obtain topographic information.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Reclamation to use aerial photography for Arkansas Valley Conduit

    March 4, 2012

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    Here’s the release from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    Reclamation employees will perform aerial panel placement for surveying along the Lower Arkansas River Valley corridor March 7-17. The panel placement is part of Reclamation’s National Environmental Policy Act research on the proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit and Long Term Excess Capacity Master Contract.
    Reclamation has identified five possible pipeline routes from Pueblo to Lamar that will be surveyed. The survey crews will use large white panels shaped like giant plus signs in conjunction with aerial photography to map the potential routes.

    The panels are constructed flat on the ground and the locations are calculated using global positioning equipment. Once placed, they need to remain on the ground for up to three weeks. The panels are used with aerial photography from an airplane flying at 5000 feet to obtain topographic information. The topographical data will be used to design the water pipeline.

    During the survey process, some private land may need to be accessed by Reclamation surveyors. In those cases, most property owners will be contacted in person by Reclamation staff.

    To learn more about the proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit, proposed Master Contract, and the related NEPA process, please visit: www.usbr.gov/avceis. Media is invited to contact Kara Lamb at (970) 062-4326 or klamb@usbr.gov.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here.


    President Obama’s budget request includes dough for the Arkansas Valley Conduit

    February 20, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    About $3 million is included in the president’s budget to complete the Environmental Impact Statement being prepared by the Bureau of Reclamation. “We’re very, very pleased. This allows us to finish the process and play with some of the technical pieces,” [Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Executive Director Jim Broderick] said.

    The draft EIS is expected to be completed by the end of this year. The project would be built by 2022 at the soonest.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    The Arkansas Valley Super Ditch engineering report forecasts the need for an additional 50,000 acre-feet in the valley by 2050

    February 12, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The conclusion is reached in an engineering report by Heath Kuntz prepared as part of the Super Ditch exchange case filed by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District in 2010.

    The exchanges involve up to 58,000 acre-feet of water, 30,000 acres of ground, 82 exchange sites and seven ditch companies. So far, there has been no filing for a change of use of the water. Without a water leasing program like Super Ditch in place, there is the potential to permanently sell more farm water and take away flexibility to use the best farmland to grow crops, said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district.

    “Without the Super Ditch, I can see the day when the Ark Valley turns the clock back to the 1950s and we’re reduced to furrow irrigation,” Winner said. “In fact, I think the demand for water might be even higher than this report indicates.”

    With the advent of surface-irrigation improvement rules in 2009, more replacement water will be needed as more systems in the valley are converted…

    Well plans administered by three major groups now use about 24,500 acre-feet of leased water, and the engineering report projects that would increase to 30,500 acre-feet of water by 2050. In addition, the Arkansas Valley Conduit is expected to be constructed in the next decade, and its water demands will include 3,100 acre-feet from new sources to serve about 40 communities east of Pueblo. “The total projected demands associated with these operations are approximately 53,300 acre-feet per year in 2050,” Kuntz said in the report…

    At its January meeting, the Lower Ark board heard from well associations that its lease of water from the Pueblo Board of Water Works, to help surface irrigators fill replacement needs, is raising the price others have to pay for augmentation water. The Pueblo water board typically sells water to bidders each year when the water is available. The price has been creeping up, as witnessed by the Fort Lyon Canal’s bid of $40 per acre-foot — twice its typical offer — in 2011. But the well groups argue that the $200 per acre-foot in the Lower Ark’s five-year contract takes water out of the pool available to them.

    More Arkansas River basin coverage here.


    Southeastern Board Meeting recap: Reclamation stands to get $3 million for Arkansas Valley Conduit EIS

    January 21, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Bureau of Reclamation is working on an environmental impact statement for the conduit that will identify the preferred option for the conduit. It will be allocated nearly $3 million to complete the study in the next year, said Christine Arbogast, a lobbyist for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District…

    In the 2013 fiscal year, relatively little funding would be needed as the EIS is completed, but in the following year the district will have to push for federal funds to begin building the conduit.

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

    Colorado has accrued 44,000 acre-feet of credits under an accounting system of deliveries of Arkansas River water to Kansas. There are two reasons for the surplus, Witte explained:

    - The Lower Arkansas Water Management Association has been delivering about 8,000 acre-feet annually for six years from the Kessee Ditch below John Martin Reservoir.

    - The state has been using a presumptive depletion factor of 39 percent, rather than 30 percent as required by the compact lawsuit.

    The Division of Water Resources will re-evaluate the depletion factor in June, and it likely will be lowered to some midpoint between the two extremes, Witte said. That means well owners would be required to replace less water on an annual basis, but the change would not go into effect until April 2013 at the earliest.

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

    “The Arkansas Basin Roundtable is overseeing this pilot program [for the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch] as well as the Lower district,” Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday. “We’re trying to be as transparent as we can.”

    Winner and engineer Heath Kuntz reviewed Super Ditch plans at the board’s monthly meeting. The information was the same as longer presentations to a group of about 200 people earlier this month in Rocky Ford. That meeting was held at the suggestion of State Engineer Dick Wolfe to give those who could be affected by Super Ditch the opportunity to look at the potential impacts of a pilot program. The Rocky Ford meeting led to a technical meeting in Colorado Springs Thursday to work out issues raised at the first meeting. The Lower Ark district will file its substitute water supply plan for the pilot program after attempting to settle those issues, Winner said.

    More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


    The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board approves a $17.2 million budget for 2012

    December 10, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The major portion of the budget, $11.8 million, goes to repay federal costs of constructing the Fry-Ark Project, which includes the Fountain pipeline. Another $270,000 is revenue from state and federal grants.

    The operating budget for the district is $5.1 million, with about 60 percent in the general fund, and 40 percent in the enterprise fund.

    Of the $3 million district fund, $1.36 million goes toward personnel.

    The budget also includes a capital expenditure of $850,000 as the district’s share for purchase of the Red Top Ranch near Lake Granby. That cost will total $1.7 million over two years. The ranch purchase is part of a plan by Front Range water users, including Aurora, Colorado Springs, Denver, Pueblo and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, to provide flows for endangered fish species in the Colorado River. Participation in the program is a condition for importing Fry-Ark water each year.

    The major project in the $2.1 million enterprise fund will be the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is preparing an environmental impact statement for the conduit.

    More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


    The Bureau of Reclamation is evaluating alternatives for the Arkansas Valley Conduit, the draft EIS should be out in 2012

    October 20, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “This is a big step, and I’m thankful we’ve made it to this point,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsors of the conduit. “I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to meet the timelines.” Those timelines include completion of the draft EIS by next fall and construction of the 235-mile pipeline within a decade…

    Wednesday’s session dug down into how the EIS will be developed and explained over the next year. Reclamation is attempting to make the process more understandable to the general public. “We’re trying to make it a much more readable document for the general public,” said Jerry Gibbens, a consultant for MWH Engineering.

    The conduit will move about 10,000 acre-feet of water annually, and will be associated with a master contract for about 26,900 acre-feet of storage in Lake Pueblo. Together the projects involve about 20 percent of the municipal water supply, and 7 percent of the total water supply, Gibbens said. The impact throughout the Arkansas River basin, and particularly downstream from Pueblo Dam, will be studied. To help the public get a better idea, photographs of how the river looks at various stages along different reaches of the rivers will be included along with the traditional hygrograph in the online version of the draft EIS, once it is completed, Gibbens said.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update: Reclamation is on board with compromise for the spending of project revenues

    September 19, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The plan pays off the South Outlet Works connection to Pueblo Dam, about $2 million, using revenues from 2010-11 this year, and begin paying down federal debt on the Fountain Valley Conduit and Ruedi Reservoir next year. During that time, the groups will work on a mutually acceptable plan for future years…

    The new plan backs off the Southeastern’s insistence that Arkansas River basin parts of the project be paid down before Ruedi, a compensatory storage reservoir for the Western Slope above Basalt near Aspen…

    The South Outlet Works delivers water from the Pueblo Dam to the Pueblo Board of Water Works, Fountain Valley Authority, Pueblo West and the future Arkansas Valley Conduit. Payment of the debt on the South Outlet Works benefits Pueblo water customers, who otherwise would have to pay about $169,000 a year over the next 12 years. More than $52 million is owed on the Fountain Valley Conduit, which serves Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security, Widefield and Stratmoor Hills. Payments for those users total $5.6 million a year, through property tax assessment. More than $32 million is owed on Ruedi, and interest payments increase the amount by $2 million annually. The reservoir was built larger than necessary at the request of Western Slope interests, and the large debt is a result of unused accounts at the reservoir.

    More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.


    Lamar pipeline: Arkansas River basin roundtable members had many questions for Karl Nyquist yesterday

    September 8, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Questions about cost, economic impact, water quality and whether the project is speculative greeted Karl Nyquist, a partner in GP Water, which is proposing a 150-mile, $350 million pipeline from the Lamar Canal to northern El Paso County and other points along the Front Range. Up to 12,000 acre-feet of water annually could be delivered…

    “You’ve said the water template [ed. ag water transfers template developed by the Arkansas basin roundtable] would be used as a guide, how does it get enforced?” asked Dave Taussig, an attorney from Lincoln County.

    Nyquist responded that a change case in Water Court, when it is filed, would protect other water rights in the Arkansas Valley. The socioeconomic concerns identified in the roundtable report could be addressed in the Prowers County 1041 land-use process, he added…

    Others wanted to know if GP Water was merely a water speculator. “We own the water and won’t go to court until we have end users in mind,” Nyquist said.

    During his presentation, he said GP has bid for water service to Cherokee, Castle Rock, Bennett, the district it controls in Elbert County and others. Nyquist said the plan had come to light through media reports before it was fully formed…

    The project includes a reservoir, underground storage and treatment plant near Lamar in Prowers County, which Nyquist said would more than offset the loss of agricultural jobs…

    GP submitted a proposal to the Cherokee Metropolitan District in Colorado Springs to provide up to 4,000 acre-feet annually for $7 per 1,000 gallons. That works out to about $9 million per year for about one-third of the projected supply…

    GP plans to reduce its storage costs by using underground reservoirs, which will cut down on water losses from evaporation. Water quality is better during high flows when GP would store the water, Nyquist explained…

    About 40,000 acre-feet of underground storage is available under the ground GP owns. GP estimates its water rights would yield an average of 8,000-10,000 acre-feet annually to move from the Arkansas River basin.

    Brine from the treatment plant — which Nyquist said would be about 3-5 percent of the total water supply — would be injected 4,000-8,000 feet underground into formations that are already watered, Nyquist added.

    More Lamar pipeline coverage here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit: $3 million funding study should be included in this year’s omnibus funding bill from the U.S. Congress

    August 21, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The study’s nearly $3 million in funding for next year received support in committee, and should be part of an anticipated omnibus funding bill later this year, lobbyist Christine Arbogast told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District on Thursday. “We should receive just under $3 million unless there are across-the-board cuts,” Arbogast said…

    The Southeastern board is the primary sponsor of the conduit, and has combined the EIS for the conduit with a master storage contract in Lake Pueblo on behalf of both conduit participants and other members of the Southeastern district.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update: Potential customers voice concerns over storage pricing at Reclamation ‘listening session’

    August 12, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “Are you trying to maximize return to the Bureau of Reclamation, or maximize benefits to the area?” asked Terry Book, deputy executive director for the Pueblo Board of Water Works. The water board has the lowest rate for storage at Lake Pueblo under a 25-year contract signed in 2000. “At the end of 25 years, if the price is too high, will we have to seek alternatives elsewhere? If the price we passed on were too high, would that keep others out and defeat the whole purpose?”

    Reclamation plans to develop a pilot program in the Arkansas River basin that would determine how market pricing for storage contracts could be used throughout the western United States, explained Mike Collins, area manager for Reclamation. “We have no draft documents or analysis,” Collins said, adding that the listening session was to gain input from Arkansas River water users on how to determine market prices.

    Collins offered no concrete responses about how the criteria for market pricing are being developed, and said a document would be available further into the process. “We’re gathering perspectives to get this process started,” Collins said.

    Ed Harvey, an economist who represented the SDS group and Aurora, told Reclamation that it would be difficult to apply market rates in the Arkansas River basin across the western United States. Water markets are few in number and subject to local conditions. “It’s a difficult, but laudable goal that is fraught with difficulties,” Harvey said. He suggested developing a market simulation, looking at comparable situations in the Arkansas River basin. Harvey did that sort of analysis in 2006 for the Aurora contract hearings, and found storage rates varied from $3-$68 per acre-foot, depending on variables like location and the relationship between buyer and seller. Reclamation basically ignored Harvey’s work during those hearings. Reclamation’s current contracts at Lake Pueblo range from $17.25-$51.32 per acre-foot.

    Meanwhile there are problems getting consensus on where to apply Fry-Ark revenues. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District last October proposed paying off the South Outlet Works first, the Fountain Valley Conduit second and Ruedi last until the Arkansas Valley Conduit is built. The [2009 law that uses excess-capacity revenues to fund parts of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project] itself does not indicate priorities among the projects prior to completion of the new conduit. Reclamation suggests other alternatives, including paying the majority of the funds from Ruedi, paying equal shares to all three or adjusting payments to the total amount currently owned. It has not chosen an alternative.

    “Our expectations are that the East Slope facilities and obligations will be paid off first, with consideration for Ruedi in the future,” Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works, told Reclamation officials at a meeting to discuss the law Wednesday. “It starts to appear that there will be additional mitigation for the West Slope.”[...]

    Reclamation charges fees to store water in Lake Pueblo, primarily, under either long-term or short-term contracts. Previously, the revenues from that went to the general fund of the federal government. Under the new law, they are to be put toward Fry-Ark debt. This year, $2.2 million is available from short- and long-term excess-capacity contracts — enough to cover the South Outlet Works debt. In the next six years, the revenues drop to about half of that because of the structure of the Southern Delivery System contracts. By 2018, revenues are expected to resume at $2.4 million and begin climbing again. Revenues would be sufficient to pay off the Fountain Valley Conduit by 2020, under the Southeastern District plan, but the Ruedi debt would climb to more than $50 million.

    More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project 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.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit: Most communities have signed on the bottom line for the project environmental impact study

    June 17, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Nearly all potential water users in the Arkansas Valley Conduit project have signed memorandums of understanding to participate in the Environmental Impact Study for the project…

    Two of the communities, Valley Water and Lamar, have yet to sign agreements, but are expected to do so at future meetings, said Phil Reynolds, project manager. The agreements define how local matching costs of the EIS will be shared, based on projected use of the conduit…

    The EIS also includes an excess-capacity master contract that would allow long-term temporary storage in Lake Pueblo for some of the conduit participants and 12 other water providers in the Arkansas River basin. All of the excess-capacity MOUs have been signed.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit update: The communities east of Pueblo are starting to plan for the project

    May 23, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District is forging ahead with the 40 communities east of Pueblo that will be part of the conduit — a 130-mile line that will provide clean drinking water to 50,000 people. “Some of what we are figuring out is making sure everyone is in the game,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern district. “People are asking valid questions, and we don’t have all the answers. The biggest issue is sitting down to communicate. It’s hard to get people to understand what occurs 50 years in the future.”[...]

    The district spent the last few weeks working out agreements with conduit participants to pay the local costs of an environmental impact study being developed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. To gain time to find some answers to questions that were raised, the district postponed a meeting that was to be Tuesday until sometime in June. The $4.6 million study also is looking at a master excess-capacity storage contract for Lake Pueblo that includes some conduit participants and 12 other participants who are not part of the conduit. The study will determine the best route for the conduit, as well as identify impacts to the Arkansas River.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit: The Fowler town council votes to drop support for conduit EIS

    April 28, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):</p<

    The main reason for deciding against the project was not having information on its cost as it plays out, said Town Manager Wayne Snider on Tuesday. “I think the council wanted to consider other options.” Snider was out of town when the vote was taken, but said the council had expressed concerns over signing a “blank check” for the conduit. Fowler currently has adequate water resources for its population, relying on springs north of the town.

    It is also looking at working with Innovative Water Technologies of Rocky Ford on a membrane treatment system to improve water quality and with BiO2 Solutions of Strasburg on an algae treatment for wastewater systems. “We were concerned about the conduit, because you can’t project the cost: not only for the study but for future construction,” Snider said.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


    Arkansas River basin: The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District ponies up $400,000 towards the Arkansas Valley Conduit environmental impact statement

    April 23, 2011

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    From the La Junta Tribune Democrat (Bette McFarren):

    The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District Wednesday committed $400,000 over a three year period to a Memorandum of Understanding for the Environmental Impact Study now in progress.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here.


    Fryingpan-Arkansas Project: Lake Pueblo master storage contract update

    March 26, 2011

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    Here’s an in-depth look at what it’s going to take to get a contract in place, including an environmental impact statement, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

    The EIS will study the cumulative impacts of storing non-project water in Fry-Ark reservoirs, which could total close to 100,000 acre-feet in the next 50 years. A 2006 Reclamation study determined there is about 130,000 acre-feet of storage space available annually. Current contracts account for about 50,000 acre-feet of storage annually, and Southern Delivery System contracts now under final review would amount to 40,000 acre-feet. Security, Fountain and Pueblo West are in both the SDS and Arkansas Valley Conduit contract processes. Many other current users who rely on one-year contracts are in the Southeastern’s master contract proposal.

    Thursday’s meeting was primarily about the cost of the EIS to each participant, and there was some wrangling about how some participants had reduced the amount requested, thus increasing bills for smaller districts…

    Joe Kelley, La Junta water superintendent, asked if communities could expect to see as much or more of the water they signed up for in determining their share of the EIS cost. [Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District general manager Jim Broderick] and [Southeastern attorney Lee Miller] said the numbers used for the EIS are most likely a minimum that communities can expect to receive if they participate in the later phases of building and operating the conduit. Some communities may drop out, and the final decision will be made by future Southeastern boards. “We have spent four to five years in this process to determine use,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern board. “It’s not likely that the board would make changes.”

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

    Under operating guidelines, an estimated 12,800 acre-feet of water would have to be released from the dam beginning April 15 to maintain flood storage capacity in the reservoir. But the Corps has agreed to allow 25,000 acre-feet of the flood control pool to be used to store water until May 1, and 12,500 acre-feet until May 15, said Roy Vaughan, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation manager of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. “Unless something unusual happens, we shouldn’t have to release anyone’s water,” Vaughan told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday.

    Here’s a look at the Arkansas Valley’s winter water program from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    The winter water program was first envisioned in the 1930s, and began after completion of Pueblo Dam in 1975. It was formalized in a Water Court decree in 1987. It allows irrigators to store water from Nov. 15 to March 15. “One of the multiple purposes of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project was to store . . . irrigation water for summer use,” attorney Alix Joseph told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday. The southeastern district oversees the operation of the program, which benefits most of the major ditches between Pueblo and John Martin Reservoir, as well as the Amity Canal. The glaring exception is the Rocky Ford Ditch, which is now almost largely owned and controlled by Aurora. Rocky Ford always had the opportunity to join the winter water program, but Aurora’s decrees have changed how it uses the water.

    The use of winter water, or Fry-Ark water, is frequently referenced in Water Court applications, which is always a red flag for southeastern district lawyers. When water changes from agricultural to urban uses, the accounting becomes complicated. “Any decree that uses winter water for purposes other than agriculture cannot store in Pueblo Reservoir,” Joseph said. That provision relates to the repayment of the Fry-Ark Project.

    More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit update

    February 20, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “The fact that it’s in the president’s budget gives us the dollars to get us where we need to be,” Executive Director Jim Broderick told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday. The federal budget request, which still has to find its way through Congress, should provide enough money to finish an Environmental Impact Study that will determine the best route for the conduit. The conduit will be a mostly gravity-fed water line from Pueblo Dam to Lamar that would provide clean drinking water to more than 40 communities and 50,000 people along its 130-mile route. In the past, the district has requested more money to work on different parts of the project, such as preliminary engineering and land acquisition.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.


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