Sale of Fort Lyon Canal lands that were subject to High Plains, A&M speculation ruling nearly complete

May 20, 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 Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The sale of farms once targeted for buy-and-dry on the Fort Lyon Canal won’t be complete for a month.

Pure Cycle Corp. announced Tuesday that the deadline for due diligence on the sale of 14,600 acres of land for about $53 million will continue until June 18. When the sale was announced in mid-March, a due diligence period of 60-91 days was expected.

Arkansas River Farms LLC, an affiliate of C&A Companies Inc. and Resource Land Holdings LLC, has an agreement to buy the farms from Pure Cycle.

The farms, along with about 23 percent of the shares for water on the Fort Lyon Canal, were originally purchased by High Plains A&M prior to 2003 and sold to Pure Cycle in 2006. High Plains had lost a legal bid to market the water throughout the state when the Colorado Supreme Court ruled its plan violated the antispeculation doctrine of Colorado Water Law.

Lamar pipeline via The Pueblo Chieftain

Lamar pipeline via The Pueblo Chieftain

Pure Cycle announced its intentions to move water to the Front Range when it purchased the Fort Lyon shares. C&A Companies also unveiled a plan to move water from the Lamar Canal to metropolitan communities through its subsidiary GP Resources in 2011. While neither of those plans have advanced, they had not been taken off the table.

Pure Cycle has been leasing the water and ground back to farmers. GP Resources has been raising feed for a Kansas dairy, and there has been talk of building a dairy in Colorado.

Resource Land Holdings has more than $550 million in assets in 25 states and Canada.

“The buyers of our farm portfolio have been working hard surveying, investigating title, ownership, and all customary diligence matters of a transaction of this nature. We have nearly 80 separate properties and as one might expect, diligence on that many properties is time-consuming,” said Mark Harding, Pure Cycle president.

“To date, no material ownership issues have been identified and we do not expect any material title issues to surface through the process.”

Arkansas River Farms has a policy of not speaking with the press at least until the deal is complete, said Karl Nyquist, a partner with C&A, when reached by phone Tuesday.

The deal is scheduled to be closed in August, Harding said.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

How will the #COWaterPlan address the big questions? — the Colorado Independent

May 18, 2015

Have you ever wondered what happens to gravel pits? Most of them turn into water storage — @Coloradoan

May 18, 2015

From the Fort Collins Coloradan (Kevin Duggan):

The bodies of water once were strip mines where excavators and bulldozers roamed, pulling up rich deposits of gravel, sand and river rock. Noisy crushing machines sorted out the materials, which went toward building roads, bridges and buildings and decorating gardens.

In their wake, the mining operations left behind deep, gaping pits in the Poudre Valley landscape that over time were transformed into water-storage vessels and “natural” areas.

“There is not a natural lake on the Poudre,” said Rob Helmick, a senior planner with Larimer County. “All of those areas have been mined at some point. In many cases, it happened decades ago.”

A review of aerial photos of the river between Laporte and the Larimer/Weld county line near Windsor showed at least 30 permitted gravel-mining sites and about 70 ponds of various shapes and sizes, Helmick said. Many of the pits likely predate state and county regulations on gravel-mining operations.

A state law passed in 1977 put an end to the practice of abandoning spent gravel pits by requiring reclamation of mining sites, said Tony Waldron, mineral program manager with the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety.

“It used to be a rape-and-escape mentality,” he said. “Operators moved on and left the mines behind.”

Today, an operator must post a bond with the state that is returned only after reclamation work, such as grading and planting native plants to re-vegetate a site, is completed and the permit closed.

The reclamation and treatment a pit receives depends upon its next use. The complexities of state law on water ownership also come into play…

The water volumes may be small compared to large reservoirs, but they matter to the districts, he said. The partnership expects to spend about $17 million on the project.

“We don’t have the return-flow obligations that Greeley has, so we are going for storage,” DiTullio said. “Every little bit helps. And it’s a natural use for those pits.”

State water law requires water managers to account for where their water comes from and where it goes, including evaporation. The pits are lined with clay or have “slurry walls” built around them to keep groundwater out of the facilities.

The state’s permitting process and testing requirements have strict standards, including the slope of a pit, Guggisberg said…

A mined-out gravel pit once was considered a liability by property owners, Waldron said. The pits were sold for low prices or given away to municipalities and counties to use as natural areas.

Attitudes started to change in the 1990s when water storage became a statewide issue and major reservoir projects, such as Two Forks Dam proposed west of Denver, became increasingly difficult and expensive to build.

A law passed in 1981 requiring owners of unlined pits that were connected to groundwater flow to account for evaporation and replace the lost water by was another complication.

Former pits became a viable way to store and release water to meet state regulations for augmenting water lost to evaporation, said Mark Sears, natural areas manager with Fort Collins. Being able to return water to the Poudre motivated the city’s Natural Resources Department to partner with Fort Collins Utilities to build Rigden Reservoir off East Horsetooth Road.

Some ponds are stocked for fishing by the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Parks. The river areas are highly popular, Sears said.

“Just from their scenic value, the river natural areas are great,” he said. “And they are wonderful habitat, especially around the edges, for a variety of species.”

More Cache la Poudre watershed coverage here.

2015 Martz Summer Conference June 11th and 12th

May 8, 2015


Click here for all the inside skinny.

Cry me a barrel: Senate drowns rainwater-collection bill — the Colorado Independent #coleg

May 7, 2015
Photo via the Colorado Independent

A rain barrel in far-wetter Louisiana. Image by bluecinderella via the Colorado Independent

From the Colorado Independent (Tessa Cheek):

Collecting rainwater runoff from roofs, to water plants, is illegal, and the Senate just voted to keep it that way.

Talk about some good old fashioned political wrangling.

Word is that Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, had to go over the head of agriculture committee Chair Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, just to get the bill to the floor.

The measure would have allowed Coloradans to collect two barrels of rainwater a year to water gardens.

“It gives urban dwellers a chance to see what it means to have to be cautious with the amount of water they use, to be careful, to save,” said Sen. Michael Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs. “People need to realize we really are a desert state.”

Two barrels of water is two too many, argued the water buffaloes – lawmakers, farmers and just about anyone with a vested interested in the current way water is distributed in Colorado. That included reps for big water companies eager to sell every drop they can grab in this drought-prone state, who argued that the barrel phenomenon could explode in urban areas and impact downstream users.

Advocates from Conservation Colorado said the rain-barrel fight is far from over and that Coloradans should prepare for even more scalding water wars in the future.

“Going forward, Colorado will face tough choices in our water use as our population grows, and we face diminishing available supplies,” said director Peter Maysmith in a release. “Innovative steps like rain barrels can be part of solutions to help Coloradans conserve and use scarce water supplies wisely. For Colorado to continue to thrive, all Coloradans will need to work together on water solutions that provide for our communities, agriculture and our environment.”

Update: For those who are curious, HB 1259 was killed via a procedural movement approved by an unrecorded vote. Senate leadership laid over the bill until after the session ends, when it can’t be passed.

From the Associated Press via the The Pueblo Chieftain:

Colorado’s only-in-the-nation ban on backyard rain barrels is sticking around for another year.

The state Senate moved Tuesday to reject a bill to allow homeowners to use up to two 55-gallon rain barrels. The maneuver was a late-evening vote to delay the bill, meaning it won’t make it to the governor’s desk before lawmakers conclude work for the year.

The state House previously passed the bill, and it had bipartisan support in the Senate, too. But other Republicans opposed the measure as a dangerous precedent.

Colorado’s rain-barrel ban is little known and widely flouted. But the barrels violate Colorado water law, which says that people can use but not keep water that runs on or through their property.

Meanwhile Conservation Colorado is not going to give up:

Conservation Colorado Executive Director Peter Maysmith released the following statement on the Colorado Senate failing to take action to pass legislation to legalize rain barrels in Colorado.

“Over the past few months this bill has captured the attention of Coloradans. Like many in the legislature, citizens do not understand why they are illegal or how Colorado could be the last state in the United States to allow citizens to use them.

For supporters from Western Slope water districts to Denver urban farmers, legalizing rain barrels is common sense. It is a way to connect Coloradans with the reality of water supply and use in Colorado. While it is disappointing this bill was not considered earlier in the session, the effort to legalize rain barrels and reach out to Coloradans on our water challenges will not end.

Going forward, Colorado will face tough choices in our water use as our population grows and we face diminishing available supplies. Innovative steps like rain barrels can be part of solutions to help Coloradans conserve and use scarce water supplies wisely. For Colorado to continue to thrive, all Coloradans will need to work together on water solutions that provide for our communities, agriculture and our environment.”

More 2015 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Colorado: Water sharing a good deal for rivers

May 2, 2015

Originally posted on Summit County Citizens Voice:

State water board, conservation group team up to create innovative new water rights agreement

By Bob Berwyn

Photos courtesy Colorado Water Trust

* Tools like the Little Cimarron agreement could be used to improve environmental conditions in many of the state’s rivers, and the evolving Colorado Water Plan can help identify places where deals like this could be used. Read more about the Colorado Water plan here.

FRISCO —For thousands of years, the Little Cimarron River trickled out of the snowfields of the San Juan Mountains, coursing unimpeded through steep alpine canyons and rolling sagebrush foothills before merging with the Gunnison River.

That changed when European settlers arrived in the region. Eager to tame the rugged land, ranchers and farmers took to the hills with shovels and picks, diverting part of the river’s flow to water hayfields and pastures. The back-breaking work brought the imprint of civilization to the area…

View original 990 more words

Municipalites & water: A background on water in Colorado — Colorado Municipal League

April 30, 2015


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