Southeastern looking to lease excess capacity in Lake Pueblo

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

Built as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, Lake Pueblo is rarely full, and the excess capacity is leased by the Bureau of Reclamation for storage of non-project water. While Reclamation has leased space in the reservoir since 1986, interest has skyrocketed since the drought of 2002. The Pueblo Board of Water Works obtained a 25-year lease for excess-capacity storage in 2000 and Aurora negotiated a 40-year lease in 2007. Colorado Springs and its partners in the Southern Delivery System are seeking a 40-year storage contract as well. The Southeastern district included a master lease for excess capacity storage in its Preferred Storage Options Plan, which also envisioned enlargement of Lake Pueblo and Turquoise Lake.

While the enlargement plan has stalled, the district now wants to move ahead with the master lease, said Harold Miskel, who chairs the PSOP committee. “There are changes in the amount of water requested and new entities,” Miskel told the Southeastern board this week. “There are a lot of questions in front of the committee.” Executive Director Jim Broderick reminded the board that it decided last year to split off the excess-capacity question from PSOP after talks about enlargement broke down in 2007. There has to be some more study before the district decides how to move ahead with its master contract, since other projects like SDS and the Arkansas Valley Conduit also are moving, Broderick said…

Currently, excess-capacity contracts are negotiated year-by-year. Last year, contracts totalled 55,475 acre-feet, or about one-fifth of the available space in Lake Pueblo. That’s about three times the average from 1996-2002. A 2006 report by Reclamation found no significant environmental impact for storage of up to 80,000 acre-feet of non-project water over a five-year period…

In other business, the Southeastern board voted to use up to 1,900 acre-feet of water it has stored to cover sales of return flows of project agricultural water. The backlog of flows results from water that farmers did not use last year. Under district rules, 80 percent of the water must be used in the year it is purchased from the district. The remainder may be held until the following spring. Because the water is imported from the Fryingpan River in the Colorado River Basin, the return flows can be sold to other users.

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