Arkansas Valley Conduit: Closer to turning dirt

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Communities hoping to build the Arkansas Valley Conduit project is closer to turning dirt with President Obama signing the authorizing legislation last week. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Sponsors hope that contracts will be in place within five years to build the $300 million conduit from Pueblo Dam to Lamar…

…water quality issues made the conduit more attractive. Las Animas and La Junta added reverse osmosis systems to deal with hard water. The drought of 2002 emphasized the weaknesses of existing water systems. This year, communities learned it could cost millions of dollars to deal with radionuclides in their well systems. “Based on what these communities have been told by the Colorado Department of Health, we’re certainly trying to get this started within the next four to five years,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. The tone of meetings since 2002 has changed from a lot of “what if?” to a big dose of “how?”[…]

The funding solution wasn’t found until recently, when Southeastern Executive Director Jim Broderick proposed using revenues from excess-capacity contracts in the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to repay the costs of the project over time. This week, President Barack Obama signed the public lands bill that included approval of the Arkansas Valley Conduit, with a 65 percent federal share and the Southeastern plan to use project revenues for repayment. Over the next two years, the district will be looking at the route of the pipeline and determining rights of way. The pipeline will begin at the South Outlet Works at Pueblo Dam, also called the Joint Use Manifold, where Pueblo, Pueblo West and the Fountain Valley Conduit all connect now…

The district will be spending $600,000 obtained from an Environmental Protection Agency grant last year, matched by a like amount from project sponsors, to pay for the studies, Long said. “At the same time, we have to begin working on a memorandum of understanding with the participants to pay for the project,” Long said. “We have to get the repayment costs closer, so everyone will have an idea of what their costs will be.”

The conduit has always been a one for all and all for one approach. It would be sized to the projected needs of the communities along the way, which have varying estimates of what percentage of their water would come through the pipeline. There are estimates now about how much water would be needed in the pipeline, but determining that engineering question most closely will lead to what size the pipes should be. There would be spurs along the line, as well. After the route is identified, an environment impact statement would be likely. Southern Delivery System and Aurora’s exchange contract took 4 to 5 years to complete, but Long is hoping the information gleaned from those reports could cut down the time. Southeastern is looking for up to $10 million in stimulus funds to begin some of the environmental and engineering studies that will be needed. “We’re cautiously optimistic that ours will happen more quickly,” Long said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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