May 14 hearing set for suspension of Lower Ark lawsuit against Reclamation

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The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District sued the Bureau of Reclamation a while back over Reclamation’s long-term storage contract with Aurora. The contract allows Aurora to store water in Lake Pueblo — a facility of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. The Lower Ark claimed that the project did not authorize use of facilities to move water out of basin. Aurora was allowed to join the lawsuit along with Reclamation. Earlier this year Aurora and the Lower Ark reached an agreement that led to the Lower Ark asking for a time out in the lawsuit with Reclamation. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer set the hearing at the request of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, Aurora and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation…

Aurora and the district last month agreed to delay court action on the lawsuit for two years while they try to get Congress to change the law to allow Aurora to use the project to move water out of the valley. In the agreement, Aurora also agreed to pay $2 million for Lower Ark district projects like the Super Ditch and Fountain Creek, to participate in the Super Ditch program, to support legislation for the Arkansas Valley Conduit and to allow the Lower Ark district to buy its way into future Aurora reservoirs or projects in the valley. The district board approved the settlement with little public discussion, saying the success of the Super Ditch and conduit outweighed the damage to the valley from the export of water.

Arkansas Valley Native LLC., landowners in the valley, earlier intervened in the lawsuit in support of the district’s original opposition to the contract. Their attorney said earlier this month the group opposes putting the case on hold. “We need to settle the question of whether it’s legal to use the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to move water out of the valley,” said attorney Sarah Klahn. Partners in the landowners group are former Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District President Wally Stealey, former state Rep. Bob Shoemaker of Canon City, Pueblo Chieftain Publisher Bob Rawlings and Wiley banker Frederick Esgar.

The judge, in setting the hearing, suspended soon-approaching deadlines for submission of written arguments on the merits of the lawsuit. If Brimmer agrees to issue a stay putting the case on hold for two years, he would not need the arguments as soon as previously scheduled.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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