Lake County water rights change case targeting augmentation


From The Leadville Herald (Rachel Woolworth):

Lake County is moving towards a domestic water solution. On Nov. 15 the Board of County Commissioners, Planning and Zoning Commission and Water Advisory Council met to discuss the future of Lake County’s newly acquired water rights.

Lake County has owned the three irrigation ditches on Hallenbeck Ranch, whose construction dates back to the 1800s, since 1998.

The county recently quantified the water right associated with Derry Ditch No. 3 and changed its use from agricultural, to commercial and residential, through legal process.

The Colorado Division Two Water Court approved Lake County’s augmentation plan on Jan. 9, 2017, after approximately 6 years in water court.

Derry Ditch No. 3 provides Lake County with the right to 74 acre-feet of water; 23 acre-feet are currently leased to Mount Massive Golf Course and 17 acre-feet will go to the City of Aurora. This leaves 34 acre-feet of water to Lake County’s will.

Currently, Lake County businesses and homeowners who live outside the Parkville Water District are dependent on individual groundwater wells. Residents must buy augmentation rights on the open market, an extremely difficult and expensive task said Mike Bordogna, Leadville Lake County Economic Development Corporation.

Under the proposed augmentation plan, businesses and residents within Lake County’s augmentation area would be able to buy affordable water rights from the county itself. “Water equals growth,” said Bordogna.

Lake County established a water enterprise, the legal mechanism by which the county can lease water rights, last January. So far, the county can only lease to the Mount Massive Golf Course and for the evaporative loss of Hayden Meadows Reservoir.

Though the Derry Ditch No. 3 water rights have been available to Lake County much of this year, a lot needs to happen before the water can be leased.

For one, Lake County needs to build a flume to measure water flow on Corske Creek. To do so, the Forest Service must clear out several beaver dams and fallen trees.

Lake County must also find a place to store the newly acquired water. Though there are a multitude of storage options on the table, they are far off in the future.

Lake County has a right to 20 percent of Box Creek Reservoir’s operational capacity; a project funded by the City of Aurora with a 2035 completion date.

Lake County has also won the right to store up to 49.7 acre-feet of water at Hayden Meadows Reservoir starting in 2021…

Lastly, Lake County has the initial permitting to build a reservoir at Birds Eye Gulch, an area that sits on Bureau of Land Management land north of town. The county has five years left, out of a seven year permit, to get the ball rolling.

The BOCC also discussed setting aside money in the 2018 budget to hire an administrative contractor and will start engaging in conversation with parties interested in leasing water.

The BOCC, Planning and Zoning Commission and WAC will meet quarterly to keep the water augmentation plan moving forward.

Arkansas River: Aurora’s planned Box Creek Reservoir stirs questions from Mt. Elbert Water Association members

Proposed Box Creek Reservoir map including wetland mitigation area in red
Proposed Box Creek Reservoir map including wetland mitigation area in red

From The Leadville Herald (Marcia Martinek):

Members of the Mt. Elbert Water Association had many questions for representatives of the Aurora Water Department Saturday regarding the proposed Box Creek Reservoir. Because of the timing of the processes for planning and then constructing the reservoir, not many answers were available. However the association members now know that they will be informed of what is happening through email, and there will be a representative of Aurora Water at subsequent annual meetings.

The association held its annual meeting at the Lake County Public Library Saturday morning with 56 in attendance.

Representing Aurora Water were Gerry Knapp, Aurora resources program manager, and Kathy Kitzmann, senior water resources engineer.

An early question concerned the Box Creek well that supplies water to the association. Concerns were expressed that the reservoir might impact the well in some way.

“We have no intent of adversely affecting your well,” Knapp responded. “We couldn’t build the project if we did.”

In response to later questions about possible decreased river flow and its impact on rafting, he pointed out that any negative impact to river flow as a result of the reservoir cannot occur.

“What comes in must go out,” he said.

The pool at the reservoir also would have to be kept at 20 percent except in cases of extreme drought.

Knapp said that Aurora would be following the National Environmental Policy Act process as set forth by the federal government regarding environmental issues. He made it clear that Aurora is not working with the federal government on the project.
Other questions centered on the types of recreational activities that would be permitted once the reservoir is built.

A separate study on appropriate recreation will be done, and Knapp anticipates broad public input. The county commissioners will be responsible for managing recreation on the reservoir although they could turn management over to another entity. Possible recreation could include fishing, boating, camping and more. Some concerns were expressed over ATVs and noise levels.

Other concerns related to construction activities and dust. The construction period is estimated to be two years. Negative impacts on property values were mentioned by one resident.

Kitzmann said one issue they’re dealing with is wetland restoration. Aurora has purchased a parcel of land from a private owner that will be restored as wetland to be used as a credit for wetland that would be used in the project.

No decision has been made on what will happen to the old buildings that exist on the Hallenbeck Ranch where the reservoir will be built. Knapp said some talks are under way with Colorado Mountain College, owner of the Hayden Ranch, about possibly moving some of the buildings there, but no decisions have been made.

There would be no road over the top of the reservoir dam and, according to Knapp, there are no plans to close the road leading to Pan-Ark subdivision, whose residents are served by the Mount Elbert Water Association.

“We may have to move it a little bit,” he said.

The permitting process could begin in one to three years, and is a 10-year-long process, Knapp said. Although there initially was hope that the process would move faster, 2030 was the date given at the meeting for possible completion.

The Hallenbeck Ranch property was purchased by Lake County in 1998. The county granted Aurora an option to purchase the main portion of the ranch property in January 2001, retaining all water and ditch rights associated with the ranch. The purchase-option agreement stipulates that Aurora will design, construct and operate the reservoir project and manage the surrounding land in combination with the Lake County Open Space Initiative partners.

Lake County will be able to use 20 percent of Aurora’s operational capacity for storage of its own water.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Leadville: Evans Gulch susceptible to contamination — CDPHE survey shows


From the Leadville Herald Democrat (Dan Ramey):

Parkville Water District’s surface water sources in Evans Gulch have a moderate susceptibility to contamination, according to a survey performed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The report looks at the susceptibility of a district’s sources of water to two types of contaminants.

Discrete contaminant sources are areas “from which the potential release of the contamination would be confined to a relatively small area,” according to the report. These sources include such things as Superfund sites and mining sites.

Dispersed contaminant sources are defined by the report as “broad based land uses and miscellaneous sources from which the potential release of contamination would be spread over a relatively large area.” These sources includes things such as animal pastures and septic systems.
According to the report, the district’s surface water sources in Evans Gulch are at risk from one Superfund site and 53 existing or abandoned mining sites. Meanwhile, the surface is only at risk from three dispersed contaminant sources.

The report also found that Evans Gulch surface water has a moderately high physical setting vulnerability rating. The physical setting vulnerability rating looks at how the area around a water source can buffer that source from possible contaminants. The higher the rating, the less of a buffer the water source has.

Another survey from the state also assessed the susceptibility of the district’s other water sources, all of which are groundwater sources. All of those five groundwater sources had a total susceptibility rating of moderately low. Those five water sources are threatened by just seven possible discrete contaminants and 18 dispersed contaminants, according to the report.
The physical setting vulnerability ratings for those water sources vary from moderately low to moderate.

The survey is part of the state health department’s Source Water Assessment and Protection program. The surveys are also an important part of the water district’s Source Water Protection Plan. The plan uses information found in the two state health department surveys to develop ways to prevent the district’s water sources from becoming contaminated.

Contamination of the district’s sources, especially those in Evans Gulch, could prove disastrous, Parkville General Manager Greg Teter said. The district has other sources besides those in Evans Gulch, but those other sources would likely only be able to supply half of the community’s demand.

“We’re trying to stay ahead of a potential situation,” Teter said.

One of the keys to the protection plan is the sharing of information between Parkville and other local entities. The district recently signed an intergovernmental agreement with Lake County.
As part of the agreement the county and the district will share both GIS data and information, Teter said.

For example, the Lake County Building and Land Use Department will share information with the district about potential mining applications near Parkville water sources. This will allow the district to be proactive about protecting its water sources, Teter said.

Another key part of the plan is education and ensuring that businesses and community members know where Parkville’s water sources are, Teter said. The intergovernmental agreement and protection plan do not create any new restrictions on land uses around water sources, Teter said. They merely facilitate the sharing of information and create an awareness of potential threats to the community’s water sources.

In addition to protecting the community’s water sources, the Lake County watershed is also important because of its location along the Arkansas River.

“Ours isn’t the biggest, but it’s important because it’s the first on the Arkansas,” Teter said.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Leadville: First ‘Water Aware’ session May 4

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When it comes down to water rights, it’s not just enough to be at the top of the hill, you had to the one or have acquired the right, that put the water to work watering hay or some other beneficial use. Here’s the announcment from the Leadville Herald Democrat:

The Lake County Watershed Advisory Council will host the first in a three-part series of water-education seminars, starting at 6 p.m. on the evening of May 4, in the Longyear Auditorium at the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum. Doors will open for registration and informal discussion at 5:30 p.m.

The first session will focus on Colorado Water Law and its impacts on Lake County’s ability to provide a dependable source of water to support sustainable growth.

According to Mike Bordogna, Lake County commissioner, many people in Lake County aren’t aware that we don’t own the water passing through our community and are therefore of the false impression that we have all the water we will ever need to support our current and future needs…

The discussion of Colorado Water Law will be led by Steve Kastner, assistant division engineer for the Colorado Division of Water Resources, who will outline the state laws and regulations that all Colorado communities and individuals must abide by in securing water for their own use.

This will be followed by a presentation by David Hallford of Balcomb and Green, PC, Lake County’s water attorney, who will apply the principles and constraints of Colorado Water Law to the specific needs of Lake County, and discuss the steps needed to determine the county’s water future.

Time will be allowed for questions and answers. The session is free to the public, and refreshments will be served.

For information, go to

More education coverage here.

Leadville: Parkville Water District waiting on runoff

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Storage in the Parkville Water District’s raw water supply reservoirs is very low due to a combination of events. Here’s a report from Ann E. Wibbenmeyer writing for the Leadville Herald Democrate. From the article:

Most years, said Greg Teter, general manager, runoff begins filling two upper reservoirs by April 15. Evan’s Creek, which fills those reservoirs was still dry early this week. To add to the issue, a water main broke on the 500 block of East 8th Street near the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church at about 10 p.m. April 22. It was discovered at about 6 a.m. the next morning. The cause of this break is speculated to be connected to the ditch dug for the sanitation project last summer, which was parallel to the water line. The dirt began washing away and the water line went with it, said Teter. This caused a loss of about 500,000 gallons of water. “I’ve never seen it lower than this,” he said…

The issues facing the water district are all physical, he said, not legal. The district owns plenty of water rights, but is needing to find better ways of accessing the water. “There are ways to fix the issues that all involve money,” he said.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Leadville: Parkview Water District to raise rates

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From the Leadville Herald Democrat:

The increase will amount to about 10 percent across the board for residential and commercial customers for all meter sizes. For most residential customers, this will translate to an extra $3 per month on their bills since most customers stay below the 3,000-gallon minimum each month. For the customers who use more than the monthly minimum of 3,000 gallons, there will also be an increase of 30 cents per thousand gallons above the minimum. Even with the increase, the average monthly water charge for Parkville residential customers will still be substantially less than the Colorado statewide average water charge of $37.20 per month, Teter said. Being too far below the state average for water rates has had a negative effect on recent grant applications for Parkville. Both state and federal grant agencies are reluctant to award grant money to districts with rates that are too low to sufficiently cover operating and capital costs.

With Parkville’s line-replacement program, water loss and waste in the system have been reduced substantially. Total water through the system is half what it was ten years ago even though with more customers. Less water loss means less pumping costs, a major cost component of Parkville’s operation. Several large capital projects are carried over from year to year for lack of funding, in the hopes that increased revenue and reduced expenses will eventually allow Parkville to add more money to additional capital improvements.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel: Senator Udall and Representative Lamborn introduce legislation to fund and authorize Reclamation treatment of mine water

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Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“We both share a strong, deep commitment when it comes to the Leadville drainage tunnel,” Udall said. “We need for someone to step in and take responsibility,” Lamborn added. The lawmakers are sponsoring the legislation to avert disaster if the blockage in the Leadville tunnel were to give way under pressure and release a toxic flood into the Arkansas River. It will also improve the water quality of water from the mines that is returned to the river, Udall said. [ed. the toxic flood scenario was debunked by Reclamation last year].

In response to the emergency, a relief well was added to remove water backed up in the Leadville tunnel. The water was pumped to Reclamation’s treatment plant north of Leadville…

The bill would give Reclamation the authority to continue operating the relief well and to take steps toward a long-term solution. Previously, Reclamation claimed it lacked specific authority to treat water behind the blockages in the tunnel, a federal facility built to drain mines as a way to improve production in World War II and the Korean War. Reclamation and the EPA have been unable to reach a long-term solution.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Lake County: Moving forward with augmentation plan?

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From the Leadville Chronicle:

In 1998, the Lake County commissioners started the process of applying for a water augmentation plan, which was case number 173 in water court that year. This process was never completed, and since that time, the county has changed water attorneys and their direction for dealing with water in Lake County. Now, the county is revisiting the case to find the cost of completing it.