Congress passes public lands bill

A picture named jacksongulchreservoir.jpg

From the Durango Herald (Garrett Andrews): “Five Colorado land and water bills, including one that designates $8.25 million for the rehabilitation of the Jackson Gulch Reservoir near Mancos, await President Barack Obama’s signature after passing the U.S. House on Wednesday…The Jackson Gulch Rehabilitation Act was introduced in January by Salazar and Sen. Mark Udall in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources before being included in the omnibus bill. The bill will designate funding to improve the Jackson Gulch irrigation canals, which deliver water from the Jackson Gulch Dam north of Mancos to about 8,650 acres of farmland in Montezuma County, Mesa Verde National Park and residents in Mancos.”

More coverage from the Loveland Reporter Herald (Pamela Dickman):

The millions who visit Rocky Mountain National Park each year won’t see much difference now that nearly 250,000 acres are designated as wilderness. Land stewards have managed the park as such for the past 35 years. But the new designation, approved by the U.S. House on Wednesday and sent to President Barack Obama for his signature, makes it permanent, so future managers could not develop the land. “It provides long-term protection to the park,” said Superintendent Vaughn Baker…

The newly designated wilderness covers most of the park — the undeveloped areas where people hike, camp and watch wildlife year-round…

Operations of the Grand Ditch in the park and the Adams Tunnel that brings water from west to east underneath the park also will not change. An attachment to the bill ensures that both can continue to operate and be maintained despite the new designation, earning support for the bill from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

The potential for wilderness designation at Rocky Mountain National Park has been hanging out there for 35 years, since President Richard Nixon recommended it in 1974. With that pending, but not acted upon, managers ran the national park as though the land already were designated as wilderness.

More coverage from the Cortez Journal (Kristen Plank):

The Jackson Gulch Rehabilitation Act was part of an overall bill the U.S. House of Representatives passed Wednesday known as the Omnibus Land Management Act of 2009. U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., helped sponsor the rehabilitation act that designates $8.25 million in federal funding to help repair the canal’s infrastructure…

“We’re awful happy about the bill passing. It’s been a long track,” said Gary Kennedy, superintendent for the Mancos Water Conservancy District. “The district’s board and myself have worked pretty hard on the bill for the past six years to get it to this point.” Kennedy has been visiting Washington off and on to help promote the bill. He gives credit to Salazar and former Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., who were “very crucial to getting this bill to this point.” There is still more to be done, however. The recently-passed bill only gave authorization to fund the project, Kennedy said. No funds have been appropriated yet. “That’s another process that we’ve already started and have been working on,” he said. “The appropriations bill for 2010 is now going through Congress and probably won’t be voted on until September (2009) at the earliest.” Funding, he said, will be spread over a four year period with $2 million acquired each year, as the district cannot ask for more appropriations than can be spent in one season…

Construction for the canal system has already started. Kennedy and others have put $1.2 million into the rehabilitation project for the past three years, but the district is coming up on the “crucial part of the project where we need more funding.” The 60-year-old canal’s survival requires realigned earthen canals, protective waterproof linings, maintenance upgrades, pipes in canal structures, and concrete rehabilitation.

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