San Luis Valley: Groundwater sub-district #1 rules undergoing revision

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Here’s an update on the revision of the proposed rules for groundwater sub-district #1, from Ruth Heide writing for the Valley Courier. From the article:

The board of managers met on Tuesday to review some of the changes to its plan as directed by District/Water Judge O. John Kuenhold in his February decision to send the plan back to the board for revision.

The group also heard a presentation from Dr. Willem Schreüder who helped design and perfect the Rio Grande Decision Support System groundwater model that will assist the sub-district in determining how much water it must conserve and replace. Schreüder discussed data included in the model and described some of the ways the sub-district could use the model. “In the end what we have to do in the model is balance the budget,” he said…

In addition to Schreüder’s presentation during its Tuesday meeting the sub-district board received an offer from objectors’ legal counsel to help the board develop a plan that would be more acceptable to the objectors. Attorney Tim Buchanan, representing a group of senior water rights, told the sub-district board he and his clients were willing to work with the board to address the issues the judge raised in his direction to the sub-district to modify its plan. Buchanan said his clients were particularly willing to work with the sub-district board to develop methodology that would protect senior water rights. The sub-district board and legal counsel thanked Buchanan for his willingness to work with them and encouraged other objectors to do the same.

Kuenhold has scheduled another status conference for April 27 and a trial for August 3.

During the sub-district board’s meeting on Tuesday attorney Ingrid Barrier, who has been working closely with this sub-district board to develop its plan of management, reviewed some of the “red line” changes and additions she has made to the plan to comply with the judge’s February ruling. In fact, she said she incorporated some of the judge’s language into the plan itself. For example, the judge stated that if the sub-district plan conflicted with state rules/regulations, the state’s rules superseded the sub-district plan. The judge also emphasized in his February ruling that protection of senior water rights must be paramount, and Barrier included the judge’s language emphasizing that point. Another phrase lifted from the judge’s ruling, Barrier explained, was that if the plan did not replace injurious depletions, it failed…

Engineer Allen Davey also reviewed some of the details of the plan with the board of managers on Tuesday. He specifically reviewed the method for calculating surface water credits for those well owners who might also own shares on a ditch or canal for example. Many factors are weighed into the equation but ultimately if the surface credit does not entirely make up for the well usage, the property owner has to pay…

[David Robbins, attorney for the sub-district’s sponsoring district the Rio Grande Water Conservation District] said he did not expect every issue to be resolved short of the August 3 trial. He said he knew of at least one issue that the judge would have to decide, namely how far back the sub-district must go in replacing injurious depletions to senior surface water users. Robbins said he saw about three options: 1) all depletions from all wells have to be put into the model and calculated through 2009, and all of those depletions must be replaced; 2) injurious depletions must be calculated and replaced from this time forward because well users have been pumping their wells legally, were never told they had to shut off their water and were abiding by the “60/40” agreement in which groundwater depletions were supposed to be covered by the Closed Basin Project; or 3) take depletions back to 1988 because the years of 1985-1987 were so wet “there was no place for depletions to reside in the Valley aquifers.”

Buchanan told the board that while the argument had been made that the district should not have to replace all the depletions, “those depletions are significant and those depletions go on a long time … Our concern is that all of the depletions are replaced.” He added that instead of trying to find ways of getting out of replacing the depletions, the sub-district should be finding ways to replace those depletions and protect senior water rights as required by the statutes. “What we are interested in doing is finding methods and procedures to ensure that those depletions are replaced so that senior water rights are not shorted,” Buchanan said, “and senior water rights do not bear all the brunt of the [Rio Grande] Compact compliance. That’s really the driving concern that we have.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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