Arkansas Basin roundtable recap

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Here’s a recap of last week’s Arkansas Basin roundtable meeting, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“Recreation and tourism are our economy,” Lake County Commissioner Ken Olsen told the roundtable. “Recreation is what we have. We haven’t sat around for the last 20 years waiting for the mines to reopen and we won’t now.” Olsen, along with fellow Commissioner Mike Bordogna, told the roundtable about the importance of flatwater fishing to Lake County. Turquoise, Twin Lakes and the Mount Elbert Forebay are all popular destinations, but could be enhanced with improved campgrounds, more active management and better understanding of their role to boaters, not just as water storage vessels, Olsen said. “One of the challenges in Lake County is that someone else owns the water,” Olsen said. “We want to move forward to increase the use and look at the potential to change (management of the lakes) to state parks.”[…]

The roundtable also heard a report on nonconsumptive – uses that rely on water in the stream rather than applying it to plants or subdivisions – priorities in the Arkansas River basin. SeEtta Moss, chairman of the nonconsumptive needs committee and the environmental representative to the roundtable, said the priorities are based on environmental need for water and the availability of resources to meet those needs. Two areas, wetlands near John Martin and Neenoshe reservoirs, are being studied under a Colorado Water Board grant. Other areas include Blue Lake, Ramah Reservoir, Karval Reservoir, Two Buttes Reservoir and Carrizo Canyon in the Comanche National Grasslands. There are also numerous streams now being considered for instream flow rights by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Moss said. A common problem with the reservoirs are widely fluctuating water levels. Too little water and creatures like mud toads lose their homes. Too much can disturb nesting shore birds.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A water transfers report more than two years in the making was adopted this week by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable. The group, which represents water interests throughout the Arkansas River basin, adopted the report at the urging of President Gary Barber, who told the roundtable it needed to decide what to do with it in finalizing a report of its activities to the state Legislature, Interbasin Compact Committee and other roundtables…

The roundtable has batted the report around since it was completed last year. Work started after Las Animas Mayor Lawrence Sena told the roundtable in 2006 that more needed to be done for communities where water is taken from, rather than simply making sure the needs of growing cities are met. The report does not provide answers for mitigation of water transfers, but lists the types of considerations that should be taken into account, said Wayne Vanderschuere, a Colorado Springs Utilities executive who served on the committee that drafted the report. “It looks at the issues faced by the buyers, sellers and those on the sidelines,” Vanderschuere said. “The issues are not going to go away. The report is not going to go away. There’s no way to require it, but how do you use it?” That question has confounded the roundtable for months, because some members have said it should be required either by county commissioners or state laws, while the majority of the roundtable believes it should simply be made available as a tool. In theory, the report is already serving a useful purpose. It sparked a lively debate over the demise of rural Colorado earlier this year at the annual meeting of the Colorado Water Congress, and has gotten attention at water conferences across the Western United States. It has been widely hailed as a tool to address often elusive third-party interests in water sales.

In practice, no one has pulled it off the shelf and attempted to actually use it as a checklist or even as a way to evaluate ongoing water projects…

“It’s one of the things this roundtable has done that can be used by the other roundtables or any other entity,” said Reed Dils, the basin’s representative on the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The report was adopted as “Considerations for Agriculture to Urban Water Transfers,” and removed a subtitle, “If you’re going to do it, how to do it right,” which was criticized for implying that transfers were inevitable.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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