Here’s an update on funding for the San Luis Valley’s first groundwater sub-district, from Matt Hildner writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
The valley’s first groundwater subdistrict, which is currently under review by the Division 3 Water Court, has forwarded a $125.8 million proposal to the U.S. Department of Agriculture that would pay farmers to bring land out of production. The federal government would carry 80 percent of those costs under the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, but the subdistrict would need to come up with $27.3 million for a local match. Tim Davis, a consultant for the subdistrict, said he hopes the federal government will sign off on the proposal in time so landowners can enroll in the program by Oct. 1. But before that happens, Davis said the program may need to see some funding shake loose…
Once the program’s open for enrollment, the greatest incentives will go toward landowners along the Rio Grande between Del Norte and Monte Vista. By reducing groundwater pumping along that stretch, the subdistrict hopes to create a hydraulic divide that would prevent river water from entering the aquifer on the north side of the river. Producers may be allowed to graze cattle on some of the retired ground, but that decision would be made by the Natural Resource Conservation Service, Davis said.
The idea for the subdistrict was advanced as a way to avoid mandatory state rules, while allowing irrigators to reduce pumping and protect senior surface water users and the state’s commitment to deliver water downstream for the Rio Grande Compact. Should the water court sign off on the subdistrict’s management plan, as many as eight other groups from around the valley could follow with similar plans.