Lower Ark farmers criticize Chieftain editorial

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An editorial that ran in Sunday’s Pueblo Chieftain caused a flash flood of negative reactions from downstream of Pueblo, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for the…umm…Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“If Bob Rawlings had asked me, he wouldn’t be making all those dumb statements,” said Leroy Mauch, a Lamar farmer who sits on the Lower Ark board. Rawlings is the publisher of The Chieftain. Mauch’s comment came after farmers who are members of Super Ditch told the board an editorial Sunday unfairly characterized how the ditch operates and what the effects of future agreements with Aurora would be. They also told the board they agreed with the Aurora deal, which limits how Aurora will lease water in years to come. The Lower Ark district sued Reclamation in 2007 over a contract that allows Aurora to move water out of the Arkansas Valley…

Last month, Aurora and the Lower Ark agreed to support a two-year stay while they ask Congress to approve Aurora’s use of the Fry-Ark Project, the central point of dispute in the case. The Lower Ark also helped form the Super Ditch, a water leasing corporation formed by water rights owners on seven canal systems, last year. Super Ditch figures heavily in the lawsuit agreement.

“It’s disturbing to me that we are accused of selling the water. We never suggested we would be selling the water,” said John Schweizer, Super Ditch president and a Rocky Ford farmer. “The Pueblo Board of Water Works can buy Bessemer Ditch water and it’s OK, but not if anyone else wants to lease water. It’s not fair.”

“(Rawlings) says he’s a fan of the Arkansas Valley, but not if it helps farmers east of Pueblo? He contradicts himself,” said Dale Mauch, a Lamar farmer. “The Super Ditch was formed to protect the water. The alternative is buy-and-dry. If we don’t have the Super Ditch, that’s what’s going to happen.”

“(The editorial) makes it sound like in a drought we would be drying up 100 percent of the valley. Only a very small percent of the land would be taken out,” said Fred Heckman, a McClave farmer. “It’s missing the economic benefit of leasing water.”[…]

In the past month, some shareholders of the Bessemer Ditch have joined others from the Catlin, Fort Lyon, High Line, Holbrook, Otero and Oxford canals in Super Ditch.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here, here, here and here.

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