Arkansas Valley Conduit Final EIS Available

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Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Kara Lamb/Buck Feist):

The Bureau of Reclamation announces the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit and Long-Term Excess Capacity Master Contract. To access the document, its Executive Summary, and supporting appendices please visit http://www.usbr.gov/avceis. A list of local libraries housing hard copies of the Final EIS is also included on the website.
In the Final EIS, Comanche North is identified as the agency-preferred alternative. It minimizes cost and urban construction disturbance, avoids the U.S. Highway 50 expansion corridor, and maximizes source water quality and yield. It is a hybrid alternative developed in response to comments on the Draft EIS by using components of other alternatives analyzed in that document. Of the AVC alternatives, Comanche North would be least costly and provide the most benefits.

“After extensive public involvement and consideration of comments, scientific data and regional water needs, Reclamation is pleased to release this Final Environmental Impact Statement and announce Comanche North as the agency-preferred alternative,” said Mike Ryan, Regional Director for Reclamation’s Great Plains Region, which includes eastern Colorado.

Reclamation completed the Final EIS in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. In it, the agency proposed and analyzed three federal actions pertaining to AVC and the Master Contract:

  • Construct and operate the AVC and enter into a repayment contract with Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District;
  • Enter into a conveyance contract with various water providers for use of a pipeline interconnection between Pueblo Dam’s south and north outlet works; and,
  • Enter into an excess capacity master contract with Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District to store water in Pueblo Reservoir.
  • When completed, the pipeline for the AVC could be up to 227 miles long.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Colorado’s congressional delegation wants more funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit, and sent a joint letter last week to the Department of Interior arguing for more funds in 2015. The letter came at the same time as the final environmental impact statement by the Bureau of Reclamation for the Arkansas Valley Conduit, which recommends construction of a 227-mile pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads, serving 40 water districts and a population of 50,000 that is expected to grow to 75,000 by 2070. The conduit route would move water through the Pueblo water board’s Whitlock Treatment Plant for filtration, swing south of the Comanche Power Plant, then run primarily north of the Arkansas River east of Pueblo. In the letter, U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats, and U.S. Reps. Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner, both Republicans, asked Anne Castle, Interior undersecretary for science and water, for increased funding in the 2015 budget, when construction of the conduit could start.

    The EIS also recommends an interconnection at Pueblo Dam between the North Outlet Works construction by Colorado Springs for the Southern Delivery System and the South Outlet Works, which will primarily serve the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The south connection also serves Pueblo West, the Fountain Valley Conduit and the Pueblo Board of Water Works. The EIS also recommends 40-year Lake Pueblo storage contracts for 25 conduit participants and 12 other water providers. The contracts would total almost 30,000 acre-feet annually. The total cost for all three projects is estimated at $400 million in the EIS, and some of that would be repaid by storage contract revenues under 2009 federal legislation.

    While the conduit itself benefits 50,000 people, the interconnect benefits more than 665,000, by providing redundancy for SDS and Pueblo. About 178,000 people would be served by the master contract, including some El Paso County communities outside of Colorado Springs and several Upper Arkansas water users.

    But the push for funding in austere federal times continues. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which sponsors the projects, sought $15 million in funds for the 2014 fiscal year, but received just $1 million. With the record of decision for the projects expected in 30 days, Colorado’s congressional representatives asked Castle to consider more “robust” funding for the conduit.

    Here’s the full text of their letter from the Boulder iJournal:

    Dear Assistant Secretary Castle and Commissioner Connor:

    As the Department of Interior begins consideration of its FY 2015 budget, we write to express our strong support for robust funding of water conservation and delivery studies, projects and activities. In particular, we want to highlight the Arkansas Valley Conduit project in southeastern Colorado. Adequate funding is essential in order to meet federally mandated water quality standards in the region.

    The Arkansas Valley conduit is a planned 130-mile water delivery system from the Pueblo Dam to communities throughout the Arkansas River Valley in Colorado. The conduit is the final phase of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which Congress authorized in 1962. When completed, it will help bring clean drinking water to up to 42 municipalities, towns, and water providers in the lower Arkansas valley.

    Many of the wells in these areas have been contaminated with radon or uranium. As a result, many of the water providers in the region are out of compliance with federal water quality standards. More importantly, however, because of the lack of funding for water projects like this, the populations of these regions have been denied clean high quality water. Providing clean and safe water to all Americans should be at the forefront of the Department’s mission, and these water quality issues underscore the urgent need for progress on the conduit.

    The federal government has already funded planning and feasibility studies for four years in order to make the conduit a reality, and President Obama signed legislation in 2009 committing to fund a substantial share of the project costs. Unfortunately, the Administration’s budget proposal for FY 2014 did not fund the project adequately. While planners in the Arkansas valley expect costs to exceed $15 million in FY 2014, the Bureau of Reclamation’s budget justification requested just $1 million for the project. Adequate funding to compensate for this shortfall in 2015 will be essential to complete the project on schedule.

    As you know, the final Environmental Impact Statement will be released this month. Following a 30-day comment period, a Record of Decision (“ROD”) will be announced. The issuance of an ROD stating a preferred alternative removes any regulatory barrier to moving forward with the project, and signals the start of the design and engineering phase. The Office of Management and Budget indicated that the lack of the ROD was the reason for reducing the funding to only $1 million for FY 2014. With the ROD due to be announced soon, adequate project funding is essential for moving this vital infrastructure and water quality project forward in a timely manner.

    Thank you for your consideration of this request.

    More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.

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