HB 15-1778: Dewatering grant applications moving forward — The Sterling Journal-Advocate

Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions -- Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute
Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions — Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute

From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (Callie Jones):

The Logan County Commissioners heard an update on the dewatering grant Country Club Hills and Pawnee Ridge subdivisions are applying for during a work session Tuesday. Geologist Alan Horn spoke about how the funds will be used and the timeline for submitting the grant applications. The county is acting as a fiscal agent for the grant funds.

The grant program came about when House Bill 15-1778 was signed into law by the governor last year. The bill authorizes the Colorado Water Conservation Board, in collaboration with the State Engineer, to administer a grant program for emergency dewatering of areas in and around Gilcrest and Sterling.

Horn explained each subdivision will submit its own separate grant application, because the issues in each subdivision are different.

A total of $580,000 in grant funding is available for Sterling and Gilcrest, $290,000 for each fiscal year, 2016 and 2017.

“What I feel like would be the best way to approach this would be to try to get something as quickly as possible that could provide immediate relief for these residents in these areas,” Horn said, explaining they would like to start with temporary pipelines laying on the ground, then in the second fiscal year they could apply for funding “that would be sufficient to come out and do the excavation and bury these pipelines.”

In the Pawnee Ridge Subdivision, there are two locations that have been having trouble with high water conditions, Dakota Road and Westwood Drive, near the intersection of Westwood and Summit Drive.

Horn said on Dakota Road what he would like to do is put in a temporary pipeline and take the St. John dewatering well and a dewatering well next door, on Gene Thim’s property, manifold them together and then pump the water up so that it would discharge into the drainage and drain down into the Gentz pond, which is a natural drainage, and then the water would be bypassed on down to the river. When the water level drops work would be done to make the pipeline permanent.

Both wells will pump a total of about 400 gallons a minute.

In the Westwood area there only a couple of houses that have typically been having issues, so he would like to excavate and install a subsurface drain, which would go along Westwood Drive and would have a couple of laterals going up into the property at 18188 Westwood Dr. Horn said the homeowner, Michael Negley, installed a temporary drain several years ago when problems were real bad. Grant funds will be used to install it at a deeper level and “do a little more professional job.”

The PRN 3 well is being used to monitor the water conditions there. Horn noted as of early December the water was only about half a foot below ground surface at that well.

Water from the subsurface drain will make its way to a swell that goes into the Springdale Ditch. Horn estimated there will be no more than 50 to 100 gallons a minute draining out of this area once the drain is installed. He told the commissioners he doesn’t anticipate any damage to property.

Horn brought right of way applications for both Dakota Road and Westwood Drive. Rocky Samber asked if fees are being paid through the grant. Horn wanted to know if the county could waive those fees, which would be $100 to $200 each, because it would be helpful to the project funding availability and the CWCB looks favorably toward applicants that put forth some kind of services or funds. Samber asked if the county in the past has exempted permit fees; Horn said he believes they have.

The commissioners did not make a decision.

For the Country Club Hills Subdivision, all work will take place on public land that is being held in trust by the county, which requires a permit from the county. Horn explained they would like to excavate and install a concrete sump with an inlet structure to the little pond that’s by Cottonwood Lane. Then via a temporary pipeline to begin with — which would be made permanent later — the water would be pumped under Forest Road, under Cottonwood Lane and over to the Springdale Ditch.

He said Springdale Ditch has agreed in principal to work them on this and allow this water to be discharged to their ditch and then conveyed back to the river. Horn pointed out the good news is the water doesn’t seem to be rising as much in Country Club Hills as it is in Pawnee Ridge, so hopefully there will be some extra time to get the agreement with Springdale Ditch in place.

The pipeline will be for to six inches and will pump about 100 gallons a minute.

There was a question about who will pay for the power. The first couple of years it will be paid for by the grant funding and Scott Szabo, a resident of the subdivision, has said that he will pay for the power for future dewatering issues. Horn said there may be other residents that would be amenable to joining with him to help pay for the power.

Dave Donaldson asked if Gilcrest is more prepared to move forward than Sterling. Horn said Gilcrest has already received some funds, $80,000 or $90,000, but they’re running into some difficulties that are preventing them from expending the funds that have already been awarded. He is confident there will be enough funds for Sterling.

Horn said he hopes to have a draft application for the CWCB to review finished by the end of January. On Feb. 17 the South Platte Groundwater Basin Technical Committee will be meeting and will review the applications and pass them on to the CWCB, which will review them in mid-March. Funding should be available in mid-April.

#coleg: Logan County to act as fiscal agent for HB15-1178 grants — Sterling Journal Advocate

From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (Callie Jones):

During the work session, the commissioners voted 2-0 for Logan County to be the fiscal agent to handle dewatering grant funds from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to the recipients, which include Country Club Hills and Pawnee Ridge subdivisions. Rocky Samber recused himself from the vote, as he lives in the Pawnee Ridge subdivision.

The state approved a grant program providing financial aid for emergency dewatering when House Bill 15-1778 was signed into law by the governor on June 5. The bill authorizes the CWCB, in collaboration with the State Engineer, to administer a grant program for emergency dewatering of areas in and around Gilcrest and Sterling. The grants are intended for areas that, through the application and review process, the CWCB and the State Engineer determine are experiencing damaging high groundwater levels in recent years.

A group from Country Club Hills approached the commissioners at their work session last week, to request that the county act as financial agent for the grant. Commissioner Gene Meisner was not at the meeting; the other commissioners told the group they would talk with him and get back to them with their decision.

“I don’t think it would be that much work on the finance department,” Donaldson said Tuesday.

Samber agreed, noting the groups representing the subdivisions will do the writing and the paperwork.

They asked Meisner if he had any questions after reading the narrative he was given; he did not. With the grant application do next week, they decided to take action on the request during their work session.

Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions -- Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute
Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions — Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute

Colorado Water Congress Annual Summer Conference recap

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

People are “bored and frustrated” by what is going on in Washington, D.C., so U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet was very happy to be in the Colorado mountains Wednesday…

Although there is gridlock in the nation’s Capitol, Bennet has recently toured the state with his Republican counterpart Sen. Cory Gardner. Common ground most often has been found on water issues.

In his opening remarks, he noted that his first legislation was a bill to provide a funding mechanism for the Arkansas Valley Conduit, and among his most recent was creation of the Browns Canyon National Monument.

“We take water seriously in Colorado,” Bennet said. “We know that it is a limited resource that is fundamental to every aspect of our economy and our way of life.”

Bennet hit the key points that are driving Colorado to develop a water plan by December: agriculture, recreation, the environment and continued urban growth.

“Water sustains our agriculture industry.

It sustains the rivers, wildflowers and wildlife that bring in $13.2 billion in outdoor recreation spending every year. Water fuels the existence and growth of businesses throughout the state that have helped us build one of the strongest economies in the country,” Bennet said.

His message on this year’s ample rainfall was mixed.

“We are thankful for the rain we’ve had this year in Colorado. It’s helped our economy and decreased the threat of catastrophic wildfire,” he said. “But we know we are part of a much larger water system. We know that the Colorado River basin as a whole remains in a record drought.”

Lake Powell is just 53 percent full, and inflows will be about 88 percent of normal this year. Lake Mead is only 38 percent full.

“It’s incredible to think that the water level in Lake Mead has dropped by about the height of a 15-story building since 1983 over the surface of the lake. That’s about 18 million acre feet of water, potentially enough for 70 million families for a year,” Bennet said.

Bennet supports working with other states in the Upper Colorado River basin (New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) as the lower basin states (Arizona, California and Nevada) continue to rely more heavily on the Colorado River.

“We need to stay ahead of this continuing drought,” he said. “Colorado River security is not a west slope issue or an east slope issue — it’s a Colorado issue.”

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Fountain Creek isn’t the only area of the state where storm control and water rights have collided, the Colorado Water Congress learned Wednesday.

But it is unique in being the only area omitted from SB212, state legislation that allowed stormwater to be stored for up to 72 hours or 110 hours in an exceptional storm. That decision was applauded by some, but derided by one water attorney as “Monkey Business.”

As in the Marx Brothers classic movie.

Law-makers have overstepped their responsibility and subjected water law to “death by a thousand small cuts” by passing SB212 and HB1016, said Alan Curtis, a water lawyer with White and Jankowski.

Curtis lampooned the bills, along with failed legislation to allow rain barrels (SB1259) by showing video clips from “Monkey Business” — including Harpo’s antics in the crowded cruise ship cabin, jumping out of line in port and roiling the lemonade by splashing his legs in it. He ended by asking “which Marx Brother are you?” He declared he is Groucho and those who passed the legislation are more like Karl. Curtis’ point was that the new laws that passed, like the rain barrel bill that did not, jump some water rights ahead of others that have been in line for 150 years of water law, amounting to a taking of property rights. They also put the responsibility to prove damage on the party who is injured, which is the opposite of most water law, which requires proof of no injury or mitigation.

Engineer Jim Wulliman and Alan Searcy, of the Colorado Stormwater Council, argued that stormwater retention ponds are useful both to enhance water quality, by settling water, and to restore channel flows to pre-development conditions.

Wulliman detailed how paving urban surfaces sets up a scenario for damage to waterways as more water drains more quickly, causing erosion.

Finally, Steve Vandiver, general manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, said the state Legislature moved too fast to pass the stormwater bill, saying junior water rights holders could be injured.

“I’d just like to slow the process down,” Vandiver said. “The science is not exact.”

Fountain Creek has been struggling with the stormwater control/water rights issue for years. It was removed from SB212, with the exception of Colorado Springs, which has a stormwater discharge permit.
This year, a preliminary study by the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District attempted to quantify the damage at certain flows and suggested ways to mitigate the damage.
Pueblo County has hired Wright Water Engineers to quantify the damage caused by development in Colorado Springs to Fountain Creek.

2015 Colorado legislation water bill recap

Colorado Capitol building
Colorado Capitol building

From The Fort Morgan Times (Marianne Goodland):

It began with the interim water resources review committee, which last summer held hearings on studies on groundwater levels in the South Platte River Basin area. That led to four bills dealing with flooding and groundwater issues in the Basin.

House Bill 15-1178 provided $165,000 in 2015-16 for grants administered by the Colorado Water Conservation Board to be used for emergency dewatering of wells in LaSalle and Sterling, due to high groundwater levels that have damaged crops, homes and businesses in those areas. The money comes the CWCB construction fund. It was signed into law on June 5 and went into effect upon the governor’s signature. Rep. Lori Saine, R-Firestone, said emergency dewatering started in LaSalle in April. Another $290,000 will be available in 2016-17 for additional dewatering.

A related bill, HB 1013, requires the CWCB and state engineer to select two pilot programs, one from LaSalle/Gilcrest and the other from Sterling, to test different ways for lowering the water table. The law requires an annual report on the project to the General Assembly, with a final report due in 2020.

The law also tasks the state engineer with making changes on operations and design of recharge structures (such as wells) for augmentation plans that include construction of those wells. Augmentation plans are required when someone wants to take water out-of-priority and must replace enough water to avoid injury to the river or other water users.

Currently, when the water court considers an application for an augmentation plan with a well, the court looks at whether the plan will provide that replacement water, but the court hasn’t looked at the effect on groundwater for nearby water users. HB 1013 requires the state engineer to examine that issue. The bill was signed into law on May 29 and goes into effect on August 5.

A bill from the water resources review committee puts off a change to state law regarding the Dawson aquifer. The aquifer is one of four within the Denver Basin, which extends from Colorado Springs to Denver and east to Limon and into Morgan County. On July 1, 2015, those who pump from Dawson would have been required to use calculations based on the aquifer’s current condition when figuring out how much water would be needed to replace stream depletions. This dates back a law passed in 2001, and delayed several times since then. Because the state has never had the money to do the modeling necessary, the requirement needed to be postponed again. The legislation did not provide a new implementation date.

Finally, the annual CWCB projects list included $125,000 for South Platte River basin groundwater level data collection, analysis and remediation.

Among other significant water bills passed in the 2015 session:

• Major changes to the fallowing program administered by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Currently, agricultural land-owners can lease their water rights to municipalities for up to 10 years. This pilot program was expanded by the General Assembly to allow for leasing of water rights for other agricultural, industrial, environmental and recreational uses.

Garrett Mook, a fourth-generation farmer from Lamar, talked about the value of expanding the program with the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee in March. Mook cited as an example a feedlot in Swink that relies on well water. The well was shut down because of the drought in Southeastern Colorado, and farmers in the area wanted to help the lot owner by leasing some of their water. They weren’t able to do that because the lease-fallow program only allows leasing water rights to municipalities, and the feedlot owner had to find water elsewhere.

“The way crop prices varies from year to year and rainfall varies from year to year, a new source of revenue is crucial for us…It gives farmers my age a fighting chance,” he said.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa) and Rep. Ed Vigil (D-Fort Garland), sailed unanimously through both the House and Senate and was signed into law by the governor on May 1. The new law goes into effect on August 1.

• A $5 million grant program was set up to manage invasive phreatophytes. These are deep-rooted plants that draw their water from a nearby water table. In Colorado, that means tamarisk and Russian-olive trees. The bill, HB 1005, came from the water resources review committee.

Colorado has been dealing with these problem plants for more than a decade. The grant program goes into effect on August 5.

• Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, called SB 183 the most important water bill of the session. The bill quantifies historical use of consumptive water (water that is consumed by crops, for example, and not returned to a stream).

The bill ran into problems in the House, in the Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee. It was opposed by the Colorado River District, Trout Unlimited and the Audubon Society. Chris Treese of the Colorado River District said the issue had become a West Slope/Eastern Plains dispute. He pointed to two water court cases where the bill would hamper, rather than hinder, appropriate determinations of consumptive use.

In one case, an agricultural water right that came through a transmountain diversion (water that is diverted from the West Slope to the Eastern Plains) was sold to two municipalities. The Pueblo water board sought an immediate change-of-use decree from the water court. The city of Aurora did not, although it used the water for 22 years. The city finally went to water court in 2009 to seek the proper permit. But the judge in the case counted all the water used in the decree, including the 22 years of non-decreed (illegal) use. The state Division of Water Resources argued that the water decree should be reduced by 27 percent to account for the years of illegal use. That would be done by using zeros in the calculation, representing the years of non-decreed use.

The case is pending in the state Supreme Court.

Becker told this reporter that SB 183 would provide certainty and stability in water court cases. He disagreed with the suggestion that the court use zeros in its calculation of consumptive use. “Non-decreed uses can’t be a benefit but it shouldn’t be a detriment,” Becker said. The courts should use a calculation based on actual consumptive use. He also pointed out that in Aurora’s case, the state engineer had the authority to stop non-decreed use, and didn’t.

The law established under SB 183 would allow the courts to base the consumptive use on wet years, dry years, and average years, and exclude the year(s) of non-decreed use.

The law went into effect on May 4 when the governor signed the bill.

More 2015 Colorado legislation coverage here.

2015 Colorado legislation: Governor to sign SB15-212 (Drinking Water Fund Assistance Nonprofit Entities) today in Rocky Ford

Rocky Ford Melon Day 1893 via the Colorado Historical Society
Rocky Ford Melon Day 1893 via the Colorado Historical Society

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Nonprofit rural water districts will benefit from new legislation that will allow them to apply for state grants and loans.

Gov. John Hickenlooper is scheduled to sign the legislation into law this afternoon in Rocky Ford, at the offices of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

“The beauty of this is that it just doesn’t help water districts in our area, but throughout the whole state,” said Bill Hancock, manager of conservation programs for the Lower Ark District.

Hancock is part of the Eureka Water District, one of 28 water districts in Otero County, many of them private associations. Those districts sprang up during a time when rural households were switching from cisterns to water delivery systems that served multiple households.

Now, those districts are finding it difficult to make changes required by stricter water quality regulations or just the need to keep up with repairs.

The legislation, Senate Bill 121, amends the law for the drinking water revolving fund administered by the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority to make private, nonprofit entities eligible for loans or grants. It was sponsored by Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, and others.

“A lot of the companies are dealing with radionuclides or have aging infrastructure, which is very costly to fix, and they have no good way to finance improvements,” Hancock said. “In order to get government help, they had to be a governmental entity.”

Some of the private water districts in Otero County formed an association last year in an attempt to get state funds, but it was treated as a “pass-through” agency by the state, Hancock said. The Lower Ark district pushed for the new law that keeps the funding door open.

“We needed a legislative change,” he said.

The new law also will help agencies in the Arkansas Valley Conduit prepare for hooking into the new water delivery system from Pueblo Dam when it is built.

More infrastructure coverage here.

2015 Colorado Legislation: Governor signs HB15-1057, bill will provide more opportunities to understand fiscal impact of new ballot measures — @COWaterCongress

More 2015 Colorado legislation coverage here.

2015 Colorado legislation: Governor Hickenlooper signs HB15-1006 (Invasive Phreatophyte Grant Program)


From KVNF (Laura Palmisano):

House Bill 1006 creates the Invasive Phreatophyte Grant Program.

Governor John Hickenlooper signed the bill at a ceremony in Montrose on Tuesday…

Republican Representative Don Coram of Montrose sponsored the bill.

He called the invasive plants ‘water thieves’ that menace riparian areas.

“I truly believe the eradication of phreatophytes is the first tool in the Colorado Water Plan,” Coram said at the signing ceremony.

Coram said these plants are a problem in his district and across the state.

“If you travel the Colorado River [and] the Dolores River for example, it’s a thicket in many areas that you can’t even walk through, but it’s also a water quality issue because the tree sucks up the water and it drops salt so nothing else really [can] grow,” he said.

The water conservation board will oversee the program and distribute grants for projects. The program is set to end in 2018.

More 2015 Colorado legislation coverage here.