One of the most significant issues addressed during the meeting surrounded water. It is a problem not only for the county, but the state as a whole.
“Water ownership, immunization and management are the key issues with the water problems,” Kattnig explained.
“For us, water is vital to our Valley and our industry. We know we will have to change, but it is incumbent upon us as landowners to be at the table as these decisions are being developed.”
Local water laws were developed for the mining industry here, and as industrial utilization of water declined, agriculture became the biggest user. Today, given the size of Custer County’s population and voting strength, Kattnig said that water policies can be changed. These issues affect not only Custer County and the Arkansas River Basin, but also the Colorado River, the Rio Grande and the Platte River basins.
“People in San Diego and Los Angeles have a voice in water in the Colorado River,” Kattnig said, “and indirectly there is potential impact for water in Custer County. These water laws were made through legislation, and can be changed with legislation.”[…]
Among the dignitaries in attendance were the president of the Colorado Cattlemen Association, Gene Manuello, and the Director of the Southeast Quarter and past CCA president David Mendenhall. Together they produced information concerning Senate Bill 17, which covers the use of agriculture water transfer to new municipal developments. This bill limits the percentage of water used for lawn landscaping and to promote xeriscaping.
The Fourth Custer County Water Forum will be held on Saturday, March 1 in the Multi-Purpose room at the high school. County extension agent Robin Young explained that the conference is important for everyone.
“We might have had a lot of moisture so far this year,” Young said, “but we are always in a water crisis. Colorado is in a longer drought cycle. Though the moisture now is helpful, it depends on the spring’s showers if we produce good crops this year or not.”
Not only is the Wet Mountain Valley waiting to see if those spring rains come, but the state is in a crisis because it gives water to 18 other states, including California. As of now, many cities in California are about to run out of water and still have not adopted any water regulations.
“It impacts us greatly,” Young said. “We have strict water regulations, but they don’t.”
Young explained that the state, and the Valley, have been in a drought since the early 2000s. Climatologists have said that snow levels must consistently be met to end the drought.
The water conference is free for people to attend, though lunch will cost $3.50 or $4. The conference will focus on “Water on the Land and in the Ground.”
There will be an Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District update, an update on water issues in Custer County, a balanced approach to tying water to the land, and the use of 1041 regulations by Huerfano County to protect water resources. Other lectures are also scheduled.
For pre-registration, contact the Custer County Conservation District office at 783-2481.
The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District recently finalized acquisition of a new source of water in the Wet Mountain Valley. Attorney Kendall Burgemeister with Wilderson, Lock & Hill LLC reported at the district meeting Thursday that the judge had issued a “final signed decree” in the district’s water court case to change the use of water purchased from Hermit Basin Lodge in Custer County. The district will use the water as a source of replacement water under its augmentation plans, and engineer Ivan Walter said, now that the decree has been signed, his goal is to complete the engineering work so the district can use the water this year…
With the Colorado Legislature in session, consultant Ken Baker reported on several bills under consideration, including Senate Bill 41, which would expand the beneficial uses of water to include storage. Baker said the bill is likely to pass.
Baker also reported on SB 19, sponsored by District 5 Sen. Gail Schwarz, who has described the bill as a way to “encourage farmers and producers to take water efficiency measures or upgrade their irrigation technology.” Baker pointed out that a provision of the bill would allow senior water-rights holder to curtail their water usage without losing credit for beneficial use of the water. This would allow junior rights holders to use water that they could not otherwise use, allowing them to expand their beneficial use of the water, which would affect future water court cases.
Once again, Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board chairman Bob Senderhauf urged the county commissioners to move forward with bringing a water augmentation plan to Custer County. Such discussion ensued during a regular county commissioner’s meeting earlier this month…
…the commissioners have met in Salida with the UAWCD board. During one meeting, UAWCD board chairman Bob Senderhauf asked the county commissioners to consider signing a memorandum of understanding with the UAWCD outlining the details regarding how the two entities should proceed with bringing a proposed water augmentation plan to water court. That has yet to occur.
During the recent commissioners meeting, Senderhauf said that the UAWCD continued to pursue the building of reservoirs in the county as part of a blanket water augmentation plan, and those reservoirs would help to keep Custer County water in Custer County.
During their regular monthly meeting on Sept. 6, the board of directors unanimously approved raising the fee from $9,000 to $10,500, which equates to $6,000 for a water tap and $4,500 for a sewer tap. The fee increase takes effect April 2013 to give property owners adequate time to purchase the taps at the current price even if they choose not install them until a later date.
Elected to the RMW board were current board members Charles Bogle with 147 votes and Chris Haga with 99 votes, followed by newcomer Ken Felty with 130 votes. Also running for a seat on the board was Dana Wyrick who received 78 votes. There were 760 eligible voters in the RMW election with 170 voters casting a vote, a 22 percent voter turnout.
The three will take office on June 7.
Rounding out the RMW board are Peggy Dunlap and Dee Hoag who were not up for re-election.
Here’s an in-depth look at the history of an augmentation plan with the Upper Arkansas Water Conservation District and Custer County, from Nora Drenner writing for The Wet Mountain Tribune. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:
A blanket water augmentation plan was brought to the table again in 2003 at the urging of the county commissioners to address the depletion of wells in Custer County. The UAWCD submitted such a plan to water court in June 2009. Once again, the proposed plan came under fire when several Valley citizens urged the county commissioners to ask the UAWCD to pull the plug, and subsequently the UAWCD voluntarily withdrew its proposed water augmentation plan. Additionally, the commissioners and the UAWCD decided to keep the line of communication open in regards to bringing another proposed water augmentation plan to Custer County. The UAWCD and commissioners also agreed at that time that there was a lack of understanding in regards to how a water augmentation plan works, and as such UAWCD would strive to educate Custer County residents and elected officials.
Moreover, the commissioners appointed an ad hoc water assessment committee to study the need for a county-wide blanket water augmentation plan in Custer County. That committee, led by commissioner Butler, concluded in June 2011 that a water augmentation problem did not currently exist, and such a problem would likely not exist for at least 10 years. According to the findings of the ad hoc water committee there were only 320 parcels in the county that are 35 acres or less that would need a water augmentation plan to get a well permit.