Wiggins: Waiting for funding for new water supply project

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

The town of Wiggins is still waiting for a response from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to see if it will get a loan and perhaps a grant for its new water project…

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has said it will likely offer a loan, but all of the federal paperwork must be done first. The last part of that process is getting the green light from the Fish and Wildlife Service, said engineer Tim Holbrook of Industrial Facilities Engineering, which is organizing the project. The wildlife service said it may complete its files on the project in the next 30 days, but there is no way to predict that with any accuracy, he said. The service has not defined what it needs very clearly, Holbrook said.

More South Platte Basin coverage here.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project: Federal legislation to allow Aurora’s use of project facilities making little headway in D.C.

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Little progress has been reported in attempts to change federal legislation to allow Aurora to legally use the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to move water out of the Arkansas Valley. Aurora and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District are attempting to persuade federal lawmakers to change the law as part of a settlement of the Lower Ark’s 2007 lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation…

While there have been numerous behind-the-scenes, often closed-door meetings among lawyers, staff and lawmakers since then, there has been no movement toward federal legislation, according to a joint brief by attorneys Stuart Somach, for Aurora, and Peter Nichols, for the Lower Ark. The brief was filed Wednesday in the Denver U.S. District Court. “For the majority of the current 111th Congress, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have both been preoccupied with drafting, debating and passing health care reform legislation, and more recently with financial reform legislation,” the lawyers reported. “This preoccupation and the upcoming congressional election have rendered it difficult for Colorado’s delegation to fully engage in the process for developing the necessary legislation to implement the settlement agreement.”

Nevertheless, there have been meetings with lawmakers and Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar toward drafting the legislation, which includes many of the same provisions that once were bundled in attempts to gain approval for the Preferred Storage Options Plan sponsored by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Meetings this year began Jan. 20, when Aurora met with representatives from the Lower Arkansas Valley Super Ditch, when negotiations on possible leases were opened. No deals have been reached…

On March 9, staff from the Lower Ark district and Aurora met with other PSOP parties: Colorado Springs Utilities, Pueblo Board of Water Works, city of Pueblo, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Fountain. The meeting was not open the public or press, a change from a negotiating process that Salazar, then a U.S. senator, used in 2007 to attempt to solve PSOP. It apparently did not include other parties that had been invited to the PSOP meetings, such as Pueblo West, Lake County, Pitkin County or the Colorado River Conservation District…

Aurora made presentations to the Lower Ark district on March 23, which were covered in The Chieftain. The presentations detailed progress on Super Ditch negotiations, Aurora’s commitment to pay $2 million for Lower Ark projects and shared Aurora’s experience in water lease programs. Meetings with lawmakers began in March, when Aurora and the Lower Ark met with U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and his staff in Washington. Udall directed his staff to set up meetings with staff from other members of the Colorado delegation to discuss the legislation sought under the settlement agreement. There was no public mention of the meetings until the federal court brief was filed. In the March 22-24 trip, Aurora and the Lower Ark district also met with U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter and staff for U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, and U.S. Reps. Mike Coffman, Betsy Markey and Doug Lamborn. Lower Ark officials also met with Ken Salazar’s staff. The first legislative staff meeting was at Udall’s Denver office, was April 30, as staff from the offices of Udall, Bennet, Perlmutter and U.S. Rep. John Salazar met with Lower Ark and Aurora attorneys.

More Aurora coverage here and here.

Snowpack/Runoff news

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What a difference one storm system can make. The South Platte Basin snowpack went from 86% to 102% of average from May 11 to today.

From The Denver Post (Heather McWilliams):

“Overall, the runoff is expected to be lower than average across the state,” said Mike Gillespie, snow-survey supervisor for the National Resources Conservation Service. Gillespie said that with statewide precipitation totals at about 87 percent of average, the chilly, wet weather would need to linger into June for a turnaround.

The recent wet weather did haul the state back from the brink of a year like 2002, one of the driest on record, said Treste Huse, service hydrologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration…

Huse monitors the likelihood of flooding in Colorado and said she doesn’t see much chance of runoff-caused floods this season. “That doesn’t mean we won’t have flash flooding caused by rainstorms, though.”

Gillespie said he’s projecting runoff in the South Platte basin — which includes much of the Front Range — to be about 11 percent below average. But he’s more worried about areas west of the Continental Divide. “The upper Colorado area from Granby to Steamboat is a problem area,” Gillespie said. “Those streams are anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of the average” runoff. That could affect water flow for rafters, irrigation options for farmers and even fish, Gillespie said…

That’s not the only bright spot in Colorado’s water forecast. “Reservoir storage is the best it’s been since 2001,” Gillespie said, with statewide storage 12 percent above average.

Reclamation Advances Implementation of Rural Water Program

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Here’s the release from Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor announced today the implementation of the Rural Water Program, a new program within Reclamation. The Rural Water Program is a program to work with small communities in rural area to assess their potable water supply needs and identify options to address those needs.

“Reclamation will work with small communities, including Indian tribes, on a cost-shared basis to explore opportunities to supply water for domestic, municipal, and industrial uses in rural areas,” said Commissioner Connor. “This program will assist Reclamation and other organizations to efficiently address rural water supply needs in the West.”

Under this program Reclamation will work with small communities of no more than 50,000 people to investigate opportunities to ensure safe and adequate rural water supply projects for domestic, municipal and industrial use; plan the design and construction of rural water supply projects through the conduct of appraisal investigations and feasibility studies; and oversee, as appropriate, the construction of rural water supply projects that are recommended for construction by Reclamation in a feasibility report developed under the program and subsequently authorized by Congress.

Reclamation will have a Funding Opportunity Announcement in the next few days on http://www.grants.gov. It will outline all the requirements for requesting program assistance.

Eligible entities can also participate by submitting an appraisal investigation or feasibility study prepared without any financial or technical support from Reclamation. This option provides the opportunity to have Reclamation review previously completed appraisal investigations or feasibility studies and prepare a report with recommendations on whether to proceed to the next step in the planning process. If the submitted investigations or studies meet the criteria they will be incorporated into the program.

Eligible entities can submit their completed appraisal investigation or feasibility study to their local Reclamation Area Office at any time and without having to respond to the upcoming Funding Opportunity Announcement. While the Rural Water Program provides authority to undertake appraisal investigations and feasibility studies, it does not provide authority to undertake the construction of water delivery facilities recommended for development under the program. Construction of projects would require a specific Act of Congress.

The Rural Water Program was authorized in 2006 in Title I of the Reclamation Rural Water Supply Act, P.L. 109-451. Rulemaking for the program was conducted with public comment in 2008 and an interim final rule was instituted in 2009 that established the programmatic criteria for the program.

To learn more about Reclamation’s Rural Water Program please visit www.usbr.gov/ruralwater.

More Reclamation coverage here.