Arkansas Basin Roundtable meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Arkansas Basin Roundtable is pondering whether to endorse its chairman as a state contractor in order to finish its piece of the state water plan. After sending Chairman Gary Barber away from the table Wednesday, the roundtable deliberated over whether Barber could spend the next year leading the group while being paid to put the finishing touches on a basin implementation plan. The $35,000 contract would be funded through the Colorado Water Conservation Board, possibly as a subcontract under CDM Smith consultants that is already held by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

While that made some in the room uncomfortable — state laws prevent board members of special districts from profiting — they were willing to let Barber do both jobs if the state gives its approval. “Gary could be asked to step down, but nobody understands all the moving parts of the roundtable better than he does,” said Alan Hamel, who is the vice chairman of the roundtable and a CWCB member.

Hamel said the Arkansas Basin Roundtable is ahead of others in the state because of Barber’s leadership. Everyone at the table agreed. “Gary has taken us a very long way,” added Jay Winner, manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “And there is the question, ‘Who else is willing to be chair?’ ”

The roundtable has members appointed by counties, cities and districts within the Arkansas River basin, but it does not issue contracts, collect fees or pay employees. Members serve in a volunteer capacity.

Barber was appointed in 2005 to represent El Paso County, where he works for a water consulting firm.

The roundtable delayed its decision until next month, when its elections for officers will be held as well.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Water projects are notorious for taking years to complete and creating controversy in communities. But a 15-mile line to the Ordway Feedyard from nearby wells was completed in less than six months and in the nick of time to save one of Crowley County’s leading businesses. It was completed with rare cooperation from water interests throughout the Arkansas Valley.

Tyler Karney explained the importance of the pipeline Wednesday to the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, which recommended state approval for the project. He thanked the roundtable, Crowley County commissioners and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, among others for their help. “We came to the roundtable in January seeking approval for the project. Construction began May 1,” said Karney, manager of the 65,000-head cattle operation. “The first water arrived from the pipeline June 28. On July 2, Lake Henry went dry.”

The $3.2 million pipeline project was promoted as an alternative to taking water from Lake Henry to supply the feedlot. Water flowed by gravity from Lake Henry, but is pumped uphill through the new pipeline. Traditionally, the feed yard was able to buy water on the spot market and run it down the Colorado Canal into Lake Henry. But the uncertainty of supply during drought precipitated a change of plans.

Last year, the feedlot signed a 15-year lease to purchase 700 acre-feet of raw water annually from the Pueblo Board of Water Works at more than $250,000 per year. The company also put $600,000 of its own money into the pipeline project, which was matched with a loan of $2.3 million and grant of $275,000 from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which were approved in March.

The feedlot needs as much water as a city of 5,500 people would require for its 65,000 head of cattle. It’s the third-largest employer in Crowley County and has a $50 million impact annually on the local economy. It was built in 1972, but the owners subsequently sold off most of the water rights to large cities.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

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