The San Luis Valley’s first water management sub-district plan fees are being collected for the second year in a row and are being escrowed awaiting the Colorado Supreme Court

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Since the plan is still pending in the courts, the fees collected this year have been held in escrow by the sponsoring district, the Rio Grande Water Conservation District (RGWCD), which continues to upfront the costs of its first sub-district as well as other pending sub-districts throughout the Valley. The purposes of these sub-districts include repairing the damage from well users to surface water rights, helping the state meet its Rio Grande Compact obligations to downstream states and replenishing the Valley’s underground aquifers…

The Valley’s first sub-district, affecting 175,000 irrigated acres and 500 or more individual property owners, lies north of the Rio Grande in what is known as the closed basin area of the San Luis Valley. The sub-district lies in three of the Valley’s six counties (Alamosa, Rio Grande and Saguache.) RGWCD Attorney David Robbins said the Colorado Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the sub-district plan of management case on September 28. He expected a ruling from the court in two to four months. Groups forming other water management sub-districts throughout the Valley are waiting for the court’s ruling before finalizing their sub-districts. Meanwhile, they are accumulating data required to form their sub-districts…

[Rio Grange Water Conservancy District Manager Steve Vandiver] reported during the water district board’s quarterly meeting this week that so far expenses for the first sub-district have totaled $1.37 million, with expenses on the other five sub-districts totaling about $350,000. One of the expenses for the first sub-district is water acquisition to replace injurious depletions to surface rights. The sub-district by court order must begin replacing those depletions in 2012. The sub-district is acquiring several options on water that can be used for replacement water in 2012 and is looking at several other possibilities, according to Vandiver. He said the sub-district has options on 3,500 acre feet for 2012 with another 1,500 acre feet being held for the sub-district if it is needed. Until the groundwater model runs are completed, the sub-district does not have a total for the amount of replacement water that will be required in 2012, he explained…

Well users who are not part of management sub-districts face the potential under pending state well regulations of having to shut down their wells or develop individual augmentation plans. Robbins said individual plans are no easier to develop than the sub-district plans, and some Valley residents have already begun that process. “If you are going to change water rights from irrigation to replacement, the same sort of responsibilities exist to surface streams,” [RGWCD Attorney David Robbins] said. “The same standards apply … the same obligation applies to make up projected depletions with the replacement supplies.”

More San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here and here.

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