Lamar pipeline: Former University of Colorado researcher urges in-depth analysis of the proposed project

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“If an area is in economic decline, you want to slow the decline, you don’t want to make it worse,” said Ken Weber, an anthropologist who wrote numerous reports on economic changes in Crowley County and the Great Plains as a researcher at the University of Colorado from 1986-1996. Weber, 67, grew up in LaJunta in the 1950s, and returned to the area a few years ago to live in Pueblo after working for two federal agencies. Weber frequently attends area water meetings and had a hand in creating the Arkansas Basin Roundtable agriculture-urban transfers report and tipping-point study…

Crowley County already was in decline by the time Colorado Springs and Aurora purchased most of the remaining water rights on the Colorado Canal in the 1980s. Its population dropped to less than 3,000 in the 1980 Census, less than half of its peak in 1920. Prowers County is on a similar path. Its population peaked in 1950 at nearly 15,000. In 2010, the population dropped to its lowest point, 12,551. Irrigated agriculture in Prowers County has suffered through decades of economic turbulence, as witnessed by the sale of many farms on the Fort Lyon Canal to water developers and half of the farms on the Amity Canal to Tri-State Generation and Transmission…

Unlike past water grabs, the GP plan has included an incentive for Prowers County — a water treatment plant. Bill Grasmick, a longtime farmer whose family sold water rights to GP Water, called the plan “economic development” for Lamar. An economic analysis, prepared by GP as part of a water-service bid, says the equivalent of 41 full-time farm-labor jobs would be lost when the water is taken off 4,000 acres of ground. Those jobs would be replaced by 13 jobs in the water treatment plant and seven jobs at a gravel mining operation. The payroll would increase to $3.3 million a year with the new jobs from the existing $2 million paid annually from the present farming operation. Property taxes would go up to more than $600,000 from $15,000 on the land, with the water treatment plant and gravel operations, according to Peter Elzi, of THK Associates, a GP planning consultant…

“We can know the engineering and technical parts of a project, but not the economic and social part,” Weber said. “All of this operates in a social and historical context, and to the extent we ignore that context, our decisions are somewhat blind.”

More coverage from the Castle Rock News Press (Ashley Dieterle):

A 12-month moratorium on service plans and service-plan amendments related to water districts was passed by the Elbert Board of County Commissioners during the Sept. 14 board meeting. The moratorium also applies to water sanitation districts and metropolitan districts that provide water services. The moratorium stemmed from the application withdrawal of an amendment to the service plan for the Elbert and Highway 86 Commercial Metropolitan District during an Aug. 24 board meeting. The controversial petition, which would have allowed a 150-mile pipeline transporting water from Lamar to the county, was withdrawn when county residents were unhappy with the commissioners for allowing the petition to reach public hearing.

More Lamar Pipeline coverage here.

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