Arkansas River Basin: Proponents claim that Aurora long-term contract with Reclamation benefits everyone in the basin

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Robert Boczkeiwicz):

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and Aurora made that argument Tuesday in a new filing in U.S. District Court in Denver. The argument is meant to persuade Judge Philip Brimmer to put on hold for two years a lawsuit that seeks to block the plan. The judge will hear arguments Thursday on a joint request of the district and Aurora to stay the case…

Arkansas Valley Native LLC, a group of four landowners who own water rights in the valley, has asked Brimmer to nullify the contract. The group contends the contract violates federal laws governing the Fry-Ark project and contends implementation of the contract would dry up large amounts of farmland east of Pueblo. Aurora and the district told the judge in Tuesday’s filing the landowners group seeks “to defeat a settlement that benefits virtually everyone in the Arkansas River basin . . . with the alleged exception of their four members and their limited water rights.” Partners in the landowners group are former Southeastern Water Conservancy District President Wally Stealey, former state Rep. Bob Shoemaker of Canon City, Pueblo Chieftain Publisher Bob Rawlings and Wiley banker Frederick Esgar. They oppose putting the case on hold, claiming they will be injured by implementation of the contract. Some other, but not all, proponents of protecting valley water for use in the basin also oppose the contract, but are not litigants in the case to nullify the contract.

The landowners’ group told Brimmer last week the settlement allows the contract to be in effect during the two-year stay and allows the exporting of more water from the Fry-Ark service area than is currently exported. “That will reduce the water supply for water users in the Arkansas Valley . . . and result in injury to vested rights,” including those of the Native group, the four landowners also told the judge in last week’s filing…

The city and district told Brimmer on Tuesday that even if he does not put the case on hold and ultimately decides the contract is null and void, Aurora and the district “will both have an incentive to seek legislation.” They said the district’s incentive will be to seek funding for Arkansas Valley Conduit, which was authorized by the Fry-Ark Act in 1962, but never built, to provide drinking water to municipalities from Pueblo to the Colorado-Kansas stateline. Aurora and the district, told Brimmer the city’s incentive to seek legislation will be “to secure its water supplies.”

Reclamation, in a separate new filing asking the judge to grant the stay, asserts that it “is not illegal, does not attempt to change existing law and is not barred by any existing case law related to approvals of settlement. “Contrary to Arkansas Native’s unsupported assertions . . . the contract is neither against public interests nor on its face” violates either Congress’ Fry-Ark authorizing legislation of the 1960s or the Water Supply Act of 1958, Reclamation contends.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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