Rio Grande River basin: San Luis Valley’s first groundwater management sub-district update — accounting growing pains

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

In its annual meeting this month, the sub-district board of managers struggled with some of those kinks, most of them surrounding water accounting issues. Although the sub-district itself has been approved, its plan of management is currently under appeal at the Colorado Supreme Court level. Because of the court appeal, fees collected for the sub-district for the first time this year must essentially be held in escrow. If/once they are freed up, funds can be used for such purposes as sub-district staff and water acquisition…

In addition, several potential water sellers have already approached the district and sub-district to sell replacement water, which the sub-district cannot buy until its funds are cleared, assuming the state court appeal goes in the sub-district’s favor. One of the main purposes for the sub-district, which lies in the Valley’s closed basin area, is to replenish well-pumping depletions to surface rights. Vandiver said a number of people have offered replacement water, including the San Luis Valley Conservancy District and a local real estate company with a ranch for sale on La Jara Creek. The ranch comes with senior water rights. Jim McCullough, who attended the sub-district board’s April 5 meeting, also offered for consideration shares he owns on the Excelsior Ditch. He said he would like to find a way to use that water to replace the depletions he owes within the sub-district. Vandiver said he had fielded several inquiries from people who wanted to use surface water that is not part of the sub-district as augmentation water…

Recharge credits are another area where the sub-district board is fine tuning the details. Board and audience members questioned how recharge would be credited to farmers who had recharge reservoirs, flood irrigated or in other means replaced water to the aquifer. For example, Monte Vista area farmer Dick McNitt said he felt like he was being penalized for his conservation efforts through reservoirs on his property. The board and audience also talked about reconsidering how surface water credits are calculated, and Sub-district Board Chairman Lynn McCullough appointed a committee to review that portion of the plan and develop recommendations. The committee includes board members and some of the audience members who requested to be a part of the discussion…

One issue that was easy to resolve during the board’s annual meeting was the election of officers. The board unanimously voted to keep the same slate of officers, with Lynn McCullough as chairman.

More San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here and here.

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