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.

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