Arkansas River basin: Fort Lyon Canal water still on the land for the most part despite Pure Cycle purchase

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The long-term plan for the water is to move it north to new homes east of Denver, but with a weak housing market, no court authority or infrastructure is in place to move water and people still hungry to farm on the Fort Lyon, the water stays.

It’s a matter of time, as the owner still has plans to eventually move the water. “We don’t have any expectations about when the water will be moved,” said Mark Harding, president of Pure Cycle Corp., the Thornton-based company that bought High Plains A&M’s assets on the Fort Lyon in 2006. High Plains purchased about 23 percent of the shares on the Fort Lyon Canal and in many cases the farms associated with them in 2001 for about $1,750 an acre — roughly $40 million. The company won a battle to take the water out of the canal, in rotation in 2003, but lost a Water Court case to change the water rights in 2004 and a state Supreme Court appeal in 2005. Pure Cycle stepped into the picture the next year, buying High Plains out in a $100 million deal. Initially, the company announced plans to build a $400 million pipeline to move the water to the Denver area to serve thousands of future homes. That plan is still in the picture, but Harding is not in any hurry to move the water…

The company’s official line remains moving the water to valuable real estate it owns or holds service rights in the Denver area. “This is a long-term investment for us,” Harding said. ”We will look at the opportunities over a long period of time.” For at least a few more years, at least, it appears the water will be staying with the land…

Pure Cycle leases the water back to farmers for about $70 an acre, with varying terms based on water availability. The 63 tenant farmers, in turn, have sales of about $3.5 million on 14,500 irrigated acres, irrigated by 21,600 shares of the Fort Lyon. Tenants also receive any payments from government farm programs. Another 1,275 acres are leased as grass pasture…

About Pure Cycle

Pure Cycle is a Thornton-based water and wastewater service provider listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange.

– Last year, Pure Cycle purchased the 940-acre Sky Ranch property east of Denver in the Interstate 70 corridor. The largely undeveloped area is zoned for 4,400 homes and 1.35 million square feet of commercial and retail property. Previously, the company had a service agreement for the property. It also leased oil exploration rights to Anadarko on the property.

– The company has a long-term contract to provide water to portions of the Lowry Range, east of Aurora, that may be developed in the future. As a member of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, Pure Cycle is working with Denver Water and Aurora in the WISE partnership that looks at ways to share urban water infrastructure.

– Pure Cycle holds the largest block of agricultural water rights in the Arkansas River basin, with 21,600 shares of the Fort Lyon Canal, almost one-quarter of the ditch. Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association owns half of the Amity Canal, which historically irrigated much less ground than the Fort Lyon.

– Besides its Arkansas Valley Water Rights, Pure Cycle has ground water, surface and storage rights in the South Platte River and Colorado River basins.

More Pure Cycle coverage here and here. More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

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