Arkansas River Valley well users may end up owing water to the river from 2012 #codrought


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

More bad news for farmers. Earlier this year, groundwater associations determined that there would be limited or no replacement water for wells in the Arkansas Valley. Upon reviewing plans submitted March 1, the state is working with the well groups to determine if more water still is owed from 2012. “Depletions have occurred that have not been paid back,” Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Thursday.

Witte’s staff is reviewing wellpumping plans from the three large well groups to determine how much water might be owed under Rule 14 of the 1996 Arkansas Valley groundwater rules. It could mean a ban on pumping or allowing minimum pumping to occur this year. The state also is looking at domestic and municipal users who may need to implement restrictions in order to keep wells operating this summer. “We are encouraging conservation measures to meet critical needs,” Witte said.

One well association, the Arkansas Groundwater Users Association, factored the 2012 depletions into its 2013 Rule 14 plan, said manager Scott Lorenz after the meeting. He said farmers should be able to pump at 30 percent on the mainstem of the Arkansas River and 48 percent on Fountain Creek. The Colorado Water Protective and Development Association informed its members who did not have their own sources of replacement water that no water would be available. The Lower Arkansas Water Management Association plan called for 30 percent pumping.

The Southeastern board received more gloomy news about snowpack and stream flow conditions. Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Flows could be as low as last year — the second-lowest on record — while storage and soil moisture conditions are even worse.


Meanwhile the Southeastern board also heard an update for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

A route for the Arkansas Valley Conduit will be recommended when the final environmental impact statement is released later this year. It could be a hybrid of alternatives being studied by the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which can match components of various alternatives. “The Pueblo routes have raised concerns about what’s already in the ground, so the goal is to find a route that alleviates concerns without additional costs,” Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Executive Director Jim Broderick told the district board Thursday.

Reclamation still is working on cost-benefit ratios for the project, which includes storage in Lake Pueblo for the conduit and other needs.

The estimated cost of the conduit, which will provide clean drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo, is $500 million. But that could be high because of standard contingency rates added to early stages of construction projects. Benefits are likely to be in the $500 million range as well, said Broderick, who traveled to Washington, D.C., last month to discuss the project with federal officials.

No route for the pipeline was recommended in the draft environmental impact statement last year, but routes through Pueblo and south of the city are being considered. But the routes generated concern with the city of Pueblo. On Oct. 29, Pueblo interim City Manager Jim Munch, in a comment to Reclamation saying that any of the routes for the underground pipeline through the Pueblo area have the potential to interfere with infrastructure. Pueblo’s letter also detailed concerns about how water quality could be affected by reduced flows in the Arkansas River through Pueblo.

The city’s comments were among 25 received by Reclamation. Most dealt with mapping errors or water quality concerns.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.

San Luis Valley water is safe from the USFWS and the southwestern willow fly-catcher


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

A federal wildlife manager assured Colorado officials Thursday that the protection of habitat for an endangered bird would not lead to demands on the state to relinquish water.

In January, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated critical habitat for the southwestern willow flycatcher along 23 miles of the Rio Grande and a 2.9mile stretch of the Conejos River. “The designation itself does not affect water delivery or water users,” Wally Murphy, who oversees the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s protection of endangered species in New Mexico, told the Rio Grande Compact Commission.

San Luis Valley water officials had been alarmed by the January designation after spending years working on a habitat conservation plan to protect the bird’s habitat on private land in the valley. The service excluded 114 miles of private stream bank along the Conejos and Rio Grande that were covered in the conservation plan.

But State Engineer Dick Wolfe, who represents Colorado on the commission, pressed Murphy on whether the operations of Platoro Reservoir or the Closed Basin Project might be impacted. “Habitat is ultimately driven by water to some extent so it seems like there is a nexus there,” Wolfe said.

Murphy said there would be no call for water. Platoro, which has a capacity of 59,000 acre-feet and sits near the Continental Divide, provides flood control and irrigation water for farmers and ranchers along the Conejos. The Closed Basin Project draws groundwater from the northeast corner of the valley and sends it downstream to assist with Colorado’s requirements under the compact.

More endangered/threatened species coverage here and here.

The Fountain Creek District is sorting through funding options and projects


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

It’s like anticipating a wall of funding options rushing at you. Funding for water projects on Fountain Creek, that is.

The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District Friday looked at multiple efforts in El Paso County to answer questions about what should be funded, how money can be raised and when voters should be asked to support those projects. Tied up in the study is the continuing question of what role the district should play and how it will get the money it needs to carry out its own goals. “We need a timeline, so we have concrete steps we can take,” Pueblo Councilwoman Eva Montoya said. “We need a plan.”

The district is considering what questions it needs to ask in polling voters in El Paso and Pueblo counties about the possibility of a mill levy, how a question would be worded and when to place the issue on the ballot. Even after those questions are decided, there are questions about how to pay for an election and how to fund the campaign for a mill levy, since government groups could not pay for it.

At the same time, three separate investigations are proceeding in El Paso County — all of them related to Fountain Creek and potentially involving the Fountain Creek district.

● An El Paso County stormwater task force is trying determine priorities and funding sources for flood control. The Fountain Creek district board voted to manage a technical study, which would be funded by Colorado Springs Utilities and El Paso Coun ty. The study was suggested by Summit Economics, which launched the task force with an earlier white paper.

● Colorado Springs is reassessing its stormwater needs at the request of Mayor Steve Bach. A contractor will be chosen in April.

● The Coalition of the Upper South Platte is working with community groups to determine rehabilitation strategies for the Waldo Canyon burn scar.

Lurking in the background is the Southern Colorado Business Partnership, which announced its intention to seek a regional solution for Fountain Creek to the Pueblo Board of Water Works earlier this week.

More Fountain Creek coverage here.