San Luis Valley: Groundwater sub-districts sprouting across the valley

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Here’s an update for the formation of groundwater sub-districts in the San Luis Valley, from Ruth Heide writing for the Valley Courier. From the article:

About six sub-districts of the sponsoring Rio Grande Water Conservation District (RGWCD) are in various stages of formation at this time. The primary goal of these water management sub-districts is to reduce groundwater use in order to sustain the Valley’s aquifers, protect senior surface water rights and maintain delivery obligations to downstream states through the Rio Grande Compact.

The first sub-district, located in the closed basin area north of the Rio Grande, has been approved, but its management plan is currently being litigated in water court. A late September trial is scheduled before Water Judge O. John Kuenhold.

Other sub-districts include: alluvial sub-district south of the Rio Grande, working on list of landowners within its boundaries; Conejos, collecting petitions again; Alamosa/La Jara, working on landowner information but comfortable with sub-district boundaries; Saguache Creek, trying to work out kinks in groundwater model; and San Luis Creek, progressing and has set boundaries…

RGWCD Attorney David Robbins added, “The more we know, the better the modeling will work and the more fairly we can make decisions what should be done to keep the system in balance and protect the senior water rights.” Robbins added he is willing to provide as much information as possible to objectors of the sub-districts in attempts to resolve contested issues short of trial. “I have to do everything I can to try to find areas where we don’t have to spend our time in court and we can reach some agreement,” he said.

However, he said he was certain the September 28 trial would still go forward and could last several weeks. Robbins said attorneys for Sub-District 1 on Monday filed a response brief to one filed by the senior water rights group that had challenged the way recharge decrees in Sub-District 1 were used in the model. “They were arguing the recharge decrees could not be taken into account when looking at impacts of well pumping. The recharge decrees are set up in part to replace the impacts of well pumping.”

In addition, Robbins said the senior water rights group last week filed a motion challenging any reliance on the Closed Basin Project production for replacement water alleging the project is an injurious activity that has to be augmented. He said organizers of the sub-districts in the San Luis and Saguache Creeks have also expressed concerns about the Closed Basin Project…

Robbins said in theory the Closed Basin Project is diverting salvage water. “If the terms and conditions of the decree are correct, that’s what it is doing.” Robbins added that the courts in the past have upheld the Closed Basin Project decree and associated agreements when they have been challenged but he would not presume to guess what the judge would decide in this present legal challenge. “Judge Kuenhold will decide based on what’s before him,” he said.

More Coyote Gulch San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here and here.

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