Drought news: Beulah residents under watering restrictions

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (John Norton):

Both the Pine Drive Water District and the Beulah Water Works District put on restrictions this week to conserve dwindling supplies of water in their storage tanks. Customers of the two systems will be limited to in-house water use. Gary Kyte, chairman of the Pine Drive operation, said that in 2002, the district had to impose even stricter rules that limited even in-house water use, but the situation has not gotten that bad yet…

Bill Hower, chairman of the Water Works District, said that the restriction is a precaution. The system, which serves 165 taps, gets its water from Middle Creek and water is still running. “We still have good water at the head gate,” he said. “But it’s an unknown factor how long that’s going to last.”

Flaming Gorge Task Force: There are a lot of questions around Colorado’s role in building the project

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

On a 14-member committee that this week recommended forming a task force to look at a potential statewide project — a 570-mile pipeline from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range — half were members of the Interbasin Compact Committee. Still, the group favored a bottom-up approach to look at the problem, rather than a top-down method — acknowledging that a familiar cast of characters might ultimately be named to the task force…

The Arkansas Basin Roundtable became alarmed in 2009 when Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River District, pointed out that if things got tough, energy companies have better water rights than the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project and other transmountain diversions, Barber explained. That paints a big target on irrigated agriculture in the Arkansas Valley, [Gary Barber, chairman of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable] said…

In the last decade or so, Aurora completed its purchase of nearly all of the Rocky Ford Ditch, speculators bought one-fourth of the Fort Lyon Canal, the Pueblo Board of Water Works bought one-fourth of the Bessemer Ditch and Woodmoor Water and Sanitation is attempting to take water from several agricultural enterprises. “Our agriculture is on the chopping block,” Barber said. “It’s too easy to dry up the valley’s agriculture than to look at projects like (Flaming Gorge).”

Western Slope interests still are trying to steer the Front Range away from any trans-Continental Divide project, even if the water comes from Wyoming. Kai Turner, a Rio Blanco County Commissioner, reminded the group that Western Slope participants on a task force in no way meant an endorsement of the Flaming Gorge plan. “It feels like this is premature and there’s a big push to steamroll us,” Turner said. Later in the meeting, Turner asked the group to consider looking at a bigger project that would bring water into the state from the east, presumably a pipeline from the Missouri River or Mississippi River — far more expensive and politically complicated options that have yet to gain traction. “Any transmountain diversion is a short-term solution to a long-range problem,” Turner said. “We need a federal project that solves all the problems.”[…]

Aurora Water Director Mark Pifher, another familiar face at state water meetings and an IBCC member, summed up the process of forming a task force as another unavoidable battle in the water wars. “I’m not sure we’ll avoid people coming to this table without some baggage,” Pifher said.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Million is taking a new tack with the project, looking to permit it under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rather than the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps process originally was to take 33 months, but that stretched into more than five years after a scoping process. Million estimates about $5 million has been spent on studies of the project so far, and $8 million to $12 million more could be needed to complete the Corps study of what would be a multibillion-dollar project…

There are still legal water rights issues, environmental objections and worries that other state allocations under the 1922 Colorado River Compact would be affected. Million’s position is complicated because a Colorado-Wyoming Coalition of water users also is studying its own version of a Flaming Gorge pipeline. The coalition is working the Bureau of Reclamation, which has recently modeled climate change in the Colorado River basin, to see how a pipeline would affect water levels in Flaming Gorge Reservoir…

“I have high hopes for a Flaming Gorge task force,” Million said. “We’ll share information. We’ve tried to look at everything we could over the last five years.”

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.