Federal Historic Preservation Act can complicate water projects

Orchard Mesa circa 1911
Orchard Mesa circa 1911

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Miles of ditches throughout much of the Grand Valley north of the Colorado River will get a once-over in the coming months as the Grand Valley Drainage District surveys its network of drains and canals.

The cultural-resources survey was prompted by the experience the district had early this year when a contractor wanted to install a pipe across a drain more than 50 years old that was maintained by the district.

“This started in January,” said district Manager Kevin Williams. “We did not get the permit until July.”

It took that long for the district to obtain a permit under the federal Historic Preservation Act for the job from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Williams said.

With that experience in mind, the drainage district put together plans for the cultural-resource survey that officials hope to use to reach a programmatic agreement with the Corps of Engineers, Williams said.

Once that happens, the district can move more quickly on public or private projects affecting the district’s facilities, Williams said, rather than undertake expensive and lengthy examinations of individual proposals.

The study itself is to be financed by a $50,000 grant from the Mesa County Federal Mineral Lease District and it will be conducted by Dominguez Archaeological Research Group.

Dominguez also will work with the state Historic Preservation Office, which is to sign off on the study.

“We just tried to be a little proactive,” said Williams, who called the requirement that every proposed crossing of the drainage system be studied for its historical implications an example of “constant overreach” by regulatory agencies.

Officials hope to complete the survey in a year and then begin negotiations with the Army Corps of Engineers.

“We have close to 200 miles of open drains that we’re trying to get inventoried,” Williams said.

The drainage district might be only the first Grand Valley agency to conduct such an inventory.

The Orchard Mesa Irrigation District also has some 200 miles of drains and ditches built about the same time the drainage district’s network was constructed, Williams said.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District 2015 budget update

Pueblo dam releases
Pueblo dam releases

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board is expected to approve a $17.9 million budget at its next meeting, 11 a.m. Dec. 4.

The district last week reviewed the details of the budget and hosted a public hearing. No member of the public attended.

A mill levy of 0.94 mills is planned, the same as 2014. One mill is an assessment of $1 for every $1,000 of assessed valuation. The district covers parts of nine counties, including Chaffee, Fremont, Pueblo, El Paso, Crowley, Otero, Bent, Prowers and Kiowa.

The district also makes money through sales of water and grants.

More than $12 million will go toward repayment of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, including the Fountain Valley Conduit. The conduit serves El Paso County communities that pay a dedicated mill levy on top of the district mill levy.

The district will spend $2.34 million for its own operating expenses, and $3.5 million on enterprise, or business, activity.

Included in the enterprise fund are the Arkansas Valley Conduit, and an ongoing project to develop hydroelectric power at Pueblo Dam.

More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.

A call for conservation — The Pueblo Chieftain #COWaterPlan

watersprinkler

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Environmental groups see a new direction for Colorado water development based on comments on the state water plan in the past year.

“We heard loud and clear from the comments from people all over the state that conservation is needed,” said Bart Miller, water program director for Western Resource Advocates. “We’re hoping the plan will be even stronger on this point in the final form.”

Conservation groups are pushing a fourpronged program that embraces stretching current water supplies rather than developing new sources.

  • Keeping rivers healthy and flowing.
  • Increasing urban efficiency and conservation.
  • Modernizing agricultural and water sharing programs.
  • Avoiding new large transmountain diversions.
  • For years Western Resource Advocates and allied groups have rejected calls for new supply and more storage, saying wiser use of resources is needed. A statewide poll taken in September shows support among Colorado voters for those goals, with 88 percent saying cities should reduce water use by 10 percent by 2020. That mirrors many comments in the state water plan that say reducing urban usage of water is a key way to stretch resources.

    “It ties in with the governor’s executive order that talked about smart urban growth,” Miller said. “There are some opportunities to encourage better development in the future.” The need for the water plan grew out of the realization during the drought of 2002 that state water providers needed to accommodate a growing population without the traditional buy-anddry of agricultural land.

    There were also comments about the state water plan that urge caution in relying too heavily on urban conservation as a strategy. Those pointed out how cities already are using up to 20 percent less water per capita than a decade ago, and warn against “hardening” demand so that restrictions would be necessary in the next drought. There also would be problems with a statewide edict on how growth and water development occur, since those decisions are now primarily made at the local level.

    “The state has the ability to help with technical resources and funding,” Miller said. “One of the things people want to see is more transparency on the part of large providers.”

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.