The Ditch and Reservoir Company Alliance is holding their annual meeting in Pueblo this week. Here’s a recap from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
DARCA is focusing on ag to urban water transfers, a hot topic in both the Arkansas and South Platte valleys. It heard from panels discussing the pros and cons of water transfers and looked at state efforts to find alternatives for the traditional “buy-and-dry” sales of the past.
Crowley County holds a special place in the discussion, because it developed communities, railroads and irrigation ditches 10-15 years later than other counties in the Arkansas Valley. Then, after the collapse of a marginal sugar beet industry, it became the first large area of the state to fall victim to large-scale municipal buys. “To generalize, the developmental sequence of the Crowley County area can be characterized by big ideas, inadequate funding and repeated attempts to salvage the previous investments by making additional investments,” Weber said. It’s pointless to ask whether the collapse of the county’s economy caused water sales to Colorado Springs and Aurora or whether the cities’ thirst precipitated the sales, Weber said…
“We’re always facing a reduced water situation in Crowley County, but we’ve had a past and we have a future,” said Heimerich, talking about the current situation and future of Crowley County. While the county has only a few farms remaining, its population has stabilized with the addition of two prisons and suburban homes for commuters to Pueblo, he added. “After the last sale in 1987, 43,000 of 50,000 acres had no water rights – that’s an area of 67 square miles,” Heimerich said. “Of that, 37,000 acres were never given any revegetation.” The revegetation that occurred appeared to be successful, until some new owners began overgrazing that land, and it was dealt a death blow by prolonged drought from 2002-06, Heimerich said. “Revegetation works where there’s a cover crop and proper management,” Heimerich said. “No permanent cover was ever established. When it’s wet, they grew weeds. When it’s dry, the weeds blow.” Unfortunately, there are many fields that have been covered by weeds. These created a severe problem last year when a weed burn got out of control, scorched 7,100 acres, killed two firefighters and forced the evacuation of Ordway. Irrigators attending the conference asked Heimerich whether those who bought the water could be required to maintain revegetation and reclamation of land even when it changes hands after the sale.