The Upper Ark district assesses dry-up efforts at Yale Lake — The Mountain Mail

Graphic via the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District
Graphic via the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District

From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District officials continue to assess efforts to dry up land formerly irrigated by the Thompson Ditch, including draining Harvard and Yale lakes west of Buena Vista.

“Yale Lake is definitely affecting the groundwater level,” said district engineer Chris Manera in his progress report to the Upper Ark board of directors during their Thursday meeting in Salida.

Manera presented data collected since January from nine district monitoring wells and nearby private wells that show dropping groundwater levels since Yale Lake was drained.

Manera said Harvard Lake is down gradient from the monitoring wells, and he saw no affect on water levels when it was drained in March.

Manera’s report confirms suspicions that seepage from Yale Lake hindered conservancy district efforts to dry up land once irrigated by the Thompson Ditch, a requirement for the district to use its Thompson Ditch water right for augmentation on Cottonwood Creek.

As previously reported, the groundwater level needs to drop at least 6 feet below the surface for the conservancy district to receive credit for drying up the land.

The land in question consists of an 11.51-acre parcel and a 2.84-acre parcel. Manera said the smaller parcel “is dried up” as are portions of the larger parcel.

During the Enterprise Committee portion of the meeting, hydrologist Jord Gertson reported the district currently stores 2,663.2 acre-feet of water in its reservoirs.

Gertson said all district reservoirs are full except for O’Haver Lake, which is being filled and should be full by the end of May.

Gertson also presented snowpack and precipitation data showing above-average conditions for the Upper Arkansas Valley.

After plummeting in March, Arkansas River Basin snowpack rebounded in April to reach peak depth in early May, putting the basin at 111 percent of average, Gertson said.

Gertson also presented the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s long-range precipitation outlook, which projects “well-above average precipitation” this summer in Colorado.

During the legislative update, district consultant Ken Baker mentioned House Bill 15-1259, which would have allowed Coloradans to collect up to two 55-gallon rain barrels of water that drains off their rooftops.

The bill died in the Senate May 5, but Baker believes the bill will return in a future legislative session and indicated that the bill runs afoul of the state’s doctrine of prior appropriation, which lies at the heart of Colorado water law.

Rain naturally seeps into the ground or drains into streams, and Baker pointed out that collecting rain in a barrel deprives downstream water rights holders of water to which they are legally entitled.

In other business, Upper Ark directors:

  • Learned that the judge in the district’s Cottonwood Creek diligence case signed the decree, a necessary step toward making a conditional water right absolute. Diligence must be proved in a water court proceeding every 6 years.
  • Heard a U.S. Geological Survey presentation about water use trends in Colorado and the Arkansas Vallery.
  • Learned that stipulations are pending from several objectors in the district’s 04CW96 exchange case, which should preclude the need for the case to go to trial in June.
  • Learned that the district water management plan is under review and should soon be available for public comment on the district website, http://uawcd.com.
  • Learned that an intergovernmental agreement with the town of Buena Vista for storing water in Cottonwood Reservoir is nearing completion.
  • Approved a $1,000 Colorado Water Congress Stewardship Project sponsorship.
  • More Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District coverage here

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