The Lower Ark District approves letter to the EPA about new rule as “water grab”

Groundwater movement via the USGS
Groundwater movement via the USGS

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A district formed to protect water in the Lower Arkansas Valley plans to weigh in on proposed rules that some say amount to a federal water grab. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District voted Wednesday to send a formal comment to the Environmental Protection Agency on its proposed Waters of the United States, claiming that it goes too far in regulating wetlands and even groundwater connected to streams.

The rules are an attempt to resolve conflicting U.S. Supreme Court decisions that center on the issue of “navigable waters.”

“East of the Mississippi River, all waters may be navigable, but it doesn’t make sense for the arid West,” said Mark Pifher, the Arkansas River basin’s representative on the Colorado Water Quality Commission. Pifher, a Colorado Springs Utilities executive, typically attends Lower Ark meetings to update the Lower Ark on stormwater issues. He recently testified against the rule in Washington, D.C., on behalf of municipal and agricultural water interests.

Leroy Mauch, the Prowers County director on the Lower Ark board, urged the board to jump into the federal fray.

“We need to research this and send out a letter objecting to this,” Mauch said.

Wayne Whittaker, the Otero County director, said the new policy sounds like continuation of years of federal attempts to insert control into state water issues.

Most water groups in the West have taken a position that the rules are too intrusive. An exception is the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, which claims the rules have sufficient exemptions that protect agriculture.

Some in Congress are backing legislation that would simply not fund enforcement of the policy.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Activities on several fronts are aimed at improving surface sprinkler irrigation in the Lower Arkansas Valley. Several studies are aimed at reducing the obligation of farmers in group plans, known as Rule 10 plans, under state consumptive use rules designed to prevent expanded water use through increased farm efficiencies. Sprinklers have been the most effected by the rules, although drip irrigation, ditch lining and other methods are accounted for as well.

On Wednesday, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District reviewed its projects that aim at the rules:

A $70,000 state grant looking at the legal implications of using flood irrigation water rights decreed for the same ground as sprinklers as augmentation water. The district has suggested legislation to allow this, but it so far has not been introduced.

A $175,000 proposed state grant to determine if tailwater measurements in state irrigation models are too high.

A $120,000 study to determine if leakage from ponds that supply water to surface-fed sprinklers is too high.

The goal is to reduce the obligation and find sustainable sources of replacement water, said General Manager Jay Winner.

“These are parallel paths,” he told the board. “The day is coming when you won’t be able to buy water on the spot market.”

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.

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