Bessemer Ditch update

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Here’s a look at the Pueblo Board of Water Works plans for the Bessemer Ditch going forward, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Pueblo Board of Water Works will consider today an agreement with the St. Charles Mesa Water District aimed at protecting their respective interests if the water board is successful in purchasing shares of the Bessemer Ditch. The a- greement would help the Pueblo water board move proposed changes in rules that govern how Bessemer Ditch water is used, a move that is being actively opposed by some Bessemer shareholders. “The whole effort with the St. Charles agreement is part of our continuing attempt to address concerns of the shareholders along the Bessemer Ditch,” said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo water board, which is scheduled to meet at 2 p.m. today…

St. Charles has acquired shares as former farmland has been converted to residential use. The agreement, approved last month by the St. Charles board, would protect the groundwater and surface water interests of the water district. If the Pueblo water board removes water, it could reduce both seepage from the ditch and return flows hat feed St. Charles wells. The agreement also would maintain flows within the ditch and flows on the Arkansas River at Moffat Street, which also are diversion points for St. Charles. The water board also would agree to make certain improvements to the ditch, including installations of three measuring stations, and would not oppose changes by the St. Charles district as to how water is delivered to the district’s reservoirs. The water board also would continue to support the proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit and a plan to fund its development that is now in Congress. In return, the St. Charles district would support the water board in its proposed changes to the articles of incorporation and bylaws. It also would support “reasonable” proposals by the water board in Division 2 Water Court or with the Bessemer Ditch to change the use of its shares in the Bessemer Ditch. The Pueblo water board would retain its own control over engineering in change cases. The agreement is based on the assumption that the Pueblo water board would be able to purchase at least 1,500 shares…

The water board is proposing three major changes in the 1894 articles of incorporation that would allow the use of the water outside the ditch, but within Pueblo County; change possible points of diversion and change language relating to how bylaws are amended. The changes in the bylaws deal with how points of diversion would be changed and how other shareholders would be protected. The provisions go beyond the protection already afforded in water court through past decrees, Hamel said.

Not all shareholders in the Bessemer Ditch are in favor of the the board converting agricultural shares to municipal use, according to this report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Pueblo water board’s proposed changes in Bessemer Ditch rules about how water is used are scheduled to be considered at a special meeting of Bessemer Ditch shareholders at 6 p.m. April 20 at the Pueblo Convention Center. Leonard DiTomaso, who along with Mike Klun won election to the Bessemer Ditch board in January on a platform to preserve farming, said there will be plenty of opposition to changing the 1894 articles of incorporation and subsequent bylaws. “They want to change our bylaws before they’ll buy the water and that’s wrong,” DiTomaso said Monday. “You can’t stop them from buying and selling water, but we just want to continue to farm.”

While landowners should be free to sell water rights, allowing the water to move outside traditional irrigation boundaries would open the door for selling water to growing cities in the north, DiTomaso said. If water leaves the ditch, it could make irrigating even harder for those who are left, he added…

DiTomaso estimated that the Pueblo water board would be able to buy about 5,000 shares on the ditch, combined with about 2,000 shares owned by St. Charles Mesa Water District. That would be about 35 percent of the 20,000 shares on the ditch.

“That leaves 65 percent of us who are small or average shareholders,” DiTomaso said. “I think we have them outnumbered, but you never know.”

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