New irrigation rules for the Arkansas Valley?

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According to a report from Chris Woodka and the Pueblo Chieftain Kansas has submitted their comments on the proposed new consumptive rules for the Arkansas Valley. From the article:

In a letter to Colorado this week, Kansas attorney John Draper outlined several issues that already have been addressed by a committee assembled last year by State Engineer Dick Wolfe. The committee meets again Tuesday in Pueblo and is expected to discuss the Kansas letter…

Last year, Wolfe said the purpose in formally sharing the rules with Kansas was to obtain its input to avoid future disputes or litigation. Kansas, in turn has objected to fundamental points of the rules, as well as provisions added during past committee meetings. Kansas wants the rules to cover all surface improvements since 1949, not just those since 1999, and to change the implied purpose of the rules to include protection of senior irrigation rights in Colorado as well as Kansas, Draper said. “With respect to protecting the rights of senior Colorado surface water users, the relevant date would be even earlier,” Draper wrote. Kansas also wants to remove designated groundwater basins in House Creek and Box Springs that are excluded in the Colorado rules, wants continuing input recognized for the Trinidad Dam and Reservoir Project and to eliminate provisions for variances, according to Draper’s letter. All were added to the rules after committee discussions. Draper’s letter also indicates Kansas wants Colorado to enforce addition of gated pipe, which irrigators on the committee convinced Wolfe should be eliminated because of the difficulty of enforcing the rule.

Meanwhile heres a recap of a recent meeting about the new rules and what they might entail from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Farmers in the Lower Arkansas Valley will put meters on ponds that feed sprinkler systems this year to begin measuring seepage in an attempt to lessen their burden under proposed state consumptive use rules. “It will go a long way toward determining the pond loss, and I think it will be more than they’re giving us credit for,” said Dale Mauch, one of the farmers on the Fort Lyon Canal who has installed sprinklers fed from ponds in the past 10 years that would be subject to the new rules. “It all points to the fact that we jumped the gun on these rules.”[…]

There are already meters that measure how much water is coming out of the sprinklers, and the new meters will measure what is coming into the ponds, Mauch said. The meters cost roughly $1,400 each and have been installed on eight ponds so far, said Don McBee, another Fort Lyon Canal farmer. The federal Natural Resources Conservation Service paid half the cost for the meters. “We’re eating the rest,” McBee said.

Ryan Hemphill, of Colorado State University-Fort Collins, said the university is interested in setting up a study of 10 to 12 ponds and told the board he would come back with a request for about $20,000 to complete the study. Evaporation measurements also will figure into the equation, Hemphill said. The state Division of Water Resources is looking at consumptive use rules to head off future issues with Kansas over the Arkansas River Compact that could arise as farmers put in more water-saving measures such as sprinklers, drip irrigation, canal lining and pipes.

State Engineer Dick Wolfe and Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte maintain that greater efficiency in irrigation systems could increase the consumptive use and deplete return flows to users downstream. They are mainly concerned about sprinkler systems fed from surface water sources which have been installed since the last accounting of water use with Kansas in 1999. Well-fed systems already are covered in rules adopted in 1996 as a result of a 1985 U.S. Supreme Court lawsuit filed by Kansas against Colorado…

“The rules are coming, but we need to make them as workable as possible and base them on real, actual data,” said Peter Nichols, Lower Ark water attorney. “We also need to make sure farmers are able to get assistance from the Lower Ark and not face a penalty.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

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