#Wyoming #Water bills spend millions on dangerous, aging infrastructure — The Wyoming Business Report

The LaPrele dam is an Ambursen style dam, which makes it unique.
CREDIT J. E. STIMSON / WYOMING STATE ARCHIVES

From Wyofile.com (Angus M. Thuermer Jr) via The Wyoming Business Report:

Lawmakers appropriated $24.3 million for water development, earmarking significant funding to rebuild the old and suspect LaPrele Dam above Douglas and repair a domestic water line to Midwest and Edgerton.

The Wyoming House and Senate both approved two water bills last week despite questions over cloud seeding and whether the state should prioritize water development over other crucial needs amid the ongoing budget crisis. Much of the money, some of which will be spent over several years, will upgrade aging water infrastructure.

In the largest appropriations, lawmakers earmarked grants of $4.3 million to study replacement of the unconventional and suspect Ambursen-style LaPrele Dam and $7.3 million to rehabilitate the Salt Creek water line to Midwest and Edgerton north of Casper.

Underscoring the need to repair aging infrastructure, one provision in the bills would transfer $7.5 million from a planning to a rehabilitation account to help fund the LaPrele reconstruction. The 137-foot high, 325-foot long dam, finished in 1909, may be the poster child for suspect, aging infrastructure.

LaPrele Dam held 20,000 acre-feet for an irrigation district before operators restricted storage because of safety worries. The $4.3 million allocation would help find a replacement for the unusual buttressed concrete-wall construction that blocks a canyon on LaPrele Creek above Ayres Natural Bridge Park, Interstate 25 and the city of Douglas 27 miles away.

The Water Development Office favors building a new dam downstream at an estimated cost of $50-$80 million, according to the Glenrock Independent…

Bust-town blues

Another big-ticket item addresses aging infrastructure and a lack of maintenance in an oilfield boom community north of Casper that’s gone bust. The bills would grant $7.3 million to the towns of Midwest and Edgerton, two Teapot Dome-Salt Creek oilfield communities that rely on a 45-mile water line.

Midwest and Edgerton were home to a combined 1,500 people in 1980, but by 2010, only 600 lived there. There’s no good water to be found in the area, according to a consultant.

The towns built their transmission line in 1996, didn’t maintain it well and corrosive soils have eaten at it. The line connects to the Central Wyoming Regional Water System at Bar Nunn, which draws water from the North Platte River.

Until it recently failed, part of the towns’ water system operated on a Windows 95 program and a dial-up modem, consultants wrote. Now operators manipulate valves manually. Water meters are plagued by freezing, poorly insulated pits and neglect.

Water spends 20 days in the system before reaching the user, degrading quality with “disinfectant residues and byproduct residuals,” the consultant wrote. As recently as 2017, Edgerton violated a water-quality rule limiting coliform bacteria.

Edgerton must monitor for impacts from its system’s asbestos-cement pipes.

The grant would amount to approximately $12,166 per resident. Those residents’ water bills could double from about $50 a month.

Cloud-seeding graphic via Science Matters

The legislation’s $24.3-million price tag is a fraction of the roughly $315 million Wyoming has already appropriated for water projects. The water Development Office holds those previously allocated funds in earmarked accounts and is poised to spend them. Those appropriations include $156 million for dams and reservoirs, $36 million for a rehabilitation account and $123 million that’s essentially for planning.

With the bills’ approval, water development will have about $35 million to appropriate going into next year’s biennium budget process, Gebhart told lawmakers.

Laws fund the water office annually with about $23.3 million diverted from mineral severance taxes. Because the diversion comes from the first $155 million of taxes generated annually, the arrangement isn’t threatened by declining revenues from fossil fuels.

Wyoming water development will receive that $23 million whether oil sells for $25 a barrel or $77 a barrel, Rep. Steve Harshman (R-Casper) told a House committee. Sen. Brian Boner (R-Douglas) told colleagues the most recent estimate put those tax revenues at $500 million a year, well above the $155 million necessary to generate the expected water office funding.

The state has a couple of dam projects under construction and “probably five or six additional projects at various levels of permitting” Gebhart told a committee. “Not many states are able to do what we’re doing,” he said.

Work is completed on the Big Sandy Dam enlargement in Sweetwater County and planning continues to enable Fontenelle Dam in Lincoln County to disgorge an additional 81,000 acre feet a year, Rep. Eklund said. Reconstruction is ongoing on the suspect Middle Piney Dam, partially located on a landslide.

Wyoming rivers map via Geology.com

Interior Announces Plans to Strengthen #LWCF

Fly fishing below Olympus Dam (Colorado-Big Thompson Project) September 17, 2015 via the Bureau of Reclamation

Here’s the release from the Department of Interior:

The Interior Department today took steps to strengthen the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) by rescinding Trump administration policies that significantly undermined the landmark conservation program. Secretarial Order 3396 revokes an order signed on November 9, 2020 (Secretarial Order 3388) that unilaterally imposed new restrictions to inhibit the availability of LWCF funding for federal land and water acquisitions.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been crucial to protecting public lands, conserving wildlife habitats, and improving access to outdoor recreation. Interior’s actions today affirm our support for one of America’s most successful and popular conservation programs,” said Shannon A. Estenoz, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary – Fish and Wildlife and Parks. “We look forward to further strengthening this successful program to ensure that all communities – from hikers and sportsmen to urban and underserved communities – have access to nature and the great outdoors.”

In addition to rescinding the November 2020 Bernhardt policy, Secretarial Order 3396 instructs the National Park Service to revise the Land and Water Conservation Fund Assistance Manual to remove the restrictive policies implemented in the previous order, and to reinstate pre-existing implementation of the LWCF state assistance program and Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) program. The ORLP program is the only LWCF competitive grant program dedicated to addressing the recreational gap in underserved urban areas.

Since its inception in 1965, the LWCF has funded $4 billion worth of projects in every county in the country. Last year, Congress permanently funded the LWCF at $900 million per year with wide bipartisan support. At no cost to taxpayers, the LWCF supports increased public access to and protection for federal public lands and waters – including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and recreation areas – and provides matching grants to state and tribal governments for the acquisition and development of public parks and other outdoor recreation sites.

#GilaRiver diversion group asserts primacy as legislation threatens — The #SilverCity Daily Press #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Gila River watershed. Graphic credit: Wikimedia

From The Silver City Press (Geoffrey Plant):

With a proposal in Santa Fe threatening its very existence, the New Mexico Entity of the Central Arizona Project — the group that was formed in 2015 to build the ultimately unsuccessful Gila diversion project — is having to defend the role it could play when it comes to administering the more than $80 million in the N.M. Unit Fund.

The massive pot of money is destined to be spent, per the 2004 federal Arizona Water Settlements Act, either on a New Mexico Unit,” i.e., a surface water diversion, or on other water utilization alternatives to meet water supply demands in the Southwest Water Planning Region of New Mexico.”

Since the Entity’s diversion project was put down last summer, the second option is now on the table, and the diversion group wants a say in who and what gets funded.

Ultimately, how that $80 million is spent — and it may only be spent on projects within the counties of Luna, Hidalgo, Catron and Grant — is determined by the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission in consultation with the Southwest New Mexico Water Study Group or its successor,” according to the 2004 law. But whether the N.M. CAP Entity is the true successor” to the original study group is debatable, according to the Entity’s opponents.

The argument in favor

Rolf Schmidt-Petersen, executive director of the ISC, has repeatedly stated that the Entity is the successor organization, and should be considered the consultant group” that will help vet water projects for future funding.

The New Mexico CAP Entity has documentation designating it as the successor to the Southwest New Mexico Water Study Group,” Schmidt-Petersen wrote in a Feb. 3 analysis of HB 200 that was requested by Legislative Finance Committee Fiscal Analyst Caitlyn Wan. Further, the New Mexico CAP Entity has been receiving funding from the NMISC, in part, as the successor to the Southwest New Mexico Water Study Group.”

The Entity’s executive director, Anthony Gutierrez, told the Daily Press that, in addition to state and federal law, the Entity’s documentation” consists of the records from the past 17 years of the succession from the original group.”

Schmidt-Petersen has argued that the Entity is an ideal foundation on which to build a four-county stakeholder group — something like the Eastern New Mexico Water Authority, the board of which is composed of representatives from two counties, several municipalities and Cannon Air Force Base, and which oversees the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System. In his vision, Schmidt-Petersen sees the Entity as nearly tailor-made to identify important water projects in the four counties.

Its members are representatives from the four-county region of southwest New Mexico,” Schmidt-Petersen noted in his analysis: That is, designated representatives from Catron, Grant, Hidalgo, and Luna counties; the cities of Deming and Lordsburg; [the] village of Santa Clara” — although Lordsburg’s representative hasn’t attended a meeting in months, and Santa Clara’s representative hasn’t attended a meeting in years — the Hidalgo Soil and Water Conservation District, San Francisco Soil and Water Conservation District, Grant Soil and Water Conservation District; and Fort West Irrigation Association, Gila Farm Irrigation Association, Gila Hot Springs Irrigation Association, and Upper Gila Irrigation Association all sit on the N.M. CAP Entity Board.”

The ISC itself sits on the Entity’s board as a nonvoting member, but ultimately the state agency approves any Unit Fund allocations. Whether any other stakeholders will eventually join — the town of Silver City is conspicuous in its absence — remains to be seen.

The argument against

New Mexico is divided into 16 water planning regions. Does the N.M. CAP Entity best represent the four-county area that makes up the Southwest Planning Region?

The Entity’s critics say no, and argue that the agriculture-centric membership of the Entity also lacks the expertise and motivation to serve as a water planning group for the region.

Although the state ended diversion planning last June, the Entity continues to prioritize development of a Gila diversion,” Allyson Siwik, executive director for the Gila Conservation Coalition, said in a statement.

The Center for Biological Diversity’s Todd Schulke told the Daily Press that, without a diversion to build, the Entity’s mission is forfeit, according to his group’s legal interpretation, because the 2004 federal law only mentions the N.M. CAP Entity in relation to building a diversion to capture surface water allocated to New Mexico in the settlement — not as having any role in determining how settlement money might be spent on non-unit” projects.

“Worse than silent, the New Mexico CAP Entity is mentioned elsewhere in the AWSA [only] in conjunction with N.M. Unit provisions,” Schulke said. That Congress did not specify the N.M. CAP Entity in Section 212(i) when it specified the N.M. CAP Entity in many other places demonstrates that Congress didn’t presume the N.M. CAP Entity would be the ‘successor’” to the Southwest New Mexico Water Study Group.

In the AWSA, the N.M. CAP Entity is defined as “the entity or entities that the state of New Mexico may authorize to assume responsibility for the design, construction, operation, maintenance, and replacement of the New Mexico Unit.”

Beyond Thunderdome

A bill now pending in the state Legislature, HB 200, titled ※Water Trust Board Projects and N.M. Unit Fund,” goes even further and, in a move that has the Entity’s members crying foul, proposes canceling the diversion group’s role entirely by striking it from the state statute governing the N.M. Unit Fund and handing over the successor role” to the New Mexico Water Trust Board — an entity that has no representation from the four-county region, but has had plenty of experience vetting water projects for funding since it was created in 2001.

The bill now has three co-sponsors in addition to District 50 Rep. Matthew McQueen, who originally introduced the legislation: District 17 senator and Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, District 36 Rep. Nathan Small and District 28 Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill.

Were HB 200 to be signed into law, the ISC would still retain authority over which projects are ultimately funded.

In a resolution adopted during its special meeting Wednesday, the Entity took its stance in opposition to the legislation…

At Wednesday’s special meeting, Howard Hutchinson, who represents the San Francisco Soil and Water Conservation District on the Entity, and who will testify when the House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee meets to discuss the bill Saturday, went further still, arguing that the whole purpose” of the 1968 Colorado River Basin Project Act and the subsequent 2004 Arizona Water Settlements Act ※is diversion and storage for New Mexico water users.”

#Utah’s new river commissioner appointed at ‘critical time’ for #ColoradoRiver use — #StGeorge News #COriver #aridification

Because water shortages in the Colorado River impact energy production, food and drinking water security, forestry and tourism, tools to predict drought and low water levels could inform management decisions that affect millions of people. Photo credit: Utah State University

From The St George News (Mori Kessler):

Last month the governor appointed the state’s newest Colorado River commissioner, but just what does this position entail and how does it relate to Southern Utah?

“The role of the commissioner is to represent the state of Utah in negotiations with regards to the use of its portion of the Colorado River,” Gene Shawcroft, the state’s newly appointed Colorado River Commissioner said Monday. “(It’s) coordinating with the other six (Colorado Basin) states, as well as the federal government as decisions are made state by state with each state’s individual right to use its allocation from the Colorado River.”

Gov. Spencer Cox announced Shawcroft’s appointment Jan. 14. As the state’s Colorado River Commissioner, Shawcroft will serve on the Upper Colorado River Commission. In addition to Utah, this commission includes fellow commissioners from Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming…

While sitting on the commission, Shawcroft will continue to serve in his current position as the general manager of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District located in Orem…

“I think Utah has water they are not yet using and the intent would be for us to find the most efficient and productive way to use that water,” Shawcroft said, adding it is important for the other basin states to be able to do the same.

Proposed Lake Powell Pipeline project map via the Washington County Water Conservation District (Utah) as of November 30, 2020.

Water, overall, is extremely important to the state, and people in the state are worried about the Colorado River, Shawcroft added. While he will be focused on current projects and uses connected to the river, Shawcroft said he is also mindful of Southern Utah and the pipeline proposed to bring water to it…

Currently, Washington County’s sole source of water is the Virgin River Basin.

Last week, Shawcroft spoke before the Utah House Natural Resources Committee in support of a bill that would create the Colorado River Authority of Utah. The new agency would bring the state’s best minds together to help promote and protect Utah’s interest on the river.

Though Zachary Frankel, executive director of the Utah Rivers Council, argued the creation of the new agency was a front for building of the Lake Powell Pipeline.

Shawcroft said that wasn’t the case, as he and the authority – should it be created – are focused on all of Utah’s uses of the Colorado River and not one that hasn’t been built yet. However, planning for the future, particularly where water is concerned, is vital, he said.

“Water isn’t something we look at three or five years in the future – it’s something we have to look at, sometimes a couple of generations – 50 years out – into the future,” he said…

Utah’s Colorado River Compact allotment is 1.725 million acre-feet of water per year, or 23% of the [Upper Colorado River under the Colorado River Compact]. The state is currently using about one million acre-feet annually, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

Shawcroft has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from Brigham Young University and is a licensed professional engineer in Utah. He also is active in various professional groups and serves on several governing boards in the water industry, including serving as a trustee for the Colorado River Water Users Association and board member of the National Water Resources Association.

Southwest #Colorado livestock meeting addresses grazing, wolves — The #Cortez Journal

Montezuma Valley

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

As snow and rain fell outside, about 50 audience members gathered at the indoor arena of the Montezuma County Fairgrounds for the morning meeting session to hear presentations, some broadcast via Zoom…

State House bills

Republican Marc Catlin, state representative for the 58th District, listed some bills he plans to introduce.

A watershed mitigation bill proposes to provide funding for cities and counties for timber thinning projects on private land. A water rights bill would protect the water rights of mutual ditch companies. Another bill would allow tribes to operate their own foster homes so Native American foster children could grow up in their culture. Catlin said a bill providing a tax exemption for the removal of beetle-killed trees in forests would be an incentive to remove the fire-prone dead trees.

Eads Board of Trustees meeting recap — The Kiowa County Press

Kiowa County Courthouse, Eads, Colorado, 1903 via wikimedia.

From the Town of Eads Board of Trustees via The Kiowa County Press:

Water and Sewer rate increase -Town Clerk, Robin Fox, informed the Board of Trustees that it has been 2 years since the last rate increase for Water, Sewer, and Trash Services. Kathy McCracken motioned to increase water and sewer service rates 3% for 2021. Dennis Pearson seconded, motion passed unanimously…

GMS – Director of Public Works, Van Brown, informed the Board that after talking with GMS, the repairs on the Elevated Tank will cost an additional $4,000 because of the additional problems found.