RGWCD Groundwater Sub-district 1 public meeting recap: ‘The perception is there’s a magic box that isn’t working’ — attorney Steve Atencio

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

he subdistrict’s plan and a state computer model project that 4,706 acre-feet of water must be put back in the Rio Grande to make up for the harm caused by pumping. Toward that end the group has acquired access to water, which would be sent down the river from reservoirs near its headwaters. The subdistrict also hopes to use up to 2,500 acre-feet from the Bureau of Reclamation’s Closed Basin Project, which pumps groundwater from the eastern side of the valley and sends it to the Rio Grande…

Wells from both the subdistrict and the project draw from the unconfined aquifer — the shallower of the valley’s two major groundwater bodies. That aspect of the plan drew objections from five parties, including Del Norte-area water user Norman Slade. “Who pays that 2,500 acre-feet to make up for the compact?” he asked.

Critics of the plan also include surface water users who fought the formation of the subdistricts in court for four years. Their attorneys have questioned how the state’s computer model could come up with such a small figure for injurious depletions given that subdistrict wells are expected to pump 308,000 acre-feet of water this year. “The perception is there’s a magic box that isn’t working,” attorney Steve Atencio said.

More coverage from Ruth Heide writing for the Valley Courier. From the article:

Everyone speaking, whether for or against the proposed plan to replace well pumpers’ injurious depletions to streams this year, also agreed this was a historic moment for the San Luis Valley. “We have the opportunity to change the course of history,” Wolfe said.

The state engineer added, “It really comes down to all of us as being stewards of this precious resource that we have here … We have all got to work together.” Wolfe’s approval of the annual replacement plan for the San Luis Valley’s first water management sub-district is the final step before the sub-district begins putting water into the system to begin repairing damages from well pumping to surface water users, the aquifer and the Rio Grande Compact. That process must begin May 1. With the short time frame for Wolfe to make a decision on the replacement plan, he will only be accepting comments on the plan through April 23. His decision may be to approve, deny or approve the plan with conditions…

[Sub-district 1 Program Manager Rob Phillips] listed several sources the sub-district is using this year to provide water to the streams including the Santa Maria/Continental Reservoirs, Rio Grande Water Users and the Closed Basin Project, with all of those combined sources providing 10,074 acre feet. The Closed Basin Project will provide 2,500 acre feet of that.

More San Luis Valley groundwater coverage here and here.

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