Lamar pipeline: The Lamar Canal priority is a prize for GP Resources

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From The Lamar Ledger (Lois Shrimplin):

[Karl Nyquist] told the Elbert County Commissioners that the Highway 86 Commercial Metro District owns shares in the Lamar Canal, which outrank those of Pueblo, Colorado Springs and Aurora.

According to a press release from Nyquist, contributions for the pipeline from Elbert County would include the approval of the Water District Expansion Plan and temporary export of privately owned groundwater already adjucated for Municipal and Industrial (M&I) use.

“He’s stuck his stick not into a hornet’s nest, but into a rattlesnake nest,” Dan Rasmussen, who lives across from the proposed gravel pit said.

The benefits to Elbert County would be large, including Performance Improvement Framework (PIF) revenue from commercial projects and a renewable water source for the community. The oil and gas industry would not deplete groundwater supplies, the pipeline would provide economic growth and jobs, and the pipeline would provide a long term solution for communities with water issues. Additionally, property values would increase, due to a secure water supply.

Prowers County would experience some loss of irrigated farmland, export of some privately owned water out of the basin and loss of seasonal farm labor jobs, according to the release.

Meanwhile, it seems that GP Resources is looking to transfer ag water with as little impact to Prowers County as possible. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Grasmicks have sold their land and Lamar Canal shares to GP Water, which plans to build a treatment plant near Lamar and a pipeline to Elbert and El Paso counties to deliver drinking water to the Front Range. The family has invested in GP Water, will continue farming for GP on the Lamar Canal and sees benefits for Prowers County from the deal. “With GP, it was the first time I had talked to people who talked about how to build a project that would have benefits at both ends of the line,” said Bill Grasmick, 64, the oldest of three brothers in the family corporation. “I’m looking at this as economic development.”[…]

There have been other offers for the water from the Lamar Canal since the 1990s, along with a slew of changes. Grasmick is the president of the canal company, and those changes are a daily fact of life for him. Many areas along the canal were dried up for use by the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association, which augments depletions to the Arkansas River from well-pumping. Grasmick also sits on the LAWMA board, so he understands the conditions put on Colorado wells by the U.S. Supreme Court lawsuit with Kansas over the Arkansas River Compact. Cattle feedlots, the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the city of Lamar also have taken water from farmland under the canal over the years. There also have been water speculators — High Plains A&M, Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association and others — showing up on the doorstep over the past two decades…

The Lamar Canal has one of the most senior water rights below John Martin Reservoir, with an 1875 priority date, Grasmick explained, standing at the ditch intake on the Arkansas River in Lamar. The Lamar Canal diverts water to the south of the river for about 21 miles, where it flows into the Granada Ditch. The route goes through an area once irrigated by the Manvel, X-Y and Graham ditches, whose headgates were damaged by the 1965 flood and which now primarily provide LAWMA water. On many days, the Lamar Canal virtually “sweeps” the Arkansas River, which then gains return flows as it makes its way to Kansas…

A proposed gravel pit will be dug on 260 acres owned by GP. It eventually will become a 10,000 acre-foot storage site that would serve a water treatment plant at the beginning of the pipeline. It’s near Lamar’s sewage treatment pond in the industrial park just outside Lamar, and within sight of the old Neoplan bus plant and associated industrial buildings. One corner of a field of corn badly damaged by feeding deer shows the possibility for wildlife areas, and possibly hunting clubs. Most importantly, there are still crops being grown in both dry and irrigated fields. Grasmick said that will continue…

GP will continue to farm, through its agreement with the Grasmick family, using LAWMA shares. The advantage is that the best farmland can be irrigated, including some of the land taken out of production in the past. Pivot sprinklers eventually will replace all flood irrigation on the ditch, he predicts…

Grasmick agrees with GP’s analysis that the jobs and tax benefits that come with building a treatment plant at Lamar will offset the farm jobs and land that will be lost. There also is the possibility that treated water from the plant could be used by area water districts struggling with how to meet water quality regulations.

More Lamar pipeline coverage here.

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