Lamar pipeline: GP Water Group of Littleton has acquired about 40% of the land and water rights on the Lamar Canal

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The GP Water Group of Littleton spent the past nine years quietly buying shares on the canal, which has one of the oldest water rights on the Arkansas River, with the intent of both farming and selling water to satisfy Front Range municipal water needs. While the company’s initial client, the Cherokee Water District near Colorado Springs, would receive Elbert County groundwater, the goal is to develop a renewable source from the Lower Arkansas Valley to serve communities that are essentially mining their groundwater reserves, said Karl Nyquist, CEO of GP Water. “Our goal is to create the most value for the water we already own, while having a net positive economic impact for Prowers County,” Nyquist said.

The 24-inch-diameter pipeline would be capable of delivering up to 12,000 acre-feet of water annually — equivalent to a little less than half of the potable water used in Pueblo each year. Nyquist said the water would be sold for $6-$6.80 per thousand gallons, which is a competitive rate for growing urban areas along the Front Range. The project would require a change case of water rights in Division 2 Water Court. If all goes according to schedule, the pipeline could be built and delivering water within five years…

The water would be destined to fill the gap in municipal supplies, particularly in northern El Paso and Elbert counties. Some of the Arkansas River might end up in the South Platte River basin, since both counties straddle the divide between the two basins. GP has had preliminary discussions with Castle Rock and other users in the South Platte basin as well…

The historical consumptive use of the water GP owns on the Lamar Ditch is about 8,000-10,000 acre-feet annually, which is the amount the company would move on its own. To continue farming, GP has purchased about 1,100 shares of well augmentation water through the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association…

Elbert County commissioners on Aug. 24 will consider a request to expand the district’s scope to statewide service. GP Water is planning five public meetings in Elbert, El Paso and Prowers counties over the next three weeks to explain its plan.

Here’s the release from the GP Water Group via The Prowers Journal:

GP Resources, LLC, a Colorado-based farming and natural resources firm, announced plans today to provide water to Front Range communities, Elbert County, and others as part of a new regional water project intended to serve as a model for how in-state water transfers can be done in a way that benefits all communities involved. The project involves limited amounts of ground water from Elbert County and a significant amount of agricultural surface water from the lower Arkansas River, both of which are privately owned by GP. It is anticipated that the project will create jobs and provide homeowners and businesses with access to much-needed renewable water supplies, helping them to solve the increasing problems associated with reliance on aquifer resources.

GP will hold a series of public information sessions to describe its plans in detail, take questions, and listen to community viewpoints in order to further increase the project’s benefits. Two meetings have already been scheduled in Lamar. These meetings will take place on August 16th and August 23rd from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. in the multi-purpose room of the Lamar Community Building. Additional meeting times and locations in Elbert county and other venues will be announced soon. In an effort to make this project a model for how agricultural transfers should be done, GP will take guidance from the Water Transfer Template developed by the Arkansas River Roundtable as a framework for addressing the needs and concerns of all stakeholders. Significant groundwork has gone into project analysis, finance, and planning. Key components include: — Investments in equipment, systems, and practices to increase the efficiencies of current water consumption on GP’s farms based in Lamar.

Large portions of the farms will continue to operate after the project is completed and the remaining water will become available for municipal use after going through Colorado’s mandated water court process. The court process ensures that downstream agricultural and municipal users will not be adversely affected by the change in use. Furthermore, because this is an existing diversion, the project will not remove any water from the Arkansas basin that is not already being consumed and therefore should have minimal environmental impacts — Investments in GP’s water rights and systems in Elbert County, involving an upgrade of the capabilities of a local water District to allow transmission of GP’s privately owned and adjudicated water on an interim basis to a water district in the greater Colorado Springs area. This will include construction of a below-ground pipeline through or adjacent to an existing service easement for most of the alignment and will bring much-needed relief to the community, which has experienced problems with its current water sources.

Upon delivery of GP’s renewable water supply to this community, the same pipeline will be re-used to deliver additional renewable water to Elbert County and others. –Investments in water treatment, storage, and transmission facilities which will allow the efficient movement of GP’s excess Lamar water to Front Range communities and Elbert County, providing them with a stable, cost-effective, and renewable water supply. Additionally, jobs will be created in both counties through the construction, on-going maintenance and operation of the system. To implement these plans, GP is currently in discussions with several water districts to provide them with as efficient a solution to their water needs as possible. GP has also had preliminary consultations with relevant County authorities to ensure its project is responsive to local needs and provides a win-win for key stakeholders. GP plans to continue these efforts through immediate contact with all interested parties in the Arkansas Valley and along the Front Range.

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

Over the last nine years, GP quietly purchased 40 percent of the Lamar Canal, which already is used for municipal industrial, augmentation and wildlife in addition to agricultural purposes in the local area. Moving the water to growing communities could have grave consequences for Prowers County.

Nyquist would prefer that everyone benefit from his plan. In a benefit analysis, GP acknowledges that Prowers County would lose some irrigated farmland, export water out of the basin and lose seasonal farm jobs. On the plus side, the company plans to keep some of the farmland in production, improving it with sprinkler irrigation. It would increase the tax base with construction of a water treatment plant that would create jobs and diversify the local economy. Finally, it plans to develop aquifer storage in Prowers County, which would benefit all water users by reducing evaporation.

The most surprising thing about the company’s approach, however, is that it wants to subject the project to analysis under a water transfers template developed by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable. The template was the first attempt in the state to address third-party impacts from water projects — making up for the closed shops on Main Street, loss of tax base and other problems that come with the sale of water. While the template was widely hailed in water circles, it has never been put to practical use. “Our water attorney, Wayne Forman (of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck), suggested we use it,” Nyquist said. “In all of our projects, if we can work with all of the stakeholders, we have a better chance to find a win-win solution.”

More Lamar pipeline coverage here.

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