From The Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):
So far, the only “statement of objection” filed in connection to the proposed Rio Grande Basin groundwater rules is one in favor of them.
Because of the way the response process is set up, all reactions to the rules must be submitted as “statements of objection.” However, “statements of objections” may be submitted in support of the rules.
Colorado Division of Water Resources Division 3 Engineer Craig Cotten said on Monday the only response filed so far in regard to the basin groundwater rules was a “statement of objection in support” by the Rio Grande Water Conservation District.
He said no objections against the rules have yet been filed.
During a recent water meeting Pat McDermott from the Division 3 office explained that if there are no objections to the rules as written, they will move forward through that meticulously worked its way through the rules over the course of about six years to try to iron out any problematic “wrinkles” in the rules before they were promulgated.
The public has also been involved during that process, with all of the advisory group meetings open.
Wolfe officially filed the groundwater rules on September 23 at the Alamosa County courthouse. The rules apply to hundreds of irrigation and municipal wells in the Rio Grande Basin, which encompasses the San Luis Valley. They set up the means to halt the drawdown of the Valley’s underground aquifers and restore the aquifers to more robust levels. They also are designed to protect senior surface water rights and Rio Grande Compact compliance. the water court for approval and implementation.
Objectors have a specific amount of time to file responses after the rules have been published. The rules have been published in newspapers as well as in the water court resume.
If there is opposition to the rules, the water division will try to work out issues with objectors short of a water court trial.
State Engineer Dick Wolfe is hoping to eliminate or at least minimize the number of objections to the rules and has gone to great lengths to accomplish that goal. He developed a large advisory group, for example, The rules are clear “that nothing in the rules is designed to allow an expanded or unauthorized use of water .”
The rules are also clear that they “are designed to allow withdrawals of groundwater while providing for the identification and replacement of injurious stream depletions and the achievement and maintenance of a Sustainable Water Supply in each aquifer system, while not unreasonably interfering with the state’s ability to fulfill its obligations under the Rio Grande Compact. The rules apply to all withdrawals of groundwater within Water Division No. 3, unless the withdrawal is specifically exempted by the rules, and the rules pertaining to the Irrigation Season apply to all irrigation water rights.”
McDermott reminded folks attending a recent Rio Grande Roundtable meeting that once the rules go into effect which could be sooner than later if there are no objections well irrigators will have a limited time to either join a water management sub-district or submit their own augmentation plans. Those measures will have to be taken in the next year or two.
By 2018, he added, the water division will have the ability to shut down wells that have not come into compliance under the rules.
“This is an exciting time,” he said. “It’s time for us to do the right thing. We have done it in Division 1 and 2, South Platte and the Arkansas, and it’s very important to get it down here.”
Part of the groundwater rules define the irrigation season for this basin, which ended in most parts of the Valley at midnight on November 1. Unless Cotten has good reason to decide otherwise, the irrigation season will run from April 1 to November 1 for all irrigators, including those using wells as their irrigation water sources.
See the full groundwater rules for the Rio Grande Basin at http://water.state.co.us/
On another note, McDermott said Colorado is in good shape with Rio Grande Compact compliance this year and may in fact over deliver the amount of water it is required to send downstream to New Mexico and Texas. This winter should bring a fair amount of moisture, McDermott added. He said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting above normal precipitation and slightly below normal temperatures for the next several months in this region.