Lake Nighthorse: Talks over recreation at the lake heating up

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

A committee that took on the job of developing recreation at Lake Nighthorse is negotiating with a consultant to produce a skeletal plan that would lead to a fleshed-out version focusing on a timetable, cost and public benefit. Two hours of talks Friday between members of an Animas La Plata Water Conservancy District subcommittee and Ann Christensen, the principal in Durango-based DHM Design, left many issues up in the air. The water district in March decided to develop recreation at Lake Nighthorse after Colorado State Parks, La Plata County and the city of Durango wished them well but said they had no money for the project. The cost of a blueprint for recreation – including camping, boating, angling and trail systems for hikers, bikers and equestrians – ranges from $150,000 to $200,000. In 2000, State Parks estimated recreational amenities could cost about $25 million. Ongoing operations and maintenance would be additional.

More Animas River watershed coverage here and here.

Pueblo West: Southern Delivery System route to cost the Springs’ $740,000 for six properties

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

An agenda item at today’s Colorado Springs City Council meeting would authorize Colorado Springs Utilities to close contracts on the six properties. Four homes and two vacant lots in Pueblo County are included in a list of 14 properties in a resolution to be presented to council today. The other eight properties are in El Paso County…

Colorado Springs indicated during the county hearings that it would work to obtain easements on most of the Pueblo West properties it crosses, but was forced to purchase some outright because of their location. The city also must reach agreement with rancher Gary Walker on the part of the 14-mile route that crosses his family’s land. The agreements reached represent a small part of the impact of SDS on Pueblo West. There are 26 homes touched by the route, and more than 500 properties within 500 feet of the construction, according to Pueblo County documents.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley: Woodmoor Water and Sanitation shopping for water rights

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We’re talking to a number of potential sellers in the Rocky Ford High Line and Holbrook systems,” said Jessie Shaffer, manager of the Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District. On Dec. 30, the district filed in Division 2 Water Court for an exchange decree to use water from the Lower Arkansas Valley to supplement its inventory now fed by wells. “We thought it was prudent to file this year. It’s just the first step in a long round to go,” Shaffer said.

The filing surprised backers of the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch, which has reached agreement with Woodmoor and other El Paso County water users to supply water through a long-term lease. “I thought we were looking at doing everything with regional cooperation,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, which formed Super Ditch in 2008.

The Woodmoor district is looking for its own sources of water, but would consider buying water through a lease like Super Ditch, Shaffer said. “We want to buy water rights, but we’re not opposed to leasing,” he said. The Woodmoor district formed in 1964 and serves about 8,400 people north of Colorado Springs near the Douglas County line The district will be looking for reliable sources of water at an affordable rate it can solely control, according to its Web site. Woodmoor now gets nearly all of its water through 14 wells in the Denver Basin aquifers. It also has surface water rights in the Lake Woodmoor area, used for irrigation or replacement. It has worked with other El Paso water users through the Pikes Peak and El Paso County water authorities. Last year, the district approved a long-term plan that includes using water from the Lower Arkansas Valley to supplement the Denver Basin wells with renewable sources…

In its court filing, Woodmoor identifies water rights on the Holbrook, High Line, Excelsior and other unnamed ditches as potential sources for the exchange. The district does not, however, seek to change or claim any of the water rights at this time…

The district also lists reservoirs on the Holbrook and High Line canals and reservoirs that have not been built on the Excelsior Ditch as potential exchange points. There are also a series of reservoirs along Fountain Creek, some of which have not been built, listed in the court case.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

Arkansas Valley: Conservation easements not the panacea for agriculture in all cases

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From the La Junta Tribune Democrat (Elaine White):

On Jan. 4 the administrative board of Landowners United met with a team of consultants at the courthouse in La Junta where the topic of discussion was the ongoing threat looming over landowners who have participated in the State of Colorado’s tax credit incentive program. By donating development rights on agriculture land and/or water, farmers and ranchers were able to take advantage of state and federal tax credits, which in many cases eased a financial burden suffered after years of drought and failing commodity prices. However, many landowners are now being subjected to audits by the IRS and the state, placing them in serious danger of losing their farms or ranches. “General consensus at the meeting is that the state has changed the rules of the game and now there is a very definite economic effect to this small part of Colorado, not only from the State of Colorado, but also from the IRS,” said Ed Hiza, local landowner.

Some landowners are facing a demand from the Colorado Department of Revenue to return all tax credits, plus penalties and interest, generated from placing a conservation easement on their property. This action appears to be based on the department’s disqualification of certain professionals associated with the easement process…

J.D. Wright, LOU president and landowner said, “LOU is pursuing every option available for a resolution to this very serious problem including meetings with legislators and the governor, and requesting legislative hearings in order to determine the perceived bias against the Lower Arkansas Valley.” Many landowners speculate the Lower Arkansas Valley has been targeted because the northern part of the state needs water from the valley to continue growth and development.

More conservation easements coverage here and here.