Boyce water proposal still active — the Valley Courier

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Gary Boyce’s death does not mean the water project he was proposing is over.

“Gary Boyce was a partner in this project and he is dearly missed. The project, however, is moving forward,” stated Monica McCafferty, spokesperson for the Sustainable Water Resources (SWR) project.

She stated on Tuesday that SWR is continuing to meet with San Luis Valley residents and is encouraged with the positive feedback from residents.

“While the long-term plan is to eventually proceed to water court, there is no concrete timeframe for such action,” she added. “We are currently focused on continued outreach to the community and taking in their feedback.”

Boyce, a Saguache area rancher who spearheaded the SWR project in the Valley , died of cancer at age 68 earlier this month.

In a September 2014 interview, Boyce said he had not yet filed a water court application but would be moving forward in the near future. “This is not a forever process. This is something that needs to move expediently,” he said at that time.

He formed Sustainable Water Resources in 2011 with the stated goal of developing 35,000 acre feet annually from the confined aquifer in the northern part of the San Luis Valley by pooling existing water rights including some of his own. The water would be transferred from the Rio Grande Basin (the San Luis Valley) to the Platte River Basin, according to Sustainable Water Resources.

At the time SWR owned 25,000 acres of ranch lands with senior water rights and planned to purchase additional water rights.

In 2014 Boyce said he planned to set up a SLV Economic Assistance Fund of $150 million, with $50 million targeted for county governments and school districts. He said he had hoped the Rio Grande Water Conservation District would agree to help distribute the other $100 million through a global augmentation plan for the San Luis Valley that would include the water district’s Sub-District 1. However, the water district declined his offer, so Boyce said he would distribute $100 million through the company “to deal directly with those that are going to retire wells, retire farms.”

Boyce indicated that those who supported the project would be the ones who would receive SLV Economic Assistance Fund money.

“Once we file our application I think we are going to know who supports the project and who does not, who’s been helpful and who hasn’t,” he said in the 2014 interview.

He did not disclose who was backing this project but said it was all private money and did not specify the market but stated, “The market is there.”

Boyce said some of his ranches would be the first to participate with water rights in this proposal.

“I don’t see the project as I designed it, as my engineers designed it, as any threat to my ranches,” he said at that time. “If this was somebody else doing this project I would still be involved. This is the kind of project that’s going to help my neighbors and my ranching operation.”

Rio Grande Water Users Association Attorney Bill Paddock said during that group’s annual meeting this month that the water association was able to successfully restrict Boyce’s water rights from becoming the basis of a water export plan. Paddock said Boyce had filed a change of water rights application on Rito Alto and Kerber Creeks, which Paddock believed was the first step in Boyce’s export plan. The Rio Grande Waters Association and others fighting the change case were able to restrict Boyce’s water rights for “efforts to move water out of the San Luis Valley,” Paddock said.

“Those water rights are limited to use in the San Luis Valley and cannot form any basis for an out of Valley export plan,” Paddock said.

McCafferty indicated on Tuesday, however, that even without Boyce or his water, the Sustainable Water Resources project would be moving forward.

Rio Grande River Basin via the Colorado Geologic Survey
Rio Grande River Basin via the Colorado Geologic Survey

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