Upper Ark District board meeting recap

Salida Colorado early 1900s
Salida Colorado early 1900s

From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District directors reviewed the preliminary 2017 budget during the monthly board meeting [September 8] in Salida.

District General Manager Terry Scanga presented the draft budget, noting the addition of a new water education fund. He said the actual budget would be presented at the October board meeting and asked board members to review and comment on the preliminary budget prior to that meeting.

In a related discussion, Scanga relayed information presented at the recent Colorado Water Congress Summer Conference regarding water project funding, 69 percent of which comes from state severance taxes.

Scanga said the combined effect of lower oil and gas prices and a Colorado Supreme Court ruling in favor of British Petroleum will eliminate funding for the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Water Supply Reserve Account for the upcoming fiscal year.

The court ruled in May that the Colorado Department of Revenue had overcharged BP, and the extra severance taxes collected would have to be refunded, setting the stage for other oil and gas companies to seek refunds.

Legislators responded by passing Senate Bill 16-218, which diverts severance tax revenues for the upcoming year to pay the court-ordered refunds.

In addition to the WSRA receiving no funding for the upcoming fiscal year, Scanga said the account is slated to be funded at only 50 percent for fiscal year 2017-18.

The conservancy district has used WSRA grants to help fund a number of water projects and studies in the Upper Arkansas Valley.

Project Coordinator Chelsey Nutter elaborated on the new water education fund in the district’s 2017 budget while reporting on the inaugural Salida Water Festival.

After several directors provided favorable feedback on the festival, Nutter announced the Upper Ark district would be taking responsibility for the festival moving forward, in part due to the aforementioned severance tax funding issues.

Nutter said the new education fund in the budget will be used in part to provide continuing funding for the festival, and district staff are developing an education action plan.

Nutter reported the Arkansas Basin Roundtable Public Education, Participation and Outreach working group is beginning work on the 2017 Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, which will take place in El Paso County.

Nutter also reported progress on the Lake Ranch Multi-Use Project and said a tour of both multi-use project sites is planned for spring.

Salida: Interbasin Compact Committee talks taxes — The Mountain Mail


From The Mountain Mail (Brian McCabe):

The Interbasin Compact Committee continued its ongoing discussion about Colorado water rights and river basins at a meeting Tuesday in Salida.

The IBCC was founded through the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act to lead conversations and address issues about Colorado’s water.

The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District hosted the event and kicked off the meeting with a presentation by the Arkansas River Basin PEPO (Public Education, Participation and Outreach) Workgroup, led by Chelsey Nutter and Jean Van Pelt.

They explained four tasks they are working on, including participation and partnership building, focusing specifically on the Arkansas Basin area for education.

Their second task is to develop a Water 101 presentation for education, and they are currently working on a documentary about water and the Arkansas Basin.

Their third task is to help facilitate communication among the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, the Colorado Water Conservancy Board, the IBCC and the public, by integrating the information gathered into public outreach forums.

Finally, they are working to market the Arkansas Basin by designing a mission, logo and online resources, including a website and a Facebook presence.

Bob Randell, an attorney with the IBCC, discussed the Colorado Supreme Court decision earlier this month, in which BP America Production Co. will be refunded millions in oil and gas severance taxes.

Randell explained that the refunded taxes will have a direct effect on Colorado general funds and Department of Local Affairs grants, which will not be adding any additional money to 2016 and 2017 Tier 2 programs.

Sean Cronin, the South Platte River Basin representative, spoke about how that will affect the Water Supply Reserve Account.

“With demand outpacing supply, we will have to maximize our limited dollars,” Cronin said. “We want to provide folks with confidence that we are using WSRA funds as effectively as possible.”

Cronin said some of the options they have been looking at to help the program include:

• Looking at other grant deed programs for ideas.
• Considering how money is spent to hire contractors.
• Looking at financial need analysis for applicants, with a sliding scale depending on financial stability.
• Encouraging match requirements.
• Considering holding back a percentage of funds until progress reports on projects have been turned in and reviewed.

During the Lean Process update, Eric Kuhn, an appointee to the IBCC by the governor, raised a point about the difficulty with working with different parties on a project.

“Sometimes we miss the biggest concern,” Kuhn said, “trying to do something with a complex project. When you have two major entities with a lack of consensus, you hope it works out, because the permitting process only works as long as people agree on it.”

Becky Mitchell with the IBCC responded, saying, “What we came up with out of the Lean Process is that the state won’t jump into those kinds of situations.”

Cronin also said he had heard it wasn’t so much a problem in other parts of the country, only Colorado.

“I did hear that Colorado has had special circumstances, but that it is common among Western states, but we’re not the worst,” Mitchell said.

The committee also debated an idea of placing a tax on drinking liquid containers, from children’s juice boxes to cans of soda, as a possible source for the additional funding.

No decisions on the tax were made, but it was jokingly said that Colorado would need a drought for a tax like that to go through.

Buena Vista takes steps to protect water supply — The Mountain Mail


From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

The town of Buena Vista recently developed a Source Water Protection Plan that prioritizes concerns about the town drinking-water supply and identifies strategies to protect that water supply.

Buena Vista Public Works Director Greg Maggard and John Duggan with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) provided an overview of the BV plan during the monthly meeting of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board of directors April 14.

The BV plan, Maggard said, employs a two-step strategy recommended by CDPHE (1) to prioritize town water sources based on susceptibility to contamination and (2) to prioritize potential contaminant sources.

Following this strategy, Maggard said contaminant sources were prioritized based on the prevalence of contaminants and specific contaminants that represent the greatest threat to the water supply.
Using data from a variety of sources, including the Colorado Wildfire Risk Assessment, Maggard said town staff:

Identified areas of concern for public water systems.

Identified mine sites within 3 miles upstream from water system intakes and 1,000 feet from streams.

Established baseline water quality data for all water sources.

Scheduled ongoing source-water monitoring at regular intervals.

Mines and large septic systems represent the most significant threats to the Buena Vista water supply, Maggard said.

The source water protection planning process was developed as a result of a 1996 congressional amendment to the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act that required each state to develop a source water assessment and protection (SWAP) program.

In the first phase of the SWAP program, Duggan said, Colorado conducted an assessment of all public water supplies.

The second phase is about protecting source water and involves developing and implementing a source water protection plan. Duggan stressed that phase 2 is voluntary but supported by funds from the state.

Prior to undertaking the source water protection planning process, Buena Vista had already established a Source Water Protection District around its drinking water sources, allowing the town to review county building permit applications inside district boundaries.

Maggard said the town’s new plan would complement the district and probably should have been developed prior to forming the district.

In other business district board members:

  • Learned that the state recently approved the district’s engineering application for storing water in the alluvial aquifer near Johnson Village.
  • Heard an update on the Lake Ranch Multi-Use Project, which received more than $200,000 in grant money and will include a 5- to 8-acre demonstration garden.
  • Decided to initiate efforts to obtain grant funding to begin phase 2 of the district’s water balance study, which would examine potential aquifer storage in the Wet Mountain Valley.
  • Learned that the district currently stores 3738.9 acre-feet of water in various reservoirs.
  • Voted not to acquire additional Fry-Ark Project water since the district will carry over 1,569 of project water from previous years.
  • Heard a report on the Cottonwood Reservoir feasibility study indicating the survey work will be completed in May once the ice has melted.
  • Heard an update on the rainwater harvesting bill, which is now law.
  • Unanimously agreed to stipulate out of Water Court case 07CW129.
  • Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

    Boss Lake
    Boss Lake

    From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

    Addressing issues with a leaky Boss Lake dam in southwestern Chaffee County could cost as much as $2 million.

    Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, estimated the cost at $1.5-2 million during the Thursday district board of directors meeting.

    Scanga said an environmental impact statement would need to be prepared in order to construct a road across national forest land to get equipment into the site.
    Confronted with the cost of dam repairs and the cost of an environmental impact statement, Scanga would not recommend moving forward with repair work, saying the lake has “limited utility for the district’s uses.”

    During the Upper Ark district’s March 2014 meeting, district officials mentioned the possibility that the dam could be breached.

    Scanga said he was hopeful the state would take over the reservoir and fund the necessary repairs so Boss Lake could be used to help re-establish endangered greenback cutthroat trout, the Colorado state fish.

    The Upper Ark district stores water in Boss Lake and manages the reservoir pursuant to a 1982 agreement with Chaffee County.

    When the state built Boss Lake, it encompassed the Donnell 1 and 2 reservoirs, and the Donnell water rights include a storage right in what is now Boss Lake.
    Salco Associates, essentially Wanda and Jim Treat and family, own the Donnell water rights, allowing the Treats to store water in Boss Lake.

    In spite of efforts to engage Salco regarding dam repairs, Scanga said the district had received “no response” since the family attended the March 2014 district board meeting to protest maintenance charges billed by the district.

    The board meeting also included:

  • A review of the 2016 district and enterprise budgets with the budget hearing set for 2 p.m. Nov. 12.
  • A presentation entitled “Fry-Ark Project and Current Project Storage” by Roy Vaughan, Pueblo Reservoir facility manager, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
  • District hydrologist Jord Gertson’s water storage, precipitation and streamflow reports, showing full reservoirs and an above-average precipitation outlook for southern Colorado.
  • A progress report from the Upper Arkansas Multi-Use Project Committee indicating the project has gained positive attention from various elements in the water community.
  • A report from Director Greg Felt regarding a Multi-Use Project field trip attended by eight legislators.
  • A Thompson Ditch report from engineer Chris Manera indicating no substantial change in water levels due to groundwater infiltration following a wetter than average summer.
  • An update on planning activities for the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, slated for April 27-28 at Salida SteamPlant.
  • Presentation of the 2016 conservancy district budget.
  • A legislative update from consultant Ken Baker.
  • A legal report updating board members on district applications and oppositions.
  • A treasurer’s report.
  • The Upper Ark district assesses dry-up efforts at Yale Lake — The Mountain Mail

    Graphic via the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District
    Graphic via the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District

    From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

    Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District officials continue to assess efforts to dry up land formerly irrigated by the Thompson Ditch, including draining Harvard and Yale lakes west of Buena Vista.

    “Yale Lake is definitely affecting the groundwater level,” said district engineer Chris Manera in his progress report to the Upper Ark board of directors during their Thursday meeting in Salida.

    Manera presented data collected since January from nine district monitoring wells and nearby private wells that show dropping groundwater levels since Yale Lake was drained.

    Manera said Harvard Lake is down gradient from the monitoring wells, and he saw no affect on water levels when it was drained in March.

    Manera’s report confirms suspicions that seepage from Yale Lake hindered conservancy district efforts to dry up land once irrigated by the Thompson Ditch, a requirement for the district to use its Thompson Ditch water right for augmentation on Cottonwood Creek.

    As previously reported, the groundwater level needs to drop at least 6 feet below the surface for the conservancy district to receive credit for drying up the land.

    The land in question consists of an 11.51-acre parcel and a 2.84-acre parcel. Manera said the smaller parcel “is dried up” as are portions of the larger parcel.

    During the Enterprise Committee portion of the meeting, hydrologist Jord Gertson reported the district currently stores 2,663.2 acre-feet of water in its reservoirs.

    Gertson said all district reservoirs are full except for O’Haver Lake, which is being filled and should be full by the end of May.

    Gertson also presented snowpack and precipitation data showing above-average conditions for the Upper Arkansas Valley.

    After plummeting in March, Arkansas River Basin snowpack rebounded in April to reach peak depth in early May, putting the basin at 111 percent of average, Gertson said.

    Gertson also presented the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s long-range precipitation outlook, which projects “well-above average precipitation” this summer in Colorado.

    During the legislative update, district consultant Ken Baker mentioned House Bill 15-1259, which would have allowed Coloradans to collect up to two 55-gallon rain barrels of water that drains off their rooftops.

    The bill died in the Senate May 5, but Baker believes the bill will return in a future legislative session and indicated that the bill runs afoul of the state’s doctrine of prior appropriation, which lies at the heart of Colorado water law.

    Rain naturally seeps into the ground or drains into streams, and Baker pointed out that collecting rain in a barrel deprives downstream water rights holders of water to which they are legally entitled.

    In other business, Upper Ark directors:

  • Learned that the judge in the district’s Cottonwood Creek diligence case signed the decree, a necessary step toward making a conditional water right absolute. Diligence must be proved in a water court proceeding every 6 years.
  • Heard a U.S. Geological Survey presentation about water use trends in Colorado and the Arkansas Vallery.
  • Learned that stipulations are pending from several objectors in the district’s 04CW96 exchange case, which should preclude the need for the case to go to trial in June.
  • Learned that the district water management plan is under review and should soon be available for public comment on the district website, http://uawcd.com.
  • Learned that an intergovernmental agreement with the town of Buena Vista for storing water in Cottonwood Reservoir is nearing completion.
  • Approved a $1,000 Colorado Water Congress Stewardship Project sponsorship.
  • More Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District coverage here

    Salida: Town hall meeting discusses water issues

    Salida Colorado early 1900s
    Salida Colorado early 1900s

    From The Mountain Mail (J.D. Thomas):

    State Sen. Kerry Donovan (D-Vail) and Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, hosted a town hall meeting to discuss water issues Sunday in city council chambers.
    Scanga opened the meeting by describing changes in Colorado water plans since 2002.

    He said in 2011 a gap analysis of the various water basins showed the Arkansas River Basin will have a projected shortage of 54,000 acre-feet per year by 2035 or 2040.

    He said various water conservancy districts are looking into conservation, identifying projects and processes, alternative transportation methods of water and new water supplies.

    Another option being considered is rotational land fallowing and water leasing, which would lease water rights for irrigation from a section of land and transfer it to a municipality temporarily, which would increase water to an area that is experiencing a population growth, he said.

    An issue raised involved poor irrigation and watering practices by agricultural users, which Scanga said is difficult to compare to poor watering practices of lawns in a municipality.

    Another attendee asked about worst-case scenarios for future water shortages. Scanga said water conservancy groups in Arizona and Nevada have already started preparing for worst-case scenarios and have begun offering monetary incentives for users taking less water than before.

    Donovan said she had been to Paonia and Delta Saturday and Crested Butte and Salida Sunday as part of her town hall meetings to obtain comments and gauge concerns of local residents about water in their basins.
    She said feedback gained from meetings such as the one in Salida will be used to take the voices of locals to Denver.

    More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

    Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

    Graphic via the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District
    Graphic via the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District

    From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

    Groundwater levels around Yale Lake have dropped approximately 1 foot in the past 2 months since the lake stopped receiving inflows from the Thompson Ditch, but the area continues to retain water within 6 feet of the surface.

    Chris Manera, professional engineer, relayed the information during the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board of directors monthly meeting Wednesday in Salida.

    Reporting on efforts to dry up land formerly irrigated by the Thompson Ditch, Manera said the water level in Yale Lake is decreasing as the reservoir loses water to seepage and evaporation.

    Still, the depth of the water table “is not changing quickly,” Manera said, indicating the geological presence of a “high confining layer” within 20 feet of the surface that creates a saturated zone above the surrounding aquifer.

    Manera said a release of water from Harvard Lake “had no effect” on the shallow saturated zone and indicated water would likely be released from Yale Lake in an effort to lower groundwater levels below 6 feet from the surface.

    Reducing the water table to at least 6 feet below the surface would put the water out of reach for plants, a key requirement for drying up agricultural land in order to change the use of the water.

    Manera presented measurements recorded at nine district piezometers and nearby private wells that show water levels at 6 feet below the surface just west of Yale Lake. To the south and east of Yale Lake, however, water levels remain closer to the surface.

    Manera noted a 10-foot east-to-west drop in the subsurface water gradient with groundwater flows moving west to east, directly toward Franklin Spring, which feeds Ice Lake. Manera said the receding groundwater has not affected water levels in nearby Harvard and Ice lakes.

    Terry Scanga, Upper Ark district general manager, updated board members on the situation at O’Haver Lake, indicating the district is releasing water from the reservoir for augmentation operations.

    Scanga said the reservoir is currently at 84 percent of its 180-acre-foot capacity, and releases will continue through March and possibly into April, leaving approximately 146 acre-feet of water in O’Haver by the end of March.
    Scanga said the Upper Ark district policy has been to keep O’Haver Lake full, but like any reservoir, O’Haver loses water to evaporation. Since the district cannot capture water out of priority, it must use exchanges to keep the reservoir full.

    Recent policy changes by the Colorado Water Conservation Board have made exchanges up Grays Creek virtually impossible, prompting district officials to use O’Haver water for augmentation.

    Scanga said he believes the district can work with the CWCB staff to create a policy to resolve the issue, and he is hopeful that a site visit this spring will help CWCB officials better understand the issues “on the ground.”

    In other business, Upper Ark directors:

  • Learned that the state approved district augmentation totaling 482.1 acre-feet of water, an increase of 196 acre-feet per month due to the inclusion of augmentation for Nestlé Waters North America’s spring water operation near Nathrop.
  • Learned that conservancy district replacements for 2014 totaled 665.41 acre-feet.
  • Learned that proposed legislation to allow senior water-rights holders to donate water to in-stream flows has been changed to apply only to the Western Slope, but if passed, the bill would deprive downstream rights-holders of return flows.
  • Heard a report showing 2,515.7 acre-feet of district water in storage.
    Reviewed a summer streamflow forecast projecting 240,000 acre-feet of water flowing past Salida, which is 98 percent of average.
  • Learned about progress toward installing a new gauge near the Friend Ranch Reservoir outflow with Poncha Springs sharing the cost of installation and maintenance.
  • Discussed efforts by Young Life to upgrade its Trail West septic system with a pipeline connecting to the Buena Vista waste treatment facility, which would require Young Life to purchase additional augmentation water from the conservancy district.
  • Approved stipulations in two Water Court cases, 04CW96 and 11CW86.