The Colorado Water Conservation Board awarded a $500,000 grant to the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District and Round Mountain Water and Sanitation District for construction of a new reservoir near Westcliffe.
Upper Ark Project Manager Gracy Goodwin reported the grant award during the Thursday meeting of the Upper Ark board of directors in Salida.
Upper Ark General Manager Terry Scanga said the total cost of the project is estimated at $3 million and that the Upper Ark District is responsible for a third of the cost under its agreement with Round Mountain.
Round Mountain provides water water and sanitation services to the towns of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff, serving a population of approximately 1,000.
As previously reported, the Upper Ark District and Round Mountain began collaborating on the project to address the need for a source of augmentation water on Grape Creek upstream from DeWeese Reservoir. The 7-acre reservoir will have a storage capacity of approximately 150 acre-feet.
Goodwin reported that Engineering Analytics, the firm hired to design the reservoir, recently completed a topographic survey for the intake infrastructure and the dam. The company is also finalizing the reservoir design and starting work on the construction drawings.
The Colorado Water Conservation Board also provided funding for an initial feasibility study and the design work, and Goodwin said Upper Ark staff are investigating additional sources of funding to help pay for construction costs.
In addition to its augmentation water needs, Round Mountain faces significant wastewater treatment challenges.
Citing an “overtaxed wastewater treatment plant” that “cannot adequately process additional effluent,” the Round Mountain board of directors enacted a moratorium on the sale of water and sewer taps Jan. 1., effectively halting new construction in Westcliffe and Silver Cliff.
Information on the Round Mountain website indicates the district’s wastewater treatment plant “is 46 years old, built with a technology that cannot meet current environmental standards and receiving considerably more sewage than it can fully process.”
It should be obvious to anyone; trying to fill a bathtub with the drain wide open is foolish. This is precisely what the operators of the Colorado River System (Lake Powell and Lake Mead) have been attempting to do for the past 20 years. They have disregarded the increased withdrawals to the Lower Basin states (California, Arizona, and Nevada) and the ubiquitous arid nature of the Southwest.
The Colorado River system and the Colorado Compact Administration were set up with a series of reservoirs recognizing the aridity of the region and the unpredictable amount of annual precipitation. With reservoirs, when water is more abundant the excess can be stored for later use when the inevitably drier periods arrive. In recent years, instead of reserving excess flows in the reservoirs, this excess was released to the lower basin states with the resultant excess draw-down of the vital storage system.
Most of the water supply for the Colorado River System is supplied by the Upper Basin States, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico. As planned, these states have continuously supplied the required 75-million-acre feet in 10 years, or an average of 7.5 million per year.
The amount of water that each of these states uses each year is completely dependent upon precipitation and in Colorado is allocated strictly by the prior appropriation system without the benefit of a storage system to draw upon for leaner years except for water saved under the prior appropriation system. As such Colorado’s prior appropriation system automatically operates as a forced reduction in water use—a built-in “conservation brake”.
In contrast, the Lower Basin States, California, Arizona, and Nevada receive their Colorado River supply from reservoirs and have the luxury of taking any excess deliveries in wetter years or drawing previously saved water from storage in drier years.
The prudent regime would be to reserve the excess amounts in storage for use during drier periods. Instead of this exercise of prudence, the Lower Basin states have continuously gambled those wetter periods would arrive and replenish the reservoirs.
In the chart below, we clearly see how Colorado and the Upper Basin states have reduced their use during drought while the Lower Basin states have increased their use during the same period.
The primary purpose of Lake Powell and Lake Mead is for hydro-power production and secondarily for drinking and irrigation. The falling levels of these reservoirs spell disaster for power production and now the Bureau of Reclamation is sounding the alarm.
Unfortunately, unless drastic measures are taken that significantly reduce the annual draw by the Lower Basin States for the foreseeable future, all Colorado River reservoirs will be jeopardized. Blue Mesa and Flaming Gorge have already been lowered to rescue the Lower Basin reservoirs. The present crisis is more about having allowed the Lower Basin to over appropriate water from the system than the impact of the drier period of the past 20 years.
In Colorado, the Arkansas Basin and the entire Eastern portion of Colorado depend on a significant portion of its water from Colorado River system imports. In the Arkansas, about 15 percent of all river flows are derived from this system.
In drier periods these flows have always been reduced since they are regulated by the prior appropriation system. However, further reductions could come if the Lower Basin is not forced to comply with the Compact. It is possible that political forces could reduce the amount of water exported to the Eastern portion of Colorado — and that includes the Arkansas Basin.
By: Ralph “Terry” Scanga, General Manager. Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District
In 1979 the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District was formed. Since that time innumerable benefits have been provided to the citizens of the district.
The primary goal of the district is protection of water rights within the Upper Arkansas. Continuous monitoring and involvement in legislative measures that impact water rights, involvement in water court cases that have the potential to negatively impact Upper Basin water rights and operating umbrella augmentation plans that prevent injury to water rights by making weekly water replacements to affected rivers and streams by out-of-priority uses are the major areas of work.
Other areas include conducting water studies such as ground water monitoring, water balance studies with the U.S. Geologic Survey, identification of and development of alluvial water storage, watershed health activities such as spearheading the Monarch Pass Steep Slope Timber Harvesting Project and water education programs. The benefits of these programs are not always recognized by citizens of the district.
Water resource development is essential to an effective water right protection program. The most obvious and direct benefit of this is the district’s umbrella augmentation plan program. Augmentation is a little understood water resource concept that was developed in 1969 when Colorado fully recognized in legislation the connection between tributary ground water and surface water. With this recognition all ground water production was brought under and regulated by the prior appropriation system.
Basically, this meant that the right to extract ground water for use would be governed by the date of first use. In an arid country such as Colorado, and in particular eastern Colorado, there is never enough water to satisfy all legal claims. Thus, priority of use is controlled by the established date of first use or “First in Time Is First in Right.” This legislation prevented most well use except when a “fully consumable” water source was used to replace the amount of water used up by the well. In other words, the well use would have to be augmented with a court-decreed “Plan of Augmentation.”
The full impact of this was not completely felt until the decision of the Kansas-Colorado Compact lawsuit and the adoption by Colorado in 1995 of the “Amended Rules and Regulation on Tributary Ground Water Use in the Arkansas Basin.”
Fortuitously, the district had filed in 1992 and obtained an umbrella augmentation plan in 1994. The benefits have been enormous for citizens within district boundaries of its decreed augmentation areas needing augmentation to use their wells, surface diversion or ponds.
The value of being able to enroll into the district’s augmentation plan and continue to use one’s well is best quantified by cost savings. Typical residential well augmentation requires a source of fully consumable water, storage, an engineering plan and a water court decree. The typical current cost for such a plan ranges from a low of $80,000 to $150,000 per residence. The cost per residence with the district’s plan is less than $4,500, a savings per residence of $75,000 to more than $145,000.
Presently the district provides augmentation to over 2,000 wells. The vast majority of these are for residential use. This savings expressed in dollars would represent a cost savings to district citizens of as much as $290 million.
The additional and as important benefit is to rivers and streams in the district. Annually more than 700-acre feet of water is released to our streams and available to support water rights and protect them from injury.
Further benefits are the water infrastructure that is maintained and constructed that supports recreation and the environment. Many of the area lakes and reservoirs are filled with district owned and controlled water rights, such as O’Haver Lake.
The studies and watershed health projects the district has undertaken in its 35 years of existence provide a wealth of knowledge and data for present and future understanding of our water resource and a roadmap to future water development.
Ralph “Terry” Scanga is general manager of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District.
Colorado Water Court for the Arkansas River Basin (Division 2) has issued a decree expanding the area within which the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District can provide augmentation water. The expansion includes parts of Custer and Fremont counties.
Attorney Kendall Burgemeister reported the news at the June meeting of the Upper Ark District board of directors. The decree is the culmination of a 3-year legal process that required the District to demonstrate its ability to provide replacement water and protect local water rights within the expanded boundary.
District General Manager Terry Scanga said the decree has already spurred several requests for water to replace evaporation from ponds within the new augmentation boundary, or “blue line.”
The Division 2 Engineer’s Office, Colorado Division of Water Resources, recently began evaluating ponds in the Arkansas River Basin for evaporative losses, identifying more than 10,000 ponds with no legal right to divert or store water.
An agency fact sheet describing the new pond management effort states, “For every acre of pond surface area, up to 1 million gallons of water is lost to evaporation each year.”
Under Colorado water law, water lost to evaporation from the ponds in question is injuring water rights owners by depriving them of water to which they are legally entitled.
The significance of these cumulative water losses prompted Division 2 Engineer Bill Tyner to implement the pond management initiative.
Tyner told Aspen Journalism, “Once we put the data together and we could look at the images of ponds and get a count of the number and relative sizes on average of those ponds, it did make us just very sure that this was a problem that could have some very negative consequences for the basin if we didn’t get more aggressive about the way that we took it on.”
Property owners within the new blue line are now seeking augmentation water from the Upper Ark District to avoid having to drain their ponds.
Scanga said the District’s agreements for pond augmentation are “curtailable.” During drought years, the district will stop augmenting ponds, and the pond owners will have to release water, which essentially provides a backup water supply.
Scanga said almost 50 parties filed statements of opposition in the case but that most opposers did not remain active in the case, including Custer County, prompting the judge to dismiss those filings “for lack of participation.”
Once stipulations were agreed upon with the handful of opposers did participate, the blue line decree was issued without the need for a trial.
Bottled water company Nestlé is seeking permission to extend its operations in Colorado’s Chaffee County, a move that is generating significant community opposition.
Nestlé Waters North America first won permission to export spring water from Chaffee County in 2009, building a pipeline and trucking the water to Denver where it is packaged.
The company hopes to renew its original 10-year permit to tap Ruby Mountain Springs near Buena Vista, which expired last fall. The water is sold under the Arrowhead brand.
Chaffee County Commissioners are expected to take up the matter at an Oct. 20 hearing.
Nestlé Natural Resources Manager Larry Lawrence declined an interview request, but in an email said the company strives to maintain environmentally sensitive operations and that extending the permit would create no new stress on the springs.
Separately company officials have said repeatedly that preserving water resources is key to their ability to continue selling water. The beverage maker has 25 plants in the United States, including the one in Colorado.
In the meantime, local activists have collected more than 1,200 signatures on Change.org opposing the permit extension.
Unbottle and Protect Chaffee County Water, with 300-plus members, said the permit renewal poses an ongoing threat to local water supplies due to chronic drought and climate change. Activists also say that Nestlé donations of bottled water to local nonprofits increases the county’s recycling costs, and that Nestlé has not followed through on some of the commitments it made to the county, including taking steps to preserve important property along the Arkansas River near the springs.
“We believe we are an environmentally sensitive county,” said Francie Bomer, one of the activists leading the effort to cancel the permit.
“We don’t like plastic and we don’t believe the benefit to the county is equal to the value of the water Nestlé is taking out,” Bomer said.
The conflict comes as bottled water manufacturers across the U.S and Canada face mounting criticism over their use of groundwater. Five states, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, are moving to ban or sharply limit the industry.
Earlier this year Nestlé opted to sell its Canadian operations, exiting a country in which local opposition had grown strong, according to published reports.
Under its Chaffee County permit, Nestlé is required to monitor water levels in the Ruby Mountain Springs and to replace any water it takes under a replacement plan overseen by the Salida-based Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District.
Such plans are often required under state law, and are designed to ensure water users downstream of diversion sites with more senior water rights aren’t harmed by upstream diversions.
Manager of the Upper Arkansas Water District, Terry Scanga, said the replacement plan relies on water from Turquoise Lake in Leadville, which fully covers any water removed from Chaffee County by Nestlé. Scanga said the district has no plans to contest the permit renewal.
Nestlé is required to monitor water levels and habitat conditions as part of its agreement with the county. In its 2019 annual report, the company said it extracted 89 acre-feet of spring water, 5.6 percent of the 1,573 acre-feet of overall flow measured. An acre-foot is equal to nearly 326,000 gallons.
If its permit is renewed, the company estimates annual production would grow at 2 percent annually, but would still be well below the amount to which it is legally entitled.
In addition, ongoing monitoring by the company shows that the spring recovers quickly as water is extracted and that no harm to habitat has been noted since 2010.
“To date, spring water production has been well below the permit limitations and at no time over the last decade of monitoring has stress to the spring system resulted in conditions where pumping was required to be reduced, either to meet criteria under the permit or due to observations that indicated operations were negatively impacting upstream or downstream users or the ecological and biological systems,” the report states.
Bomer is skeptical of those reports because they have not been independently verified by outside experts.
Earlier this year, in advance of the permit renewal effort, the county hired experts to evaluate Nestlé monitoring data, according to Chaffee County Attorney Jennifer Davis.
Whether Chaffee County will become another bottled water hot spot in the international battle isn’t clear yet.
“We are a tiny county. Are we part of that bigger effort? No. We’re just trying to protect our resources so they will be here when we need them,” Bomer said. “But if we contribute to to that effort, that would be okay.”
Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or @jerd_smith.
FromThe Canon City Daily Record (Carie Canterbury):
The significant damage caused by the July 24, 2018 flooding in western Fremont County has been cleaned up and mitigation work has been done in case such an event ever happens again.
The force of the water from Butter Creek and Dinkle Ditch/Cottonwood Creek met during the heavy rainstorm, blowing out a stream channel and forcing its way through structures. Debris, trees and rocks washed through the Gillespie family’s hayfield, cutting a gulley and leaving behind a huge mess.
Crews this year cleaned the gulley and reshaped, lined and stabilized the channel.
“The water that overflows out of Little Cottonwood – if we do get a significant flow – it should come out, go right down this channel and safely make its way down to Big Cottonwood Creek,” said Greg Langer, the district conservationist with Natural Resources Conservation Service…
About $1.5 million was spent on restoration and mitigation between the two properties, Commissioner Dwayne McFall said.
Natural Resources Conservation Service funded the design of the stream bank stabilization project, which was designed for a 10-year flood event.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service Emergency Watershed Protection recovery project in the Big Cottonwood area in Coaldale officially started in early Spring and was completed in July. It required a number of agencies, property owners and experts working together to get the job done.
The project was sponsored by Fremont County with matching funds in the amount of $453,850 from the Colorado Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management as a grant match.
The Arkansas River Watershed Collaborative and the Upper Arkansas River Conservancy District also garnered a grant for more than $250,000 from the Colorado Water Conservation Board for the cleanup effort. Additionally, Chelesy Nutter, the executive director of the Arkansas River Watershed Collaboration, partnered with the Colorado Workforce Center who provided labor to remove 120 cubic yards of debris and cut fallen trees.
Luke Javernick of River Science did all of the hydrology work and brought Canon City High School students to do water quality testing. They will continue monitoring for three years, Nutter said. The Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Trout Unlimited also will be working to explore longterm recovery. Fremont County provided in-kind services with staff time…
Fremont County Manager Sunny Bryant said the last time there was a flood, not only were the properties damaged, but U.S. 50 was threatened and County Road 39 nearly was washed out.
From the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District (Terry Scanga) via The Ark Valley Voice:
Most discussions involving water supply or quality require a good examination of historical perspective of water development. For this reason, understanding the system by which water is and has been allocated in Colorado since statehood, is a good starting point.
Water in Colorado is allocated as a private property right through a system referred to as the Appropriation Doctrine. It is the only arid Western state that utilizes a pure form of this doctrine called the “Colorado Doctrine”. This doctrine is enshrined in the state’s constitution. It is a constitutional right for the citizens of Colorado to an appropriation of water based on its beneficial use. Although many legislative statutes deal with water appropriation and use, these all rely upon, and must comport, with the basic constitutional right granted the citizens of the state.
This article is not intended to delve into the Appropriation Doctrine, except to point out that water rights and decrees are granted as a private property right. In fact, this system is automatically designed to apportion available water supply without undue interference from government, except for the administration of the existing water decrees or through the water court.
In 2005 legislation was passed creating the inter-basin compact committee and the nine basin roundtables. The basins utilized the Statewide Water Supply Initiative (a project to calculate the available water supply compared to demand –a needs assessment) to identify the projects and processes needed to address any water supply gap out to the year 2050; for all uses– municipal, industrial, irrigation (agricultural), environmental and recreational. Water entities and individuals were involved in each basin throughout the state to develop these plans.
Projects were identified and some were funded in part with grants from the state’s Colorado Water Conservation Board. The Colorado Water Plan was developed from these plans and processes. These projects have gone a long way to make available the necessary water supplies for the future. Many of the projects are ongoing and more will be needed to meet future needs.
Colorado is an arid state with future shortages forecast in the higher growth regions. In the Arkansas Basin, many junior water rights were established during high precipitation periods. Due to this, the Arkansas Basin today is considered an over-appropriated basin meaning that on average there are more decreed water rights than water available. Most of these junior water rights are decreed for irrigation use in agriculture. In the Arkansas Basin shortages are forecast for all water uses.
The Colorado Water Plan is a collection of the ideas and projects on how we can meet future water demands. Meeting the future need revolves around developing new Colorado River Supplies and Alternative Agricultural Transfers coupled with storage. The Colorado River normally has water that is unused and could be utilized to fill the gaps in the higher growth regions. Presently Colorado is well ahead in meeting its Compact obligations on the Colorado River, despite unsubstantiated claims from some state politicians and the administration that Colorado may be unable to meet its obligations.
Agricultural irrigation uses 80 percent or more of the available supply statewide. Some of these uses could be temporarily interrupted through court approved Lease-Fallowing agreements, and the water owner compensated, to meet shortages in drier years. In wet years existing storage and new storage could be utilized to save the excess for drier times. Storage projects, including alluvial storage, need to be built to meet the future needs. Water storage operations could be adapted to meet multiple uses for stream management, to meet increased demands for the environment and recreation.
Through the existing Appropriation System, the above plans and others are underway to meet this future need. All this can, and should, be completed through the Colorado Doctrine of Appropriation, a strong legal framework to guarantee the security, reliability and flexibility in the development and protection of water resources.
In terms of water supply, the greatest threat for the future would be a loss or erosion, through legislative or administrative action, of the time-tested Colorado Doctrine of prior appropriation. Actions are underway to use the water plan as a framework to advocate for the use of policy to appropriate water. Using policy for water appropriation would give the administration and legislature a pathway or initiative to utilize legislation, in lieu of the more deliberate Appropriation system that is designed to protect existing water rights from injury. This strongly suggests that the legislature and administration may attempt to act upon perceived crises to garner support to move future appropriations or changes of current water use through legislation instead of the water court system.
Already underway is a Demand Management Plan that will allow administrative policies to transfer water rights from agriculture through Deficit Irrigation, or by utilizing an undefined process termed “Conserved Consumptive Use”, to Lake Powell, or to municipal use. In the Arkansas Basin most irrigation is already in a deficit so there is no water to be saved. Under Colorado’s pure form of prior appropriation, in low flow periods, water rights are curtailed automatically to force reductions in use. There is no need to use state policy to create conservation.
The frightening part of these actions is that, if successful, the only way for water right owners to protect themselves from injury will be expensive court action. If legislation is successful in adopting the concept of “Conserved Consumptive Use” it is possible we will see lower flows in the Arkansas River due to a reduction in trans-mountain diversions. These diversions support all uses in the river, such as the voluntary flow management program. Instead of water flowing to the Arkansas River, some may flow down the Colorado River to Lake Powell for storage and eventual evaporation there, under a plan called Demand Management.
In the Upper Arkansas Basin water quality has been addressed is various ways. The Arkansas River was polluted by mining runoff and is normally affected by natural geologic formations. Most of this pollution has been cleaned-up, and today there are large sections of gold medal fishing. Studies conducted by the US Geologic Survey have concluded that most of our ground water is of good quality. These are good things.
But the threat to water quality from sediment runoff from burn areas in our forests are real. Due to the beetle infestations and decimation of the forest stands in the US Forest lands, fire is more likely and has occurred.
The after effects of fire is larger than normal storm runoff. This will, and has already caused, heavy sediment loading on our streams and the Arkansas River. The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District (UAWCD) and the Arkansas Basin Roundtable is working with the US Forest Service and local entities to address some of these areas. Locally, the UAWCD is working with the Forest Service on a pilot project to remove beetle killed forest stands and make it a commercially viable resource. If successful, this may be part of the solution.
In the lower part of the Upper Arkansas River Basin, in Eastern Fremont County, there is a geologic formation that contains selenium that contributes to contamination in this part of the Arkansas River. At this time simply identifying these areas is a challenge, but it is being worked on by the US Geologic Survey. Most of this type of contamination primarily affects the Lower Arkansas Basin. Delivery of good municipal drinking water supplies is being undertaken by the South Eastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, with the construction of a pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir to the Lower Basin communities.
Fremont Adventure Recreation and the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District will host a free screening of “The Arkansas River: Leadville to Lamar,” at 6 p.m. June 1 at Canon City High School, 1313 College Ave.
The film will be followed by a panel discussion with Tim Payne, Fremont County Commissioner; Mannie Colon of Colon Orchards; Blake Osborne of the CSU – Water Institute; and moderators Chelsey Nutter of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District and Ashlee Sack of Fremont Adventure Recreation.
The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board of directors addressed two Water Court cases during the May board meeting, an ongoing case to change the use of irrigation water rights in Coaldale and a new filing by the town of Buena Vista for a plan of augmentation for McPhelemy Pond.
The Coaldale case, 2016CW3055, involves Hayden Creek water rights associated with the CB Ranch, which was purchased by Security Water and Sanitation District.
The Upper Ark district has filed a statement of opposition in the case, and Security has filed its preliminary engineering report, proposed decree, proposed water accounting and a revegetation proposal.
In preparation for the district’s response to the filings, Chris Manera, district engineer, has begun a consumptive use analysis.
Manera reported that he is examining return flows from historic irrigation that provided water for approximately 150 acres of alfalfa crops.
An accurate determination of these return flows will be a key factor in this case since Security is required to replace return flows to avoid injury to other water rights.
District Manager Terry Scanga said the San Isabel Land Trust would like to work with Security so that some the historically irrigated land can continue to be used for agriculture, which would prevent the types of problems experienced by the dry-up of other ranches in the Upper Arkansas Basin.
He reported on a meeting with Security and the land trust to discuss the possibility of leasing some of the water for that purpose and said both parties are interested in continuing discussions.
Board members voted to allow district staff to facilitate those discussions.
Kendall Burgemeister, attorney for the district, reported that Security has lost the use of well-water sources due to contamination in the aquifer, making the Hayden Creek water rights more critical to the city’s water supply.
Scanga said another possibility would be for the land trust to acquire other sources of water to keep some of the land irrigated.
In Water Court filing 17CW3022, the town of Buena Vista’s proposed augmentation plan to replace water from evaporative water losses from McPhelemy Pond, would involve exchanges on Cottonwood Creek and use of Cottonwood Reservoir water for augmentation.
Since the Upper Ark district owns Cottonwood Creek water rights and operates Cottonwood Reservoir, board members voted to get into the case to ensure that its water rights and operations are not negatively affected.
According to Buena Vista’s Water Court filing, the amount of water to be augmented is 1.37 acre-feet annually.
In Case 96CW17, the town has a conditional decree for an appropriative right of exchange to allow the town’s purchased Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water to be stored in Cottonwood Reservoir.
As part of its recent filing, Buena Vista also seeks to include augmentation for McPhelemy Pond as an additional use of that water.
At the meeting district directors also:
• Welcomed new board member Dennis Giese, who was appointed to fill the Division 3 seat, corresponding to Chaffee County School District R-31, which was vacated when Frank McMurry resigned.
• Received a detailed presentation from Manera about the efficiency of the DeWeese Irrigation System and potential improvements to increase water storage potential and improve the exchange potential on Grape Creek below DeWeese Reservoir.
• Heard a report from Scanga about meetings of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable and the Colorado Inter-Basin Compact Committee, including the next phase of the Statewide Water Supply Initiative, which will examine how existing projects can meet future water demands.
• Approved an increase in the district education budget from $10,000 to $25,000 to fund a new website and an educational video.
• Heard a report from the Resume Review Committee, responsible for reviewing Division 2 Water Court filings.
• Learned that a “mutually beneficial” agreement with Poncha Springs was reached concerning the Friend Ranch water.
• Learned that Chaffee County officials entered into an intergovernmental agreement with the town of Buena Vista for source water protection.
• Received a legislative update from consultant Ken Baker, who reviewed legislation taken up in the 2017 legislative session.
The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board of directors meeting Thursday included recognition of two longtime board members, Frank McMurry and Jim McCormick, who both resigned from their positions in recent months.
McMurry, a local rancher and former Chaffee County commissioner, resigned as a conservancy district director after 34 years representing Division 3 (Chaffee County School District R-31).
McCormick, a retired home builder and former Salida city councilman, resigned from his position as treasurer in 2016 after serving in that capacity since the founding of the Upper Ark district in 1979.
The Upper Ark board recognized McMurry’s decades of service by awarding him the George E. Everett Memorial Award, established in Everett’s honor “to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to the preservation of water and its historic use in the Upper Arkansas Basin,” said District Manager Terry Scanga…
Prior to his resignation as treasurer, McCormick was the only remaining member of the original district board.
In keeping with tradition, the Upper Ark district commissioned a portrait of McCormick to grace the walls of the district conference room alongside portraits of the other original members.
McCormick’s portrait, painted by Salida artist Carl Ortman, was unveiled at Thursday’s meeting.
In the 2 years since a change of in-stream flow (ISF) policies threatened the viability of O’Haver Lake, discussions between officials with the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District and the Colorado Water Conservation Board have failed to yield a long-term solution.
At the recent Upper Ark board meeting, attorney Kendall Burgemeister said he has been “trying to work with the CWCB on the Grays Creek-O’Haver ISF issue” and expressed frustration with the lack of progress.
The conservancy district stores water in O’Haver Lake by diverting that water from nearby Grays Creek. Diverting water requires an exchange – a release of water from another source in exchange for diverting water from the creek.
By law, the CWCB holds all ISF water rights in Colorado, and as previously reported in The Mountain Mail (Dec. 16, 2014; Feb. 19, 2015), the agency began placing calls on its ISF rights a little more than 2 years ago.
The CWCB’s ISF right for Grays Creek is 4 cubic feet per second, but Upper Ark staff have documented average flows of 1.5-1.9 cfs. Given the disparity, the CWCB’s ISF call on Grays Creek prevents the Upper Ark district from exchanging water upstream to O’Haver Lake.
Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Ark district, previously said the old policy allowed exchanges as long as there were no calling water rights between O’Haver Lake and the point of release for the exchange water.
Since this practice did not injure any water rights, Scanga said he believes the old policy was correct, based on Colorado Revised Statute 37-92-102 (3), which established ISFs as a beneficial use of water in 1973.
The statute states that any ISF appropriation is subordinate to pre-existing “uses or exchanges of water … whether or not previously confirmed by court order or decree.”
Since O’Haver Lake has been used to store water since 1949, Scanga said, the CWCB’s ISF water right, established in 1977, should be subordinate to the conservancy district’s ability to exchange water into the lake.
But at the December board meeting, Burgemeister reported that CWCB staff have so far failed to formally acknowledge the pre-existing use of O’Haver for storing irrigation water due to a lack of data.
During discussion of Burgemeister’s report, Ben Lara, recreation program manager with the U.S. Forest Service Salida Ranger District, commented that the environmental impact statement currently being drafted will “spell out the effects of draining the reservoir,” which is on USFS land.
He also indicated that feedback for the environmental impact statement from Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials acknowledges the importance of the O’Haver Lake fishery.
Greg Policky, Colorado Parks and Wildlife aquatic biologist, did not attend the meeting but later confirmed the importance of the O’Haver fishery, stating, “We feel a cooperative agreement can be reached that reasonably protects the natural environment of Grays Creek while maintaining the recreational fishery in O’Haver Lake.”
Policky’s statement echoed Scanga’s recommendation that the Upper Ark board call for a meeting of all relevant agencies – CWCB, CPW, USFS and Upper Ark district – to attempt to negotiate a long-term agreement acceptable to all parties.
Board members approved Scanga’s recommendation but acknowledged that the district could be compelled to drain the reservoir if the situation is not resolved.
The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board of directors voted at its recent meeting to file an objection to the Security Water District’s court application for a change of water rights on Hayden Creek in Coaldale (Division 2, case 2016CW3055).
In discussing whether or not to get involved in the case, Upper Ark directors mentioned unresolved issues with Hill Ranch near Nathrop after the Pueblo West Metropolitan District purchased the ranch, changed the water right and dried up the land.
The directors’ discussion highlighted three main concerns:
Ensuring that the amount of water claimed by Security is not excessive.
Ensuring that Security administers the amount and timing of return flows so that other water rights are not injured by the change of use.
Ensuring that the dried-up ranch land is properly revegetated.
Security acquired the 1894 agricultural water rights when it purchased a Coaldale ranch that, according to the filing, historically used the water to irrigate 195 acres.
The filing cites Security’s own study of consumptive water use on the ranch from 1912 through 2006 in asserting that historical water use “resulted in net stream depletions (consumptive use credits) of approximately 236 annual acre-feet.”
Security seeks to change the Hayden Creek water rights from an agricultural use in Coaldale to a municipal use in Security, allowing the water to flow into Pueblo Reservoir before diverting the proposed 236 acre-feet per year through the Fountain Valley Conduit.
The Security filing indicates that the water right may be used for continued irrigation on the ranch “to the extent not limited by municipal use of the depletion credits and dry-up requirements.”
In the filing Security commits to constructing a Coaldale augmentation station to measure and administer the Hayden Creek water rights. The filing also indicates Security “may construct a groundwater recharge facility” that “may be used for recharge to the aquifer and later delivery of accretion credits back to the Arkansas River” (i.e., return flows).
This would help prevent injury to other water rights holders because the return flows would be delivered to the river in the same location as the historical return flows created by irrigating the ranch.
But the filing also indicates that Security may “replace return flow obligations to the Arkansas River” by means of “releases from Pueblo Reservoir,” which could injure other water rights between Coaldale and Pueblo Reservoir.
Since Security owns the Hayden Creek water rights, the Upper Ark district’s filing won’t prevent the change of use, but as an objector, the conservancy district will receive future filings in the case and will have the opportunity to negotiate stipulations to address concerns.
Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District directors reviewed the preliminary 2017 budget during the monthly board meeting [September 8] in Salida.
District General Manager Terry Scanga presented the draft budget, noting the addition of a new water education fund. He said the actual budget would be presented at the October board meeting and asked board members to review and comment on the preliminary budget prior to that meeting.
In a related discussion, Scanga relayed information presented at the recent Colorado Water Congress Summer Conference regarding water project funding, 69 percent of which comes from state severance taxes.
Scanga said the combined effect of lower oil and gas prices and a Colorado Supreme Court ruling in favor of British Petroleum will eliminate funding for the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Water Supply Reserve Account for the upcoming fiscal year.
The court ruled in May that the Colorado Department of Revenue had overcharged BP, and the extra severance taxes collected would have to be refunded, setting the stage for other oil and gas companies to seek refunds.
Legislators responded by passing Senate Bill 16-218, which diverts severance tax revenues for the upcoming year to pay the court-ordered refunds.
In addition to the WSRA receiving no funding for the upcoming fiscal year, Scanga said the account is slated to be funded at only 50 percent for fiscal year 2017-18.
The conservancy district has used WSRA grants to help fund a number of water projects and studies in the Upper Arkansas Valley.
Project Coordinator Chelsey Nutter elaborated on the new water education fund in the district’s 2017 budget while reporting on the inaugural Salida Water Festival.
After several directors provided favorable feedback on the festival, Nutter announced the Upper Ark district would be taking responsibility for the festival moving forward, in part due to the aforementioned severance tax funding issues.
Nutter said the new education fund in the budget will be used in part to provide continuing funding for the festival, and district staff are developing an education action plan.
Nutter reported the Arkansas Basin Roundtable Public Education, Participation and Outreach working group is beginning work on the 2017 Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, which will take place in El Paso County.
Nutter also reported progress on the Lake Ranch Multi-Use Project and said a tour of both multi-use project sites is planned for spring.
The Interbasin Compact Committee continued its ongoing discussion about Colorado water rights and river basins at a meeting Tuesday in Salida.
The IBCC was founded through the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act to lead conversations and address issues about Colorado’s water.
The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District hosted the event and kicked off the meeting with a presentation by the Arkansas River Basin PEPO (Public Education, Participation and Outreach) Workgroup, led by Chelsey Nutter and Jean Van Pelt.
They explained four tasks they are working on, including participation and partnership building, focusing specifically on the Arkansas Basin area for education.
Their second task is to develop a Water 101 presentation for education, and they are currently working on a documentary about water and the Arkansas Basin.
Their third task is to help facilitate communication among the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, the Colorado Water Conservancy Board, the IBCC and the public, by integrating the information gathered into public outreach forums.
Finally, they are working to market the Arkansas Basin by designing a mission, logo and online resources, including a website and a Facebook presence.
Bob Randell, an attorney with the IBCC, discussed the Colorado Supreme Court decision earlier this month, in which BP America Production Co. will be refunded millions in oil and gas severance taxes.
Randell explained that the refunded taxes will have a direct effect on Colorado general funds and Department of Local Affairs grants, which will not be adding any additional money to 2016 and 2017 Tier 2 programs.
Sean Cronin, the South Platte River Basin representative, spoke about how that will affect the Water Supply Reserve Account.
“With demand outpacing supply, we will have to maximize our limited dollars,” Cronin said. “We want to provide folks with confidence that we are using WSRA funds as effectively as possible.”
Cronin said some of the options they have been looking at to help the program include:
• Looking at other grant deed programs for ideas.
• Considering how money is spent to hire contractors.
• Looking at financial need analysis for applicants, with a sliding scale depending on financial stability.
• Encouraging match requirements.
• Considering holding back a percentage of funds until progress reports on projects have been turned in and reviewed.
During the Lean Process update, Eric Kuhn, an appointee to the IBCC by the governor, raised a point about the difficulty with working with different parties on a project.
“Sometimes we miss the biggest concern,” Kuhn said, “trying to do something with a complex project. When you have two major entities with a lack of consensus, you hope it works out, because the permitting process only works as long as people agree on it.”
Becky Mitchell with the IBCC responded, saying, “What we came up with out of the Lean Process is that the state won’t jump into those kinds of situations.”
Cronin also said he had heard it wasn’t so much a problem in other parts of the country, only Colorado.
“I did hear that Colorado has had special circumstances, but that it is common among Western states, but we’re not the worst,” Mitchell said.
The committee also debated an idea of placing a tax on drinking liquid containers, from children’s juice boxes to cans of soda, as a possible source for the additional funding.
No decisions on the tax were made, but it was jokingly said that Colorado would need a drought for a tax like that to go through.
The town of Buena Vista recently developed a Source Water Protection Plan that prioritizes concerns about the town drinking-water supply and identifies strategies to protect that water supply.
Buena Vista Public Works Director Greg Maggard and John Duggan with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) provided an overview of the BV plan during the monthly meeting of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board of directors April 14.
The BV plan, Maggard said, employs a two-step strategy recommended by CDPHE (1) to prioritize town water sources based on susceptibility to contamination and (2) to prioritize potential contaminant sources.
Following this strategy, Maggard said contaminant sources were prioritized based on the prevalence of contaminants and specific contaminants that represent the greatest threat to the water supply.
Using data from a variety of sources, including the Colorado Wildfire Risk Assessment, Maggard said town staff:
Identified areas of concern for public water systems.
Identified mine sites within 3 miles upstream from water system intakes and 1,000 feet from streams.
Established baseline water quality data for all water sources.
Scheduled ongoing source-water monitoring at regular intervals.
Mines and large septic systems represent the most significant threats to the Buena Vista water supply, Maggard said.
The source water protection planning process was developed as a result of a 1996 congressional amendment to the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act that required each state to develop a source water assessment and protection (SWAP) program.
In the first phase of the SWAP program, Duggan said, Colorado conducted an assessment of all public water supplies.
The second phase is about protecting source water and involves developing and implementing a source water protection plan. Duggan stressed that phase 2 is voluntary but supported by funds from the state.
Prior to undertaking the source water protection planning process, Buena Vista had already established a Source Water Protection District around its drinking water sources, allowing the town to review county building permit applications inside district boundaries.
Maggard said the town’s new plan would complement the district and probably should have been developed prior to forming the district.
In other business district board members:
Learned that the state recently approved the district’s engineering application for storing water in the alluvial aquifer near Johnson Village.
Heard an update on the Lake Ranch Multi-Use Project, which received more than $200,000 in grant money and will include a 5- to 8-acre demonstration garden.
Decided to initiate efforts to obtain grant funding to begin phase 2 of the district’s water balance study, which would examine potential aquifer storage in the Wet Mountain Valley.
Learned that the district currently stores 3738.9 acre-feet of water in various reservoirs.
Voted not to acquire additional Fry-Ark Project water since the district will carry over 1,569 of project water from previous years.
Heard a report on the Cottonwood Reservoir feasibility study indicating the survey work will be completed in May once the ice has melted.
Heard an update on the rainwater harvesting bill, which is now law.
Unanimously agreed to stipulate out of Water Court case 07CW129.
Addressing issues with a leaky Boss Lake dam in southwestern Chaffee County could cost as much as $2 million.
Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, estimated the cost at $1.5-2 million during the Thursday district board of directors meeting.
Scanga said an environmental impact statement would need to be prepared in order to construct a road across national forest land to get equipment into the site.
Confronted with the cost of dam repairs and the cost of an environmental impact statement, Scanga would not recommend moving forward with repair work, saying the lake has “limited utility for the district’s uses.”
During the Upper Ark district’s March 2014 meeting, district officials mentioned the possibility that the dam could be breached.
Scanga said he was hopeful the state would take over the reservoir and fund the necessary repairs so Boss Lake could be used to help re-establish endangered greenback cutthroat trout, the Colorado state fish.
The Upper Ark district stores water in Boss Lake and manages the reservoir pursuant to a 1982 agreement with Chaffee County.
When the state built Boss Lake, it encompassed the Donnell 1 and 2 reservoirs, and the Donnell water rights include a storage right in what is now Boss Lake.
Salco Associates, essentially Wanda and Jim Treat and family, own the Donnell water rights, allowing the Treats to store water in Boss Lake.
In spite of efforts to engage Salco regarding dam repairs, Scanga said the district had received “no response” since the family attended the March 2014 district board meeting to protest maintenance charges billed by the district.
The board meeting also included:
A review of the 2016 district and enterprise budgets with the budget hearing set for 2 p.m. Nov. 12.
A presentation entitled “Fry-Ark Project and Current Project Storage” by Roy Vaughan, Pueblo Reservoir facility manager, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
District hydrologist Jord Gertson’s water storage, precipitation and streamflow reports, showing full reservoirs and an above-average precipitation outlook for southern Colorado.
A progress report from the Upper Arkansas Multi-Use Project Committee indicating the project has gained positive attention from various elements in the water community.
A report from Director Greg Felt regarding a Multi-Use Project field trip attended by eight legislators.
A Thompson Ditch report from engineer Chris Manera indicating no substantial change in water levels due to groundwater infiltration following a wetter than average summer.
An update on planning activities for the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, slated for April 27-28 at Salida SteamPlant.
Presentation of the 2016 conservancy district budget.
A legislative update from consultant Ken Baker.
A legal report updating board members on district applications and oppositions.
Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District officials continue to assess efforts to dry up land formerly irrigated by the Thompson Ditch, including draining Harvard and Yale lakes west of Buena Vista.
“Yale Lake is definitely affecting the groundwater level,” said district engineer Chris Manera in his progress report to the Upper Ark board of directors during their Thursday meeting in Salida.
Manera presented data collected since January from nine district monitoring wells and nearby private wells that show dropping groundwater levels since Yale Lake was drained.
Manera said Harvard Lake is down gradient from the monitoring wells, and he saw no affect on water levels when it was drained in March.
Manera’s report confirms suspicions that seepage from Yale Lake hindered conservancy district efforts to dry up land once irrigated by the Thompson Ditch, a requirement for the district to use its Thompson Ditch water right for augmentation on Cottonwood Creek.
As previously reported, the groundwater level needs to drop at least 6 feet below the surface for the conservancy district to receive credit for drying up the land.
The land in question consists of an 11.51-acre parcel and a 2.84-acre parcel. Manera said the smaller parcel “is dried up” as are portions of the larger parcel.
During the Enterprise Committee portion of the meeting, hydrologist Jord Gertson reported the district currently stores 2,663.2 acre-feet of water in its reservoirs.
Gertson said all district reservoirs are full except for O’Haver Lake, which is being filled and should be full by the end of May.
Gertson also presented snowpack and precipitation data showing above-average conditions for the Upper Arkansas Valley.
After plummeting in March, Arkansas River Basin snowpack rebounded in April to reach peak depth in early May, putting the basin at 111 percent of average, Gertson said.
Gertson also presented the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s long-range precipitation outlook, which projects “well-above average precipitation” this summer in Colorado.
During the legislative update, district consultant Ken Baker mentioned House Bill 15-1259, which would have allowed Coloradans to collect up to two 55-gallon rain barrels of water that drains off their rooftops.
The bill died in the Senate May 5, but Baker believes the bill will return in a future legislative session and indicated that the bill runs afoul of the state’s doctrine of prior appropriation, which lies at the heart of Colorado water law.
Rain naturally seeps into the ground or drains into streams, and Baker pointed out that collecting rain in a barrel deprives downstream water rights holders of water to which they are legally entitled.
In other business, Upper Ark directors:
Learned that the judge in the district’s Cottonwood Creek diligence case signed the decree, a necessary step toward making a conditional water right absolute. Diligence must be proved in a water court proceeding every 6 years.
Heard a U.S. Geological Survey presentation about water use trends in Colorado and the Arkansas Vallery.
Learned that stipulations are pending from several objectors in the district’s 04CW96 exchange case, which should preclude the need for the case to go to trial in June.
Learned that the district water management plan is under review and should soon be available for public comment on the district website, http://uawcd.com.
Learned that an intergovernmental agreement with the town of Buena Vista for storing water in Cottonwood Reservoir is nearing completion.
Approved a $1,000 Colorado Water Congress Stewardship Project sponsorship.
More Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District coverage here
State Sen. Kerry Donovan (D-Vail) and Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, hosted a town hall meeting to discuss water issues Sunday in city council chambers.
Scanga opened the meeting by describing changes in Colorado water plans since 2002.
He said in 2011 a gap analysis of the various water basins showed the Arkansas River Basin will have a projected shortage of 54,000 acre-feet per year by 2035 or 2040.
He said various water conservancy districts are looking into conservation, identifying projects and processes, alternative transportation methods of water and new water supplies.
Another option being considered is rotational land fallowing and water leasing, which would lease water rights for irrigation from a section of land and transfer it to a municipality temporarily, which would increase water to an area that is experiencing a population growth, he said.
An issue raised involved poor irrigation and watering practices by agricultural users, which Scanga said is difficult to compare to poor watering practices of lawns in a municipality.
Another attendee asked about worst-case scenarios for future water shortages. Scanga said water conservancy groups in Arizona and Nevada have already started preparing for worst-case scenarios and have begun offering monetary incentives for users taking less water than before.
Donovan said she had been to Paonia and Delta Saturday and Crested Butte and Salida Sunday as part of her town hall meetings to obtain comments and gauge concerns of local residents about water in their basins.
She said feedback gained from meetings such as the one in Salida will be used to take the voices of locals to Denver.
Groundwater levels around Yale Lake have dropped approximately 1 foot in the past 2 months since the lake stopped receiving inflows from the Thompson Ditch, but the area continues to retain water within 6 feet of the surface.
Chris Manera, professional engineer, relayed the information during the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board of directors monthly meeting Wednesday in Salida.
Reporting on efforts to dry up land formerly irrigated by the Thompson Ditch, Manera said the water level in Yale Lake is decreasing as the reservoir loses water to seepage and evaporation.
Still, the depth of the water table “is not changing quickly,” Manera said, indicating the geological presence of a “high confining layer” within 20 feet of the surface that creates a saturated zone above the surrounding aquifer.
Manera said a release of water from Harvard Lake “had no effect” on the shallow saturated zone and indicated water would likely be released from Yale Lake in an effort to lower groundwater levels below 6 feet from the surface.
Reducing the water table to at least 6 feet below the surface would put the water out of reach for plants, a key requirement for drying up agricultural land in order to change the use of the water.
Manera presented measurements recorded at nine district piezometers and nearby private wells that show water levels at 6 feet below the surface just west of Yale Lake. To the south and east of Yale Lake, however, water levels remain closer to the surface.
Manera noted a 10-foot east-to-west drop in the subsurface water gradient with groundwater flows moving west to east, directly toward Franklin Spring, which feeds Ice Lake. Manera said the receding groundwater has not affected water levels in nearby Harvard and Ice lakes.
Terry Scanga, Upper Ark district general manager, updated board members on the situation at O’Haver Lake, indicating the district is releasing water from the reservoir for augmentation operations.
Scanga said the reservoir is currently at 84 percent of its 180-acre-foot capacity, and releases will continue through March and possibly into April, leaving approximately 146 acre-feet of water in O’Haver by the end of March.
Scanga said the Upper Ark district policy has been to keep O’Haver Lake full, but like any reservoir, O’Haver loses water to evaporation. Since the district cannot capture water out of priority, it must use exchanges to keep the reservoir full.
Recent policy changes by the Colorado Water Conservation Board have made exchanges up Grays Creek virtually impossible, prompting district officials to use O’Haver water for augmentation.
Scanga said he believes the district can work with the CWCB staff to create a policy to resolve the issue, and he is hopeful that a site visit this spring will help CWCB officials better understand the issues “on the ground.”
In other business, Upper Ark directors:
Learned that the state approved district augmentation totaling 482.1 acre-feet of water, an increase of 196 acre-feet per month due to the inclusion of augmentation for Nestlé Waters North America’s spring water operation near Nathrop.
Learned that conservancy district replacements for 2014 totaled 665.41 acre-feet.
Learned that proposed legislation to allow senior water-rights holders to donate water to in-stream flows has been changed to apply only to the Western Slope, but if passed, the bill would deprive downstream rights-holders of return flows.
Heard a report showing 2,515.7 acre-feet of district water in storage.
Reviewed a summer streamflow forecast projecting 240,000 acre-feet of water flowing past Salida, which is 98 percent of average.
Learned about progress toward installing a new gauge near the Friend Ranch Reservoir outflow with Poncha Springs sharing the cost of installation and maintenance.
Discussed efforts by Young Life to upgrade its Trail West septic system with a pipeline connecting to the Buena Vista waste treatment facility, which would require Young Life to purchase additional augmentation water from the conservancy district.
Approved stipulations in two Water Court cases, 04CW96 and 11CW86.
The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board of directors discussed several topics at its December board meeting, including the district’s efforts to complete the dry-up of Thompson Ditch near Buena Vista. The dry-up is necessary for the district to be able to use its Thompson Ditch water right to augment out-of-priority water usage in the Cottonwood Creek drainage.
District General Manager Terry Scanga reported that the district has entered into an
agreement with the Yale Lakes Homeowners Association to stop diverting water into Yale Lake.
Scanga said the next step is to install piezometers to monitor groundwater levels in the area previously irrigated by the Thompson Ditch, and hydrologist Jord Gertson and engineer Chris Manera will install the devices soon.
Harvard Lake will not be drained, Scanga said, until Gertson and Manera can assess the effects of draining Yale Lake.
Scanga also said the owners of nearby Ice Lake are trying to prevent the lake from being drained by finding ways to reduce evaporative losses from the lake as well as possible sources for augmentation water to offset evaporative losses.
Addressing an issue that arose following maintenance work on the outlet ditch at the district’s Conquistador Reservoir in central Chaffee County, attorney Kendall Burgemeister reported on a “disappointing” meeting with local landowner James Hood and his attorney.
The work involved removing an overgrowth of willows along the ditch. Willows are phreatophytes, deep-rooted plants that draw water directly from the water table, and failure to remove them can cause water losses that injure downstream water users.
Burgemeister said the meeting was scheduled 2 months out after Hood’s attorney contacted Upper Ark district officials to complain about work performed on the outlet ditch where it crosses Hood’s property.
The ability of a water-right holder to maintain a ditch used for that water right is protected by Colorado law, and while Burgemeister said Hood was “not happy,” he had no proposals to address the situation.
During the engineers’ report, Manera said the U.S. Bureau of Land Management will analyze the use of DeWeese-Dye Ditch with the intention of improving the efficiency of the ditch.
The ditch diverts water from Grape Creek, southwest of Cañon City in Custer County, and that water is stored in DeWeese Reservoir, one of the lakes in which the Upper Ark district stores water.
Manera said information provided by the district’s new gauge “was really helpful” in convincing the Bureau of Land Management to analyze water losses in the ditch.
In a brief discussion of the state water plan currently under development, long-time water attorney John Hill commented, “You could solve the problem if you could declare bluegrass a noxious weed.”
In other business, Upper Ark directors:
Unanimously approved contracting with Hancock Froese & Co. LLC to conduct the district’s 2015 audit.
Learned that Manera recently updated the emergency action plans for Boss Lake and North Fork Reservoir.
Learned that Manera has begun the mapping to support a new Fremont County augmentation plan.
Heard updates on district filings in Water Court from Burgemeister, including a report on the resolution of a Victor-Cripple Creek exchange case that the district opposed and then stipulated out of.
Learned from Director Greg Felt that scientific research demonstrates that the last time the Earth’s atmosphere contained current levels of carbon dioxide, there were no polar ice caps, without which ocean levels would rise 60 feet.
More Upper Arkansas River Water Conservancy District coverage here.
The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board of directors met Thursday in Salida despite wintry road conditions preventing several directors and others from attending the meeting in person. Directors unable to make the drive attended via teleconference, and Cañon City Director of Public Works Bob Hartzman’s report on the Royal Gorge Area Erosion Control Project will be rescheduled.
Board members unanimously approved the 2015 budget as presented by Rich Young of Stotler and Young accounting firm. Young noted that tax revenue projections for the district decreased because of reduced property valuations.
During the budget hearing, Director Jeff Ollinger, Buena Vista, questioned the degree of separation between the conservancy district budget and the Water Activity Enterprise budget. He wondered if an increase in enterprise revenue could translate into a reduction in the district’s mill levy.
District Manager Terry Scanga responded, saying the taxes collected through the mill levy are specifically for the protection of water rights within conservancy district boundaries. Revenue generated through the mill levy, Scanga said, pays for legal fees, court filings and other costs necessary to ensure residents’ water rights are protected. While the conservancy district operates as a governmental entity to protect regional water rights, Scanga said the Water Activity Enterprise operates as a business that uses revenue generated primarily by providing augmentation water to clients. Scanga said those revenues are necessary for the enterprise to acquire additional water sources to meet growing demand.
In other business Upper Ark district directors:
Voted to oppose District 2 Water Court case 2014CW3049, filed by Fremont Paving & Redi-Mix Inc., to change the use of an agricultural water right on the Plum Creek Ditch to augmentation.
Learned from Scanga that the state engineer is working to develop new rules that would allow new wells to be developed without a full augmentation plan, similar to wells drilled prior to 1985.
Learned from consultant Ken Baker that Senate Bill 14-23, which Gov. John Hickenlooper vetoed this year, will be reintroduced during the next legislative session.
Learned from Baker that a bill to provide for management of “invasive phreatophytes” will also be introduced in the legislative session. Phreatophytes are deep-rooted plants that draw water directly from the water table.
Learned that Cañon City officials had contacted the Upper Ark district to inquire about purchasing augmentation water.
Learned from attorney Kendall Burgemeister that the district’s stipulation in Water Court case 11CW61 has been approved.
Adjourned to executive session “to provide direction to staff and receive legal advice for potential purchase of property and water rights.”
More Upper Arkansas River Water Conservancy District coverage here.
Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District directors agreed to continue pursuing the district’s proposed Multi-use Project during the monthly board meeting Thursday in Salida. Director Greg Felt, Salida, provided an overview of the project, which has remained largely dormant for the past 2 years, and noted the widespread appeal of the project among diverse state agencies, local government entities and the conservation and recreation communities.
Benefits of the project would include:
• Preservation of agricultural irrigation.
• Two water storage reservoirs.
• Alluvial aquifer water storage.
• Conservation easements.
• Wildlife corridor protections.
• Protections for deer and elk populations.
• Drought water supply.
• New public access to the Arkansas River.
• New boating access to the river.
• Hydroelectric electricity generation.
Felt pointed out that these benefits align almost perfectly with Colorado water management objectives as identified by the Statewide Water Supply Initiative, or SWSI (swahzee), 2010 report.
Major components of the project would include Chaffee County’s most senior water right, the Trout Creek Ditch; the Helena Ditch; Moltz Reservoir; a proposed gravel pit reservoir; and 6,000-12,000 acre-feet of proposed aquifer storage.
Felt said significant challenges facing the project include financing and working with five different property owners.
District Manager Terry Scanga said he sent a proposal to the Colorado Water Conservation Board concerning the project and the potential for financing through the CWCB and said he would follow up to get a meeting set.
District Engineer Ivan Walter said, “The project is there” from an engineering standpoint and in terms of SWSI objectives. “It would be a missed opportunity if the Upper Ark (district) didn’t do it.”
Director Jeff Ollinger, Buena Vista, has a background in finance and suggested using the CWCB finance application to prepare for the CWCB meeting. He also noted the potential for the district to leverage other assets as collateral to obtain sufficient financing for the project.
Ollinger also stressed the need to accurately assess the risks associated with the project, citing the potential for wildfire in the Trout Creek drainage and the potential for a hazardous material spill along U.S. 24/285 between Johnson Village and Trout Creek Pass.
Either of these events could significantly affect water quality and, therefore, the ability of the Multi-use Project to generate revenue to make loan payments.
Prior to the regular board meeting, directors met as the Enterprise Committee. Agenda items for the committee meeting included a financial report, an augmentation report, a reservoir and water storage report, and a precipitation and streamflow report.
In other business, Upper Ark directors:
Learned that Upper Colorado Basin snowpack conditions are similar to those in 2011 when the Frying Pan-Arkansas Project delivered 98,900 acre-feet of water to the Arkansas River and that the district has requested 1,000 acre-feet of project water for 2014.
Heard a legislative report from consultant Ken Baker, who said the Flex Water Market bill had been changed to prevent leased water from being diverted outside the basin of historic use for the water right in question.
Voted to drop Water Court case 95CW234, involving district efforts to extend augmentation services into the Texas Creek drainage.
Heard a presentation by U.S. Geological Survey Southwest Colorado Office Chief David Mau about the detrimental effects of wildfire runoff on water quality and how to mitigate those effects.
Learned the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District approved a stipulation in Water Court case 04CW95 and signed a storage agreement with the Upper Ark district.
Were reminded that four directors’ seats are up for reappointment, and candidates have until May 1 to submit an application.
Learned district staff members are developing a memorandum of understanding with the town of Buena Vista for the Cottonwood Creek Integrated Management Plan.
Agreed to have legal counsel draft comments regarding the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency’s proposed rules pertaining to water resources.
More Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District coverage here.
During the monthly meeting of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board of directors, consultant Ken Baker discussed preliminary efforts to develop a bill that would create a “flexible water market,” saying he believes some form of bill will be enacted during the next legislative session.
Baker said the bill would allow the amount of water attributed to historical consumptive use on irrigated land to be put to other uses during temporary fallowing of that land and allow the water to be put to any beneficial use without designating the specific use, as is currently required. Through a flex market, Baker said, agricultural water rights holders could implement rotational fallowing of their farmland and lease a portion of their water for other beneficial uses, while retaining sufficient water to sustain agricultural activities and keep the land in production. A key element of this approach, Baker said, is that the bill would grant the state water engineer the authority to approve flex market filings and agreements, removing Water Court from the process except for appeals.
Baker also noted that nothing proposed in the bill to date addresses storing or transferring water leased through the proposed flex market system. Baker said one concern with the legislation is basin-of-origin protections for water in the Arkansas River Basin because similar bills passed in 2013, HB-1248 and HB-1033, do not protect the Arkansas Basin from transbasin diversions.
In other business, directors:
Learned that a final decree was issued granting absolute storage rights for all district water in O’Haver Reservoir and all but 100 acre-feet of district water in North Fork Reservoir.
Learned that the Colorado Water Conservation Board approved a grant to fund phase 2 of the Helena Ditch project, which will include construction of concrete components to ensure sufficient capacity in the ditch and a bypass to return excess diverted water back to the river.
Learned from hydrologist Jord Gertson that Arkansas River Basin snowpack has reached 139 percent of average and that the district is gaining native and transbasin winter water in Twin Lakes Reservoir.
Heard comments from attorney Kendall Burgemeister indicating U.S. Sen. Mark Udall’s proposed Browns Canyon National Monument legislation “seems favorable to the district.”
Heard from Director Tim Canterbury that preliminary discussions have begun in an effort to craft legislation concerning livestock ponds that have no water rights, some of which the Colorado Division of Water Resources officials have ordered drained.
Discussed the exemption from the priority system of livestock that drink from a free-flowing stream or ditch.
Received a list of projects from the Personnel and Finance Special Committee and were asked to prioritize projects and submit those priorities to the committee prior to the January meeting.
Heard from Cañon City Water Superintendent Bob Hartzman about ongoing efforts to protect the watershed through erosion prevention and revegetation in areas burned by the Royal Gorge Fire.
Heard from Director Frank McMurry that the U.S. Forest Service will no longer pursue its plan of forcing ski resorts to surrender their water rights, a plan that agricultural water rights holders had opposed.
Approved, by an 8-4 vote, dropping opposition to the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District’s Super Ditch case if the Lower Ark district agrees to drop its opposition to the Upper Ark district’s 04CW96 case. McMurry, Canterbury, Tom French and Bill Jackson voted against the measure.
Renewed the U.S. Geological Survey contract for the Groundwater Network Study.
Approved stipulations negotiated with St. Charles Mesa in case 04CW96 relating to basin-wide exchanges.
Learned from Burgemeister that the deadline for filing oppositions in the district’s Cottonwood Creek exchange case had been extended into February because the Aspen newspaper failed to post notice of the filing.
Terry Scanga from the Upper Arkansas River Water Conservancy District called the Super Ditch the “Mother of all change cases” a couple of years ago. Here’s an update on a water court filing by objectors from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:
Water users on the eastern end of the Lower Arkansas Valley want water judge Larry Schwartz to dismiss a court case that would allow the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch to exchange water upstream. The motion to dismiss was filed last month in Division 2 water court.
The Super Ditch envisions exchanging water upstream under leasefallowing programs that would allow farmers to sell water to cities temporarily while keeping ownership of the water rights.
But several large water interests below John Martin Reservoir say the proposal is speculative and claims too much water — the entire flows of six canal companies that amount to 58,000 acre-feet per year. Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association, District 67 Ditch Association and the Amity Canal filed the motion to dismiss the application by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and Super District on May 22. The exchange is being sought before water rights on the canal have been changed to allow other uses, they say.
At the same time, the Lower Ark District and Super Ditch have sidestepped water court by lobbying for changes in state law that allow water to be moved under state water officials without court adjudication, they said. Two bills were passed by the state Legislature this year — HB1130 and HB 1248 — that give the state engineer or the Colorado Water Conservation Board direct authority over water transfers. The Lower Ark District backed HB1248, and Rocky Ford area farmers involved with the Super Ditch testified in favor of HB1130. The bills were actively opposed by Tri-State lobbyists.
“It scares the hell out of us that multiple thousands of acres could be dried up and the state’s the policeman,” said Colin Thompson, who farms near Holly and is a member of the Amity Canal board. “I don’t want to have to run up and down the valley and police 2,000 fields.”
“Super Ditch has no contracts on either side, no end user and no firm supply,” said Terry Nelson, a Tri-State executive. “They’ve taken every effort to sidestep the court process. They’re setting it up to make it easier for the municipalities to take water out of the Arkansas Valley.”
Jay Winner, manager of the Lower Ark District, defended the Super Ditch proposal, saying it protects water in agriculture. “What we’re trying to do is enhance the water options for agriculture,” Winner said. “The state now has a gap in municipal supplies. Super Ditch provides an alternative to permanent transfers.”
More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.
Recent weather patterns in the Upper Arkansas River Valley precipitated discussion of snowpack and water supplies during the Thursday meeting of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District. District hydrologist Jord Gertson reported that all district reservoirs are full, except for DeWeese Reservoir in Custer County, which is at 89 percent of capacity.
Gertson presented Natural Resources Conservation Service data compiled May 1 that show Upper Arkansas River Basin snowpack at 93 percent of average and 287 percent of 2012 snowpack levels. Gertson said Snowpack Telemetry sites at Fremont Pass and Brumley show the snow water equivalent at 101 percent and 109 percent of median, respectively. The Fremont Pass SNOTEL site also reports precipitation at 106 percent of average for the current water year, which began Oct. 1. Gertson also showed snowpack charts indicating measurements at upper basin SNOTEL sites are “way better than last year,” including sites at Porphyry Creek, Independence Pass and St. Elmo.
District directors also reported good news about the Frying Pan-Arkansas Project, which is expected to import 47,000 acre-feet of water from the Western Slope this year, compared to 14,000 acre-feet in 2012. Diversions of Fry-Ark Project water into the Arkansas Basin average approximately 52,000 acre-feet of water per year. In 2011, the project imported 98,000 acre-feet of Western Slope water, the second highest amount in the project’s 50-year history of operations.
In other business, directors heard a legislative report from consultant Ken Baker. Baker’s report mainly focused on House Bill 1130, which, he said, targets Arkansas Basin water and is expected to be signed by the governor.
Baker said HB 1130 would create a “selective application” of a 130-year-old Colorado water law. The bill would create the potential for 30 years of interruptible-supply agreements that are currently limited to a maximum of 10 years. The state engineer would have authority to approve these agreements, changing the use of the water and bypassing Water Court proceedings that are currently required to change the use of a water right. Baker said the bill mainly benefits Aurora, allowing the city to take Arkansas Basin water without having to pursue a change-of-use case in Water Court.
To gain the votes needed to pass the bill, Baker said a special exclusion was added that exempts Western Slope water.
In other business, Upper Ark directors:
Approved a modification to a Nestlé Waters North America augmentation agreement for 200 acre-feet of Fry-Ark Project water per year for 35 years.
Agreed to stipulate out of Poncha Springs case 09CW138, subject to favorable review of the stipulations by district engineer Ivan Walter.
Approved an agreement with law firm Wilderson, Lock and Hill to provide legal counsel for a flat fee of $2,000 per month.
Received an update on an integrated water agreement with Buena Vista.
Approved a cooperative water agreement with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Learned that the gate wheel at O’Haver Lake has been replaced after the old one was damaged by a vehicle.
Received an update on the Trout Creek Ditch exchange case, 08CW106, which is scheduled to go to trial June 11 if the Department of Corrections, division engineer and Colorado Water Conservation Board do not agree to proposed stipulations.
Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District directors heard a report about the potential for underground water storage in Chaffee County during their Thursday meeting. Tammy Ivahnenko and Ken Watts with the U.S. Geological Survey said areas identified for further study include aquifers near Salida, Nathrop, Johnson Village, Buena Vista and north of Buena Vista.
Watts said the locations were identified based on slope (less than 3 percent), soil texture at a depth of 5 feet (loam, sandy loam or gravel preferred) and surface geology (alluvial or gravel deposits).
Another important factor, Watts said, is the “stream-accretion response time factor,” which provides an indication of how long water will stay in an aquifer before draining into a stream.
Ivahnenko described “water budgets” she developed for Cottonwood, Chalk and Browns creeks and the South Arkansas River.
The water budgets include irrigated acres, consumptive use by crops and amount of water diverted for irrigation, and help determine how much water may be available for storage at a given time.
Watts said he conducted “slug tests” at 29 wells to determine hydraulic properties in the aquifers, including conductivity and permeability. He also reported on findings from Colorado State University monitoring wells. Hourly readings from the monitoring wells documented seasonal changes in water level and temperature, showing seasonal changes in groundwater levels and surface-water infiltration.
Some wells showed significant influence from surface irrigation while others indicated a more stable, natural water level.
Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District officials are developing plans to increase water storage capacity in the Upper Arkansas River basin. An important component of those plans is underground storage in alluvial aquifers, which would eliminate evaporative water losses and provide augmentation water through natural recharge to surface waters.
Conservancy district officials said they will rely on USGS findings to help determine possible locations for underground water storage projects.
More Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District coverage here.
Two Rocky Ford area ditch company boards agreed Tuesday to work with the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch to lease water to Aurora next year. The boards of the High Line and Catlin canals cleared the way for the leases, which will be made through the Super Ditch.
“It’s a voluntary program, and shareholders can either agree to participate or not to participate,” said John Schweizer, president of both the Catlin Canal and Super Ditch boards. “How many choose to participate determines how much each person will get.”
Aurora has offered to buy up to 10,000 acre-feet of water from the Super Ditch next year because its reservoir storage is below 60 percent of available capacity. That is a trigger for leasing in drought recovery years under the 2003 agreement with the Southeastern Colorado and Upper Arkansas water conservancy districts. Aurora initially offered $500 per acre-foot, but that figure is under negotiation, Schweizer said. “The boards agreed that wouldn’t work at all,” Schweizer said.
Super Ditch attorney Peter Nichols will negotiate the rate with Aurora.
The $500 per acre-foot figure was part of an agreement reached in 2010 with the Super Ditch and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. Since then, the price of corn and hay — the major crops grown here — in the Arkansas Valley has nearly tripled during the drought.
“That was a different time,” Schweizer said.
Either an interruptible supply plan or substitute water supply plan would have to be filed with the Division of Water Resources for the lease to occur. That would require engineering and legal resources to meet a possible challenge from other water users in the valley. Schweizer said those costs also will be negotiated with Aurora.
Directors approved a budget resolution adopting the $2.9 million 2012 budget prepared by Swartz and Young Certified Public Accountants [November 10] during the monthly Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board meeting in Salida. The total budget includes the general fund and the enterprise fund, and Rich Young of Swartz and Young said the 2012 budget includes $465,779 in projected property tax revenue, an increase of $2,000-3,000 compared with this year.
District Manager Terry Scanga said his counterparts Jim Broderick, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, and Jay Winner, Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, attended the meeting, as did Alan Hamel, executive director with Pueblo Board of Water Works.
Scanga said the men agreed that more storage in the Arkansas basin is crucial for meeting future municipal and industrial water demand as identified by the Statewide Water Supply Initiative, which projects a significant supply shortfall by 2050.
Scanga also said new storage capacity would be needed if more Western Slope water were to be diverted into the Arkansas Basin and additional storage is needed to support effective environmental conservation along basin waterways.
The Multi-Use Project recently proposed by the Upper Arkansas district would increase basin storage capacity and has generated interest among other conservancy districts and municipal water providers, Scanga said.
Those conclusions are the result of a $42,000 study of the Upper Arkansas River by Paul Flack, a former hydrologist for the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation area, who was contracted last year under a grant sponsored by the Southeastern Colorado and Upper Arkansas water conservancy districts. Flack shared some conclusions of his study Wednesday with the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, saying there is a need for all of the users who are concerned about flows in the upper basin to get together to reach solutions. In addition, about 20,000 acre-feet of new reservoir storage is needed to meet all the needs.
The Upper Arkansas has, for years, become a complicated operation as water users have tried to balance releases from Turquoise and Twin Lakes and levels in Lake Pueblo with flows for recreation and fish.
Flows also have to be kept in check below Turquoise in the Lake Fork watershed to avoid disturbing old mine tailings that could leach heavy metals into the Arkansas River…
Chaffee County recreational in-channel diversion rights, which support boat courses in Buena Vista and Salida, are problematic because they depend on other river operations…
Flows in the river to meet the needs of fish, a component of a 20-year-old voluntary flow agreement among several agencies, could be a potential source of conflict. “The fishing flow can be in opposition to the needs of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project,” Flack said.
At Lake Pueblo, Flack looked at the possibility of changing the timing of spring releases for if-and-when or winter water storage accounts. “There could be significant water savings, up to thousands of acre-feet,” he said. “But, there would be a ripple effect upstream.”[…]
Adding 20,000 acre-feet of storage is needed to smoothly operate the increasingly complex river system. Planning should involve those affected, and not just with phone calls to Reclamation in an emergency, Flack said.
Terry Scanga, conservancy district manager, said committee members identified several possible options that would support a concept of developing water storage at a variety of locations to benefit multiple Arkansas River basin water users. Because of the cost of developing this type of storage system, Scanga said the project would require collaboration…
Scanga said response to the idea was “enthusiastic.” The concept is appealing, he said, because it would provide flexibility allowing participating entities to store water closer to the point of use instead of in large, distant reservoirs…
As a result of the meeting, Scanga said two committees were formed. One will investigate possible organizational structure for the coalition and another to create a “white paper” outlining things such as mission and principles of the coalition…
He said potential storage sites include reservoirs, gravel pits and alluvial aquifers in which water could be stored underground.
At issue is a bill by Diana DeGette, D-Colo., to create additional Colorado wilderness areas, as well as wild lands and wilderness study designations approved by Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar. The federal legislation has been reintroduced several times without success.
The [Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District] believes any of those actions could prevent water development. “Development of storage or enlargement of existing storage and other beneficial uses of water on streams that are included in these wilderness designations, such as Grape, Badger or Beaver Creeks, will be precluded as a consequence,” Upper Ark chairman Glenn Everett said.
The Southeastern District still has conditional decrees for canals that could serve hydroelectric power generation. The canals haven’t been built, but could be in the future, explained Bob Hamilton, engineering supervisor for the district.
Most board members agreed, except for Reed Dils. “In my mind, considering what’s going to happen to the legislation, we should do nothing at all,” Dils said. “I support wilderness legislation.”
More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.
The ad hoc committee determined there is no immediate need for any new water augmentation in the county. The committee used U.S Census Bureau statistics to determine there would be no need for any new water augmentation plan within the next ten years. The projected growth the unincorporated portion of the county for the next ten years, said the committee, is 63-to 99 new households, which is less than two percent a year.
Also, said committee members, the trend for those newcomers is to buy existing homes instead of vacant land, according to recent Custer County Sales Transaction History statistics.
In conclusion, the ad hoc committee said they would be making recommendations to the county commissioners:
–The county continue to work with the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District to address potential water needs and to insure county conditions are included in any new augmentation plan being considered.
–The commissioners become more informed and proactive in regards to local water issues.
–The commissioners convene the ad hoc committee as needed to re-evaluate the situation.
–The commissioners continue to support the current U.S. Geological Survey organization’s survey of some 60 wells in the county.
Those recommendations will be presented during the commissioners meeting slated for…Thursday, June 30.
Salida City Councilman Jay Moore was appointed to fill the Division 2 (School District R-32-J) directorship vacated by Everett. Moore and three re-appointed directors were sworn in at the meeting.
The re-appointed directors are:
• Tim Canterbury, Division 1 – area encompassed by School District RE-3.
• Bob Senderhauf, Division 4 – Custer County.
• John Sandefur, Division 6, Seat B – area encompassed by School District RE-2, excluding the part of RE-2 within Custer County.
After the swearing in, Bob Senderhauf was elected chairman, Tim Canterbury was elected vice chairman, Greg Felt was re-elected secretary, and Jim McCormick was re-elected treasurer. The new officers all expressed appreciation for Everett’s service to the conservancy district…
District Manager Terry Scanga discussed preliminary efforts to form a coalition in the Upper Arkansas Valley to construct new water storage vessels or enlarge existing ones. “It’s time to formalize that coalition and move forward,” Scanga said, based on the need for augmentation plans in the upper Arkansas basin.
More Upper Arkansas River Water Conservancy District coverage here.
Expiring terms are: Division 1, Fremont County School District RE-3, Timothy Canterbury; Division 2, Chaffee County School District R-32-J, chairman Glenn Everett; Division 4, Custer County, vice chairman Robert Senderhauf; and Division 6, Fremont County School District RE-2, John Sandefur.
Property owners at least 18 years old who have lived in one of those divisions at least one year may apply for appointment to the directorship for the division in which they live. Terms begin June 1 and continue four years. Applicants should have backgrounds reflecting agricultural, municipal, industrial or other interests in beneficial water use within conservancy district boundaries.
On Jan. 19 commissioners Lynn Attebery, Jim Austin and Allen Butler recapped the water forum held here on Jan. 15, and decided to meet with the county’s planning commission chair and co-chair to discuss the viability of the planning commission investigating the feasibility of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District bringing a water augmentation plan to the county and making a recommendation to that effect to the commissioners. That meeting with the two county planning commission members – chairman Vic Barnes and vice-chair Keith Hood – took place during the Jan. 31 commissioners’ regular meeting. Following a lengthy discussion, with Barnes and Hood agreeing that the planning commission’s role should be to gather data only, the county commissioners decided to discuss the matter with county attorney John Naylor before making a final decision regarding the planning commission’s role, if any. Also during the Jan 19 meeting, commissioner Austin made a motion to send a letter to the UAWCD stating the county commissioners were not to blame for UAWCD’s recent decision to pull its proposed blanket water augmentation plan for Custer County from water court. Instead, said Austin, the commissioners objected because the UAWCD did not honor its agreement with the former county commissioners. That agreement, noted Austin, was that the commissioners be allowed to review the water augmentation proposal before UAWCD submitted it. “That didn’t happen,” said Austin.
Witte said he believes the vast majority of seep water affected by the new rules is in southeast Colorado “because there are big ditch companies out there with large canals that cross dry arroyos.” Witte explained water from the big ditches seeped into arroyos through time and people claimed rights to that water instead of allowing it to return to the river. Because seep rights are more recent or junior rights, failure to administer them under the priority system has deprived senior rights holders of their water – particularly in the Upper Arkansas River Basin, Witte said. “I’m absolutely convinced we’re doing the right thing,” Witte said, adding he sees no basis for distinguishing between ditch seepage and natural springs.
On a separate topic, Witte said water storage in the basin is down about 15 percent because of dry fall weather. He said an environmental impact statement process is under way for the Arkansas Valley Conduit.
If all goes according to plan, the Custer County commissioners and Upper Arkansas Conservancy District will meet after the first of the year to talk about the implementation of a blanket water augmentation plan for the county.
Here’s an in-depth look at the Upper Ark’s augmentation attempts for Custer County from Nora Drenner writing for The Wet Mountain Tribune. From the article:
In a phone interview with the Tribune following UAWCD’s decision on Friday, Nov. 19, to withdraw its proposed plan, [Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District Manager Terry Scanga] said the UAWCD board of directors took the action due to opposition from the Custer County commissioners and others within the community. He also said he felt the concerns raised by the commissioners and others were due to 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.
Scanga also said the UAWCD hoped to sit down with the Custer County commissioners in the near future to hash out a plan to bring a water augmentation plan back on the table.
Scanga also said a memorandum of understanding outlining all details would be signed by the UAWCD and commissioners before a proposed water plan would be submitted to water court.
The act would designate 850,000 additional wilderness acres in Colorado at 34 sites, including six in the Upper Arkansas River Basin and three along streams of “particular importance to the Upper Arkansas region,” district manager Terry Scanga said.
He identified the three tributaries as Beaver, Badger and Grape creeks and presented a letter from attorney John Hill describing negative impacts of the wilderness designation on water rights in those areas. All are downstream from developed areas. Hill wrote that wilderness designation would require the Secretary of Interior to claim all unappropriated water in these areas for in-stream flow, which “would preclude any future appropriations upstream of the wilderness area.”
In the case of Grape Creek, Hill wrote, “The proposed wilderness area … would significantly impact the operating regimen of DeWeese Reservoir.”[…]
Tim Canterbury, district board member and immediate past president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, said he recently spent four days in Washington on behalf of cattlemen urging DeGette to “go back and rewrite the implementation” that directly affects cattle grazers, water districts and other water users. “She said, ‘Absolutely not,'” Canterbury reported. “We (the association) are not opposed to wilderness, but to the effects on cattle grazing … . Since she’s not willing to talk about it, we have to oppose this.” Canterbury added, “The agencies have no choice on implementation, and that’s the problem because it eliminates all activity.”
More Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District coverage here.
During their business meeting before the [field trip to see new district gauges at Cottonwood Lake and Cottonwood Creek and a tour of Moltz Reservoir on Trout Creek], directors adopted a resolution opposing November ballot Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101.
Discussing the ballot initiatives, district manager Terry Scanga noted water projects are expensive and are generally financed using 30-year loans. Passage of the initiatives, Scanga said, would limit financial agreements to a maximum of 10 years, requiring increased revenue – primarily maintenance and storage fees – to pay off loans within 10 years. For augmentation certificate holders, Scanga said, fees would double from $150 to $300 per unit. For holders of multiple certificates such as Poncha Springs which has about 100, the increase would have significant impact, he said.
District consultant Ken Baker and director Greg Felt suggested the district has obligation notify certificate holders about fiscal consequences of the initiatives, but district legal counsel Julianne Woldridge said such notice isn’t allowed under current law.
District treasurer Jim McCormick, also a Salida City Councilman, said Salida will face a budget shortfall of $250,000 if the initiatives pass…
In other business, directors:
• Learned of a feasibility study for installation of a hydro-electric generating system on DeWeese Reservoir.
• Learned from the treasurer’s report the district general fund has $178,868.15.
• A legislative update from Ken Baker showed calls on the Colorado River are approaching the point they could affect transmountain water diversions into the Arkansas River.
• Heard a report about the Colorado Water Congress summer conference
• Discussed dates and times of upcoming water-related events, including “Managing the Politics of Water,” the Sept. 30 annual conference of Colorado Water Officials Association at Salida SteamPlant.
Other events included the Oct. 1 State Engineer’s Forum at Salida SteamPlant, a Sept. 24 watershed meeting in the district Water Enterprise Building and a Sept. 22 meeting of the governor’s “right-to-float” task force in the Water Enterprise Building.
Applications are being accepted for potential directors representing Division 2 and Division 3, (areas encompassed by School District R-32-J and R-31, both in Chaffee County, Division 4 (Custer County) and Division 5 (Fremont County School District RE-1). Any person 18 years or older owning property within the appropriate division of Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District and residing within the division for which appointment is sought, is eligible. Applicants should have backgrounds reflecting agricultural, municipal, industrial and other interests in the beneficial use of water within the district.
Terms of office will commence June 1 for a four-year term expiring June 1, 2014…
Applicants should submit letters in writing describing desire and qualifications to be on the board. Application deadline will be May 2. Applications should be made to all of the following:
• The Honorable Charles M. Barton, Chief District Judge, 11th Judicial District, P.O. Box 279, Salida, CO 81201.
• The Honorable O. John Kuenhold, Chief District Judge, 12th Judicial District, Alamosa County Courthouse, 702 Fourth St., Alamosa, CO 81101.
• The Honorable Kirk S. Samelson, Chief District Judge, 4th Judicial District, P.O. Box 2980, Colorado Springs, CO 80903.
More Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District coverage here and here.
The $815,000 project began in September 2008. Seven of 15 collection platforms have been installed as of Feb. 11, district general manager Terry Scanga said. Using Campbell Scientific Equipment of Utah, platforms measure surface water and will be used for reservoir regulation in connection with filling and releasing. Data platforms on reservoirs will also have weather stations. A transmitter on the platform sends data via Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites, administered by the National Environmental Satellite Data Information Service. Scanga said measurements are collected every 15 seconds and are used with a computer program providing scenarios for water exchanges. The information, Scanga said, will help with reservoir operation and assist in exercising exchanges to storage without injury to water rights.
Data collection platforms are completed and on-line at North Fork Reservoir on the North Fork of the South Arkansas River, Lester-Attebery augmentation station in Fremont County, Cottonwood Reservoir on the South Fork of Cottonwood Creek; Rainbow Lake Reservoir, North Fork of the South Arkansas River gauge, Cottonwood Creek stream gauge near the hot springs and on the South Arkansas River below Tenassee Ditch. Scanga said the platform on the Tenassee Ditch cost $90,000. It will be administered by the state and was paid for jointly by Salida, Poncha Springs, Lower and Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy districts and Mount Massive Lakes…
Additional platforms set for installation by September are the Texas Creek stream gauge in Fremont County, Trout Creek Ditch, Poncha Creek stream gauge, Gray’s Creek-O’Haver Reservoir, Boss Lake, South Arkansas River near Hydro No. I below Garfield, Deweese Reservoir in Custer County and the Grape Creek gauge in Custer County.
More Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District coverage here.
On Tuesday, Aug. 11, county commissioners Lynn Attebery, Jim Austin and Carole Custer [hired] the law firm Duncan, Ostrander and Dingess of Denver to represent the county in its objection of the proposed water augmentation plan for Custer County submitted to water court by the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District in late June. Commissioner Austin will serve as contact person with the law firm. Commissioner Attebery also wanted to serve as contact person, however, commissioner Austin and Custer voted in favor of Austin. Also, attorney fees will be split with the city of Aurora as they have also retained the same law firm to handle the same matter. Austin noted Aurora is also objecting to the proposed water augmentation plan.
Cost-cutting in several areas totaling about $79,000 is part of the preliminary 2010 budget presented to Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District directors Thursday. District general manager Terry Scanga presented the initial budget draft, proposing cost reduction in key areas, including legal and engineering. “I have told our engineering people and our attorneys to prioritize our projects a little better, to focus their activities and get our expenditures down,” Scanga said. “If this all works with our income numbers we have here, we should have about $30,000 in actual surplus revenue.” Included in district plans is money to hire a staff engineer. “I think we need to look in earnest to get somebody hired.” Scanga said. A public hearing regarding the final budget is tentatively set for the November board meeting.
More Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District coverage here.
In a letter to town administrator Sue Boyd dated Sept. 17, town water attorney Cindy Covell said that the UAWCD filed a water court application seeking approval of a global augmentation plan to allow the UAWCD to provide augmentation to wells, reservoirs and surface diversions that divert water from the upper Arkansas River and its tributaries, including Cottonwood Creek. This plan supplements UAWCD’s earlier plans and allows augmentation water to be provided from many sources, Covell said. The decree would allow UAWCD to have considerably more flexibility in the use of its water supplies, Covell said. The goal is to have an augmentation plan for UAWCD in which new users can subscribe without going to water court themselves, she said. According to the resolution approved by the trustees, the town originally filed a statement of opposition. Covell said the initial proposal had very few safeguards to assure protection of the town’s Cottonwood Creek water rights. The current proposed decree contains provisions that will provide greater protection of the town’s water rights than provided by the original proposals, she said. “The revised decree says that Buena Vista can monitor and make sure the town has accountability on decisions they make on augmentation,” town administrator Sue Boyd said. This is a tool, she said. Covell cautioned that the town must pay attention to this plan to make sure that it is operated properly. The plan may also result in the availability of water supplies for other projects. Town water engineer Patricia Flood of Wright Water Engineers has also reviewed the proposed decree and the technical issues involved in this proposed augmentation plan, Covell said.
More Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District coverage here.
The Arkansas River reached its low summer flow at about 235 cubic feet per second late Friday at the Wellsville gauge – the lowest since March…Although low water makes boating difficult, “This is actually very favorable for the fish,” Greg Policky, aquatic biologist for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, said. “They don’t have to fight the current.” Low water enables fish to feed efficiently, he said and added it is especially favorable for brown trout. “It will put them in good shape for the fall spawning season. Flow between 250-400 cfs is optimum for fishing,” Policky said.”
A blanket augmentation plan for the Upper Arkansas River is being extended to include portions of Custer County…
“This is the augmentation plan we already have, but includes Texas Creek and Grape Creek,” said Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Ark district. “It saves the water rights owners the expense of $50,000-$150,000 to file their own augmentation plan.” An augmentation plan assures that water will be released to the river to make up for out-of-priority depletions. Water usually is released from storage to make up for well-pumping or surface diversions at times when the water is needed. “The benefit to the district is that it puts a plan in place to protect the senior water rights,” Scanga said. The plan touches other water operations in the Arkansas Valley and attracted the attention of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District last week, which voted to enter the case.
Lee Hart continues her coverage in the Salida Citizen of the Chaffee County Commissioners deliberations over Nestlé Water’s Chaffee County Project 1041 permit.
First up is a long post about the lack of discussion about climate change in the debate over Nestlé’s plans to truck 200 acre-feet or so of water out of basin to Denver for bottling. Read the whole article, here are a couple of excerpts:
Yet here in Chaffee County, conservation and climate change didn’t merit so much as a passing mention as the Board of County Commissioners began deliberations on a multi-decade commercial water harvesting proposal, even as an overwhelming majority of scientific studies anticipate a reduction of total water supply by the mid-21st century is likely to exacerbate competition for over-allocated water resources especially in the fast-growing West. The county’s own consultants, Colorado National Heritage Progam, cautioned commissioners: “In the interest of maintaining the wetland plant communities, any proposed development plan that impacts water resources should take into consideration global climate change.” Yesterday, CNHP ecologist Delia Malone, writing as a private citizen, spoke out on what she called the commissioners’ “short-sightedness” in dismissing climate change from deliberations on the water harvesting project proposed by Nestle Waters North America. Without a trace of ambiguity, a 2008 report by Western Water Assessment asserts, “Climate change will affect Colorado’s use and distribution of water.” The report notes that “changes in long-term precipitation and soil moisture can affect groundwater recharge rates; coupled with demand issues this may mean greater pressure on groundwater resources.”[…]
As inextricably as hyrdrogen is linked to oxygen at water’s most basic level, so too it seems the scientific community believes climate change must be factored into any decision-making that impacts natural resources. “Basically anybody in 2009 who is thinking about water resources, water planning, water supply . . . if they’re not thinking about climate change, they’re missing the mark,” explained scientist John Katzenberger, executive director of the Aspen Global Change Institute. Katzenberger was also a contributor to a 2008 report published by the National Resources Defense Council and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization entitled, “Hotter and Drier, The West’s Changed Climate.”
Hart and the Salida Citizen are running a letter sent to the Chaffee County Commissioners from Ecologist Delia Malone. From the article:
Regardless of all the good, hard data out there, Malone lamented the commissioners dismissing the role of climate change in their deliberations about Nestle. Indeed, countless scientific books and research papers from all corners of the globe have written about the certainty of impending water shortages due to climate change that is already measurable…“Accessible water is rare and for Chaffee County to just give it away is really short-sighted,” Malone said. “You can’t get it back and when you really need it, it will be too late.”
Here’s the next part of Lee Hart’s recap of the July 1 meeting of the Chaffee County Commissioners working meeting for Nestlé’s Chaffee County Project. She writes:
Commissioner Tim Glenn tried to explain the gravity of Scanga’s testimony to fellow commissioners who either didn’t seem to understand the intricacies of water law and prior appropriation or simply did not share Glenn’s concerns. Glenn noted it was Scanga’s role to go “to bat for every water right and ag producer” in the valley and that he found Scanga’s testimony “fairly compelling.”[…]
“If you have a senior water right (as Aurora does), you can take it unless something in writing says you can’t take it,” Glenn explained to his fellow commissioners. Glenn said he’d feel better if Nestle’s augmentation came from a local entity that would probably care more about protecting local water resources than Aurora. Alternatively, Glenn suggested getting an agreement in writing that Aurora won’t draw down depletions and invoke its ability to exchange in a drought year and will only use water sources outside the Arkansas River Valley to supplement any municipal shortfalls created by the Nestle lease. But Glenn, always the pragmatist, said, “I seriously doubt that could happen.”
It’s really pretty simple. Aurora is leasing Twin Lakes water to Nestlé. The Twin Lakes decrees are pretty senior in priority. In times of low water — say, a drought — the river is governed by calls in any given stretch. Calls are made when someone with a decreed water right asks for their water. If current demand in that stretch exceeds the volume of water called for, water is doled out in order of priority, oldest first. So, again in a given stretch, a decreed party might just fall out of priority. This is determined by the decree and ditch company or project rules. Ditch companies generally allocate water equally — so much water per share.
The water that Aurora is leasing to Nestlé is for augmentation. The water will be released from storage at Twin Lakes to the Arkansas mainstem to pay the river for the water that Nestlé plans to pump at Hagen Spring. They’ll always pay this water to the river unless they fall out of priority which has been rare. Remember, Twin Lakes water comes from the rainy side of Colorado. The folks that will be effected in a drought are those junior to Aurora’s Twin Lakes rights.
Nestlé plans to truck 200 acre-feet or so of spring water per year to Denver for bottling.
Three returning directors and a new one were sworn in Thursday during the regular Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District meeting in Salida. Taking the oath of office for four year terms were returning directors Jeff Ollinger of Chaffee County and Tom French and William McGuire, both of Fremont County. Tom Goodwin of Fremont County, appointed by a panel of three district judges, was sworn to the at-large seat vacated by Pat Alderton of Poncha Springs. Goodwin is former Bureau of Land Management field office manager and U.S. Forest Service district ranger for the Saguache district field office. He retired from the Forest Service in 2007. Goodwin is the son of former UAWCD member and long-time board chairman Denzel Goodwin.