Rio Grande Water Conservation District quarterly board meeting recap

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

[The fees are hitting for] the Valley’s first sub-district, which encompasses about 175,000 irrigated acres owned by 500-plus individual property owners in an area north of the Rio Grande. It is the first of several water management sub-districts under the auspices of the sponsoring district, the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, that will eventually cover the San Luis Valley…

Last October the sub-district board of managers approved an administrative fee of $5 per irrigated acre (to generate about $875,000) and CREP (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program) fee of $1 per irrigated acre to be assessed well users within the boundaries of the first sub-district this year. A variable fee of $45 per acre foot of groundwater pumped (less surface water credits), will not be collected until 2012 but will be based on 2011 pumping. This year’s fees will be held in escrow until the sub-district receives a decision from the Colorado Supreme Court regarding an appeal over the sub-district’s management plan…

[Cory Off] suggested the state should be bearing some of the cost of the sub-districts. He said he knew the state did not have any money, but neither did the Valley residents, and if the Valley water districts did not ask the state for help now, the Valley would not be considered for funding in the future when the state’s financial situation improved. He said although Valley farmers will benefit through the sub-districts by not having to pay for their own augmentation plans, the state will also benefit by not having to process thousands of augmentation plans in the Valley.

[RGWCD Attorney David Robbins] said he was not arguing that point, and if Off could get the state to help pay for the sub-districts, “God bless you and I will do whatever I can to help,” but the other river basins in the state had not had any luck getting the state to help with their costs. He said water users in the Republican River Basin are going to spend $80 million to acquire water and put in a pipeline.

RGWCD board member Lewis Entz, a former long-time state legislator, said the sub-district legislation was created as a way for the Valley to solve its own problems without the state’s interference. “It’s on us to solve our problem and not the state,” he said…

RGWCD Manager Steve Vandiver reported to the board on Tuesday the district’s costs associated with the first sub-district alone have totaled $1.13 million. This is a cumulative figure encompassing all of the expenses over the past several years. The district has also spent about $240,000 on the other sub-districts proposed throughout the Valley. Vandiver said those figures include court time, engineering time, legal time, administrative time, etc…

He and District Engineer Allen Davey said the efforts, and expenses, will not let up any time soon, either. “Obviously we are doing a lot of work on sub-districts, particularly Sub-district #1,” Davey said. “That’s been primarily our focus in the past year.”

More San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here.

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