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.


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.


    Text of the Colorado Basin Roundtable white paper for the IBCC and Colorado Water Plan

    December 3, 2013
    New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

    New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

    Here’s the text from the recently approved draft of the white paper:

    Introduction
    The Colorado River Basin is the “heart” of Colorado. The basin holds the headwaters of the Colorado River that form the mainstem of the river, some of the state’s most significant agriculture, the largest West Slope city and a large, expanding energy industry. The Colorado Basin is home to the most-visited national forest and much of Colorado’s recreation-based economy, including significant river-based recreation.

    Colorado’s population is projected by the State Demographer’s Office to nearly double by 2050, from the five million people we have today to nearly ten million. Most of the growth is expected to be along the Front Range urban corridor; however the fastest growth is expected to occur along the I-70 corridor within the Colorado Basin.

    Read the rest of this entry »


    ‘Don’t goddamn come here [#ColoradoRiver Basin] any more’ — Lurline Curran

    December 3, 2013
    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office

    Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

    Here’s an article about the white paper approved last week by the Colorado Basin Roundtable, from Brent Gardner-Smith writing for Aspen Journalism. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    “Don’t goddamn come here any more,” was the way Lurline Curran, county manager of Grand County, summed up the roundtable’s position just before the group voted to approve a white paper it has been working on for months.

    “We’re trying to tell you, Front Range: Don’t count on us,” Curran said. “Don’t be counting on us to make up all the shortages.”

    The actual paper crafted by the Colorado roundtable states its case in a more diplomatic fashion, but it is still blunt.

    “The notion that increasing demands on the Front Range can always be met with a new supply from the Colorado River, or any other river, (is) no longer valid,” the position paper states…

    “There is going to have to be a discussion and plan for developing a new West Slope water supply,” the South Platte roundtable stated in a June memo directed to Committee.

    Together, the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas roundtables are pushing that discussion. They’re asking the state to preserve the option to build “several” 100,000 to 250,000 acre-foot projects on the Green River at Flaming Gorge Reservoir, the lower Yampa River, and/or the Gunnison River at Blue Mesa Reservoir…

    On Nov. 25, the members of the Colorado River roundtable clearly wanted to inform the Committee that they don’t support the idea of new Western Slope projects.

    Jim Pokrandt, a communications executive at the Colorado River District who chairs the Colorado roundtable, said the group’s paper, directed to the Committee, was “an answer to position statements put out by other basin roundtables.”

    The Committee’s eventual analysis is expected to shape a draft statewide Colorado Water Plan, which is supposed to be on the governor’s desk via the Committee and the Colorado Water Conservation Board in 12 months.

    And while there has been a decades-long discussion in Colorado about the merits of moving water from the Western Slope to the Front Range, the language in the position papers, and the roundtable meetings, is getting sharper as the state water plan now takes shape.

    “It’s not ‘don’t take one more drop,’ but it is as close as we can get,” said Ken Neubecker, the environmental representative on the Colorado roundtable, about the group’s current position.

    The paper itself advises, “the scenic nature and recreational uses of our rivers are as important to the West Slope as suburban development and service industry businesses are to the Front Range. They are not and should not be seen as second-class water rights, which Colorado can preserve the option of removing at the behest of Front Range indulgences.”

    That’s certainly in contrast to the vision of the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas basin roundtables, which in a draft joint statement in July said that the way to meet the “east slope municipal supply gap” is to develop “state water projects using Colorado River water for municipal uses on the East and West slopes.”[...]

    The white paper from the Colorado roundtable states that “new supply” is a euphemism for “a new transmountain diversion from the Colorado River system.”

    “This option must be the last option,” the paper notes.

    Instead of new expensive Western Slope water projects, the paper calls for more water conservation and “intelligent land use” on the Front Range.

    It goes on to note that Front Range interests are actively pursuing the expansion of existing transmountain diversions — many of which are likely to be blessed by the Committee because they are already in the works.

    It says the Western Slope has its own water gap, as the growing demands of agriculture, energy development, population growth and river ecosystems are coming together in the face of climate change.

    It calls for reform to the state’s water laws, so it is easier to leave water in Western Slope rivers for environmental reasons, and it rejects the Front Range’s call to streamline the review process for new water projects.

    “Streamlining as a means of forcing West Slope acquiescence to any new supply project ‘for the good of the state’ is unacceptable,” the paper states.

    Finally, the document advises the state not to endorse or get behind a Western Slope water project unless it “has been agreed to by the impacted counties, conservancy districts and conservation districts from which water would be diverted.”

    More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

    November 24, 2013
    Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater November 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain

    Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater November 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Water rights and cost issues still must be decided, but a study of the effectiveness of dams in Fountain Creek should be finalized in January. The study’s release was delayed a month because of a federal government shutdown, but the results have been reported for months.

    “There has been no study of costs and benefits,” David Mau, head of the Pueblo office of the U.S. Geological Survey told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday. The USGS did the study in conjunction with the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District. The local share of funds for the $500,000 study was provided through $300,000 paid by Colorado Springs Utilities as part of its Pueblo County 1041 permit conditions for the Southern Delivery System.

    The study looks at a 100-year storm centered over downtown Colorado Springs, and the effectiveness of dams or diversions at various locations along Fountain Creek. The most effective alternatives were a large dam on Fountain Creek or a series of detention ponds south of Colorado Springs. Mau said the number of ponds was not as important as the volume of water that could be stored.

    There were some snickers in the room when Mau pointed out that roads and railroad tracks would have to be moved to build a large dam approximately 10 miles from the confluence of Fountain Creek. But it was pointed out that a large flood also could relocate roads, railroad tracks and utility lines, as was the case in Northern Colorado in September. Pueblo County lost the Pinon Bridge in the 1999 flood.

    Mau said the amount of sediment trapped by a dam would amount to 2,500 truckloads, but said smaller ponds also would require extensive maintenance to remain effective.

    Board member Vera Ortegon asked Mau which alternative he would recommend.

    “We look at the science,” Mau said. “I could give you my personal opinion, but I won’t.”

    Meanwhile property owners continue to chip away at the Fryingpn-Arkansas Project debt. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

    Property owners in nine counties will continue to make a dent in the federal debt for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project next year. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the agency in charge of repaying the debt, will collect another $6.5 million in property taxes next year, most of which goes toward reducing the debt. The board reviewed the budget Thursday and is expected to pass it on Dec. 5. The district began paying off $129 million in federal loans in 1982 on a 50-year loan. The amount represents the region’s share of the $585 million cost to build the Fryingpan- Arkansas Project. About $36 million of the debt will remain at the end of the year, Executive Director Jim Broderick told the board Thursday.

    The district collects 0.944 mills in property taxes in parts of Bent, Chaffee, Crowley, El Paso, Fremont, Kiowa, Otero, Pueblo and Prowers counties. Of that, 0.9 mills goes toward federal repayment and the rest toward operating expenses.

    It also will collect $5.3 million in pass-through revenues from El Paso County to repay the federal government for building the Fountain Valley Conduit.

    The district also collects funds through sale of Fry-Ark water, fees and grants.

    The district’s operating budget is $2.24 million next year, with an additional $1.07 million in capital projects planned.

    The enterprise budget, paid mostly by user fees, totals $2.8 million, which includes $880,000 in capital projects.

    The district is responsible for paying the Bureau of Reclamation to operate and maintain the project. The district also allocates water to cities and farms, and provides legal protection of Fry­Ark water rights.

    More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


    Six cities eyeing gravel pit storage east of Pueblo at Stonewall Springs

    October 21, 2013
    Stonewall Springs Reservoir site via The Pueblo Chieftain

    Stonewall Springs Reservoir site via The Pueblo Chieftain

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Developing reservoirs east of Pueblo remains an important component of a 2004 agreement to protect Arkansas River flows through the city. So far, the participants in the six-party intergovernmental agreement have relied on stop-gap measures to recover water, but recently there has been more activity that could lead to long-term changes.

    The situation was reviewed last week by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which is a minor player in the effort, but shares some of the planning costs.

    Colorado Springs, Aurora and the Pueblo Board of Water Works are the major players, and they have each had a role in the recovery of yield program. Fountain and the Southeastern district have smaller parts.

    “This is an important regional effort to understand the allocation costs,” said Gary Bostrom, water chief for Colorado Springs Utilities, and a Southeastern board member.

    The Pueblo water board took the lead in locating a reservoir site in 2005, trying to lease the Stonewall Springs site near the Pueblo Chemical Depot. When the cost proved too high, it was bought by private developers who proceeded with reservoir plans and a gravel mining operation.

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife has an agreement to purchase a reservoir being developed by Stonewall Springs LLC, and it could be a candidate for municipal storage, said Bob Hamilton, Southeastern’s engineering director. Cities could participate by contributing water or money.

    A nearby reservoir plan by Two Rivers Water and Farming Co. on Southwest Farms appears less likely. Alan Hamel, chairman of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said Two Rivers’ loan application for the project will be “de-authorized” in November.

    Both sets of reservoirs would be filled and emptied by gravity flows on the Excelsior Ditch.

    A third plan is being tested by Colorado Springs that involves pumping between gravel pits just east of the Pueblo wastewater treatment plant.

    Up until now, Colorado Springs and Aurora have bypassed the most water, recapturing some of it in a reservoir on the Holbrook Canal north of La Junta under an agreement brokered by Aurora.

    More insfrastructure coverage here.


    Colorado Water Plan: ‘We’ve got ample crises’ — James Eklund

    October 18, 2013

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Colorado has suffered through drought, wildfires and floods in the six months since Gov. John Hickenlooper ordered up a state water plan. While simply having a plan would not have prevented any of it, state response might have improved if a plan were in hand.

    “We know the plan isn’t a silver bullet. I’m reminded of that quote by the great water philosopher Mike Tyson: ‘Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. We’ve been punched in the face,” said James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    Eklund addressed the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Board Thursday, explaining the progress CWCB has made so far in developing the plan. The plan will be on the governor’s desk after the 2014 election, even if a new governor would be coming on board. That’s a parallel situation to 2010, when the Interbasin Compact Committee wrote a letter to outgoing Gov. Bill Ritter and Hickenlooper detailing its progress toward addressing a looming municipal supply water gap. That laid the groundwork for Hickenlooper to step up the effort of statewide water planning and his vow to develop a state plan before 2016. The planning process needs to continue regardless of whether Hickenlooper wins reelection, Eklund said.

    “We’ve got ample crises, and we need to respond in a way to address the problems,” he said.

    The plan would address the needs of agriculture, cities, recreation and environment in a way that avoids further dry-up of farms to support urban needs. To do so, the state will have to find new ways to cooperate in water projects, improve forest health in watersheds, protect property rights, preserve water systems and remove regulatory barriers to new projects, Eklund said.

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit update: $15 million needed for engineering

    August 19, 2013

    arkansasvalleyconduitproposed.jpg

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

    June 21, 2013

    arkansasvalleyconduitproposed

    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.


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

    May 23, 2013

    arkansasvalleyconduitproposed.jpg

    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.


    Salida city councilor Jay Moore joins the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy board

    May 3, 2013

    puebloreservoir.jpg

    From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

    Salida City Councilman Jay Moore was sworn in recently as a director on the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board. Moore replaced Reed Dils as the Chaffee County representative on the board, and he also serves on the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board and the Arkansas Basin Roundtable.

    A retired physician, Moore moved to Salida about 9 years ago and was elected to Salida City Council in 2005. He said the fact that he is term-limited as a Salida councilman should help assure county residents that he will not “over-represent Salida.”

    Moore stressed the importance of water issues to the local economy and said his experience with water issues through the Upper Ark district and the roundtable makes the new position a good fit. Moore said he promised local municipal and county officials prior to his appointment to the board that he would pass along important water information.

    As an example, Moore said, he will be reporting to local officials that flows at the Thomasville gauge recently exceeded 100 cubic feet per second, allowing water to be imported into the Arkansas Basin from the Western Slope – good news for everyone from Arkansas Basin irrigators to rafting companies. Moore added that his first task as a board member is simply to get educated: “The Southeastern district gives me a huge expansion of information I need to learn.”

    The district, which now encompasses a nine-county area, was created April 29, 1958, to develop and administer the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. On Aug. 16, 1962, Congress authorized the construction of the Fry-Ark Project, which transports water via tunnel under the Continental Divide into the Arkansas River basin for storage in mountain lakes and Pueblo Reservoir. The project delivers an average of 69,100 acre-feet of fully consumable water per year into the Arkansas Basin. But as Moore pointed out, the amount of imported project water can vary greatly. For example, the project imported 97,000 acre-feet of water in 2011 but only 12,000 acre-feet in 2012.

    “Water is terribly important to us,” Moore said, which is why he takes his role as a “water information conduit” seriously. On the other hand, “just knowing this stuff is fun,” Moore said.

    More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


    Arkansas Valley Conduit funding at risk

    April 19, 2013

    arkansasvalleyconduitproposed

    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.


    The CWCB approves dough for three Arkansas Basin Roundtable projects

    March 24, 2013

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Three Arkansas River basin projects gained approval last week from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. A new water line for the Ordway Feedyard, bank stabilization on the Frost Ranch on Fountain Creek and a study of historic flows and diversions were approved.

    The Ordway Feedyard received a $275,000 grant and $2.5 million loan for a $3.2 million project to complete a 10.5-mile pipeline. The pipeline would provide fire protection, as well as saving about 800 acre-feet of water, said Alan Hamel, CWCB board member. The new pipeline would replace a gravity-flow pipeline from Lake Henry with a system that pumps the water uphill. The feedlot needs as much water as a city of 5,500 people would require for its 65,000 head of cattle. It’s the third-largest employer in the county and has a $50 million impact annually on the local economy. It was built in 1972, but the owners subsequently sold off most of the water rights to large cities.

    The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District received $105,000 for a bank stabilization project on the Frost Ranch on Fountain Creek in El Paso County. The project would demonstrate methods that other landowners along the creek could use to reduce erosion and sedimentation. The total project is about $160,000.

    The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District received a grant of $300,000 for a study of weather patterns and water diversions, with a goal of better understanding how water is used in wet and dry years. The study will also distinguish between native water and water imported into the basin. “We need an accounting tool that tells us how much water is available through native or imported sources, how much is in storage and how much can be exchanged,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern district.

    All three grants were approved by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable and funded through the water supply reserve account, which comes from mineral severance taxes.

    More CWCB coverage 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.


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

    December 19, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

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

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

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

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

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

    “That was a different time,” Schweizer said.

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

    More Aurora coverage here and here.


    Storage news: Southeastern’s winter water storage program diversions are about half of normal #CODrought

    December 8, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    No surprise: Winter water storage is at about half of last year’s levels, and less than 40 percent of average. The program, administered under a water court decree by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, allows 11 Arkansas Valley ditches to store water from Nov. 15 to March 15. The water can be used either to start crops in a dry spring or finish them in a dry summer.

    But in the midst of a drought, there is just not much to store.

    The first accounting of storage this year, on Nov. 30, showed just 9,764 acrefeet had been stored. The 20­year average is 24,600 acre­feet. By the same time last year, 19,500 acre­feet had been stored.

    That doesn’t bode well for the next few months if dry conditions don’t let up.

    Last year, winter water netted 121,000 acre­feet, about 85 percent of average.

    River flows on the Arkansas River continue to lag far behind normal levels. Snowpack in the Arkansas River basin, as well as the Upper Colorado River basin, which provides supplemental water to the valley, is at just 25 percent of average.

    Rainfall in the Pueblo area is just 4.7 inches, about 40 percent of normal and the driest year since 2002.

    Meanwhile, the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Board is planning to pony up $18.8 million in 2013 for various costs including $1.8 million for to enhance streamflow in the Colorado River. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka Writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

    The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday approved the 2013 budget with $18.8 million in expenditures, most of which will go to the federal government to repay the Fryingpan­Arkansas Project.

    The district also approved the expenditure of about $1.8 million toward a ranch to provide water for Colorado River flows. Southeastern is joining other water providers to buy the Red Top Ranch near Granby for water rights that will be used to protect endangered fish in the Colorado River. That includes some money budgeted this year, but not spent because of delays in contract negotiations.

    Revenues to the district are expected to be about $16.2 million through a 0.935 mill levy in parts of nine counties, water sales, payments from enterprise members and investments.

    Most of the money will go toward repaying federal contracts for the Fryingpan­Arkansas Project to the Bureau of Reclamation — $6.5 million to repay the agricultural share of the project and $5.3 million for the Fountain Valley Conduit (paid only in El Paso County).

    The budget also includes about $500,000 for continued work on the master lease contract, Arkansas Valley Conduit and outlet interconnection at Pueblo Dam.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage <a href="http://coyotegulch.wordpress.com/category/colorado-water/arkansas-basin/


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

    November 25, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Preferred Storage Option Plan coverage here and here.


    The Southeastern Water Conservancy District board approves $18 million budget for 2013

    November 16, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A move by Front Range water providers to protect fish in the Colorado River will add about $1 million to the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s 2013 budget.

    Finance manager Tina White walked the district’s board through the $18 million budget at a public hearing Thursday. The board will vote on adoption of the budget at its December meeting.

    Southeastern is joining other water providers to buy the Red Top Ranch near Granby for water rights that will be used to protect endangered fish in the Colorado River. This year, it will cost the district $1.09 million. The district also will spend about $600,000 toward a plan to add hydroelectric generation at Pueblo Dam. Both are multiyear projects that involve other partners, and were financed through reserves.

    The district expects to generate $16.2 million in revenues through its general fund and enterprise. The money comes from a 9.35­mill property tax over a nine­county area, enterprise fee collection and grants. Most of the money will go toward repaying federal contracts for the Fryingpan­Arkansas Project to the Bureau of Reclamation — $6.5 million to repay the agricultural share of the project and $5.3 million for the Fountain Valley Conduit (paid only in El Paso County). The municipalindustrial portion of the Fry­Ark Project was paid off first because it carried interest, while the agricultural share does not. About $42.4 million is still owed. The largest operating expenses in the budget are $2.2 million for human resource, personnel and overhead, and $1.2 million for outside services, studies or partnerships.

    The budget also includes about $500,000 for continued work on the master lease contract, Arkansas Valley Conduit and outlet interconnection at Pueblo Dam.

    More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage 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.


    ‘Water Wranglers’ is George Sibley’s new book about the Colorado River District #coriver

    October 10, 2012

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    Here’s the link to the web page where you can order a copy. Here’s the pitch:

    Water Wranglers
    The 75-Year History of the Colorado River District:
    A Story About the Embattled Colorado River and the Growth of the West

    The Colorado River is one of America’s wildest rivers in terms of terrain and natural attributes, but is actually modest in terms of water quantity – the Mississippi surpasses the Colorado’s annual flow in a matter of days. Yet the Colorado provides some or all of the domestic water for some 35 million Southwesterners, most of whom live outside of the river’s natural course in rapidly growing desert cities. It fully or partially irrigates four-million acres of desert land that produces much of America’s winter fruits and vegetables. It also provides hundreds of thousands of people with recreational opportunities. To put a relatively small river like the Colorado to work, however, has resulted in both miracles and messes: highly controlled use and distribution systems with multiplying problems and conflicts to work out, historically and into the future.

    Water Wranglers is the story of the Colorado River District’s first seventy-five years, using imagination, political shrewdness, legal facility, and appeals to moral rightness beyond legal correctness to find balance among the various entities competing for the use of the river’s water. It is ultimately the story of a minority seeking equity, justice, and respect under democratic majority rule – and willing to give quite a lot to retain what it needs.

    The Colorado River District was created in 1937 with a dual mission: to protect the interests of the state of Colorado in the river’s basin and to defend local water interests in Western Colorado – a region that produces 70 percent of the river’s total water but only contains 10 percent of the state’s population.

    To order the book, visit the Wolverine Publishing website at http://wolverinepublishing.com/water-wranglers. It can also be found at the online bookseller Amazon.

    More Colorado River District coverage 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.


    Fryingpan-Arkansas Project 50th anniversary: Ruedi Reservoir created for compensatory water storage for the Western Slope

    August 20, 2012

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    Here’s an in-depth look at the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project from Scott Condon writing for The Aspen Times. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    The Fry-Ark water diversion plan was hatched shortly after World War II ended, when the cities and counties of Colorado’s Arkansas River Valley started looking for water to fuel growth aspirations. The initial plan was to divert 357,000 acre-feet of water annually from the Gunnison River and other tributaries of the Colorado River to the Arkansas Valley, according to the website of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

    The proposal sparked a political battle in the 1950s between Western Slope residents who didn’t want “their” water taken and Arkansas Valley resident who saw the water as the key to their future. [Mark Fuller, executive director of the Ruedi Water and Power Authority] said residents of the West Slope of Colorado had an ingrained “mistrust” of the Front Range, which had more people, more money and more power…

    The Roaring Fork River basin’s loss is the Arkansas Valley’s gain. Reclamation bureau spokeswoman Kara Lamb said Fry-Ark water irrigates 265,000 acres of some of the most productive farm land in Colorado. “This is Rocky Ford cantaloupes and the onions that the Arkansas Valley is so famous for,” she said.

    In addition, 720,000 residents of the southeastern part of the state receive supplementary water from the project. They live from Salida in the west to Lamar in the east, and from Colorado Springs down to Pueblo…

    The Fry-Ark system diverts an annual average of 54,000 acre feet. To put that amount in perspective, it’s a little more than half the total held by Ruedi Reservoir when full. Last year, when the snow kept piling up late into the spring, the system diverted its second highest amount of water ever at about 98,000 acre feet. This year, during the drought, it diverted only 14,000 acre feet…

    Ruedi Reservoir — which now dominates the Fryingpan Valley’s identity — wasn’t in the initial plans for the diversion system. “It was a political solution,” Lamb said. The reservoir was created for compensatory water storage for the Western Slope. To a layman, the legal purpose of Ruedi is essentially a way for water attorneys to make the books balance. In a practical sense, the reservoir has created one of the biggest recreational draws in the Aspen area…

    Aspen residents get a direct benefit from the Ruedi dam. The hydro-electric plant owned and operated by the city of Aspen produces 20 to 25 million kilowatt hours of power per year. That is the equivalent of 35 to 40 percent of Aspen’s annual demand, according to Fuller.

    More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.


    Lake Pueblo: Fryingpan-Arkansas Project 50th anniversary celebration tomorrow

    August 17, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain:

    U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton and others are scheduled to attend a 50th anniversary celebration at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Lake Pueblo State Park Visitors Center, 640 Pueblo Reservoir Road.
    The Fryingpan-Arkansas project is a water diversion and storage project constructed to deliver water to families, producers and municipalities throughout the lower Arkansas Valley, as well as to provide supplemental irrigation water.

    Slated to join Bennet and Tipton at the event are John Stulp, special policy adviser to the governor for water; Mike Collins, Bureau of Reclamation area manager for Eastern Colorado; Jennifer Gimbel, executive director, Colorado Water Conservation Board; John Singletary, chairman of the board, Parks and Wildlife Commission; and Angela Giron, state senator from Pueblo.

    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.


    Colorado Water 2012: ‘Water truly is the lifeblood of a community’ — Jean Van Pelt

    August 13, 2012

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    Here’s the latest installment in The Pueblo Chieftain’s series for Colorado Water 2012. Jean Van Pelt describes the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. Here’s an excerpt:

    …the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project has provided Southeastern Colorado with 50 golden years of benefits. The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project is a transmountain diversion that supplies Southeastern Colorado with supplemental water for irrigation, municipal and industrial uses, hydroelectric power, and recreational opportunities. The project also provides flood control and is designed to maintain or improve fish and wildlife habitats. The project acquired its name from the fact that it collects about 54,800 acre-feet of water each year from the Fryingpan River basin on the Western Slope of the Continental Divide and delivers it via the Arkansas River to the water-short Eastern Slope…

    The North and South Side Collection System and Ruedi Dam and Reservoir are located on the Western Slope in the Fryingpan River basin. Sugar Loaf Dam and Turquoise Lake; Mount Elbert Conduit, Forebay Dam, Reservoir and Power Plant; Halfmoon Diversion Dam; Twin Lakes Dam and Reservoir; and Pueblo Dam and Reservoir are all located on the Eastern Slope in the Arkansas River basin.

    More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.


    Fry-Ark fiftieth birthday party August 18

    July 27, 2012

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    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 on the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project and the 50th Anniversary Celebration, visit our website at http://www.usbr.gov/gp/ecao/pueblo/pueblo.html.

    More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.


    ‘Oil shale development would involve intensive use of water’ — Alan Hamel

    June 10, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “We have to protect the water we have, as well as provide water for endangered species,” said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works and a member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “Oil shale development would involve intensive use of water, particularly for use in power generation.” Last month, the Pueblo water board and other members of the Front Range Water Council weighed in on the Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental impact statement for oil shale and tar sands…

    The Front Range Water Council includes the major organizations that import water from the Colorado River: Denver Water, the Northern and Southeastern Colorado water conservancy districts, Aurora Water, Colorado Springs Utilities, Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. and the Pueblo water board. Collectively, they provide water to 4 million people, 82 percent of the population in Colorado.

    More Front Range Water Council coverage here and here.


    Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update: The Southeastern board and other agencies are implementing plans to bolster flows in the Arkansas mainstem over the summer

    May 29, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District is operating its exchange right to move some of the water in Lake Pueblo up to Turquoise and Twin Lakes in order to boost flows through the summer. “To my knowledge, this is the first time the exchange has been used, since it’s a fairly junior water right,” said Jim Broderick, the district. Rafting companies are encouraged by the move, hoping it will keep flows stable in the river stable during July and early August…

    The upper reservoirs in Lake County were drawn down during winter months with the expectation downriver in the spring. Colorado Parks and Wildlife will provide about 900 acre-feet of water to cover evaporation and transit loss, said Division Engineer Steve Witte. Water will be released at key times during the summer in blocks up to 100 cubic feet per second, Witte said.

    Meanwhile, here’s a profile of three Southeastern board members with family roots on the board, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    …three members of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District are following in their father’s footsteps more than 50 years after the district was formed.

    “People think I have the same knowledge about water as my father, but there’s no way I could ever start to wear his boots,” said Tom Goodwin, choking with emotion. Goodwin also is on the board of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, which his father, Denzel Goodwin, helped launch in 1979. Denzel Goodwin, who died last year, was a firebrand for Fremont County cattle and water issues from the 1950s, and Tom says he would come home from every meeting and discuss everything with his wife, Marcheta…

    Two of Goodwin’s peers now on the Southeastern board also had fathers on the board: David Simpson, whose father, Lee Simpson, served from 1981-2009; and Ann Nichols, whose father, Sid Nichols, was a charter member from 1958 until his death in 1973…

    [Nichols] also followed in her father’s footsteps professionally, working in the financial end of the water business for Colorado Springs during the purchase of Foxley Farms assets in Crowley County. She retired after working for 25 years as finance director for Colorado Springs. Now a financial consultant, she is treasurer of the Southeastern board and a member of the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority board…

    Simpson learned water working side-by-side with his father for 37 years in forming and running the St. Charles Mesa Water District east of Pueblo. When his father retired in 1999, Simpson became manager of the district.

    More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


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

    March 5, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More transmountain/transbasin diversions coverage here.


    Pueblo Dam: The proposal for a hydroelectric generation facility at the north outlet works is moving through the bureaucracy

    January 21, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Bureau of Reclamation in December accepted a lease of power privilege proposal by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Colorado Springs and the Pueblo Board of Water Works. “This is a big deal that will give us broader options for power in the Arkansas River basin,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern District.

    The next step is for the partners to sign an agreement and gain approval from Reclamation for its plan to build hydropower at Pueblo Dam. The generation facilities would be built in the next 10 years, Broderick said. The cost estimates and timeline for the agreement are slated to be discussed by the Southeastern board in February.

    More hydroelectric coverage here and 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.


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

    December 8, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Aurora coverage here and here.


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

    December 7, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    The 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.


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

    October 17, 2011

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    From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

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

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

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

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

    More Arkansas River basin coverage here.


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

    October 14, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Arkansas River basin coverage here.


    Energy policy — hydroelectric: The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservation District is spearheading a hydroelectric generation plant just downstream of Pueblo Dam

    September 16, 2011

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    I’m a big proponent of hydroelectric power, possibly because I love technology, but also because of the low-carbon nature of hydropower. Of course, the effects on streamflow and aquatic and riparian life when a stream is harnessed, dammed, channeled, etc. are well known so I tend to favor retrofits in a stream system that has already been affected, rather than the taking of another stream life for humankind.

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

    The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Colorado Springs, Pueblo Board of Water Works and Fountain are planning on making a bid for a hydropower plant just downstream of the dam. All of the partners are Southeastern district members and other partners could be added. “We’re putting together a partnership to try to win the award,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern district told the district’s board Thursday. “I think this is an opportunity for the district.”

    The plant would require an environmental review. It is not decided what organizational structure the group would use to build the hydropower plant. A preliminary report shows the group would make a profit on a plant generating anywhere from 4 to 8.6 megawatts of power. The cost of building the plant would be $11 million to $18.7 million, and state loans, government incentives and grants would be available to pay much of the cost, said Lindsay George of the Applegate Group…

    The plant would hook onto the North Outlet Works river connection that is now being built as part of SDS. The connection includes one pipeline that goes to the Juniper Pump Station and another that would serve as the primary feed for the Arkansas River. The feed to the hydropower plant would use direct flows to spin turbines…

    The hydropower plant would only be able to run from about April to September, when river releases are high enough to run turbines.

    More hydroelectric coverage here and here.


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

    August 21, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

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

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

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

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

    More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


    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.


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

    August 19, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

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

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

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

    More Arkansas River basin coverage here.


    Arkansas River basin: Water year 2011 has yielded the second largest import of water through the Boustead Tunnel since project water started moving in the 1970s

    August 19, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Fry-Ark Project has brought over 98,640 acre-feet of water this year, about 4,500 more acre-feet than was projected in May, when allocations were made…

    Fort Lyon Canal, the largest ditch in the valley, will get an additional 1,700 acre-feet. The water comes on top of nearly 60,000 acre-feet already being delivered to farmers through the Fry-Ark Project. Late runoff and a heavy snowpack contributed to the second-largest import of Fry-Ark water since diversions through the Boustead Tunnel began in the 1970s…

    Because Arkansas River flows stayed above 700 cubic feet per second through Aug. 15, no Fry-Ark water was needed to maintain the Upper Arkansas voluntary flow program, Vaughan added…

    Basinwide, more than 200,000 acre-feet of water has been imported this year through transmountain tunnels and ditches, well above the average of about 136,000 acre-feet, said Pat Edelmann, of the U.S. Geological Survey. Twin Lakes has imported about 62,000 acre-feet and continues to move water. The Homestake Project has brought over 32,000 acre-feet.

    More Arkansas River basin coverage here.


    The Front Range Water Council plans to spend $600,000 to study Colorado River basin supplies

    August 18, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Front Range Water Council is planning to hire Grand River Consulting Corp. for $600,000 over two years to work on Colorado River issues that affect the state’s largest water providers. The Pueblo water board’s share will be $36,000 each year, or $72,000 total. The board approved the contract at its Tuesday meeting.

    The council represents Denver, Aurora, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Twin Lakes Reservoir & Canal Co., the Northern Water Conservancy District and Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Denver and Northern — the largest water providers — would pay 20 percent of the costs of the contract, while the others each have a 12 percent share. Combined, the groups provide municipal and industrial water to 80 percent of the state’s population, using about 6 percent of the total water supply. Agriculture still uses most of the water in Colorado…

    Up until now, the council members have been relying on their own staff to provide input to state planning on Colorado River issues, but the tasks have grown so much that full-time staff is needed to work on the issues, said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo water board…

    Among the projects of the group are:

    Day-to-day management of a technical work group among the members of the council.

    A water bank study to look at how to prevent curtailment of municipal diversions in the event of a Colorado River call.

    Input into nonconsumptive needs studies of the Colorado River, which are primarily driven by the state roundtable process.

    Working with the Bureau of Reclamation on its Colorado River basin supply and demand study. The study is looking at water availability in all seven states.

    A strategic plan for the Front Range Water Council.

    Coordinating work with the CWCB, including the state’s ongoing Colorado River water availability study and compact compliance study.

    More Colorado River basin 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 Super Ditch: The IBCC and CWCB are watching closely to see if alternative ag transfers can be a model for the South Platte Basin as well

    June 17, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    John Stulp, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s water adviser, said a proposed trial lease by the Super Ditch to El Paso County water users next year is a better way to test the proposal than state legislation proposed this year. “HB1068 was shot down in short order, and for good reason because it wasn’t well vetted,” Stulp said. “The sponsors have thought of a way to do it without going to the Legislature.”

    “The rest of the state is looking to this part of the state to see how the lease-fallowing program works,” Stulp said. Stulp, along with Colorado Water Conservation Board Executive Director Jennifer Gimbel, addressed the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board at its monthly meeting Thursday…

    He praised the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, one of nine set up in 2005 when the IBCC was formed, for showing leadership at the state level. Among its accomplishments was the formation of a Flaming Gorge pipeline task force in conjunction with the Metro Roundtable. The task force will meet June 29 to decide how the state should proceed on two proposals to build a Flaming Gorge pipeline. The pipeline is the brainchild of Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million. A Colorado-Wyoming Coalition, led by Parker Water and the South Metro Water Supply Authority is doing its own study about whether to pursue a Flaming Gorge pipeline. “We’ll look at the pros and the cons, but it’s an appropriate time to get that started,” Stulp said.

    More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage 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.


    Storage update: The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District allocation to agriculture is 60,000 acre-feet

    May 22, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District allocated nearly 60,000 acre-feet of water to agriculture at its meeting Thursday. The water will supplement flows on 150,000 acres of farmland and could save crops later in the season. Much of the Lower Arkansas Valley remains in a drought that began 9 months ago. The board also allocated almost 18,000 acre-feet of agricultural return flows, which mostly will be used for well augmentation. The water comes with a caution: The snowpack may melt too fast to capture the anticipated water. So, only 80 percent will be allocated, with the rest arriving in midsummer, when the picture becomes clearer…

    With municipal water storage accounts near the brim, however, the cities have asked for only about 60 percent of the water they could have. The Pueblo Board of Water Works did not take a Fry-Ark allocation this year, and is actually leasing some of the water it has to farmers. Colorado Springs also is passing on some of the water it could claim. Even in the Lower Arkansas Valley, one of the driest parts of the state, municipal and domestic water providers only requested about two-thirds of the water to which they are entitled.

    More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


    Lake Pueblo excess capacity contracts require Corps of Engineers waiver in order to avoid spilling non-project water

    April 3, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    for the second consecutive year the problem has been avoided by a waiver by the Army Corps of Engineers to leave water in the reservoir a little longer, rather than vacating the flood pool by April 15. “This isn’t a blanket to do this every year, and the mode we’re running in is spilling,” Jim Broderick, executive director, told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District last month. “The way we’re managing reservoirs has shifted. In my opinion, we’ve been fortunate to get the two waivers.”

    After dealing with the question of scarcity for years, the Southeastern district is bumping up against the limits of storage contemplated in its 1990s studies that led to the controversial Preferred Storage Options Plan.

    “The 2002 drought provided a wake-up call for all of us in the valley, and in particular the Pueblo Board of Water Works,” said Alan Hamel, executive director of the board. “It pointed out that relying on historical records was not sufficient, and we had to triple the amount of water we had in storage to work between the wet and the dry years.”

    More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project 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.


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