From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
The funding pipeline for the Arkansas Valley Conduit has sprung a leak. Federal funding pressures could reduce conduit funding to one-third of its current levels and far less than Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District officials had hoped for in next year’s budget. “The conduit is not the only project affected. There are projects under construction that got cut,” Southeastern lobbyist Christine Arbogast told the board Thursday. “Delays cost money, so it’s going to make it more difficult as we move forward.”
The district discussed a figure of $14 million to begin design and construction of the conduit in 2014. However, the budget President Barack Obama submitted to Congress last week included only $1 million for the conduit. The Bureau of Reclamation is on pace to complete an environmental impact statement for the conduit by the end of this year. But several other water projects already being built saw cuts of 75 percent or more in the president’s budget.
If Congress adopts another continuing resolution, rather than a budget, the conduit might retain its current level of funding, $3 million, in 2014, said Executive Director Jim Broderick. Otherwise, the district appears to be out of options to increase funding. “It’s clear the game is different than it used to be,” Broderick said, recounting last week’s visit to Washington, D.C. “This doesn’t stop the project, but it will move at a different pace.”
A federal law in 2009 provided a way to repay the federal government for conduit costs through storage contract payments to Reclamation for use of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. But payments would not start until after the project is completed.
The conduit could cost up to $500 million to build and would deliver fresh drinking water from Pueblo Dam to 50,000 people in 40 communities along the Arkansas River. “We’re concerned about the drop in funding, but we’re still in the pre-construction phase,” Broderick said.