Lower Ark and Reclamation reach settlement over Aurora long-term contract

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The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and the Bureau of Reclamation have reached a settlement over the long-term “if and when” contract awarded to Aurora for storage in Lake Pueblo. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board of directors, which filed the lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation and its Aurora contract, approved the settlement on a 7-0 vote. Aurora’s City Council was expected to approve the deal later in the day.

Under the settlement, the Lower Ark agreed to “park” its federal lawsuit for up to two years to allow Congress time to pass legislation authorizing both the Aurora water contract and an Arkansas Valley Conduit funding mechanism, Lower Ark attorney Peter Nichols said. If the legislation passes, Aurora agrees to then pay $2 million over several years toward additional Lower Ark projects such as Super Ditch and Fountain Creek upgrades, cooperate in Arkansas River basin water quality studies and support regional planning efforts.

Elsewhere, the agreement restricts Aurora from obtaining new water rights in the valley as long as the Super Ditch is viable and no new pipelines out of the valley are constructed – a move that goes a step beyond a 2003 agreement in which Aurora pledges not to buy additional water rights for 40 years. The Lower Ark for its part agreed not to contest Aurora’s ongoing lease agreements with the High Line Canal and the Pueblo Board of Water Works, in exchange for Aurora’s pledge of cooperation with the Super Ditch. The Lower Ark also would settle several state water court cases in which the agency is an objector, Nichols said.

The Lower Ark also can choose to participate in future Aurora storage projects like Box Creek in Lake County, as well as gain space not being used by Aurora in Lake Henry and Lake Meredith in Crowley County. That storage could benefit Super Ditch, a corporation formed to market farm water that keeps water rights in the hands of irrigators…

The Lower Ark’s lawsuit was filed in 2007 after the Bureau of Reclamation awarded a 40-year contract to Aurora to store water in Lake Pueblo and make a paper trade of water it owns to move the water to Twin Lakes. Aurora takes water from the Arkansas Valley through the Otero Pumping Station at Twin Lakes and moves it into its system at Spinney Lake through the Homestake Pipeline. The suit remains active on two points: the legality of the contract under both the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Act and the 1958 Water Supply Act.

The suit was joined by Aurora on Reclamation’s side and on the other side by the Arkansas Valley Native, made up of Pueblo Chieftain Publisher Bob Rawlings, former lawmaker Bob Shoemaker of Canon City, former Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District President Wally Stealey and Wiley banker Fred Esgar. Arkansas Valley Native was not a party to the agreement approved Wednesday, has not seen any details and is reviewing its role in the case, a group spokesman said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

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