Water summit drew large crowd — Fort Morgan Times

April 5, 2014

Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions -- Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute

Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions — Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute


From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

The large crowd at Progressive 15’s Water Summit had their fill of water-related information March 28 at the Country Steak-Out in Fort Morgan, but it seemed they were still thirsty for more, asking nearly every speaker lots of questions and seeking more resources.

The speakers addressed a number of different topics, including: potential and currently pending legislation and ballot issues that could affect water law, and weather forecasts and the plan the state is forming for dealing with water for the future.

After Progressive 15 Chairman Barry Gore explained the nonprofit group’s mission as an advocacy agency for its members, Joe Frank from the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District spoke about the history of public trust doctrine and how it could affect Colorado if adopted here…

After a break for lunch, the crowd heard from National Weather Service Senior Hydrologist Treste Huse about weather and flood forecasts for Colorado.

She said that while Morgan County received 300 percent of normal precipitation in 2013, “it’s drying up this year.”

Northeast Colorado could see higher risks of flooding this spring and summer due to higher water tables, reservoirs already at capacity and the melting of a high snow pack. Landslides also could be possible with that flooding.

Huse also said that it was possible that 2014 would have El Nino weather patterns in Colorado, which could lead to wetter than average conditions in the south and far east parts of the state.

Later, former Colorado Agriculture Commissioner John Stulp, who now is an advisor in Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Water Office, spoke about the Colorado Water Plan.

He said that while drought was growing in southeast Colorado, most of the state was not in a drought.

Yet, he recognized that flooding could become an issue again.

“We’re hopeful that the snowpack comes down in an orderly manner,” he said.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.


Wiggins trustees approve hitching up with the Northeast Colorado Water Cooperative…augmentation credits

February 15, 2014

Augmentation pond photo via Irrigation Doctor, Inc.

Augmentation pond photo via Irrigation Doctor, Inc.


From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

The Wiggins Board of Trustees voted to buy a share of the Northeast Colorado Water Cooperative during its monthly meeting Wednesday night. That will cost $2,000.

On any one day, an individual or group with an augmentation plan might have more water credits than the person or group can use or less than it needs, and having the option of sharing credits could help those who are part of the cooperative, said agricultural producer Mike Groves. As it is, if a person or group has excess water credits, the individual or group has to just let it go down the river without use, but the cooperative may change that, he noted.

“It’s something that’s never been done before, but I get sick and tired” of seeing water lost because it cannot be used, Groves said.

Members could transfer water credits to help out those who need them, he said.

Even a little bit of water can make a difference at times, Groves said.

The copperative became official as of Jan. 1, after about seven years of work to put it together, he said. So far, a number of people and groups have become members, said Joe Frank, general manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District. There are two kinds of members: voting and non-voting, which cost $2,000 or $1,000 respectively for shares. That money becomes capital, and would buy one share of cooperative stock, just like other agricultural cooperatives, Frank said.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.


South Platte River Basin: ‘We have to have an oversupply along the whole system’ — Bob Sakata

January 9, 2013

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Here’s a recap of yesterday’s meeting about the South Platte River Basin groundwater study authorized last session by the legislature [HB12-1278], from Grace Hood writing for KUNC. Groundwater levels are rising, some say, due to the alluvial wells that have been shutdown and augmentation. Here’s an excerpt:

Reagan Waskom is director of the Colorado Water Institute, which hosted the event. He framed the issue this way:

“Are these the only areas in the basin? Is this beginning of a trend toward higher groundwater levels? Are we at the end of something? Was it a blip in time?”

Waskom is working with dozens of scientists, and aggregating data from as far back as the 1890’s to find the answer.

It’s something that matters to farmers like Robert Sakata. Speaking in a facilitated dialogue, Sakata explained he used to own and use wells connected to the South Platte. In the ’70s, he and other junior water rights holders were required to replace the water they used.

“We just felt like it wasn’t economically viable for us as a vegetable farmer to do that,” he said. “Our returns are usually between .5 to 1 percent. That additional cost we just couldn’t justify. So we ended up unhooking the wells.”

Fortunately for Sakata, he also owned surface water rights he could use to irrigate his crops. But other farmers weren’t as lucky. The drought of 2002 and a subsequent state Supreme Court decision in 2006 resulted in thousands of wells being curtailed and about 400 being shut down completely.

“That’s almost the analogy that I see in the state right now is that to make sure we’re not injuring every person along the way, we have to have an oversupply along the whole system,” said Sakata.

Meantime, Joe Frank with the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District spoke of another reality: some of his water rights owners aren’t getting all the water they’re entitled to.

“Going into this next year, if we continue this drought, we’re going to see severe curtailment,” he said. “So ultimately it comes down to water supply. We’re water short in this basin. We need to work together to develop that supply.”[...]

The meeting raised a lot more questions than it answered for the more than 100 who attended. But Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway said it was a good beginning.

“Everyone who spoke here today said the big problem was we aren’t taking advantage of our compacts to capture the necessary water that we’re going to need as a state over the next 50 years for agriculture, municipal use.”

Conway is referring to the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP), which would build two water storage reservoirs in the region. In recent years it’s become a hotly contested project in the area. Despite the intractable nature of these water debates, the Colorado Water Institute’s Reagan Waskom said he’s determined to make the South Platte River study meaningful.

More meetings are planned, click here.

More 2012 Colorado legislation coverage here. More South Platte River Basin coverage here. More coverage of the shutdown of irrigation wells in the basin here.


Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District fills two board seats

January 20, 2010

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From the Sterling Journal Advocate (Judy Debus):

Two new members joined the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District Board last week, bringing a full board for the first time in several years. Filling the two empty positions are Pete Kohn and Bill Lauck, both of the Brush/Fort Morgan area.

Kohn farms near Brush on a third-generation farm and raises hay, corn and sugar beets. He is married and has two grown daughters and has served on a number of water related boards and committees. He has served on the Fort Morgan Ditch Board since 1997; the Jackson Lake Board since 2003/04; and has served on The Fort Morgan Water Company, which handles the purchase of water by the Pawnee Power Plant. Kohn also has a residential and commercial contracting business…

Bill Lauck also farms with his son in the Fort Morgan/Brush area. He is a member of the Fort Morgan Ditch Board; is president of the Fort Morgan Water Company and serves on the SS Lateral Ditch Board. Lauck has four children and eight grandchildren.

More Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District coverage here.


Sterling: Recap of recent briefing from Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District

December 6, 2009

A picture named southplattealluvialaquifer.jpg

LSPWCD board member Lou Rinaldo took time to brief the Sterling Rotary about operations recently. Here’s a report from Callie Jones writing for the Sterling Journal Advocate. From the article:</p.

Rinaldo also talked about irrigation wells and how there haven’t been any shut down from Prewitt Reservoir to the state line. Wells are protected because every ditch company has recharge projects, where they replace their consumptive use…

Some of the projects include, for instance, a bunch of places east of Fort Morgan where there has been water and there isn’t water. Rinaldo said you probably won’t see any water in those recharge ponds until the spring, because it may be only 60 days until the water gets back to the river. There are some projects that are 1,200 days before the water gets back to the river.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.


Morgan County Water Quality District board meeting recap

November 14, 2009

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From The Fort Morgan Times (John Brennan):

City Water Superintendent John Turner told the water board during its monthly meeting that an agreement with Quality Water could help the city in the event the supply of water from the city’s treatment plant west of town is somehow shut down. At least one connection already exists between the two water systems, Turner said, and an additional connection would be advisable. The city’s current emergency plan in the event of the loss of its water supply calls for the city to revert to the use of several wells that are still online in the city, Turner said. But the city stopped using those wells because of the high concentration of nitrates, uranium and other contaminants in the water, he noted…

Water board member Bill Baker raised the issue of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, which many Fort Morgan residents support through a mill levy tax. LSP officials made a presentation to the water board last spring, outlining all of the water measuring and data collection the group does, Baker recalled. But he said none of the things the LSP district does have anything to do with the city of Fort Morgan. “Northern (Colorado Water Conservancy District) is our water district as far as I’m concerned,” Baker said. “But I looked at (LSP’s) budget and most of their revenue is our money. I think we should look at withdrawing (from LSP).” Powers pointed out that while individual property owners in Fort Morgan are assessed the mill levy for the LSP water district, Fort Morgan as a city does not “belong” to the district and therefore cannot withdraw…A motion by water board member Jeff Canfield, to ask the council to instruct Wells to look into possible options for withdrawing from the LSP water district, was approved unanimously…

The water board also discussed proposed bylaws governing its structure and function. Although the board has essentially been operating without bylaws since its inception, Wells said the city council approved a resolution this year that all city boards and commissions must have formal bylaws. Some exceptions were made, including the city planning commission, which is governed by state law. One of the elements of the bylaws dictated by the council is term limits. But several members of the water board felt the complex nature of the water issues it deals with make the knowledge and experience of the board members more crucial than on some other city boards, and might qualify it for such an exception. Board member Jim Green said longevity and historical knowledge are especially important on the water board. “That perspective is invaluable,” Green said. “We’re looking at things, projects, plans 20 years from now, but a lot of that depends on things that happened 20, 30, 50 years ago.”

More Morgan County coverage here.


Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District meeting

April 18, 2009

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Here’s a recap of Tuesday’s meeting of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, from Judy Debus writing for the Sterling Journal Advocate. From the article:

The board suspended their meeting for a public hearing on the inclusion of a well at the Ovid School District into the LSPWCD plan. The executive committee approved it subject to the approval of a specialty contract with the district. Joe Frank, manager, reported that it was published in the paper and there has been no written or public protests. Receiving no public comment, the board reconvened and moved for the approval of adding the specialty contract. It was approved and placed into the March 10 executive committee meeting minutes…

In his manager’s report, Frank presented information of telemetry remote measurement and reporting. He and Fritzler attended a presentation on the use of that on wells. A possible demo-project is being considered using radios and repeater towers. “The big issue that I was concerned with was if the radios would be reliable,” he said. He and Fritzler also reported that the requirements of manpower and cost for data were concerns, as is long-term maintenance and cost. “The key is for us to find something that really works before someone actually goes out and starts putting this in,” Frank said. There was also discussion of licenses and fees and if that investment should be made now in order to do a demo project. Also discussed was satellite telemetry that might be available through the state. Further investigation into the issue will be made.

The annual Water Festival has been scheduled for May 19 at Northeastern Junior College. Frank reported that there are 475 children are signed up and 22 presenters will be involved.


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