Montezuma/Dolores County: Bureau of Land Management files for water rights in the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

A picture named canyonsoftheancients.jpg

From the Cortez Journal (Kimberly Benedict):

Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co., Montezuma County and Dolores County have filed letters of opposition to the application of water rights by the BLM for access to 13 springs within the monument.

The bureau maintains that use of the springs will support monument management purposes and is water already in use but the rights have not yet been clarified. “In the presidential proclamation that created the monument, two of the purposes that were identified were providing wildlife habitat and continuing historic grazing operations,” said Roy Smith, BLM water rights coordinator for Colorado. “The springs are already used for those purposes and we are seeking water court confirmation of those uses.”[…]

Among other concerns held by MVIC is the hesitation over whether or not return flows will ever be involved. “BLM is claiming that they are filing these water rights to protect the water for livestock, yet at the same time, they say they are never going to demand return flows coming from the irrigators to keep those springs alive,” Siscoe said. “It doesn’t make sense.”

At the heart of the debate is the concern for livestock that graze the monument as well as additional water rights. “The water could be used for riparian restoration and used for wildlife,” said Montezuma County Federal Lands Coordinator James Dietrich. “But then that’s a concern that it is a nonconsumptive use which leaves the water to run downstream. “Consumptive water use in the state is a really big deal. We are a use-it-or-lose-it state. That is where a lot of these issues come into play. If you are running water down stream you may not be able to get it back at all.”[…]

For the three parties involved in the opposition, the arguments boil down to the singular issue of individual rights. “It is about protecting private property rights,” said MVIC President Randy Carver…

The next step in the process is a review of the springs in question by the Colorado Division of Water Resources. A consultation report will then be sent to the water court. Eventually, a proposed water rights decree will be put before the water court for consideration and approval. Representatives from both sides believe the issue will be easily resolved, although there is some resentment regarding the methods the BLM used to seek the water rights.

More San Juan Basin coverage here and here.

Leave a Reply