Arkansas Valley Conduit: Authorization legislation included in public lands bill

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka): “Legislation authorizing the Arkansas Valley Conduit, along with other area water projects, cleared the U.S. House Wednesday by a 285-140 vote.”


The Arkansas Valley Conduit was originally authorized in 1962 as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, but was never built because the communities east of Pueblo it would benefit could not afford the cost. It is estimated that the conduit would cost more than $300 million to build and would benefit about 50,000 people. The current legislation would provide for 65 percent federal funding, with the entire cost being repaid from excess-capacity contracts with the Bureau of Reclamation in the Fry-Ark Project. “This project has been on hold for over four decades,” Salazar said. “Generations of people in Southeastern Colorado have waited long enough for clean and safe drinking water. We all know that water equals life in the West and the people of these communities deserve a clean, reliable water delivery system to ensure their health and prosperity for future generations.”[…]

Salazar said an allocation of about $1.8 million for design work is in the works for next year. Once the design work is complete, the door is open for permits. The biggest unknown would be the studies needed under the National Environmental Policy Act, which have taken years to complete on recent contracts with Reclamation. Long said the Southeastern district hopes to build on studies already done for Colorado Springs Southern Delivery System and Aurora’s 40-year storage and exchange contract to streamline that process.

Aurora’s contract with Reclamation, the subject of a federal lawsuit that could be settled, would provide additional revenue for funding the conduit, but is not needed, Long said. “The agreement between Aurora and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, provides more revenue for repayment,” Long said. “Will it work without Aurora? Yes. But it will work better with Aurora because it has the potential to lower the participants’ share.” Most of the 42 water systems that could be included in the conduit are facing even greater expenses in order to comply with federal drinking water standards. Most rely on wells, which are out of compliance with radionuclides. It would cost small districts millions of dollars each to fix the problem…

The Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 passed the U.S. House on a 285-140 vote Wednesday and now goes to President Barack Obama. Colorado bills supported by U.S. Rep. John Salazar include:

Arkansas Valley Conduit: Establishes 65 percent federal share for construction of the 130-mile conduit, with repayment from federal leases.

Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area: Designates 210,000 acres of federal land on the Uncompahgre Plateau as a conservation area, with 65,000 acres of wilderness.

Baca Wildlife Refuge Management: Defines the purpose of the refuge “to restore, enhance and maintain wetland, upland, riparian and other habitats for native wildlife, plant and fish species in the San Luis Valley.”

Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area: Designates an area of Costilla, Conejos and Alamosa for a National Heritage Area because of its significance as a cultural confluence of American Indians, Hispanics and whites. Up to $10 million in federal matching funds over 15 years for cultural, historic, natural and recreation projects is authorized.

Jackson Gulch Rehabilitation: Authorizes $8.25 million to rehabilitate the Jackson Gulch Irrigation Canal in Montezuma County. The canal provides water to 8,650 irrigated acres, homes and businesses in the Mancos area.

Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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