Arkansas Valley Conduit: New legislation may be helpful

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Here’s a recap of yesterday’s Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District meeting, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Legislation that could accelerate work on the Arkansas Valley Conduit is moving ahead, and new leadership at the Department of Interior could help the project’s chances. Those assessments were shared Thursday at the monthly meeting of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District by Christine Arbogast, a lobbyist for the district, which is sponsoring the project.

A new plan is moving forward that would include a 65 percent federal cost share, using revenues from excess capacity leases to repay the entire amount over time. Other parts of the project that have been underfunded, such as Ruedi Reservoir above Aspen, would be repaid as well under a proposal put together by the Southeastern District. The local share of the funding would be covered by a $60.6 million low-interest loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.s Authorization, but not funding, for the new plan is included in a public lands bill, which has passed the U.S. Senate but stalled last week in the House. The House is expected to take up the bill when it reconvenes next week, Arbogast said…

The chances for the bill to pass are good, since more than 150 separate projects in many states are included in the bill.

The district is pursuing a parallel path for stand-alone legislation that has failed to advance in previous sessions of Congress. At recent meetings with the Colorado delegation, Southeastern Executive Director Jim Broderick, President Bill Long and lobbyist Ray Kogovsek asked for identical bills in the House and Senate to prevent the sorts of challenges that occur when different versions of the same bill work their way through both houses, Kogovsek said…

Meanwhile, the district is hoping for up to $1 million in stimulus funding to advance planning activities on the conduit. The money would come from $1 billion allocation to the Bureau of Reclamation, specifically a $60 million fund for rural water supply projects. However, there will be additional rules and regulations to follow, as the district learned last year when it received a federal grant for $600,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency…

The district also is excited about changes in Reclamation, which is a bureau under the Department of Interior. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was a strong supporter of the conduit during his tenure as U.S. Senator from Colorado. Top officials at Reclamation are aware of the district’s concerns and were more receptive during the recent visit, Broderick said. Reclamation has, over the past few years, actively opposed federal funding shares for the conduit. “Our relations with the bureau will strengthen with Ken Salazar in that position,” Broderick said.

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