Senate bill would ease conduit cost to Lower Ark towns — The Pueblo Chieftain

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation
Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A bill that would ease the cost burden of the Arkansas Valley Conduit to local communities got its first hearing in the U.S. Senate water and power subcommittee Tuesday.

The bill, S2616, would allow miscellaneous revenues from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to be applied to the local match of the conduit.

Legislation in 2009 allowed those revenues to be applied to the federal cost of building the $400 million conduit.

Because of the 65-35 cost share, however, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District will face heavy expenses. The bill would allow the district’s share to be paid first, with any funds not needed being used to repay the federal share.

Under the new law, the costs of Ruedi Dam, the Fountain Valley Conduit and South Outlet Works still would be repaid before funds could be used for the conduit. Like the Arkansas Valley Conduit, they are all parts of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project which was authorized in 1962.

The district is anticipating up to $100 million in loans from the Colorado Water Conservation Board — $60 million already has been committed, said Bill Long, president of the district board.

He presented the committee with a letter of support from the CWCB.

Long, a Las Animas businessman and Bent County commissioner, detailed the water quality problems faced by the Lower Arkansas Valley. Those include radioactivity, salts and sulfates. The 40 communities involved in the project serve more than 50,000 people and face increasingly strict regulatory standards, he said.

“S2616 will achieve the goal of significantly reducing federal outlays while providing a reliable, safe drinking water supply to the rural communities in the Lower Arkansas River Valley,” Long said. “The alternative — contaminated supplies which pose a significant threat to public health and prohibitive costs for individual system improvements — is unacceptable.”

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., a member of the committee, and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., are co-sponsors of the legislation.

“Water is a precious resource in Colorado and throughout the west. As home to the headwaters for 20 states, our communities continuously look for ways to conserve water,” Bennet said.

During the hearing, Estevan Lopez, commissioner for the Bureau of Reclamation, lent his support to the bill.

“While we are still undertaking a detailed analysis of the full implications of such a reallocation of federal receipts, the reallocation of federal revenues to a non-federal entity for the benefit of that non-federal entity should be given careful consideration,” Lopez said.

Lopez said about $21 million in appropriations already has been provided through this year. At least $3 million is anticipated this year.

Construction on the conduit is expected to begin in 2019.

Once the conduit is completed, there would be a 50-year repayment of the 35 percent local share that is addressed in S2616.

Funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit makes it out of US Senate

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation
Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A bill that includes $3 million for the Arkansas Valley Conduit passed the U.S. Senate today on a 90-8 vote, with both Colorado senators working to include funding for the conduit.

The Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill (HR2028) has passed the House and now will go to President Barack Obama to sign into law.

The $3 million for the conduit will continue work on planning and land acquisition for the conduit, which will provide clean drinking water from Pueblo Dam along a 120-mile route to Lamar and Eads. A total of 40 communities serving 50,000 people will benefit.

“Some of the pieces have finally started falling into place,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the sponsor of the conduit.

Long will travel to Washington, D.C., next week to testify on behalf of legislation (S2616) that would allow the district to use miscellaneous revenues from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to repay nonfederal loans. The legislation is key to making the cost of the conduit, which could be as high as $400 million, affordable to Arkansas Valley communities, he said.

The $3 million was included in the administration’s budget, and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said he fought to keep it in the bill.

“The Arkansas Valley Conduit is a critical project to deliver clean drinking water to dozens of communities in Southeast Colorado,” Bennet said. “The president’s budget included this crucial funding, and we fought to ensure it was included as the bill moved through the Senate.”

The conduit is part of the original Fryingpan- Arkansas Project, but was not built because of the expense. Now, the communities in the Lower Arkansas Valley are seeking its construction because of the escalated cost of other methods of treating water in order to reach state and federal water quality standards.

“The federal government made a commitment more than five decades ago, and this funding ensures Congress is doing its part to fulfill that promise,” Bennet said. “We will continue to pursue any avenue necessary to ensure this project is completed as promised.”

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., applauded the vote because it assisted the conduit, as well as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden.

“I’m proud to have secured the funding for two important provisions in this appropriations package that directly affect Colorado,” Gardner said. “The Arkansas Valley Conduit project will result in cleaner, safer water in Southeast Colorado, and this important funding was approved to assist in the cost of construction.”

Bennet and Gardner are co-sponsors of S2606, the bill Long is scheduled to testify about next week.

$5 million in the US budget for the Arkansas Valley Conduit

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

More funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit has started flowing from the federal government.

An additional $2 million in discretionary funds will be shifted to this year’s conduit budget by the Bureau of Reclamation. Another $3 million is included in President Barack Obama’s 2017 budget, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., announced today.

Bennet worked with local officials, Reclamation and the administration to increase funding. The conduit already received $500,000 this year.

“We’ve been pushing the Administration and Congress to live up to the commitment it made more than five decades ago to communities in southeast Colorado,” Bennet said. “This funding will help move this project forward, and we will continue to fight to keep these additional resources in next year’s budget to ensure Coloradans in these communities finally have a reliable source of clean drinking water.”

Bennet will work with congressional leaders and the appropriations committee to try to ensure the money remains in the budget. Congressional gridlock in the past few years has kept funding at minimal levels.

“This was truly a bipartisan effort,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the local agency guiding the effort to build the conduit. “It’s certainly better to have $2.5 million than to work with than $500,000.”

The money will go toward engineering, legal work and land acquisition over the next three to five years that will allow construction of the pipeline to begin.

The goal is to raise about $5 million annually during that period. The Southeastern district is working with Reclamation to attempt to apply other revenues from the Fryingpan-Arkansas to move conduit work forward.

Once construction begins, it will take larger amounts of money to build the conduit, which is potentially a $400 million project. The conduit will bring clean drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 water districts from St. Charles Mesa to Lamar.

The plan is to filter the water at Pueblo Water’s treatment plant, then move the water to other systems via the conduit. Most of those systems rely on wells and are struggling to meet water quality standards.

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation
Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

Arkansas Valley Conduit Project is Updated — The Prowers Journal

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation
Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

From The Prowers Journal (Russ Baldwin):

The alignment of the Arkansas Valley Conduit project was updated for Prowers County Commissioners and interested citizens during an informational meeting on Wednesday, September 2. The $400M project, to move 15 million gallons of water per day to 39 entities between Pueblo and Lamar, was proposed in the early 1960s. Because of lack of funding, it has made little progress until the past several years. Jean Van Pelt, Project-Program Coordinator for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, and members of the Bureau of Reclamation, described the latest plans, concentrating on the path the water conduit will take through Prowers County, leading up to the City of Lamar’s two water storage tanks south off of Memorial Drive. Van Pelt stated that the group was also seeking, ”Local input on different infrastructures or features they may not be aware of that could affect the alignment.”

Kevin Meader, Principal Engineer for the Conservancy District said, “The Bureau is working on the preliminary design. We started that a year ago after the record of decision was issued on the Environmental Impact Statement. At that time we identified the preferred alternative for the conduit. By next year, we’ll put together an updated cost estimate which will go to Congress for appropriations for final design and construction towards the end of next year. From that we can move into final design and we’re looking at about 2017 and 2018 and the initial bidding on construction contracts is expected by around early 2020.” He added that if Congress approves the cost, it won’t be funded all at once, but probably in $25M to $45M payments over several years. Van Pelt added that in 2011 Congress agreed to share the project costs with the communities on a 65%/35% basis, and the $140M balance will not have to be borne by the 39 entities. Construction would begin at Pueblo Dam and head east to Lamar with a junction to Eads. Holly, Bristol, Granada and Hartman are not included in the conduit plans as those communities decided to opt out of a contract with the S.E. Water Conservancy District when the project was first proposed over 50 years ago. Van Pelt, when asked if they could opt back in, replied the process would be lengthy and costly for each of the communities, and any work on the conduit would be stalled while the necessary studies were conducted on constructing those new routes.

Meader pointed out the water supply would be a supplemental, not a primary water source, which would become palatable only after each entity provided its own disinfectant procedure before making it accessible to the public. The water would be strictly for human use and not for any ag-related purposes. He added that water quality in some communities along the pipeline, such as La Junta, Boone or Fowler, has shown a need for a potable water source.

Arkansas Valley Conduit up for $2M boost — The Pueblo Chieftain

Preferred route for the Arkansas Valley Conduit via Reclamation
Preferred route for the Arkansas Valley Conduit via Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

An additional $2 million would be funneled to the Arkansas Valley Conduit under an amendment to the water and energy appropriation bill (HR2028).

The amendment, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., was approved by the House Thursday. It adds $2 million to the Bureau of Reclamation’s water resources account to advance and complete work on the conduit.

“As you know, water is the lifeblood of the Western United States and absolutely critical to the vitality of our communities and local economies,” Tipton told the House.

The move was supported by U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo.

“This project was authorized in 1962 to bring clean drinking water to 40 communities in Southeastern Colorado, many of which are in violation of clean water standards because of naturally occurring elements,” Buck said. “Why don’t we spend some money to benefit future generations instead of ourselves?”

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District is lobbying Washington to put more funding in the $400 million Arkansas Valley Conduit, which would bring clean drinking water from Pueblo Dam to 50,000 people from the St. Charles Mesa to Lamar and Eads.

Only $500,000 was budgeted this year for conduit work.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley Conduit update: Only $500,000 so far in federal budget, Southeastern Water was hoping for $5.5 million this year

Preferred route for the Arkansas Valley Conduit via Reclamation
Preferred route for the Arkansas Valley Conduit via Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit has flatlined in the federal budget. Striking a somber tone, Executive Director Jim Broderick broke the news Thursday to the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. The district sought $5.5 million for the conduit in fiscal year 2016, but so far only $500,000 is included in a constricted federal budget.

“It’s hard to pinpoint the reason for flatlining,” Broderick said. “But I think this is a short-term problem. … The issue isn’t that we’re dead in the water, we’re just going slow.”

He speculated that the federal Office of Management and Budget frowned on the project because it has not yet begun moving dirt and a general policy that water-quality projects should involve the Environmental Protection Agency.

The conduit progress has been overseen by the Bureau of Reclamation, which shifted funds this year to boost conduit funding to about $3 million. However, there may not be much money available.

Reclamation had a $96 million budget for projects nationwide this year, but allocated $50 million to deal with California drought issues and $30 million to settle claims with American Indian tribes.

District officials are continuing with attempts to encourage reprogramming federal money for the project. In the interim, the district will work closely with state officials to find money and analyze the workflow toward building the conduit.

On a positive note, Broderick said the conduit could move up in the federal pipeline by 2019.

The $400 million conduit would reach 132 miles from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads, and would serve 50,000 people in 40 communities. It was first authorized by Congress as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project in 1962.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.

CWCB meeting recap: $29,000 for compliance study until Arkansas Valley Conduit is online

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation
Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

New state regulations are creating a headache for Arkansas Valley water providers who are banking on the Arkansas Valley Conduit to improve water quality.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board approved a $29,000 grant this week that will go toward a $70,000 program to create a working group to chart a course of action for 38 communities until the conduit is completed.

Water in many of the systems is contaminated by metals, salts and/or radionuclides and managing treatment of the water is more complicated because of recent solid waste regulations by the Colorado Department of Health and Public Environment.

That’s created a hardship because smaller private water companies do not have the resources to comply or even determine compliance and the state has not clearly explained what is or is not required. The regulation presumably covers disposal of by-products.

There are ongoing concerns about radionuclides, which affect 12 of the communities.

The $400 million conduit, which will move water from Lake Pueblo to Lamar and Eads, is seen as the best solution to the water quality problems for about 50,000 people. However, construction of the conduit might be a decade away from reality.

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Lower Arkansas Valley are contributing $7,500 each toward the project, as well as $27,500 in inkind services.

More CWCB coverage here.