From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Amid the $2 billion in damage caused by flooding in Northern Colorado earlier this month is untold damage to water structures. “From preliminary estimates, I think this will be classed as one of the largest natural disasters in Colorado history,” said Alan Hamel, chairman of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
At its meeting in Telluride this week, the board approved a $1.65 million emergency grant to assess damage to municipal water lines, ditches and other water structures in several counties. Board staff has been assisting other state agencies in dealing with the flooding and the aftermath.
The storms, which began on Sept. 12, have been classified by board staff as a 500-year-plus event over a widespread area, with local pockets of a 1,000-year storm. Up to 14.5 inches of rain fell in 36 hours, with more than 9 inches in 24 hours in some places.
More than 19,000 homes or businesses were damaged and 1,500 destroyed. Thousands of people were displaced and at least eight are dead. Numerous bridges and miles of roads need to be repaired in the wake of the flooding. “There was also damage to municipal and agricultural water structures,” Hamel said. “In some places, it relocated the rivers and, of course, washed away measuring devices. The town of Lyons may not have water for months.”
Most dams are believed to have held up during the storms, but inspections still are needed, he added.
The board is planning a special meeting in the near future to continue assessing damage and making recommendations for state response, Hamel said.
More CWCB board meeting coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:
A study that will help sew together water systems in El Paso County received some state funding this week. The Colorado Water Conservation Board approved a $75,000 grant for a project by the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority to analyze how water systems could work together. The study also will identify opportunities for sharing water resources and reusing water. That will be matched by $167,000 from El Paso County interests. The Arkansas Basin Roundtable gave its nod to the study in June.
The study is important for the entire Arkansas River basin because the largest part of the urban water supply gap in the basin is expected to come from growth in El Paso County.
As growth has occurred in the county, Colorado Springs and its neighbors have purchased agricultural water rights in other parts of the Arkansas River basin. State planning began a decade ago to find alternatives to the pattern of buy-and-dry. During that time, there have been more purchases of farm water by communities like Donala, Widefield and Fountain.
But some other attempts did not materialize because of higher costs and increased political resistance, such as Woodmoor’s attempt to buy water rights on several ditches or Cherokee’s rejection of a plan to pump water from Lamar.
A pipeline from either Avondale or La Junta was rejected by the Pikes Peak group as too expensive.
Lately, more cooperation is developing among water users to coordinate water supply activities. Cherokee and Donala are making plans to hook up with the Southern Delivery System being built by Colorado Springs. SDS, as designed, benefits Security and Fountain as well.
A task force is looking at coordinating stormwater efforts in El Paso County. Stormwater has become a major issue in developing water projects like SDS.
Some members of the Pikes Peak group also are interested in lease agreements with the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch, which was formed to market water without permanently selling water rights.
More CWCB coverage here.