Arkansas Valley Super Ditch update: Slow slog to 500 acre-feet delivered

July 3, 2015
Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

From The High Country News (Joshua Zaffos):

John Schweizer has spent most of his life raising corn, alfalfa and other crops and about 200 cattle in Otero County, along southeastern Colorado’s Lower Arkansas River. It’s never been easy, but the last 15 years have been particularly tough on the nearly 81-year-old Schweizer and his neighbors. Their corner of the state is drier now than it was during the Dust Bowl. Meanwhile, growing Front Range cities are buying out farms and shifting their irrigation water to residential use — a process called “buy and dry.”

Cities have siphoned more than 100,000 acre-feet of ag water — enough for about 200,000 Colorado homes — from the Arkansas River Basin alone since the 1970s. In neighboring Crowley County, farming has vanished, school-class sizes are half what they were 50 years ago, and tumbleweeds from dried-up fields pile up along fences and block roads. “That’s what they’re stuck with, because there’s no more water,” Schweizer says. “It’s gone forever.”

Schweizer is president of the 35-mile-long Catlin Canal, which irrigates about 18,000 acres of farms. He’s hoping that the trial run of something called the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch will save the basin’s remaining communities and farms. The initiative is not actually a big ditch, but rather a scheme that allows six of the valley’s irrigation canals to pool their water rights and temporarily lease them to cities. Starting in March, five Catlin irrigators “leased” a total of 500 acre-feet of water, which would normally supply their fields, to nearby Fowler and the cities of Fountain and Security, 80 miles away. Under the agreement, communities can use the farm water to supply homes and recharge wells for up to three years out of every decade. During those years, the irrigators will have to fallow, or rest, some fields, yet will still be able to earn money from the water itself and farm the rest of their land.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.


John Fleck’s Water News

July 3, 2015
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

Click here to read the news. Here’s an excerpt:

OtPR, the great California water writer, made an important point this week about the problem with the rhetoric of “water wars”: “This rhetoric narrows people’s perceived choices, keeps their limbic system activated and postpones mutual solutions.” I’ve been pondering the word “crisis” to describe the situation we’re in now, or a reference I read today to this being a “crippling drought.” We have to be careful, if we’re going to use language like that, to define what we mean by the terms, because if they become an unexamined presumption they constrain our policy options in ways that aren’t helpful. California’s having a tough time right now, but nearly everyone has water coming out of the tap, and agriculture is showing remarkable resilience. If our language of “water wars” and “crisis” doesn’t embrace that full range of what is happening, we’re narrowing people’s perceived choices in ways that aren’t helpful.


Take a photo tour of Las Vegas’ new water tunnel #ColoradoRiver

July 3, 2015

lakemeadtunnelboringmachineviatunneltalk
From the Las Vegas Review-Journal (Henry Brean):

The business end of the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s new intake pipe at Lake Mead is a reinforced concrete vault that pokes up from the bottom of the reservoir, the last stop in a dark tunnel 3 miles long.

You can’t feel the weight of the lake 40 feet above your head, but it’s impossible not to think about it. A curved disc of stainless steel, 16 feet across and an inch and a half thick, is all that separates you from more than 3 trillion gallons of water that covers the vault to a depth of more than 300 feet.

Not to worry, says Jim Nickerson, project manager for this $817 million construction job.

“There isn’t a crane in the world that could lift that cap,” he says.

The weight of all that water is exactly what’s keeping the lid on the authority’s new intake tunnel. But that’s not the only pressure being placed on the project.

When it goes on line in September, the so-called third straw becomes a lifeline for the Las Vegas Valley, which draws 90 percent of its water supply through two existing intakes that will eventually stop working should the lake continue to shrink.

On Monday morning, the water authority led a small group on the first — and likely the last — media tour down the entire 3-mile tunnel to the intake structure, which is basically a concrete box the size of a Starbucks with walls 7 feet thick.

Soon no one will be able to make this trip.

Nickerson said all the work underground should be finished and construction equipment cleared away by August. Then workers will shut off the pumps that keep groundwater at bay, allowing the tunnel to gradually fill over two or three weeks. Once the water pressure in the tunnel equals the pressure around it, a crane floating on the surface of lake will lift the 19,000-pound stainless steel cap, allowing water to flow freely into the intake.

The big chunk of steel will go into storage, just in case they ever need to drain and inspect the tunnel.

Activity at the site has been constant since 2008, when Las Vegas Tunnel Constructors began excavating a 600-foot vertical access shaft on a peninsula at the western edge of Lake Mead. Since then, the project has been hit by a series of setbacks — and the death of one worker — that added more than two years and almost $40 million to the cost.

The work reached a major milestone in December, when the massive tunneling machine specially built for the job completed its 3-mile journey by punching into the 1,200-ton intake structure, which was built on shore and floated out onto the lake. In 2012 the 100-foot-tall intake structure was sunk into a hole blasted in the lake bed and secured with 12,000 cubic yards of special concrete pumped into place from a flotilla of cement trucks on barges.

Nickerson said that when the tunneling machine finally chewed its way into the side of the intake structure two years later, it missed its intended target by just 2 millimeters on one side and 3 millimeters on the other.

“There was a jobwide hole-through party,” he said.

The 1,500 ton, $25 million digger is now long gone. It was removed from the tunnel piece by piece over the first three months of the year, with most of it already shipped back to the factory in Germany.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


EPA Waters of the US rule — Colorado one of 13 states to file lawsuit #CleanWaterRules

July 3, 2015
Rainbow Falls Manitou Springs

Rainbow Falls Manitou Springs

From the Associated Press (James MacPherson) via The Durango Herald:

Thirteen states led by North Dakota and including Colorado filed a lawsuit Monday challenging an Obama administration rule that gives federal agencies authority to protect some streams, tributaries and wetlands under the Clean Water Act.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said the “Waters of the U.S.” rule by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers is a “federal power grab” that is “unnecessary and unlawful and will do nothing to increase water quality.”

The rule – a response to calls from the U.S. Supreme Court and Congress for the EPA to clarify which smaller waterways are protected – was published in the Federal Register on Monday and takes effect Aug. 28.

According to the EPA, the waters affected would be only those with a “direct and significant” connection to larger bodies of water downstream that are already protected. It says the aim is to protect the waters from pollution and development and to safeguard drinking water.

The EPA did not immediately respond to questions from The Associated Press.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said in a news release, “Water is perhaps the most critical resource Colorado manages, and we do it very well. EPA’s rule creates more confusion than clarity and unreasonably expands the federal government’s regulatory reach into our backyards, our farmers’ crop land and our ranchers’ acreage.”

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Bismarck, asks for the rule to be thrown out. The other states involved are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Republicans in Congress, and some Democrats, including North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, also have backed legislation to block the rules.

More Environmental Protections Agency coverage here.


“Let’s face it. If there were a real #COWaterPlan, people would be loading their guns about now” — Pat Mulroy

July 3, 2015
Photo credit: Andy R, Creative Commons, Flickr

Photo credit: Andy R, Creative Commons, Flickr

From The Colorado Independent (Susan Greene):

It has taken 12 years, 344 pages and input from tens of thousands of people to put together what officials are touting as Colorado’s first statewide water plan.

Yet, as Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Natural Resources Department finishes its long-awaited second draft in the coming week, both critics and supporters doubt it’ll put forth many durable solutions to Colorado’s snowballing water shortages.

The plan’s first draft has a gaping hole. The heart of it, Chapter 10 – entitled “Legislative Recommendations” – is where the proposed fixes are supposed to be. So far, it has been left blank.

The administration promises to write the second draft “as an action plan that will include legislative recommendations as well as a variety of administration actions” the agency can take on its own.
But “action” can be a subjective term.

The plan is expected to list conceptual goals rather than requirements. It’s likely, for example, to recommend cutting water usage by 400,000 acre-feet a year – roughly enough for about 800,000 families – through conservation. But there would be no teeth if, as expected, it doesn’t specify how and among which water users such ambitious conservation would be gleaned

John Stulp, the Governor’s water policy advisor, says the non-prescriptive approach is consistent with Hickenlooper’s style of governing.

“Colorado’s very big on local control. Mandates just don’t do very well in this state,” he said this week from his wheat field near Lamar. “The Governor isn’t going to say ‘Do this. Do that.’ He likes to develop consensus about concepts amongst folks who haven’t gotten along so well in the past.”
In the meantime, several water experts say the plan is shaping up to be less of a plan than hoped.

Committing only to theoretical frameworks and so-called “no and low regret actions” in the short-term, some say, won’t solve shortages that will increase with long-term population growth and climate change. The state’s shortfall is expected to spike to 500,000 acre-feet – the amount of water it would take to supply more than 2 million people – by 2050. If there’s no pain now, some warn, there won’t be much gain moving forward, and Colorado runs the risk of a water crisis like California’s, or bigger.

“I’d say the word ‘plan‘ is misused here,” said Pat Mulroy, a Nevada-based water expert with the Brookings Institution, after reading the first draft.

“It’s a nice compendium of issues and subject matters of all things water in Colorado, but it’s not an action plan,” added Jim Lochhead, head of Denver Water, the big water-rights holder on the Front Range.

“It doesn’t set an agenda for what Colorado needs to do in order to meet the challenges facing the state.”

Russ George, former speaker of Colorado’s House and Gov. Bill Owens’ natural resources chief, defends the grassroots statewide planning process he has helped lead for more than a decade. But, he says, if you’re looking for specifics on how to make up for water shortfalls, you won’t find them in the state water plan.

“Would we have liked all of this work and information to have produced really fantastic solutions? Yes. But nothing like that is going to occur,” he told The Independent..

“You’ve got to realize that sometimes the plan is the process. I don’t feel the need for any of us to get hung up on the plan piece of this thing.”

* * *

George, 69, grew up on his family’s farm near Rifle. A water lawyer by trade, he says he has been in the business since age 10 when his dad taught him how to irrigate their 160 acres of barley.

A longtime critic of the havoc Colorado’s “first-in-time, first-in-right” water laws can play on water policy, George has championed a collaborative approach that brings together senior and junior water-rights holders to discuss how to live within the state’s dwindling groundwater and river supplies.
After the drought of 2002 and 2003, he set up a series of roundtable discussions in each of Colorado’s nine river basins. The urgency water interests felt about those years’ dustbowl conditions convinced them to try a new form of conversation.

“There’s a recognition in the water community that when things are done in desperation you come up with very bad solutions that could be much worse than if you had planned to begin with,” said Denver water lawyer Alan Curtis. “You can’t kick the can down the road because suddenly there’s a wall waiting and they’re going to start taking water away from people who are going to sue.”

From the start of the roundtable talks, George asked all participants to come up with two lists: what they need, and what they’re willing to give up so somebody else can have what they need.

“We tried to move the decision-making away from the old places of ‘I have the money and the right and the power, so I can do what I want,’ to, ‘We all need to be at the table together’,” he said.

A decade and hundreds of roundtable meetings later, the approach has succeeded in garnering grassroots involvement in one of the state’s most pressing public policy issues. It also has managed to bring together adversaries within river basins who used to communicate with each other only in water court.
In the Colorado River basin, for example, cattle people, irrigators, municipal planners, anglers and conservationists have for years now been meeting once a month on Mondays, mid-day, at the recreation center in Glenwood Springs. Players in the Yampa/White basin meet quarterly on Wednesdays in a community center in Craig.

It’s a measure of the roundtables’ success that, despite participants’ competing views on water use, they sometimes share donuts, coffee and pictures of their grandkids before or after meetings.
But the approach has a key flaw: Participants have been far more amenable to answering the first part of George’s question – what water they need – than the second part – what they’re willing to give up. It’s no surprise. Water wars and an ethos of “not one more drop” date back to before statehood when the “Colorado doctrine” of prior appropriation was set in the 1860s. The doctrine holds that the first person to use or divert water for a “beneficial” use gets first rights to it.

State planners are scrambling to pull together input from ten years of roundtable discussions, plus scores of emails and letters from the general public, before releasing the second draft of the water plan next week. It’s a lofty task, given that most input has been heavy on problems and light on solutions.

“So far, the plan is more of a description of what is rather than what will be,” said Colorado Water Congress chief Doug Kemper.

The issue of what Chapter 10 will and won’t include is a touchy one.
Kemper paused when asked if he expects it to list any meaty solutions.

“I don’t have an expectation about that. I just don’t have an expectation about that,” he said.
Later, he elaborated.

“Look, I don’t think it’s a realistic expectation to come up with a grandiose water plan that’s a blueprint that everybody’s going to follow,” he said. “As a member of the public, what I would want to know is that the document reflects public input and values, and that the state took that into account.”
Putting forth solutions amounts to political fire juggling in a state whose Western Slope has 70 percent of the surface water and 11 percent of the population, while the Front Range makes up 75 percent of the state’s economy. Colorado is split geographically, demographically and politically when it comes to water. Any way you cut it, a plan dictating major reforms is likely, in legal and political terms, to be a losing proposition.

“Which politician is going to feel like they have sufficient public cover to adopt it?” Brookings’ Mulroy said. “Let’s face it. If there were a real plan, people would be loading their guns about now.

This (plan) is probably as good as you’re going to get unless you’re in a crisis mode like California.”

* * *

Hickenlooper made a shrewd choice of who would lead the water planning process.

James Eklund had worked as one of his legal counsels and as a natural resources lawyer for the Attorney General’s office before the Governor picked him to direct the Colorado Water Conservation Board. It helps that Eklund is what Hickenlooper isn’t – a fifth generation Coloradan who grew up not only on the Western Slope, but also in a farming family.

It also helps that Eklund knows a bit about politics, having studied the subject at Stanford and later worked as a driver to Ken Salazar, the AG turned U.S. senator turned U.S. interior secretary. He shares with Salazar the unique ability to navigate as well on cattle ranches he does in the conference rooms of 17th Street white-shoe law firms.

As Eklund tells it, the water plan already is a huge accomplishment, at least from the perspective of how many people have become involved. Through May, it had generated more than 24,000 public comments touching on every aspect of water use in the state. His staff has responded to every one.

“The process is a success in itself,” Eklund says.

But how will the state measure the success of the content rather than just the process? That’s a little tougher to define.

Eklund told The Independent last week that progress is being made on the more detailed elements of the plan, which will look at regional suggestions submitted by the basin roundtables and put forth reasonable outcomes – at least in concept. He says the plan and process need to be able to adapt and morph as circumstances such as growth, drought and climate change shape the future. There’s also a need for “agility” in state water law and federal regulatory processes in order for the plan to be successful, he added.

All in all, he downplays expectations for Chapter 10.

“No one solution is a silver bullet,” Eklund noted. “We have to have a package solution that includes storage and conservation. We can’t conserve our way out of this.”
The issue of water storage – dams, reservoirs and other systems linked with massive delivery systems known as “trans-mountain diversions” – is the third rail of Colorado water policy.

The Front Range wants more storage facilities, or at least the option to build them, so it can shore up supplies to keep up with population growth. The Western Slope agricultural community, intent on keeping its water west of the continental divide, says no way. Environmentalists and sports-folks want cities and farmers to conserve more to ensure enough river flow to protect outdoor recreation, plants and critters.

Two polls that came out last year showed 90 percent of Colorado voters want to keep our rivers healthy and flowing.

“We want this plan to include funding to protect rivers across the state. It should be a river plan, not just a water plan,” says Bart Miller, Western Resource Advocates’ water program director.

WRA and other environmental groups are pushing for aggressive urban conservation goals like ones passed in other states seeking to cut usage 20 percent over 20 years.

On the issues of conservation targets and more storage projects, water interests have dug in their feet.
George, who serves as vice chair of the Water Conservation Board, said he always expected by this point in the roundtable process to be able to answer the puzzle of how to ease the blow of projected shortfalls.

“That question just gets more intense the farther we move along. So the question here at the 11th hour is whether there’s water anywhere in Colorado that can be moved from where it is to greater use to more people, the Front Range,” he said. “Underlying all of this is great fear: Are we just going to take the water from agriculture to the cities for domestic use? Because that’s what happens if we do nothing.”

It’s in this context of political pressure and fear that Eklund and his staff have struggled to come up with actionable solutions. Scrambling to fill in the glaring blankness of the much-anticipated Chapter 10, they last week put before a state-formed water committee 160 questions about possible fixes.
Some sources say those talks fell apart because of a hesitancy to propose legislation, regulation or change.

As George tells it, the suggestions are “still lingering.”

“You have to understand that the staff doesn’t want to make policy decisions. Those are political judgment calls. So it’s hard slogging.”

* * *

Herein lies the downside of the grassroots approach.

Water users within each of the river basins have made progress discussing their regional needs. But now there’s distrust among the water basins – especially Western Slope versus Front Range – whose participants perceive the process has pitted their basins against others.

No matter how many basin roundtable meetings the state holds, no matter how many public comments it solicits, and no matter how many public-comment emails planners respond to, devising the fix-it part of the plan calls for exactly what the administration hoped to avoid. It requires top-down decisions that either manage to bring all the basins together or, more practically, show a willingness, if needed, to uphold certain political interests above others.

Factors such as cost come into play: Without help from the feds, like Colorado used to receive for new water projects, can the state afford such massive expenditures?

And there are economic repercussions to weigh: Will new businesses and families keep moving to Colorado if, like lately in drought-savaged California, the plan would require them to cut back on watering their lawns or filling their hot tubs?

And there are political calculations to make: Do lawmakers – already bitterly divided with a split legislature, tensions between urban and rural concerns, and pressures of an election year – have the fortitude to pass any meaningful water use bills? And what would Hickenlooper’s legacy be if, uncharacteristically, he tried to dictate aggressive water use reform?

“You have tens of thousands of comments here. Somebody needs to decide which input is valid or invalid. Someone needs to make sense out of the chaos. That’s a subjective process,” Mulroy said.
And it’s a process that by definition is far from grassroots. It takes expertise about the legal and political complexities of water policy.

“You have people who aren’t in the water business who are expressing their views. Can tens of thousand of individual comments produce some vision?” said Denver Water’s Lochhead. “At the end of the day, there needs to be some leadership to produce action.

“Someone needs to step up and move forward.”

It’s not enough, Lochhead says, for the plan to assert broad value statements such as the needs to protect Colorado’s farms and ranches, preserve future options for undeveloped water and conserve. As he puts it, those are just platitudes.

Lochhead has lists of specific, measurable solutions that include enforcing conservation through the state’s permitting processes, offering incentives for more green architecture, allowing Coloradans to capture rainwater, encouraging use of more recycled or “gray water” and increasing efficiency in irrigation systems.

He also has asked the administration to set ground-rules for water negotiations, “defining what needs to be done and who are the parties that are going to get together by date-certain to develop a solution.”
In other words, he wants a Chapter 10 with details and deadlines, and a commitment to pushing all parties beyond their own interests. Even his water district’s own.

“There’s still a very real opportunity both in Chapter 10 and throughout the plan to articulate a path forward and a plan for meeting our needs, saving our rivers and setting goals that citizens around the state can rise up and achieve,” Miller said.

The administration had calculated that if Chapter 10 is too robust, Hickenlooper could face the stigma of messing with water users’ property rights á la California Gov. Jerry Brown. But if Chapter 10 turns out to be just conceptual, proposing no meaningful action items, Hickenlooper could face the perception of weakness and the dubious distinction of having championed a water plan without a plan.

For the water plan to succeed, it requires a delicate balance between political pragmatism and leadership. If it swings too far either way, it likely will be mothballed in some library’s Western history section, as was Colorado’s first statewide plan – from 1974.

“Yes, that’s right. It’ll come as news to a lot of people that this isn’t in fact our first state water plan,” Kemper said. “The reason nobody’s heard of the first plan is because it had no impact.”

Marianne Goodland contributed to this story.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Coloradans urge water fixes: Take Mississippi River water, ban fracking, close borders — The Colorado Independent #COWaterPlan

July 3, 2015
cropcirclescoloradoindependent

Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Creative Commons, Flickr

From The Colorado Independent (Marianne Goodland):

I’m a Coloradan and I drink water.”

That’s how several letters to the Colorado Water Conservation Board in response to the state water plan begin. The statement may be valid, but it’s not going to solve a predicted water shortage over the next 35 years or contribute much to a state water plan, ordered by Gov. John Hickenlooper, intended to address the looming crisis.
According to a 2010 study, Colorado may be short as much as 500,000 acre-feet of water per year by 2050, due largely to an expected doubling of the state’s population. That’s about 1.6 trillion gallons of water.
The water conservation board has been seeking public input both into the development of the plan and on its first draft, which was released last December.

A second draft is expected in the next few weeks. A third draft will likely be released in September, with more public comment solicited. The plan is to be finalized and sent to the governor in December.

Coloradans flooded the CWCB with more than 24,000 emails and letters in the past 18 months, beginning when Hickenlooper mandated the plan’s development.

The CWCB staff is responding to every comment – no small feat for less than 50 people.

Many thousands of comments were easy-to-dismiss form letters and form emails. But thousands of Coloradans wrote to the CWCB to express concerns about the status of Colorado’s water and what should be done to improve it.
The vast majority of the comments were thoughtful, well-informed and came from Coloradans from every walk of life, including school teachers, college students, farmers, ranchers, elected officials at every level and retirees.

While many are long-time Colorado residents, with some whose families go back four generations, one person who commented said that she’d just moved to Colorado a year ago.

All of the input showed what CWCB Director James Eklund called “strong public engagement” with the issue.
The comments touched on every aspect of the water plan, although water conservation was the dominant theme.

“As far as I can tell, there is little emphasis on education about water conservation. In our household, our water usage is about half that of other households because we make an effort to conserve,” wrote one Coloradan.
But another person, who also called for more education about water conservation, complained that he witnesses a guy at the local YMCA who takes showers that are way too long.

And then there were those with some seemingly off-beat ideas about how to save Colorado water. Gary Hausler suggested importing water from east of Colorado, including from the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

It’s not the first time somebody has proposed pumping in water from the Midwest. Two lawmakers during the 2015 session proposed studying the feasibility of extending a Kansas pipeline that brings in Missouri River water to the Eastern Plains. That bill, House Bill 15-1167, won approval from the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee but later died in the House Appropriations Committee.

Hausler is a proponent of piping in water from the Mississippi, south of Cairo, Illinois, to add one million acre-feet of water to Colorado.

“The Mississippi represents an immense source of unused water that meets Colorado’s future needs and eliminates the need for ag dry-up and additional trans-mountain diversions,” he wrote. (In Colorado, 80 percent of the water for the Eastern Plains comes through a system of 24 tunnels that travel through the Continental Divide from the Western Slope and its major rivers, including the Roaring Fork and Colorado.)

But Hausler said the proposal has been ignored and derided for years for political reasons, and he was careful to add that he has no financial interest in the proposal.

The CWCB staff replied that importing water from the Midwest has been studied and is not believed to be feasible for many reasons. However, the idea has been discussed by the various basin roundtable groups, the staff replied.
Colorado has eight major river basins. Each river basin has a roundtable group, plus a ninth, representing the Denver Metro area. The groups are made up of local governments, water districts and other representatives. Each basin roundtable developed its own recommendations for the state water plan.

Hausler’s suggestion was similar to one made months earlier by Brenda Miller, who called transferring water from the Western Slope to the Eastern Slope “futile” and a reflection of Denver’s “urban sociopathology.”
Look to a place with surplus, Miller suggested, such as the Missouri River, an “easy 400 to 500 miles from Denver.”

Another commenter wanted to offer his high-tech ag services to solve the predicted water shortage: “I have invented a growing system that uses less than half the water and produces more end product than conventional methods. It will save more water than I can claim,” said Larry Smith, who did not elaborate on his system.

Many letters dealt with a particular water use that writers believed ought to be curtailed: hydraulic fracking.
Sally Hempy wrote: “The biggest impact we can make in our Colorado waters is to outlaw the fossil fuel industry. You can’t protect one county that is free of fracking while the neighboring county mines, fracks and pollutes our acrifers (Note: aquifers).”

She also complained about runoff from agriculture and animal feedlots. “Let’s protect what we have!”

The CWCB staff said fracking doesn’t need a lot of water compared to other uses, such as power plants, and that the plan does not make a “value judgment” on any specific water use.

At least two letters suggested another ban: the livestock industry.

Jerry Daidian suggested eliminating “production of livestock feed as a beneficial use…The disproportionate use of Colorado’s [river] water by the livestock industry lies at the core of the problem.”

Other writers suggested Colorado close its borders and stop shipping water to other states.

Mary Ratz wrote that the state’s precipitation “is ours to use. We should not have to let ANY of it flow to other states and should not have to prove we own that water and that we need all of it. This is a state RIGHT, not for the federal government’s to decide.”

She also noted the Colorado River “is all ours” and shouldn’t be watering lawns in Las Vegas or any of the lower Colorado River basin states (Nevada, Arizona, California and New Mexico).

CWCB staff responded, trying to explain interstate compacts, Congressionally-approved agreements between states that govern just how much water goes from a headwater state, like Colorado, to its downriver states.

But by this spring, the CWCB staff had a different suggestion: The writer should read the “Citizen’s Guide to Interstate Compacts,” produced by the Colorado Foundation for Water Education.

Then there was the comment from Jeremy Davis: “Please lay-off. We are not merely cannon fodder. We are people with lives, dreams, and families. Leave our water alone. Allow us the opportunity to be.”

More Colorado Water Plan coverage <a href="


Southern Delivery System: Springs, Walker settle for $7.1M — The Pueblo Chieftain

July 3, 2015

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs Utilities and Gary Walker have reached a $7.1 million settlement for the damage to Walker Ranches from the Southern Delivery System pipeline.

The pipeline crosses 5.5 miles of the 63,000-acre property on its route from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs. The $841 million SDS project is scheduled to go online next year and will supply water to Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West.

On May 6, a jury awarded Walker $4.75 million, which included a $4.665 million judgment beyond the $82,900 stipulated value of the easement across Walker Ranches. Damages plus interest would have brought the total payment to $5.78 million, according to a joint press release.

Utilities disputed the amount, and filed an appeal on May 7. Walker Ranches appealed the decision on May 14. Those appeals were dismissed as part of the settlement reached June 16, but announced on Thursday.

The final agreement resolves all claims for $7.1 million, the press release said.

Utilities will also install fencing on Walker Ranches to prevent cattle from entering the area of the SDS pipeline scar that is being revegetated, and will work with Walker to erect berms on the property to reduce erosion.

The agreement also commits both parties to work together in the future to protect the right of way.

Utilities said the settlement provides more certainty about the ultimate cost of the project, reducing the possibility of an expensive appeals process.

“It has always been our intent when working with property owners to use the court process as a last resort,” John Fredell, SDS program director, said in the news release. “By successfully resolving these issues with Mr. Walker, we can focus on completing the required revegetation on his property and finishing the SDS project on time and under budget.”

Walker, when contacted by The Pueblo Chieftain , declined to comment because of the conditions of the settlement.

During the trial, Walker claimed the SDS project had compromised a $25 million conservation easement on 15,000 acres he was negotiating with the Nature Conservancy. He has used about $13 million from past easements to expand the ranches, which is part of a long-term plan to prevent further urban sprawl in northern Pueblo County.

Ray Petros, Pueblo County’s special counsel, said he has not seen the settlement agreement, so he is uncertain about how the county’s 1041 permit for SDS would be affected. The county is teeing up compliance hearings later this year on revegetation and Fountain Creek flood control, which are referenced in conditions that are part of the 1041 permit.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.


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