Construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit is expected to begin in the near future following the state’s approval of a $100 million financing package for it.
The Colorado General Assembly has approved the annual Colorado Water Conservation project bill that contains the funding, and Gov. Jared Polis signed that bill into law earlier this week…
The Arkansas Valley Conduit is estimated to cost between $564 and $610 million to complete over a 15-year period, according to Chris Woodka of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.
The $100 million in state funding would include $90 million in loans and $10 million in grants over the life of the project. When complete, the conduit will provide clean drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities.
The conduit had received funding since 2010 to prepare for construction of the 130-mile pipeline which will deliver a safe drinking water supply to the Lower Arkansas Valley.
In February, the Bureau of Reclamation announced that $28 million of fiscal year 2020 funding was being directed to the conduit in an effort to move from planning and design into construction. An additional $8 million has been requested for fiscal year 2021 and is under consideration by Congress, Woodka said.
Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):
The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District applauded state approval of a $100 million financing package for the Arkansas Valley Conduit that will allow construction to begin in the near future.
The Colorado General Assembly passed the annual Colorado Water Conservation project bill which contains the funding earlier this month, and Governor Jared Polis signed the bill into law on Monday.
“The Arkansas Valley Conduit will be a lifeline for the Lower Arkansas Valley for generations to come,” said Bill Long, President of the Southeastern District. “Governor Polis, the General Assembly and the CWCB have all shown vision and foresight with this support of the AVC. This goes beyond just financing a pipeline, because really it’s an investment to assure clean drinking water for the future.”
Long also noted the strong bipartisan support the AVC enjoys from the entire Colorado congressional delegation, and noted in particular the leadership of Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet, and Congressmen Scott Tipton and Ken Buck.
“I want to thank the CWCB board and staff for including this funding in their annual bill, and express our sincere gratitude to the legislators from the Arkansas Basin for their leadership and support,” said Kevin Karney, chairman of the District’s AVC committee. “The recognition by the State of Colorado of the benefit of partnering with the Bureau of Reclamation on this project is an enormous boost.”
The AVC is estimated to cost between $564 million and $610 million to complete over a 15-year period. The $100 million in state funding would include $90 million in loans and $10 million in grants over the life of the project. When complete, the AVC will provide clean drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities.
The AVC had received funding since 2010 to prepare for construction of the 130-mile pipeline which will deliver a safe drinking water supply to the Lower Arkansas Valley. In February of this year, the Bureau of Reclamation announced that $28 million of FY ’20 funding was being directed to the conduit, in an effort to move from planning and design into construction. An additional $8 million has been requested for FY ’21 and is under consideration by Congress.
“The unanimous approval of this funding package by the CWCB board last November was the absolute catalyst for an improved federal funding picture,” said Southeastern District Executive Director Jim Broderick. “Colorado, like other Western states, recognizes developing a strong partnership with Reclamation allows us to overcome water quality and water supply challenges in rural areas.”
The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation recently adopted a project management plan that will guide construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit…
Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, said he didn’t see the AVC having much impact on Salidans and others in the area. “It’s not going to change river flows,” he said. “It’s not going to impact the allocation (of water) communities in the upper basin get.”
After thinking about it for a second he said some transit loss might have a “minimal impact” on irrigators, but added that the advantages of the project far outweigh those potential effects.
[Sam] Braverman said they’re not creating any new water diversions from Colorado’s Western Slope. The big change, he said, is that water will now be piped from Pueblo to surrounding municipalities instead of letting it flow to them in the river, which will improve drinking water quality…
Salinity, selenium and uranium found in the natural environment all pose water-quality challenges for the Arkansas River in southeastern Colorado.
Several communities the conduit will serve currently can’t drink their tap water.
“There’s at least 5,000 people who literally have radioactive water coming out of their pipes,” Braverman said. “They can’t drink their water, and (the municipalities) can’t afford to filter it out.”
Braverman said another 11,000-12,000 people in the communities get their water from reverse osmosis, but the state doesn’t see those systems as permanent solutions because they put their effluent back into the river. He said drying the effluent, packing it and taking it to landfills would be too costly to be a realistic solution.
“There’s no way those communities could afford to do that,” he said. “The AVC is really the only answer for all of these communities; this a game changer for disadvantaged areas.”
The AVC will provide water for municipal and industrial use.
The project management plan describes how the project will be executed, monitored and controlled.
Under the plan, the Pueblo Board of Water Works will deliver AVC water to a point east of Pueblo. A contract among the Reclamation Bureau, Pueblo Water and Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District is in the discussion stage. From that point, the bureau will construct the trunk line, a treatment plant and water tanks, while Southeastern will coordinate with communities to fund and build connections.
Southeastern will serve as lead on the “spur and delivery lines” portion of the project and seek funding to design and construct this portion of the project, $100 million of which has already been secured from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, subject to legislative approval.
Braverman said they just started final design on the first 12 miles of the pipeline…
Braverman said communities the AVC will serve have been hearing about it for decades, but getting the $28 million recently was the first chunk of money they’ve secured to begin construction.
“That was a complete shift from where we were,” Braverman said. “Now it’s just a matter of the funding stream continuing.”
Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):
Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and the Bureau of Reclamation have adopted a project management plan that will guide construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit (AVC).
The AVC is a pipeline project that will deliver clean drinking water to 40 communities serving 50,000 people from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads on the eastern plains. This water supply is needed to supplement or replace existing poor quality water and to help meet AVC participants’ projected water demands. The estimated cost of the AVC is between $564 million and $610 million.
“The Project Management Plan is the blueprint for how we will build the Arkansas Valley Conduit, and an important step in the future of the AVC,” said Bill Long, President of the Southeastern District Board of Directors. “The AVC is absolutely necessary for the future water quality and health of the Arkansas Valley.”
“The Department of the Interior and Reclamation are committed to improving the water supplies of rural southeastern Colorado,” said Commissioner Brenda Burman. “I look forward to our continued collaboration with Southeastern to move this long-delayed project forward.”
“The communities of the Lower Arkansas Valley deserve clean drinking water, which the Arkansas Valley Conduit will supply for 50,000 Coloradans for generations to come,” said Senator Cory Gardner, R-Colo. “I was proud to secure robust federal funding of $28 million to begin construction for the first time since Congress authorized the project and President Kennedy promised completion nearly six decades ago. The project management plan adopted by the Bureau of Reclamation and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy is another great step forward for this project and I’ll continue to work with local and federal leaders to ensure we deliver abundant and affordable clean drinking water to the Colorado communities in need.”
“This is a significant milestone in our efforts towards construction of the AVC,” said Jeff Rieker, Eastern Colorado Area Manager for Reclamation. “This plan will guide design and construction by Reclamation and Southeastern, and streamline our joint efforts to provide clean water to these communities.”
Reclamation and Southeastern have worked together for the past year to envision a layout for the AVC that reaches communities with the poorest water quality most quickly, reduces overall costs, and reduces the need for federal appropriations. Many communities have issues with radioactive elements in groundwater supplies. Others face increasing costs to treat water and to dispose of waste by-products from that treatment.
Under the plan, AVC water will be delivered to a point east of Pueblo by the Pueblo Board of Water Works. A contract among Reclamation, Pueblo Water and Southeastern is in the discussion stage.
From that point, Reclamation will construct the trunk line, a treatment plant and water tanks, while Southeastern will coordinate with communities to fund and build connections. Reclamation and Southeastern continue to meet regularly, using remote technology, to work on activities such as design, land acquisition and environmental review that will lead to construction.
“We’re on a path to begin construction in the near future, but we still have a lot of work to do,” said Kevin Karney, who chairs Southeastern’s AVC Committee. “Part of that will be reaching out to AVC participants to help shape how the AVC is developed. Overall, I’m excited to see the AVC moving forward.”
Congress provided additional funds to Reclamation in FY 2020. Reclamation allocated $28 million for construction of the AVC in February, and an additional $8 million for 2021 was requested in the President’s budget. The Colorado Water Conservation Board approved a $100 million finance package that still must be approved by the Colorado Legislature. Other potential sources of funding are being considered.
The AVC was part of the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Act, but was never built because communities could not afford 100 percent of the costs. In 2009, the Act was amended to provide a 65 percent federal cost share. Reclamation identified a preferred alternative in 2014, which has been modified in the latest project management plan.
For additional information, contact Chris Woodka at Southeastern, (719) 289-0785; Darryl Asher at Reclamation, (406) 247-7608.
Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):
Christine Arbogast, a driving force in the political world of water for four decades, received the highest water award from the Colorado Water Congress at its annual convention last month.
Ms. Arbogast was surprised to learn she is the 2020 Wayne N. Aspinall “Water Leader of the Year” Award during the closing luncheon at the convention.
“I had no idea, but it truly is an honor,” she said.
“What is consistent about Chris is that she cares about people,” one CWC member said. “I would say she is passionate about ensuring people who wouldn’t normally have access get heard on Capitol Hill and gets their voice heard.”
The award has been presented annually since 1981 in recognition of lifetime achievements, service and commitment to Colorado water projects or programs. Ms. Arbogast is the third woman to receive the award. Nominations are screened by the CWC board and voted on by past recipients.
A native of Pueblo, Ms. Arbogast is a graduate of Southern Colorado State College (now Colorado State University-Pueblo), with a degree in journalism and political science. After working for the Fremont County Sun and Durango Herald, she began work a press secretary for U.S. Rep. Ray Kogovsek, D-Colo., in 1979.
After Kogovsek left office in 1984, Ms. Arbogast was special projects administrator for the Colorado Department of Agriculture as the Always Buy Colorado (now Colorado Proud) began. But she soon returned to politics and her old boss when she joined Kogovsek & Associates in 1985. She took over the firm in 2017 after Kogovsek’s death.
Kogovsek & Associates works primarily in Western states on resource and tribal issues as well as for local government, capital construction projects, and public land use.
Among the firm’s clients are the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the city of Pueblo, Southwestern Water Conservancy District, Rio Grande Water Conservation District, the Republican River Conservation District, the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute tribes, and the Dolores Water Conservancy District.
Ms. Arbogast was instrumental in completing the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Rights Settlement, defeating American Water Development Inc.’s attempt to appropriate Rio Grande groundwater, and creating the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Rio Grande Natural Area.
Most recently, she helped the Southeastern District and Bureau of Reclamation secure state and federal funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit.
She is the current president of the National Water Resources Association, a group that connects state water agencies such as CWC to advocate for water issues on the national level. For years, she has headed the Federal Affairs Committee of NWRA, and strengthened its role.
She has been a mentor to countless people in her field, and serves as president of the non-profit Women in Water Scholarship Fund.
Here’s the release from Southeastern (Chris Woodka):
The Arkansas Valley Conduit received $28 million in federal funding to finish design and begin construction of the long-awaited pipeline.
“We are very grateful and thankful for the work of Senator Gardner and our delegation in securing this funding,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsor of the AVC. “This amount of money is a real milestone in the history of the project.”
“I think this is a wonderful example of bi-partisan support and partnership of federal, state and local officials that is needed to secure a safe drinking water supply, not only for the people of Southeastern Colorado, but for every rural American,” Long said…
The AVC is seen by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment as the best remedy for high levels of naturally occurring radioactive materials in drinking water for about 15 of the water providers. Other communities are also facing issues of expensive treatment for other sorts of contamination.
The $28 million is the first step in a $600 million project to provide clean drinking water from Pueblo Dam through a 130-pipeline to Lamar and Eads. The Colorado Water Conservation Board approved a $100 million finance package for AVC in November. State legislative approval is needed to finalize the availability of those funds.
The Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Interior worked with other cabinet-level agencies in the past two months as part of an initiative to find efficiencies in construction of water projects.
The AVC will provide clean drinking water to about 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo.
The AVC was first authorized as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project in 1962 as a way to provide supplemental water to communities east of Pueblo. It was never built because of the cost to local water systems.
In 2009, federal legislation made revenues from the Fry-Ark Project available for construction and repayment of the AVC. A 2014 Record of Decision by the Bureau of Reclamation determined the AVC was the best solution for water quality and supply problems in the Lower Arkansas Valley.
Reclamation has worked with the Southeastern District for the past three years in planning efforts to reduce costs and the time needed to reach water systems east of Pueblo.
Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today released the following statement applauding news that the Arkansas Valley Conduit will receive $28 million of Bureau of Reclamation funding to begin construction on the water diversion and storage project in the lower Arkansas Valley, which would bring clean drinking water to an estimated 50,000 Coloradans:
“For more than five decades, Coloradans in the southeastern corner of our state have been waiting for the federal government to fulfill its promise to deliver clean drinking water to their communities. Since I came to the Senate, we’ve worked together to pursue any and every avenue possible to ensure we fulfill that promise and build the Arkansas Valley Conduit,” said Bennet. “I’m thrilled this project is one step closer to breaking ground and ensuring that families in southeastern Colorado have access to a safe water supply.”
The Arkansas Valley Conduit is the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, a water diversion and storage project in the lower Arkansas Valley. Once constructed, the Conduit will deliver clean drinking water to families and municipalities throughout Southeastern Colorado.
Congress passed legislation by Bennet and former U.S. Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) to authorize the construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit.
Bennet worked to secure $5 million in funding to begin construction on the Conduit as part of the Energy and Water Appropriations Conference Report.
Bennet and his colleagues sent a letter to the Bureau of Reclamation to quickly approve the Conduit’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS) in order to expedite the project’s completion.
Following Bennet and Udall’s efforts to urge the Bureau of Reclamation to quickly approve the Conduit’s EIS, the Record of Decision was signed in February.
After the President’s budget included an insufficient level of funding for the project, Bennet led a bipartisan letter urging the administration and the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to allow the Conduit’s construction to move ahead as planned.
Bennet successfully urged the Department of Interior to designate $2 million in reprogrammed funding from Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 for the Conduit.
Bennet secured language in the FY 2015 Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act that sent a clear signal to the Bureau of Reclamation that the Conduit should be a priority project.
Bennet secured $2 million from the Bureau of Reclamation’s reprogrammed funding for FY 2016.
Bennet secured $3 million for the Conduit as part of the FY 2017 Energy & Water Appropriations bill.
Bennet secured $3 million for the Conduit for FY 2017.
In April, Bennet and Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) wrote to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, urging them to prioritize funding for the Conduit.
Bennet, Gardner, Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO-3), and Congressman Ken Buck (R-CO-4) wrote to the Department of the Interior urging the Department to support the project.
Bennet secured approximately $10 million for the Conduit in the December 2019 spending bills for Fiscal Year 2020.
The Arkansas Valley Conduit, a 130-mile water pipeline that would serve as many as 40 communities and 50,000 people east of Pueblo, is receiving a major financial boost to begin construction, decades after the project was authorized by the U.S. Congress…
The funding will come from the Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation’s Fiscal Year 2020 work plan.
FromThe La Junta Tribune-Democrat (Bette McFarren):
Issues with clean water supply going back to the settlement of the Arkansas Valley will be aided by the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s approval of a $100 million packet for the Arkansas Valley Conduit.
“The Southeastern District and Reclamation are working to reduce project costs and the need for up-front federal funding in order to begin construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit project. About $30 million has been invested in planning since 2011,” wrote Chris Woodka in a recent article about the CWCB’s action.
“Most of the issues of water quality in the Arkansas Valley are dealing with nucleides,” said Tom Seaba, water and wastewater director for the City of La Junta. “Our new Waste Water Treatment Plan will reduce the contaminants going back into the river, and we will need time and accurate readings to see how effective it is. I don’t think of Selenium as a contaminant, but as a naturally occurring element in our area. We hope to install some other type of treatment to bring us into complete compliance. We are working under a discharge specific variance that is good for five years, and may be renewed for five years. All other elements are under control. We are in year two of the variance.
“Many of the smaller systems, such as South Swink and May Valley, are in much worse condition. A cleaner water source from the Pueblo Water Reservoir would make compliance with clean water standards a non-issue.” Seaba said 15 of the 24 public water systems in Otero County have state water violations for naturally occurring radioactive contaminations.
Swink and four other small systems are currently importing water from La Junta because of La Junta’s reverse osmosis water treatment plant. For smaller water companies, the improvements La Junta has made are not financially possible.
Here’s the release from Southeastern (Chris Woodka):
The Colorado Water Conservation Board unanimously approved a $90 million loan and $10 million non-reimbursable investment for the Arkansas Valley Conduit at its November meeting.
The loan, which still requires approval by the Colorado Legislature, will assist in a $500 million project that is being planned by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and the Bureau of Reclamation. The AVC will bring clean drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo in Bent, Crowley, Otero, Prowers and Pueblo counties.
The Southeastern District and Reclamation are working to reduce project costs and the need for up-front federal funding in order to begin construction of the AVC project. About $30 million has been invested in planning since 2011.
“Poor water quality has been an issue in this area of the state since before Colorado even existed. All the way back to explorers traveling along the Arkansas River in the early 1800s noted the poor drinking water in their journals,” said CWCB board member Jack Goble, who lives in Hasty. “And the lack of clean drinking water still exists today. Taking a drive down Highway 50, you’ll pass by dozens of water filling stations, with at least one in almost every town in the Valley.”
In its presentation, the Southeastern District noted strong support from the State Legislature, the congressional delegation and Gov. Jerad Polis for AVC. The Legislature approved a resolution in January asking the Administration to restore AVC funding. The congressional delegation drafted its own letter to the Administration as well.
“I will continue to support efforts to work with our departments on opportunities to seek state financing and grant opportunities to advance this project,” Polis wrote in a letter earlier this year.
Bill Long, President of the Southeastern Board, introduced three of the system operators who will benefit from AVC: Rick Jones of the May Valley Water Association, Norman Noe of the South Swink Water Company, and Tom Seaba of La Junta.
“The only way we can move forward in the Arkansas Valley is to have safe drinking water for all of our residents,” Long said.
May Valley faces state enforcement actions for violations of state standards for radioactive contaminants it has dealt with for 20 years, and other solutions would cost as much as $200 per month per customer, Jones said.
“It’s disheartening to be told you can’t drink the water,” Jones said.
Noe told the CWCB that it is also becoming increasingly expensive to deal with radioactive waste that is produced by the wells that the communities rely on for a water supply.
Seaba said 15 of the 24 public water systems in Otero County have state water violations for naturally occurring radioactive contamination. Four of the systems have already connected with La Junta. La Junta treats water with reverse-osmosis, but the waste stream contains selenium. The city spent $19 million on a wastewater plant and still cannot meet selenium standards.
“If the conduit is funded and built, you will solve the problems for these communities,” Seaba said.
The AVC was authorized in 1962, but was not built because local communities could not afford to pay 100 percent of the cost. New federal legislation in 2009 requires a 35 percent local cost share, but also allows revenues from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to be used for construction and repayment of the AVC.
The presentation was at times emotional, teeing off with a recap of the history of the AVC by Alan Hamel, a Southeastern board member and former CWCB member. He showed a video of President John F. Kennedy, who came to Pueblo in 1962 and delivered a stirring speech about the importance of water projects to all of the people in the United States.
Several CWCB members shared their own emotional comments during discussion.
“It’s the responsibility of all of us on the board to make sure that all Coloradans have the basic right for clean drinking water,” said Heather Dutton, who chairs the CWCB.
Chris Woodka is with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. He said part of the reason we’re seeing more water systems violate water standards is that federal and state standards have changed. They are now accounting for even more minute quantities of contaminants.
He said water from wells can be especially affected because, “shallow wells in the alluvial aquifer are high in organic contaminants, nitrate and selenium.”
“Deeper wells often have elevated levels of radioactive materials,” he said. “And nearly all of the communities east of Pueblo take water from wells.”
Some communities have responded by using water filters. Las Animas and La Junta have both installed large reverse osmosis membrane systems to remove contaminants from the water supply. Woodka said that has improved the taste and appearance.
But, he said, even after filtration, radium and uranium can still remain in the water at low levels.
And then there’s the cost.
“Those communities still face tremendous expense in disposing of the waste from the treatment processes,” Woodka said, “which can only be reduced by adding more clean water.” And extra water, let alone clean water, is hard to come by in a drought-prone state like Colorado. But there is one possible solution that’s been in the works for decades.
It’s called the Arkansas Valley Conduit.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation describes the conduit as a “bulk water supply pipeline designed to meet existing and future municipal and industrial water demands in the Lower Arkansas River Basin.”
It would include about 230 miles of buried pipeline, a water treatment facility, and water storage tanks. Water would be routed to six counties – Pueblo, Otero, Crowley, Bent, Kiowa and Prowers – and would serve an estimated 50,000 people.
The project was first approved in 1962. Some work was completed in the early 1980’s, but the actual conduit has yet to come to completion. Woodka said that’s mainly because of cost.
“[These] communities could never afford to build [the conduit] themselves.” Woodka explained.
Congress passed a law in 2009 that reduced the amount of money local governments would have to pitch in for the project. Woodka said that finally made the construction of the conduit feasible.
But it’s still a $500 million project.
“The main problem that we’ve run into,” said Woodka, ”has been getting adequate federal appropriations to start building it. He said they are working on ways to lower the overall costs of the project.”
Woodka said lawmakers at the state and national level have been “extremely active” in promoting this project on both sides of the political spectrum…
[Republican State Senator Larry Crowder] said the key now is for residents to get involved.
“We’re getting the cities involved, we’re getting the people in the cities involved to send letters to Senator Gardner, Senator Bennet and Congressmen Buck and Tipton,” he said, “to make sure that they are aware of how the people feel about it.”
FromThe La Junta Tribune-Democrat (Christian Burney):
Twenty-four water systems across the Arkansas Valley are in violation of the Clean Water Act due to the levels of radioactive contaminants – some of them naturally occurring – in the water, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The systems deemed to be in open health-based violation are located in or near La Junta, Cheraw, Rocky Ford, Manzanola, Swink and Wiley, and the water produced by those facilities is high in radioactive elements, radium and uranium and, in fewer instances, gross alpha radiation.
Colorado Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Dist.35) told the La Junta Tribune-Democrat that other municipalities – such as Fowler, Ordway, Sugar City, Las Animas, Eads and Hasty – could also be affected.
While those towns were not identified by the CDPHE to be in open violation of clean water standards, various contaminants such as selenium were measured by some of their water systems, he said.
The fact that radioactive contaminants exist in some water systems is not itself a new development. As Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservation District Manager Jay Winner put it, communities in the region have been dealing with them for years…
But the CDPHE’s findings reveal that radium levels in some Arkansas Valley water systems is up to 63 times higher than levels at the Pueblo Reservoir, and the amount of uranium is up to 12 times higher, Crowder said.
What does that mean if you’re born and raised here and have been drinking the contaminated water your entire life?
Maybe nothing, but the potential does exist for health problems if the impurities in drinking water regularly exceed the maximum contaminant level (MCL) recommended by the EPA and if there is long-term exposure.
For instance, the EPA says prolonged exposure to levels of nitrate (measured as nitrogen) – which is in fertilizer and which makes its way into groundwater and aquifers via runoff – exceeding the MCL could result in serious illness and, potentially, death in infants below 6 months of age.
Long-term exposure to selenium that exceeds the MCL could result in hair or fingernail loss, numbness in fingers or toes and other circulatory problems.
Several water systems tested positive for radium 226 and 228 (combined), which the EPA says could result in an increased risk of cancer, if the exposure is prolonged and above the recommended MCL. Radium appears in groundwater through the erosion of natural deposits…
Crowder requested the water quality tests in preparation for another push to get federal funding for the long overdue Arkansas Valley Conduit, which would deliver water from the Pueblo Reservoir up to about 130 miles downstream, bypassing the sources of contamination and providing cleaner water to communities in the Arkansas Valley.
Pushing the…administration to continue financial support for the Arkansas Valley Conduit pipeline is a priority, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner told an audience of water district officials here Wednesday.
The 130-mile pipeline — which would run from Lake Pueblo to Lamar — was first authorized in 1962 but was unfunded until 2009, when Congress began authorizing planning funds for the long-awaited project.
Speaking to the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum in Pueblo, the Republican senator said he recently met with officials of the Bureau of Reclamation earlier this month to press the administration to support the pipeline project.
“I won’t let the federal government walk away from its obligation to the communities along the project,” he told the audience of several hundred water district officials at the Pueblo Convention Center.
Most recently, the federal bureau completed a feasibility study of the project.
[Colorado and Kansas] are working together now on how to share a river that is lifeblood to eastern Colorado and western Kansas farmers and ranchers, according to experts at the 25th Arkansas River Basin Water Forum here this week.
The states have been to the U.S. Supreme Court seven times since 1902, most often because Kansas officials charged that Colorado was overusing the river. That wasn’t an empty claim, lawyer Matt Montgomery told the audience Thursday.
“The river essentially runs dry every summer near Dodge City because of its heavy use by agriculture in Colorado and Kansas,” he said.
Of course, it resurfaces further east and continues its way to the Mississippi River.
The historic source of the water feud was the fundamental clash in water philosophy. Colorado’s landowners and Legislature believed in an appropriated system of awarding water rights. People with the most senior water rights on the river get water before any junior rights are recognized.
Kansas, which was settled earlier, had a more land-based view. Owning land next to a river granted the landowner automatic water rights. The problem was the Arkansas might be used up before it reached some Kansas landowners.
Also, Colorado farmers were quick to drill wells in the valley. More than 1,000 new ones were installed after World War II, Montgomery said.
When states fight, it’s the U.S. Supreme Court that has primary jurisdiction. The court ordered the two states to reach some accommodation — and they created the Arkansas River Compact in 1949.
To help regulate water flow in the river, John Martin Reservoir was built in the 1940s near Lamar.
“But then Lake Pueblo and Trinidad Reservoir were built (in the 1970s), and that triggered the last lawsuit from Kansas, that Colorado was storing too much water,” Montgomery said.
But the two new lakes weren’t the problem; it was the additional wells that were depleting the river, he noted.
Today, the two states monitor the river use — and in Colorado, water courts require augmentation to the river before new wells are added.
Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today announced that several Colorado priorities are included in the $1.1 trillion omnibus budget deal to fund the government through September 30, 2017.
“This bipartisan agreement removes the threat of a government shutdown and makes significant investments in education, infrastructure, and science programs that are important to Colorado,” Bennet said. “During a time of unprecedented mistrust in government, this agreement is an example of a responsible, bipartisan solution to maintain important investments in our country.”
Below are several Colorado priorities secured by Bennet and included in the budget deal:
Provides $3 million for the Arkansas Valley Conduit, six times more funding than previous years. Bennet worked with the Senate Appropriations Committee to include this funding to ensure work on the Conduit will continue.[ed. emphasis mine]
Restores year-round eligibility for the Pell Grant program, which will allow college students to continue their coursework during summer months. Bennet has pushed for year-round Pell grants since it was cut in 2011.
Provides $150 million for the Denver RTD Eagle P3 project to complete the next phase of the Denver metro area’s light rail transportation project.
Fully funds the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, which provides Colorado counties with funding to carry out vital services like fire and police protection, school construction, and road maintenance. Bennet has consistently advocated for full funding of this program.
Increases funding for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), located in Golden. The $92 million in funding is a $30 million increase from the previous budget.
Increases investments in NASA, including $2.15 billion for the Space Launch System and $1.35 billion for the Orion Crew Exploration Program. Dozens of Colorado aerospace companies are involved in these projects.
Increases funding for the Transportation Security Administration, including more money for security in unsecure areas and funding to help reduce long wait times at airports. Bennet worked with Denver International Airport to secure this funding to support the airport’s efforts to enhance security and improve the efficiency of its screening process.
Includes language that will allow Colorado businesses to hire returning workers through the H-2B visa program. More than 300 Colorado businesses rely on the H-2B visa program to hire temporary non-agricultural workers for seasonal jobs that are vital to our state’s economy.
Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):
The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District has signed an Excess Capacity Master Storage Contract with the Bureau of Reclamation, culminating an effort that began in 1998.
“This is a great opportunity for the communities of the Arkansas Valley, which allows us to assist and provide them with a more secure water supply for the future,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern District board. “It’s been a very long process, much longer than we anticipated, but well worth it.”
The master contract allows participants to store water in Pueblo Reservoir when space is available. Pueblo Reservoir was built by Reclamation to store Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water and for flood control. But it rarely fills with Project water. Excess capacity contracts allow water from other sources, including Fry-Ark return flows, to be stored in Pueblo Reservoir.
The initial contract will allow 6,525 acre-feet of water to be stored in 2017, which will become the minimum number for future years. The contract allows storage of up to 29,938 acre-feet annually for the next 40 years.
For 2017, 16 communities signed subcontracts with the Southeastern District to participate in the master contract. Another 21 communities plan to join once the Arkansas Valley Conduit is built, and do not have an immediate need to join the contract.
Participants in 2017 include: Canon City, Florence, Fountain, La Junta, Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, Olney Springs, Rocky Ford, Penrose, Poncha Springs, Pueblo West, St. Charles Mesa Water District, Salida, Security, Stratmoor Hills, Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, Widefield.
“It’s a big step for the District,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern District. “The ability to use excess-capacity storage on a long-term basis has been a goal of the District for almost 20 years. This will add certainty to the process.”
Reclamation first issued excess capacity contracts in 1986. Last year, more than 29 excess-capacity contracts were issued more than 60,000 feet – one quarter of the available space in Pueblo Reservoir. For many years, Pueblo Water, Colorado Springs Utilities and Aurora Water were the major entities that used the contracts on an annual basis.
Pueblo became the first community to get a long-term contract in 2000. Aurora first used its long-term contract in 2008. In 2011, Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West obtained a long-term contract as part of Southern Delivery System.
The next step for the Southeastern District is the Arkansas Valley Conduit. Reclamation anticipates completing the feasibility study later this year, which will allow construction to begin.
“The master contract is absolutely essential to the conduit,” Long said. “It will give us long-term reliability for a clean water supply.”
In a brief meeting Monday, the Pueblo County commissioners approved a resolution granting permission to the federal Bureau of Reclamation to access county property for field work associated with the proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit.
Reclamation officials will conduct surveys and soil testing related to the conduit alignment, the commissioners learned. The county will be notified by Reclamation before entry onto county property is taken.
In voting to OK the resolution, Commissioner Liane “Buffie” McFadyen noted, “It makes me a bit more optimistic it (the conduit) could happen in my lifetime.”
Negotiations are continuing with participants in a master contract for the excess capacity storage of water in Fryingpan-Arkansas Project facilities, primarily Lake Pueblo.
The Bureau of Reclamation released a public notice in The Pueblo Chieftain on Saturday seeking comments on its draft master contract with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.
The deadline for comments to the Eastern Colorado Area Office in Loveland is Sept. 15.
The contract was negotiated in January, but did not include storage amounts. The district is in the process of meeting with each of the participants on the details of subcontracts, which will be submitted to Reclamation in order to finalize the contract, said Jim Broderick, executive director of the district.
“We’ll be meeting with all the participants in August,” Broderick said.
In the environmental impact statement for the master contract, there were 37 participants seeking nearly 30,000 acre-feet (9.7 million gallons) annually.
More than half of those were participants in the Arkansas Valley Conduit, but others included several communities in the Upper Arkansas Valley, Pueblo West and El Paso County communities.
From US Senator Gardner’s office via the Kiowa County Press:
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today approved three bills authored by Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO): legislation pertaining to the Arkansas Valley Conduit and Florissant Fossil Beds Monument as well as the Bolts Ditch Access and Use Act.
Authorized in the 1960s, the Arkansas Valley Conduit project in Southeast Colorado will deliver clean drinking water to local communities across the region upon completion. Gardner’s bill extends greater flexibility to the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District by allowing the maximum use of miscellaneous revenue collected from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to be immediately reinvested into the Arkansas Valley Conduit once construction begins.
Gardner’s Bolts Ditch Access and Use Act would authorize special use of the Bolts Ditch headgate and the segment of the Bolts Ditch within the Holy Cross Wilderness Area, allowing Minturn to use its existing water right to fill Bolts Lake. This would solve a problem created in 1980 when Congress designated Holy Cross Wilderness area, but inadvertently left Bolts Ditch off of the list of existing water facilities.
“I’m proud the Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved legislation I authored relating to the Arkansas Valley Conduit and Florissant Fossil Beds Monument, as well as the Bolts Ditch Access and Use Act,” said Gardner. “My Bolts Ditch and Arkansas Valley Conduit bills recognize Coloradans, not Washington bureaucrats, know how to best manage our state’s water resources, and I’m proud to return power to local Colorado communities.”
Gardner’s Florissant Fossil Beds Monument legislation will allow for enhanced wildfire protection as well as additional habitat for wildlife and recreational opportunities for visitors. Established as a national monument in 1969, the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is located west of Pikes Peak and less than 40 miles from Colorado Springs, CO. The park is home to diverse fossil deposits, maintaining a collection of over 12,000 specimens. The park also provides recreational experiences and curriculum-based education programs for its visitors. A private landowner submitted a proposal to donate 280 acres of land adjacent to Florissant Fossil Beds Monument, but due to current law the land transfer cannot take place. The park, which currently possesses 5,998 acres of land, has a legislative ceiling of 6,000 acres. Therefore, if acquired, the 280-acre parcel of land would project the park above its legal threshold. This legislation is commonsense in that it would permit a private landowner to donate land to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.
A bill that would ease the cost burden of the Arkansas Valley Conduit to local communities got its first hearing in the U.S. Senate water and power subcommittee Tuesday.
The bill, S2616, would allow miscellaneous revenues from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to be applied to the local match of the conduit.
Legislation in 2009 allowed those revenues to be applied to the federal cost of building the $400 million conduit.
Because of the 65-35 cost share, however, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District will face heavy expenses. The bill would allow the district’s share to be paid first, with any funds not needed being used to repay the federal share.
Under the new law, the costs of Ruedi Dam, the Fountain Valley Conduit and South Outlet Works still would be repaid before funds could be used for the conduit. Like the Arkansas Valley Conduit, they are all parts of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project which was authorized in 1962.
The district is anticipating up to $100 million in loans from the Colorado Water Conservation Board — $60 million already has been committed, said Bill Long, president of the district board.
He presented the committee with a letter of support from the CWCB.
Long, a Las Animas businessman and Bent County commissioner, detailed the water quality problems faced by the Lower Arkansas Valley. Those include radioactivity, salts and sulfates. The 40 communities involved in the project serve more than 50,000 people and face increasingly strict regulatory standards, he said.
“S2616 will achieve the goal of significantly reducing federal outlays while providing a reliable, safe drinking water supply to the rural communities in the Lower Arkansas River Valley,” Long said. “The alternative — contaminated supplies which pose a significant threat to public health and prohibitive costs for individual system improvements — is unacceptable.”
Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., a member of the committee, and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., are co-sponsors of the legislation.
“Water is a precious resource in Colorado and throughout the west. As home to the headwaters for 20 states, our communities continuously look for ways to conserve water,” Bennet said.
During the hearing, Estevan Lopez, commissioner for the Bureau of Reclamation, lent his support to the bill.
“While we are still undertaking a detailed analysis of the full implications of such a reallocation of federal receipts, the reallocation of federal revenues to a non-federal entity for the benefit of that non-federal entity should be given careful consideration,” Lopez said.
Lopez said about $21 million in appropriations already has been provided through this year. At least $3 million is anticipated this year.
Construction on the conduit is expected to begin in 2019.
Once the conduit is completed, there would be a 50-year repayment of the 35 percent local share that is addressed in S2616.
A bill that includes $3 million for the Arkansas Valley Conduit passed the U.S. Senate today on a 90-8 vote, with both Colorado senators working to include funding for the conduit.
The Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill (HR2028) has passed the House and now will go to President Barack Obama to sign into law.
The $3 million for the conduit will continue work on planning and land acquisition for the conduit, which will provide clean drinking water from Pueblo Dam along a 120-mile route to Lamar and Eads. A total of 40 communities serving 50,000 people will benefit.
“Some of the pieces have finally started falling into place,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the sponsor of the conduit.
Long will travel to Washington, D.C., next week to testify on behalf of legislation (S2616) that would allow the district to use miscellaneous revenues from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to repay nonfederal loans. The legislation is key to making the cost of the conduit, which could be as high as $400 million, affordable to Arkansas Valley communities, he said.
The $3 million was included in the administration’s budget, and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said he fought to keep it in the bill.
“The Arkansas Valley Conduit is a critical project to deliver clean drinking water to dozens of communities in Southeast Colorado,” Bennet said. “The president’s budget included this crucial funding, and we fought to ensure it was included as the bill moved through the Senate.”
The conduit is part of the original Fryingpan- Arkansas Project, but was not built because of the expense. Now, the communities in the Lower Arkansas Valley are seeking its construction because of the escalated cost of other methods of treating water in order to reach state and federal water quality standards.
“The federal government made a commitment more than five decades ago, and this funding ensures Congress is doing its part to fulfill that promise,” Bennet said. “We will continue to pursue any avenue necessary to ensure this project is completed as promised.”
Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., applauded the vote because it assisted the conduit, as well as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden.
“I’m proud to have secured the funding for two important provisions in this appropriations package that directly affect Colorado,” Gardner said. “The Arkansas Valley Conduit project will result in cleaner, safer water in Southeast Colorado, and this important funding was approved to assist in the cost of construction.”
Bennet and Gardner are co-sponsors of S2606, the bill Long is scheduled to testify about next week.
More funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit has started flowing from the federal government.
An additional $2 million in discretionary funds will be shifted to this year’s conduit budget by the Bureau of Reclamation. Another $3 million is included in President Barack Obama’s 2017 budget, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., announced today.
Bennet worked with local officials, Reclamation and the administration to increase funding. The conduit already received $500,000 this year.
“We’ve been pushing the Administration and Congress to live up to the commitment it made more than five decades ago to communities in southeast Colorado,” Bennet said. “This funding will help move this project forward, and we will continue to fight to keep these additional resources in next year’s budget to ensure Coloradans in these communities finally have a reliable source of clean drinking water.”
Bennet will work with congressional leaders and the appropriations committee to try to ensure the money remains in the budget. Congressional gridlock in the past few years has kept funding at minimal levels.
“This was truly a bipartisan effort,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the local agency guiding the effort to build the conduit. “It’s certainly better to have $2.5 million than to work with than $500,000.”
The money will go toward engineering, legal work and land acquisition over the next three to five years that will allow construction of the pipeline to begin.
The goal is to raise about $5 million annually during that period. The Southeastern district is working with Reclamation to attempt to apply other revenues from the Fryingpan-Arkansas to move conduit work forward.
Once construction begins, it will take larger amounts of money to build the conduit, which is potentially a $400 million project. The conduit will bring clean drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 water districts from St. Charles Mesa to Lamar.
The plan is to filter the water at Pueblo Water’s treatment plant, then move the water to other systems via the conduit. Most of those systems rely on wells and are struggling to meet water quality standards.
The alignment of the Arkansas Valley Conduit project was updated for Prowers County Commissioners and interested citizens during an informational meeting on Wednesday, September 2. The $400M project, to move 15 million gallons of water per day to 39 entities between Pueblo and Lamar, was proposed in the early 1960s. Because of lack of funding, it has made little progress until the past several years. Jean Van Pelt, Project-Program Coordinator for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, and members of the Bureau of Reclamation, described the latest plans, concentrating on the path the water conduit will take through Prowers County, leading up to the City of Lamar’s two water storage tanks south off of Memorial Drive. Van Pelt stated that the group was also seeking, ”Local input on different infrastructures or features they may not be aware of that could affect the alignment.”
Kevin Meader, Principal Engineer for the Conservancy District said, “The Bureau is working on the preliminary design. We started that a year ago after the record of decision was issued on the Environmental Impact Statement. At that time we identified the preferred alternative for the conduit. By next year, we’ll put together an updated cost estimate which will go to Congress for appropriations for final design and construction towards the end of next year. From that we can move into final design and we’re looking at about 2017 and 2018 and the initial bidding on construction contracts is expected by around early 2020.” He added that if Congress approves the cost, it won’t be funded all at once, but probably in $25M to $45M payments over several years. Van Pelt added that in 2011 Congress agreed to share the project costs with the communities on a 65%/35% basis, and the $140M balance will not have to be borne by the 39 entities. Construction would begin at Pueblo Dam and head east to Lamar with a junction to Eads. Holly, Bristol, Granada and Hartman are not included in the conduit plans as those communities decided to opt out of a contract with the S.E. Water Conservancy District when the project was first proposed over 50 years ago. Van Pelt, when asked if they could opt back in, replied the process would be lengthy and costly for each of the communities, and any work on the conduit would be stalled while the necessary studies were conducted on constructing those new routes.
Meader pointed out the water supply would be a supplemental, not a primary water source, which would become palatable only after each entity provided its own disinfectant procedure before making it accessible to the public. The water would be strictly for human use and not for any ag-related purposes. He added that water quality in some communities along the pipeline, such as La Junta, Boone or Fowler, has shown a need for a potable water source.
An additional $2 million would be funneled to the Arkansas Valley Conduit under an amendment to the water and energy appropriation bill (HR2028).
The amendment, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., was approved by the House Thursday. It adds $2 million to the Bureau of Reclamation’s water resources account to advance and complete work on the conduit.
“As you know, water is the lifeblood of the Western United States and absolutely critical to the vitality of our communities and local economies,” Tipton told the House.
The move was supported by U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo.
“This project was authorized in 1962 to bring clean drinking water to 40 communities in Southeastern Colorado, many of which are in violation of clean water standards because of naturally occurring elements,” Buck said. “Why don’t we spend some money to benefit future generations instead of ourselves?”
The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District is lobbying Washington to put more funding in the $400 million Arkansas Valley Conduit, which would bring clean drinking water from Pueblo Dam to 50,000 people from the St. Charles Mesa to Lamar and Eads.
Only $500,000 was budgeted this year for conduit work.
More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.
Funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit has flatlined in the federal budget. Striking a somber tone, Executive Director Jim Broderick broke the news Thursday to the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. The district sought $5.5 million for the conduit in fiscal year 2016, but so far only $500,000 is included in a constricted federal budget.
“It’s hard to pinpoint the reason for flatlining,” Broderick said. “But I think this is a short-term problem. … The issue isn’t that we’re dead in the water, we’re just going slow.”
He speculated that the federal Office of Management and Budget frowned on the project because it has not yet begun moving dirt and a general policy that water-quality projects should involve the Environmental Protection Agency.
The conduit progress has been overseen by the Bureau of Reclamation, which shifted funds this year to boost conduit funding to about $3 million. However, there may not be much money available.
Reclamation had a $96 million budget for projects nationwide this year, but allocated $50 million to deal with California drought issues and $30 million to settle claims with American Indian tribes.
District officials are continuing with attempts to encourage reprogramming federal money for the project. In the interim, the district will work closely with state officials to find money and analyze the workflow toward building the conduit.
On a positive note, Broderick said the conduit could move up in the federal pipeline by 2019.
The $400 million conduit would reach 132 miles from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads, and would serve 50,000 people in 40 communities. It was first authorized by Congress as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project in 1962.
More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.
New state regulations are creating a headache for Arkansas Valley water providers who are banking on the Arkansas Valley Conduit to improve water quality.
The Colorado Water Conservation Board approved a $29,000 grant this week that will go toward a $70,000 program to create a working group to chart a course of action for 38 communities until the conduit is completed.
Water in many of the systems is contaminated by metals, salts and/or radionuclides and managing treatment of the water is more complicated because of recent solid waste regulations by the Colorado Department of Health and Public Environment.
That’s created a hardship because smaller private water companies do not have the resources to comply or even determine compliance and the state has not clearly explained what is or is not required. The regulation presumably covers disposal of by-products.
There are ongoing concerns about radionuclides, which affect 12 of the communities.
The $400 million conduit, which will move water from Lake Pueblo to Lamar and Eads, is seen as the best solution to the water quality problems for about 50,000 people. However, construction of the conduit might be a decade away from reality.
The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Lower Arkansas Valley are contributing $7,500 each toward the project, as well as $27,500 in inkind services.
The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board is expected to approve a $17.9 million budget at its next meeting, 11 a.m. Dec. 4.
The district last week reviewed the details of the budget and hosted a public hearing. No member of the public attended.
A mill levy of 0.94 mills is planned, the same as 2014. One mill is an assessment of $1 for every $1,000 of assessed valuation. The district covers parts of nine counties, including Chaffee, Fremont, Pueblo, El Paso, Crowley, Otero, Bent, Prowers and Kiowa.
The district also makes money through sales of water and grants.
More than $12 million will go toward repayment of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, including the Fountain Valley Conduit. The conduit serves El Paso County communities that pay a dedicated mill levy on top of the district mill levy.
The district will spend $2.34 million for its own operating expenses, and $3.5 million on enterprise, or business, activity.
Included in the enterprise fund are the Arkansas Valley Conduit, and an ongoing project to develop hydroelectric power at Pueblo Dam.
More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.
A regional water conservation plan already is opening doors for participants in the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District has worked with the communities to develop strategies to improve water systems in advance of the conduit’s construction. Benefits include measuring how water is used, plugging leaks and managing pressure.
“The need is the infrastructure, and that’s what we’re trying to focus on,” said Jean Van Pelt, project coordinator for the Southeastern district. “When the conduit is completed, we don’t want it to connect to aging systems with leaking pipes.”
The conduit will take clean drinking water 130 miles from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads. Along the way, 40 small communities are expected to tap into the line to bring water to 50,000 people. The $400 million project is at least a decade away from completion.
The district also is seeking a master contract for storage in Lake Pueblo for conduit participants and other water users in the Southeastern district.
One of the requirements placed on the communities by the Bureau of Reclamation is to ensure that water is not wasted, so conservation plans are needed.
“We went out and interviewed all of the conduit participants and we are in the process of integrating the master contract participants as well,” Van Pelt said.
Large utilities have more resources to employ strategies like rate structures, leak detection, metering, system audits and consumer education.
The Southeastern district also offers a tool box on its website where communities can pick and choose from ideas for reducing water waste in their systems.
The regional conservation plan also gives a leg up to private water companies seeking grants to improve their water supply, which require both conservation plans and governmental structure to administer the grant.
“The plan needs to be in place,” Van Pelt said.
The conservation plan and tool box have been under development since 2011 at a cost of $50,000-$60,000 per year using grants from Reclamation and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
A $939,000 contract for utility location and land rights acquisition support for the Arkansas Valley Conduit has been awarded to MWH Americas by the Bureau of Reclamation. The contract is another step toward the eventual construction of the conduit, which will bring clean drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo.
Work begins this month and is expected to take one year to complete.
The 130-mile-long pipeline will be built from Pueblo Dam to Lamar, with spurs to communities along the way, including St. Charles Mesa, Avondale, Crowley County, Otero County, Bent County, Lamar and Eads in Kiowa County.
“The objective of this contract is to provide Reclamation with utility locations, current ownership information, legal descriptions and encumbrances affecting the parcels along the route,” said Jacklynn Gould, Eastern Colorado Area Manager for Reclamation.
The contractor also will prepare a preliminary land acquisition plan and update GIS data.
The Arkansas Valley Conduit is part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, authorized in 1962. It was never built because of the expense, now estimated at $400 million. A 2009 federal law authorized revenues from Reclamation contracts as a repayment source for the conduit, however.
The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District is the local sponsor of the project.
More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.
Whatever else is in it, the biggest element of Colorado’s water plan will be cooperation.
“Water can either divide or unite us. In the end, it’s our choice,” Gov. John Hickenlooper told the Colorado Water Congress last week. “In this state, we work together, and we have to make sure it doesn’t divide us.”
When Hickenlooper called for a state water plan last year, it had a direct impact on most of the water professionals attending the summer workshop. Four months from the finishing line, the governor reiterated the importance of water to Colorado. The draft plan will be on the governor’s desk in December, whether or not Hickenlooper survives an election challenge from Republican Bob Beauprez. Beauprez addressed the Water Congress Friday.
Hickenlooper heaped praise on the work of basin roundtables, which have been meeting since 2005, and have spent the past year developing basin implementation plans.
“The roundtables, while not as glamorous and sexy as bare-knuckle water brawling in neighboring states and here in the past, have moved forward,” he said.
“It has not been just a small group of people in Denver directing how it will be used, but a broad group of people working together to write a plan.”
Hickenlooper highlighted the Arkansas Valley Conduit as an example of water projects that benefit the outlying areas of Colorado. Hickenlooper said he and Colorado Water Conservation Board Executive Director James Eklund talked with Mike Connor, deputy secretary of the Interior, earlier this year to ask him to move funds to provide more money for the conduit. Last week, the Bureau of Reclamation announced $2 million in funding for the conduit this year.
“That $2 million is a good first step for Southeastern Colorado, an area that has been in a drought for years,” he said.
Whether it’s putting in a new dam or pipeline, leasing water from farms or simply conserving water, municipal customers should be prepared to pay more for mitigation.
“With any project, we have to be prepared to look at the question: What are the underlying costs?” said Mark Pifher, permit manager for the Southern Delivery System being constructed by Colorado Springs Utilities.
Pifher led a panel of those who have worked on Colorado’s largest municipal water projects to explore the obvious and hidden add-on costs of water development. The event was part of the Colorado Water Congress summer convention.
In the case of SDS, an $840 million pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs, about $150 million in additional costs to meet permit requirements has been tacked on.
Aurora paid additional costs for its lease of High Line Canal water 10 years ago, with an additional $1.3 million on top of $10.8 million in direct payments to farmers and $1.4 million for a continued farming program now in its tenth year on the Rocky Ford Ditch.
In the Rocky Ford Ditch program, Aurora provides some of the water it purchased to allow farmers to stay in business.
“We’re thinking we’ll continue the program in the future,” said Tom Simpson, Aurora’s engineer in the Arkansas Valley. “One thing of concern is the availability of water in the Arkansas basin.”
New storage projects also come with a price tag for mitigation.
Travis Bray of Denver Water said the $360 million Gross Reservoir expansion project, designed to increase yield by 18,000 acre-feet, has cost an additional $30 million in mitigation so far, as it moves toward full permitting, projected to happen in 2015.
Jeff Drager of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District said its $300 million Windy Gap Project, designed to increase storage by 90,000 acre-feet, has cost $19 million in mitigation and 3,000 acre-feet of water.
Along with the money, agreements with affected communities cost time. Both projects are a decade behind schedule.
“I was a young guy when we started, and now my kids are out of college,” Drager said. “I’d just be happy to get this done by the end of my career.”
Even conservation has hidden costs, said Jason Mumm with MWH Global, a consultant on many municipal projects. He presented detailed analysis that showed how reduction of water use drives water rates up. As a result, customers may wind up paying the same amount of money or more after paying for appliances that reduce water use.
“Conservation is good, but we do need to understand that it comes with its own costs,” Mumm said.
More Colorado Water Plan coverage here. More conservation coverage here. More Windy Gap Firming Project coverage here and here. More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here. More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.
The Arkansas Valley Conduit has received $2 million for the current fiscal year through reprogramming of funds within the Bureau of Reclamation, according to Colorado Democratic U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall.
“Folks in Southeast Colorado have been waiting a long time for the federal government to fulfill its promise to build the Arkansas Valley Conduit,” Bennet said. “Making these resources available for the conduit is crucial to completing this phase of the project and moving it one step closer to completion.”
Earlier this year, the senators backed legislation that loosened purse strings within the Bureau of Reclamation and allowed for transfer of funds to projects such as the conduit, which was first authorized in the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Act.
The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsor of the project, was dismayed when President Barack Obama’s budget submitted to Congress contained only $500,000 in funding this year. More was needed to complete planning and feasibility analysis before the design work and land acquisition can begin.
“Southern Coloradans have been counting on the Arkansas Valley Conduit’s construction for access to clean drinking water — they’ve been waiting long enough,” Udall said.
U.S. Reps. Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner, both Colorado Republicans, also support the conduit and applauded the news.
“This completion of the Arkansas Valley Conduit will ensure the continued delivery of clean drinking water to families, agriculture producers and municipalities throughout Southeastern Colorado,” Tipton said.
The $400 million conduit is in its early stages, having gained approval last year from Reclamation for the 120-mile route from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads.
It would serve 50,000 people in 40 communities by providing filtered drinking water. Most of the communities along the route rely on wells and many of them are facing water quality compliance issues that could force more expensive alternatives to the conduit.
“The support we have gotten from Congress, Gov. John Hickenlooper and James Eklund of the Colorado Water Conservation Board has been tremendous,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern district. “This will allow us to move the project forward as was intended more than 50 years ago.”
Hickenlooper praised the decision: “We have worked closely with all parties to stress the need for this conduit and will continue to support Southeastern and local government in the hard work to bring this project to fruition.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper today released the following statement on the Bureau of Reclamation’s decision to redirect $2 million to fund the Arkansas Valley Conduit.
“The Arkansas Valley Conduit will serve 50,000 people in more than 40 communities in southeastern Colorado. We commend the Bureau of Reclamation for prioritizing this project and thank the leadership of the Department of the Interior, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, as well our congressional delegation for ongoing efforts to deliver funding for this critical project. We have worked closely with all parties to stress the need for this conduit and will continue to support southeastern and local government in the hard work to bring this project to fruition,” Hickenlooper said.
The conduit, a water pipeline originally envisioned as part of the federal Fry-Ark Project legislation in 1962, will assist communities experiencing high water treatment costs by providing water from Pueblo Reservoir. The latest funding will assist with preconstruction costs associated with the 130-mile project.
More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.
A draft federal energy and water funding bill includes an additional $90 million for projects such as the Arkansas Valley Conduit, U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats, said Thursday. The Senate appropriations committee approved the bill, which contains a provision supported by both senators that explicitly makes data collection and design work eligible for funding through these accounts. It will help ensure the Arkansas Valley Conduit is eligible for these funds and sends a clear signal to the Bureau of Reclamation that the conduit is a priority project.
The board of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, conduit sponsor, was dismayed earlier this year when it learned only $500,000 was budgeted for the conduit next year. It is hoping to get at least $3 million for continuing data and design tasks that will lead to construction of the $400 million conduit.
The conduit is the final piece of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, authorized in 1962. When complete, the 130-mile pipeline will provide clean drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo.
“For more than five decades, folks in Southeastern Colorado have been waiting for the federal government to fulfill its promise to build the Arkansas Valley Conduit.
That’s far too long for these communities to wait for a reliable source of clean drinking water,” Bennet said.
“I have been proud to work for years to ensure the federal government supports the Arkansas Valley Conduit. This funding brings the people of Southeastern Colorado one step closer to having a clean, safe and reliable source of water,” Udall said.
More Arkansas Valley Conduit funding here and here.
New wrinkles in the federal budget process have improved chances for funding of the Arkansas Valley Conduit.
Appropriations bills in the U.S. House and Senate have increased funding for the Bureau of Reclamation, with emphasis on capital projects that are in the design phase.
While that does not provide an increase for the conduit’s $500,000 funding level next year, it could mean a shift in funding to the conduit by Reclamation, lobbyist Christine Arbogast told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Thursday.
“We have incredible support from those in Congress who represent the area to be served by the conduit,” Arbogast told the board. “They are fighting for the funding of it. Clearly, it is unprecedented, the levels they are going to for this.”
She was referring to U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats, and U.S. Reps. Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton, both Republicans.
For instance, during meetings in Washington, D.C., last week, the senators met with top Department of Interior and Office of Management and Budget officials to make the case for more funding for the conduit.
The $400 million Arkansas Valley Conduit would have a main line of 130 miles from Pueblo Dam to Lamar, serving 50,000 people in 40 communities.
Federal money for the project would be repaid through Fryingpan-Arkansas Project excess storage contracts and user fees.
A state water plan may be putting too much weight on alternative transfer programs that seek to temporarily provide water to cities from farm lands. While the goal of such programs is to reduce the possibility of permanent dry-up of agriculture, there is little evidence to prove they would work, said Patricia Wells, a member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, meeting in Pueblo this week.
“Has any transfer method actually happened with rotational fallowing?” Wells, general counsel for Denver Water, asked during Wednesday’s CWCB meeting at the Pueblo Convention Center.
The board was reviewing draft chapters of the state water plan being developed by CWCB staff. Other topics included conservation, water quality and project permitting.
“This chapter paints a rosy picture of alternative transfers,” Wells added. “This doesn’t mean alternative transfer methods can’t be done, but they haven’t been done.”
The Arkansas Valley Super Ditch formed in 2008, but has had difficulty launching pilot programs because drought reduced water availability, permit complications and farmer participation.
In 2013, the Legislature passed HB1130, which set up a framework for long-term lease arrangements, and HB1248, which allowed for 10 pilot programs that have not materialized.
Super Ditch attempted to run a pilot program under HB1248 with the town of Fowler this year, but plans fell through.
This year, a proposal to create a flex marketing water right failed because opponents said it amounted to legalizing speculation.
In 2004-05, Aurora and the Rocky Ford High Line Canal engineered a temporary transfer program that was successful, although it raised questions of moving water from one river basin to another.
Since then, the state has spent millions of dollars on grants to study alternative transfer methods, but large metro providers are reluctant to enter long-term deals without more certainty.
“Unless we find some way to do this, there are barriers,” Wells said.
Board member John McClow, a Gunnison attorney, questioned CWCB staff for using language from the Interbasin Compact Committee’s report rather than taking a fresh approach.
Travis Smith, a board member of both the CWCB and IBCC, responded that the IBCC reached agreement on using alternative transfers several years ago, and thought that should be reflected in the state water plan.
Meanwhile the Arkansas Valley Conduit was also a topic at yesterday’s CWCB meeting in Pueblo. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:
The state showed more support for the Arkansas Valley Conduit Thursday, pledging cooperation in helping to obtain federal funding for the $400 million project.
“This is the last piece of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “It’s been a long wait for something that was promised 50 years ago.”
Broderick gave an update of the conduit to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which met Thursday at the Pueblo Convention Center.
Contract negotiations will begin later this year for the conduit and two associated federal contracts to provide a master storage lease in Lake Pueblo and a cross-connection between south and north outlets on Pueblo Dam.
More Colorado Water Plan coverage here. More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here. More CWCB coverage here.
A plan is hatching to get pipe in the ground ahead of schedule for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. It would reduce the initial costs of the project and allow some negotiations to proceed even with a reduced amount of federal funding, said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, project sponsor.
“We were under the impression that all the money had to be in place up front before negotiations began, but the Bureau of Reclamation decided that’s not the case,” Broderick said. “If those negotiations are successful, we’ve got pipe in the ground and the conduit can begin to move ahead.”
That means Reclamation will be able to begin negotiations with the Pueblo Board of Water Works and Colorado Springs Utilities for use of the joint use pipeline that leads from the south outlet of Pueblo Dam to the Whitlock Treatment Plant.
The Pueblo water board owns the pipeline and the treatment plant. Colorado Springs Utilities paid the water board $3.5 million to upsize the pipeline by one foot in diameter, planning to use it for the Southern Delivery System. Since that time, SDS has taken a different route to move water from Lake Pueblo through the north outlet on the dam, and would not need the additional capacity.
The pipeline from the south outlet has a total capacity of 248 million gallons per day. Of that, 40 mgd is reserved to serve Comanche power plant and 140 mgd to serve Pueblo.
By paying to upsize the pipeline, Colorado Springs reserved 68 mgd, but the conduit would only require 14 mgd, said Terry Book, executive director of the Pueblo water board.
Reclamation also must negotiate with the Pueblo water board for locating a treatment plant at Whitlock to filter water used in the Arkansas Valley Conduit. By moving those discussions ahead, the federal cost will be reduced from $12 million to about $3 million in the coming year, but more funds would be required to begin actual design work, Broderick said.
Meanwhile, Colorado lawmakers continue to fight for more federal funding.
During a U.S. House committee hearing this week, Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., told Reclamation officials the conduit is a high priority.
“The members of the Colorado delegation are committed to the Arkansas Valley Conduit. Reclamation knows that this project offers an effective regional answer to meeting federally mandated Safe Drinking Act standards,” said Tipton.
More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.
Sponsors are working to increase funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit in next year’s federal budget. The conduit recently received the green light to proceed from the Bureau of Reclamation, which released a record of decision on Feb. 27 for it, a master storage contract and an interconnect on Pueblo Dam. But the approval did not translate into funding when President Barack Obama released his budget one week later and included only $500,000 for the conduit.
“We were disappointed in the dollars,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsor of all three projects. He spoke at Thursday’s monthly board meeting.
The conduit has $3.1 million in funding this year, which includes $2.1 million that was not spent in past years. To keep it on pace for construction sometime in the next decade would require at least $7 million to $10 million, Broderick said. Last year Reclamation internally shifted $44 million for projects, but it’s too soon to tell how much could be available this year.
“There is a lot of activity, particularly because of the drought in California,” Broderick said. “We have to keep the pressure on.”
To do that, officials will again travel to Washington, D.C., to lobby Department of Interior and Bureau of Reclamation officials as well as Congress. Last week, Colorado Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both Democrats, and Reps. Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner, Republicans, called for more funding to support the conduit.
“We have to realize this is the president’s budget. Congress sees it a different way,” said lobbyist Ray Kogovsek, a former congressman. “I would say we can certainly get more than $500,000.”
Colorado’s congressional delegation is calling on the administration and Congress to boost funding levels for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The administration’s budget numbers for the conduit, released late Monday, included just $500,000 for the conduit, which last month received final approval, a record of decision, from the Bureau of Reclamation. But about $14 million is needed to keep engineering and design for the project on track in order to break ground in 2016.
The project sponsors, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, currently have secured about $3.1 million — which includes carryover funding — to begin work on the conduit.
The $400 million conduit would include 227 miles of pipeline along a 130-mile route from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads. Along the way it would serve 50,000 people in 40 communities, many of them facing regulatory pressure to improve drinking water quality. The conduit was part of the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, but never built because of expense. A renewed effort to build it began about 15 years ago, and culminated in late February when Reclamation issued a record of decision identifying the route of the pipeline through Pueblo and along the Arkansas River.
The letters were sent to congressional leadership and the Department of Interior Tuesday, just hours after the budget figures were known, by U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats, and U.S. Reps. Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton, both Republicans. They said the budget for the conduit is insufficient for the second year in a row.
“The budget numbers released for fiscal year 2014 and 2015 are troubling. At a time when planners are trying to scale up significantly and move forward toward the construction stage, the Administration budget figures have threatened to delay work on this critical priority,” the letter stated.
The lawmakers called the Conduit a “top priority” and reminded the Administration and the Appropriations Committees that “the federal government has repeatedly promised to build this Conduit.”
The budget numbers likely were prepared last year, before the conduit had a record of decision in place, so they could conceivably be improved, say some observers.
The $14 million would complete design and engineering work, which includes connection to the south outlet of Pueblo Dam, initial filtering at the Pueblo Board of Water Works Whitlock Plant, routing the pipeline south of Pueblo by the Comanche power plant and construction that basically follows the north side of the Arkansas River to Lamar. There are numerous spurs and loops along the way that deliver water to communities in Pueblo, Crowley, Otero, Bent, Prowers and Kiowa counties.
More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.
Construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit is years away, but other parts of last week’s federal record of decision to approve the project are expected to move more quickly. But not too quickly, as sponsors are watching to see how pieces fall in place. The record decision by the Bureau of Reclamation also cleared the way for a master storage contract in Lake Pueblo and an interconnection at Pueblo Dam between the north and south outlets.
“Once you have signed the record of decision, those discussions can start,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsor for all three projects. “But we don’t want to move too quickly.”
The master contract is likely the first piece to move forward. It will allow communities within the Southeastern District to secure up to 30,000 acrefeet of storage through the year 2060. The storage is possible because Lake Pueblo seldom fills to capacity with water brought across the Continental Divide under the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. So-called excess capacity contracts allow water users to store other water in Lake Pueblo. The long-term contract would provide more certainty that the space will be reserved than one-year contracts as well as flexibility between wet and dry years.
In recent years, 37 water districts and cities indicated they wanted to be a part of the contract — 25 also are conduit participants. The other 12 include water users in Fremont, Pueblo counties aren’t part of the conduit, but anticipate the need for storage. Among them, Pueblo West, Security and Fountain are seeking to partner in the contract, even though they already have contracts under Southern Delivery System.
The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District also wants storage for projects such as the Super Ditch.
“We need to sit down with all of them and say, ‘All right, this is what we studied. Now how much are you going to need?’ ” Broderick said.
Another reason for waiting to begin negotiations is to see how similar talks are progressing. In 2010, Broderick watched with interest as SDS participants, led by Colorado Springs, learned that Reclamation was changing its basis for the contract from cost of service to a market-based approach. Right now, Reclamation is negotiating a similar contract with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Broderick plans to sit in on those public meetings to see what he can learn.
More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.
It would make sense to include as few turns as possible in a mostly gravity-fed pipeline from Point A to Point B. But the realities of geography, land ownership and a complex network of large and small water districts make the Arkansas Valley Conduit a much more complicated proposition.
The Bureau of Reclamation signed off on a record of decision last week that clears the way for the conduit to be built, once funding is approved by Congress. While the main trunk of the conduit will run 130 miles, spurs and loops will increase its total length to 227 miles under the concept approved by Reclamation.
“The total includes everything, all the pipes to where the water providers have facilities to do final treatment and deliver the water,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsors of the conduit.
The pipe, all of which will be buried underground, will range in size from 36 inches to just 4 inches as it delivers water to 40 sites serving 50,000 people. An estimated 10,256 acre-feet of water will be delivered annually through the system to large users such as St. Charles Mesa, La Junta and Lamar, to smaller water companies that use only a fraction as much water.
The most circuitous reach of the pipeline will be used in moving the water from Pueblo Dam to its first stop at St. Charles Mesa. It will first flow from the south outlet on the dam to the Pueblo Board of Water Works’ Whitlock Treatment Plant on the north side of the Arkansas River. From there, the pipeline will run south, again crossing the Arkansas River, through City Park to Thatcher Avenue. It will cross to the west side of Pueblo Boulevard somewhere along Elmwood Golf Course and then head to the prairies west of Pueblo along Red Creek Springs Road, then jog south, under the conceptual plan included in Reclamation’s study.
“Any time you get out into rural land, it drops the cost and cuts down the time needed for construction,” Broderick said.
The pipeline will swing east by the Comanche Power plant, then head north to the St. Charles treatment plant, and then north to Avondale and Boone (crossing the Arkansas River again). Spurs will take water to six districts in Crowley County and 24 districts in Otero County. Near the end of the line, the conduit will head about 25 miles north to Eads. While the total cost of the conduit is estimated to be about $400 million, the engineering phase is expected to be about $28 million.
“A lot depends on which segments we are working on,” Broderick said.
Getting a stream of federal funding to begin that process is a top priority for the Southeastern district.
Colorado’s U.S. senators hailed the federal record of decision for the Arkansas Valley Conduit this week, calling it a major milestone to bringing clean drinking water to communities in Southern Colorado.
The record of decision affirms the choice of the North Comanche route for the pipeline, as well as setting up a master contract for storage of nearly 30,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Pueblo. It also sets the path for a cross-connection at Pueblo Dam that eventually will link the north and south outlets.
Construction of the conduit, which could cost up to $400 million, still requires funding from Congress. When completed, it will provide water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo.
“Colorado knows well that water is an extremely precious resource, and the Arkansas Valley Conduit will help ensure families in Southeastern Colorado have access to a safe and healthy water supply,” said Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. “Today’s announcement couldn’t be more important to southeast Colorado, and it demonstrates the Interior Department’s commitment to getting this project done.”
“This project, the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, will help strengthen Colorado’s agricultural economy, our quality of life and rural communities throughout Southeastern Colorado,” said Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo. “Water is our most valuable resource in Colorado, and we need to make every drop count.”
Bennet and Udall have led efforts to secure resources and move forward with the construction of the Conduit. In addition to advocating for quick approval of the EIS, the senators have written to the Department of Interior to provide adequate resources for construction of the Conduit in future federal budgets.
The Arkansas Valley Conduit is the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. Once constructed, the Conduit will deliver clean drinking water to families, producers and municipalities throughout Southeastern Colorado.
Bennet and Udall worked together to enact legislation in 2009 authorizing the construction of the Conduit, and have pushed ever since for funding to keep the project on schedule. The legislation also allows revenues from federal contracts to be applied to the cost of building the Conduit.
More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.
Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Tyler Johnson):
Bureau of Reclamation Great Plains Regional Director Michael Ryan has signed the Record of Decision for the Arkansas Valley Conduit and Long Term Excess Capacity Master Contract Final Environmental Impact Statement. The selected alternative is construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit using the Comanche North Alternative.
“This project will help water providers throughout the Arkansas River Basin meet existing and future demands,” said Ryan. “While funding details remain to be coordinated, it is prudent this project move forward to be in a position to take advantage of federal, state or local funding opportunities when they arise.”
The Arkansas Valley Conduit is a feature of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. It will provide treated water to communities in southeastern Colorado. When complete, the pipeline for the Arkansas Valley Conduit could be up to 227 miles long. The Comanche North Alternative includes three federal actions:
Construct and operate the Arkansas Valley Conduit and enter into a repayment contract with Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.
Enter into a conveyance contract with various water providers for use of a pipeline interconnect between Pueblo Dam’s south and north outlet works.
Enter into an excess capacity master contract with Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District to store water in Pueblo Reservoir.
“For the many small rural water providers the conduit will serve, this critical step in the process of building the project is greatly welcomed. Facing the water quality and waste water discharge compliance challenges has been daunting for this area, and the congressional approval in 2009 and now the Record of Decision from the Bureau of Reclamation provide real hope for an effective and efficient way to meet those challenges,” said Bill Long, President of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.
A Record of Decision is a decision document; it concludes the environmental impact statement prepared in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. It does not provide or allocate funding for the project. Reclamation published the final environmental impact statement in August, 2013.
“The District is grateful for this decision, which is one more milestone in a half-century journey to a clean water supply for southeastern Colorado. As federally-mandated standards have changed, the need for the solution the preferred alternative provides is even greater. The promise to build this piece of the project was first made in 1962 by President Kennedy and was restated in 2012, right here in Pueblo, Colorado, by President Obama. Now let’s move forward to the next phases of design and construction,” said Jim Broderick, General Manager for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.
The Bureau of Reclamation approved the final construction plan for the Arkansas Valley Conduit Thursday.
“It’s been a long haul,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsors of the conduit. “This critical step in the process of building the project is greatly welcomed.”
The record of decision for the project was signed by Michael Ryan, Reclamation’s regional director. The record of decision includes the environmental impact study for the conduit, but the next step will be to obtain funding from Congress to build the project.
Long, a Bent County commissioner and Las Animas business owner, has been working to get the conduit built since he joined the Southeastern board in 2002. The conduit was included in the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Project legislation, but never built because of the expense.
“In the last few months, it’s become clear that this will help, not only with drinking water, but at the other end with wastewater quality as well,” Long said.
Reclamation Thursday approved a record of decision for the Comanche North route of the 227-mile pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Lamar. The chosen route includes initial treatment at the Pueblo Board of Water Works’ Whitlock treatment plant and a pipeline that swings south of Pueblo near the Comanche power plant.
The conduit will deliver fresh drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo. It is estimated to cost $400 million, which would be repaid partly through revenue from Fry-Ark contracts.
Also included in the decision is a master storage contract in Lake Pueblo for the Southeastern district and a cross-connection between north and south outlets at Pueblo Dam.
The storage contract will set aside space for conduit participants and other water users in the district.
The Southeastern district is focused on funding the project. Political wrangling delayed the record of decision and federal belt-tightening limited appropriations to about $2 million this year, rather than the $15 million the district hoped for.
“I think this is a really important step forward, and I’m very happy,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern district. “We still have a lot of work to do in funding the project.”
From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):
The Bureau of Reclamation signed the Record of Decision today for a project that’s been in the planning stages since Pueblo Dam was built in the 1960s.
Part of the Frying Pan-Arkansas project, the conduit has never been built due to lack of money.
U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, Democrats of Colorado, issued a news release after the ROD was signed, which follows approval of an Environmental Impact Study last year.
U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet welcomed today’s signing of the Record of Decision for the Arkansas Valley Conduit, which represents a major milestone for the project that will bring clean water to communities in southeastern Colorado. The decision comes after Bennet and Udall urged the Bureau of Reclamation to quickly approve the Conduit’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS) that was finalized last August.
“I am proud the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation heeded my calls and quickly approved the Arkansas Valley Conduit. This project, the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, will help strengthen Colorado’s agricultural economy, our quality of life and rural communities throughout southeastern Colorado,” Udall said. “Water is our most valuable resource in Colorado, and we need to make every drop count. This project will ensure we continue to smartly develop our water resources.”
“Colorado knows well that water is an extremely precious resource, and the Arkansas Valley Conduit will help ensure families in southeastern Colorado have access to a safe and healthy water supply,” Bennet said. “Today’s announcement couldn’t be more important to southeast Colorado, and it demonstrates the Interior Department’s commitment to getting this project done. With today’s announcement, we are one step closer to completing this historic conduit that will benefit many future generations of Coloradans.”
Udall and Bennet have led efforts to secure resources and move forward with the construction of the Conduit. In addition to advocating for quick approval of the EIS, the senators have written to the Department of Interior to provide adequate resources for construction of the Conduit in future federal budgets.
The Arkansas Valley Conduit is the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, a water diversion and storage project in the lower Arkansas Valley. Once constructed, the Conduit will deliver clean drinking water to families, producers and municipalities throughout Southeastern Colorado. Bennet and Udall worked together to enact legislation in 2009 authorizing the construction of the Conduit, and have pushed ever since for funding to keep the project on schedule.
More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.
Plans for the Arkansas Valley Conduit continue to be in a holding pattern. Federal processes have slowed the completion of a record of decision for the conduit, a master storage contract and interconnection of outlets on Pueblo Dam.
The conduit is a plan to bring clean drinking water to 40 communities and 50,000 people from St. Charles Mesa to Lamar.
The master contract would allow conduit users and others to purchase long-term storage in Lake Pueblo, while the cross-connection would give water users redundancy of water supply sources.
An environmental impact study was finalized in August, but changes in the Bureau of Reclamation leadership and a federal shutdown have delayed the ROD for five months, said Christine Arbogast, lobbyist for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsors of the projects.
“Five months seems like a long time, but it’s looking good,” Arbogast said.
She said a decision could be made in a few weeks.
The lack of the ROD for the projects means very little work is progressing.
“Anything moving forward will be on hold until we get to the point where we have a ROD,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern district.
This year’s federal budget includes $1 million for the conduit, but larger appropriations are needed in future years to move the project ahead.
More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.
Here’s the release from US Senator Mark Udall’s office:
Mark Udall, a strong advocate for smarter water conservation and storage, heralded the inclusion of $1 million for the Arkansas Valley Conduit in the bipartisan budget deal the president is expected to sign into law. The funding, which Udall has championed in Congress, is a down payment on the completion of this water project, which will improve water quality for the counties along the Arkansas River.
The Arkansas Valley Conduit is the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, a water diversion and storage project in the lower Arkansas Valley. Once constructed, the Conduit will deliver clean drinking water to families, producers and municipalities throughout Southeastern Colorado.
“Water forms the very foundation of Colorado’s agricultural economy, our quality of life and rural communities throughout southeastern Colorado. This funding, which I helped secure in the bipartisan budget deal, will ensure that this final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project is up and running as quickly as possible,” Udall said. “I will keep fighting to ensure the Bureau of Reclamation continues robust funding for this project, while we work to develop and smartly conserve Colorado’s most important resource — its water. We must make every drop count.”
“Given the budget battles and constraints of late, I am glad to see the full $1 million appropriation for this fiscal year,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “We are at a critical juncture with the completion of environmental compliance and moving forward with next steps of design and engineering, which will require significantly higher funding in fiscal year 2015 and beyond. We are grateful for the support of our congressional delegation, which has been and will continue to be key to getting the project under construction, completed and providing safe drinking water in compliance with federal mandates. The lower Arkansas Valley has been waiting a long time for this final but important piece of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project.”
John Stulp, former Prowers County Commissioner and current Director of the Interbasin Compact (IBCC), and Special Policy Advisor to the Governor for Water, met with the Prowers County Commissioners on December 12 to provide an update on the water plan. Stulp was accompanied by another former commissioner, Leroy Mauch, who also represents the region on water issues.
Representatives from nine different water basins throughout the state have been meeting for the past several years, providing updates on each basin’s water needs, best use policies and how those future needs will interact with each other. Stulp said that some trends have been evident for years such as gaps between water supplies and water demands, agricultural water has been undergoing a buy and dry policy to meet municipal demands along the Western Slope and Front Range and water supplies are uncertain in light of the continued drought which has impacted much of the state for the past decade. He added that the various Basins in the Compact will have their own areas of focus, “The Rio Grande will look at wells and the Arkansas is concerned about wells and surface water. The North Platte is nearly all surface and some wells,” he explained.
Stulp said, “We could see our state population double in the next 40 to 60 years and we need to know where we can find the water to supply those needs.” Reports have shown that with a widening gap between supply and needs, the state could face a shortfall that exceeds 500,000 acre feet annually. “We don’t want to see a buy and dry situation that hit Crowley County,” Stulp explained. That county had over 92% of its water go away and supplies were also used by two prison systems that located there. The end result was dry land and brush fires, one that was fatal to responders several years ago.
“Water conditions became critical on the Western Slope due to the drought that’s lasted about 12 years now and our interests along the Front Range and the eastern portion of the state takes about half the water from the Slope,” Stulp explained to the commissioners. “We drilled from 20 to 30 tunnels through the Continental Divide over the years to bring in about 550,000 acre feet a year from parts of the Western Slope to the Front Range. Half of that is junior to the Colorado River Compact. There could be concern over various obligations and a potential for a water call on the Colorado River. The junior diverters will have to reduce their diversions.” He added that Denver is getting half its water from the East and the Western Slope.
Conservation measures could help reduce the demand in metro areas, Stulp stated. He said Front Range communities along with Denver have done well, cutting back demand per capita by 20% the same time the population has increased by about 10%. There may be more restrictions pertaining to lawn watering and there’s grey water legislation being considered which will reuse shower and similar used water to flush toilets, all within municipal water use decrees. The system that recycles water in that fashion won’t be mandated for household use, but will be an option. Other legislation will require water-“sense” fixtures for additional efficiency such as lavatories, shower heads, aeration toilets and urinals and other flush systems. “The big box retail outlets will be the first point of sale for such items, and will be the only type available for sale in the future if this legislation is approved,” he explained. “We’re not going to be seeing toilet cops running around, but according to Denver water, we could save from 20 to 40,000 acre feet a year with these changes,” Stulp added. He thinks the legislature will see these measures introduced next year…
Stulp also touched upon the status of the Ark Valley Conduit, first proposed in the 1960s to bring water by pipeline from Pueblo to Lamar. Funding for environmental studies has become available from Congress over the past several years, but the 120 mile long project is still years away. Over 30 entities along the route would be served by the water stored in Pueblo. STulp said because of water quality concerns for the Arkansas River, there have been several groups from western Kansas that have expressed interest in having the pipeline extended across the border.
The exact route and cost of the Arkansas Valley Conduit won’t be known until engineering is complete, but the water line to serve 40 communities in Eastern Colorado is becoming a reality. “There are a whole lot of people who thought we’d never get to this point,” Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District told the board Thursday. “The work we’ve done so far is preliminary. We still have to get this done.”
The Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental impact statement on the project was released Aug. 9. A record of decision is expected to be issued after a 30-day comment period, meaning work on the actual project can begin. It took just two years for the EIS to be completed, which is less time than a typical project would take. However, the conduit was approved by Congress in the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Act.
District officials and members of Congress are working on strategies to get the estimated $15 million needed for engineering in the 2015 fiscal year, and possibly to shift some Reclamation funding sooner than that. Construction of the conduit could begin as soon as 2016, largely depending on funding. The EIS also covers Southeastern’s master storage contract that will serve 37 communities and a federal project to interconnect the north and south outlet works.
Negotiations still are ongoing to build the first leg of the conduit, which would go from the south outlet works to Pueblo Boulevard. From there, the pipeline would head to the Pueblo Board of Water Works Whitlock Treatment Plant, where it would be filtered and moved south through City Park, along Pueblo Boulevard and then south of Pueblo and the Comanche Power Plant. It would run east from there to the St. Charles Mesa treatment plant, then head north of the Arkansas River where it would begin its route eastward with spurs to serve communities along the way.
In all, there would be 227 miles of pipeline tapering from 48 inches in diameter to 6 inches.
More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.
Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Kara Lamb/Buck Feist):
The Bureau of Reclamation announces the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit and Long-Term Excess Capacity Master Contract. To access the document, its Executive Summary, and supporting appendices please visit http://www.usbr.gov/avceis. A list of local libraries housing hard copies of the Final EIS is also included on the website.
In the Final EIS, Comanche North is identified as the agency-preferred alternative. It minimizes cost and urban construction disturbance, avoids the U.S. Highway 50 expansion corridor, and maximizes source water quality and yield. It is a hybrid alternative developed in response to comments on the Draft EIS by using components of other alternatives analyzed in that document. Of the AVC alternatives, Comanche North would be least costly and provide the most benefits.
“After extensive public involvement and consideration of comments, scientific data and regional water needs, Reclamation is pleased to release this Final Environmental Impact Statement and announce Comanche North as the agency-preferred alternative,” said Mike Ryan, Regional Director for Reclamation’s Great Plains Region, which includes eastern Colorado.
Reclamation completed the Final EIS in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. In it, the agency proposed and analyzed three federal actions pertaining to AVC and the Master Contract:
Construct and operate the AVC and enter into a repayment contract with Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District;
Enter into a conveyance contract with various water providers for use of a pipeline interconnection between Pueblo Dam’s south and north outlet works; and,
Enter into an excess capacity master contract with Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District to store water in Pueblo Reservoir.
When completed, the pipeline for the AVC could be up to 227 miles long.
Colorado’s congressional delegation wants more funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit, and sent a joint letter last week to the Department of Interior arguing for more funds in 2015. The letter came at the same time as the final environmental impact statement by the Bureau of Reclamation for the Arkansas Valley Conduit, which recommends construction of a 227-mile pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads, serving 40 water districts and a population of 50,000 that is expected to grow to 75,000 by 2070. The conduit route would move water through the Pueblo water board’s Whitlock Treatment Plant for filtration, swing south of the Comanche Power Plant, then run primarily north of the Arkansas River east of Pueblo. In the letter, U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats, and U.S. Reps. Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner, both Republicans, asked Anne Castle, Interior undersecretary for science and water, for increased funding in the 2015 budget, when construction of the conduit could start.
The EIS also recommends an interconnection at Pueblo Dam between the North Outlet Works construction by Colorado Springs for the Southern Delivery System and the South Outlet Works, which will primarily serve the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The south connection also serves Pueblo West, the Fountain Valley Conduit and the Pueblo Board of Water Works. The EIS also recommends 40-year Lake Pueblo storage contracts for 25 conduit participants and 12 other water providers. The contracts would total almost 30,000 acre-feet annually. The total cost for all three projects is estimated at $400 million in the EIS, and some of that would be repaid by storage contract revenues under 2009 federal legislation.
While the conduit itself benefits 50,000 people, the interconnect benefits more than 665,000, by providing redundancy for SDS and Pueblo. About 178,000 people would be served by the master contract, including some El Paso County communities outside of Colorado Springs and several Upper Arkansas water users.
But the push for funding in austere federal times continues. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which sponsors the projects, sought $15 million in funds for the 2014 fiscal year, but received just $1 million. With the record of decision for the projects expected in 30 days, Colorado’s congressional representatives asked Castle to consider more “robust” funding for the conduit.
Here’s the full text of their letter from the Boulder iJournal:
Dear Assistant Secretary Castle and Commissioner Connor:
As the Department of Interior begins consideration of its FY 2015 budget, we write to express our strong support for robust funding of water conservation and delivery studies, projects and activities. In particular, we want to highlight the Arkansas Valley Conduit project in southeastern Colorado. Adequate funding is essential in order to meet federally mandated water quality standards in the region.
The Arkansas Valley conduit is a planned 130-mile water delivery system from the Pueblo Dam to communities throughout the Arkansas River Valley in Colorado. The conduit is the final phase of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which Congress authorized in 1962. When completed, it will help bring clean drinking water to up to 42 municipalities, towns, and water providers in the lower Arkansas valley.
Many of the wells in these areas have been contaminated with radon or uranium. As a result, many of the water providers in the region are out of compliance with federal water quality standards. More importantly, however, because of the lack of funding for water projects like this, the populations of these regions have been denied clean high quality water. Providing clean and safe water to all Americans should be at the forefront of the Department’s mission, and these water quality issues underscore the urgent need for progress on the conduit.
The federal government has already funded planning and feasibility studies for four years in order to make the conduit a reality, and President Obama signed legislation in 2009 committing to fund a substantial share of the project costs. Unfortunately, the Administration’s budget proposal for FY 2014 did not fund the project adequately. While planners in the Arkansas valley expect costs to exceed $15 million in FY 2014, the Bureau of Reclamation’s budget justification requested just $1 million for the project. Adequate funding to compensate for this shortfall in 2015 will be essential to complete the project on schedule.
As you know, the final Environmental Impact Statement will be released this month. Following a 30-day comment period, a Record of Decision (“ROD”) will be announced. The issuance of an ROD stating a preferred alternative removes any regulatory barrier to moving forward with the project, and signals the start of the design and engineering phase. The Office of Management and Budget indicated that the lack of the ROD was the reason for reducing the funding to only $1 million for FY 2014. With the ROD due to be announced soon, adequate project funding is essential for moving this vital infrastructure and water quality project forward in a timely manner.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.
The Arkansas Valley Conduit would swing south of Pueblo, crossing to the north side of the Arkansas River at Avondale in a preferred option identified by the Bureau of Reclamation. Reclamation is expected to complete an environmental impact statement on the conduit, a master storage contract and a cross-connection of outlets at Pueblo Dam by this fall. The pipeline route takes parts of several alternatives that have been considered for the past two years in the EIS.
“By studying all of the elements separately, we were able to take a piece of each to create a new alternative,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsors of all three projects. “This project alternative addresses the concerns that have been raised.”
More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.
Lamar’s looking to get its pipes cleaned. But the city of 7,800 needs some state assistance to get the job done. The Arkansas Basin Roundtable last week sent a request for a $200,000 state grant to the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The money will assist in a $2 million project that would be funded with a $985,000 grant from the Department of Local Affairs, and a $785,000 CWCB loan. Lamar water customers would pay an additional $1.07 per month if all of the state funds are approved.
The money is needed because of heavy corrosion and leakage in the pipes that bring water from wells to the city. Water from two separate well fields is high in dissolved solids, and must be blended in order to use it. “If they clean the pipes, they burst,” said Gary Berngard, an executive for Honeywell Building Solutions, the consultant on the project.
The project also will upgrade parts of the water system in anticipation of completion of the Arkansas Valley Conduit, which is several years down the road.
The replacement of the pipes will recover between 378-662 acre-feet of water per year that now are being lost. It also would free up water from other sources for other uses, including industrial and agriculture. “This affects half of the population of Prowers County,” Commissioner Henry Schnabel told the roundtable in supporting the project.
The Arkansas Valley Conduit will receive an additional $4 million in federal funds this year thanks to reallocation of unused or leftover funds within the Bureau of Reclamation. “It will allow us to start working on engineering and the drafting of a design,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsors of the project.
Broderick learned of $3.79 million in additional funds being steered to the conduit during a visit with Reclamation Commissioner Mike Connor in Washington, D.C., earlier this week. The money comes at a time when the district anticipated getting far less than it needed to keep the project moving. Last month, the district’s board received the grim news that under sequestration, only $1 million would be included in the 2014 budget. The district had sought $14 million.
More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., is asking the Senate energy appropriations subcommittee to provide additional funding for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The conduit’s funding stream hit a snag in the 2014 budget request by President Barack Obama, which allocates $1 million. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District had asked the Bureau of Reclamation for $15 million to keep the project moving forward.
At April’s meeting, the Southeastern board learned that Reclamation projects across the board had been slashed, including some already under construction. “I don’t know what will happen,” said Southeastern Executive Director Jim Broderick. “We are going to Washington in a couple of weeks to try to learn more.”
In a letter to committee chairman Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Bennet pointed out other long-term projects in California and Idaho that had received additional funding. “As the subcommittee prepares for the coming fiscal year, we must ensure that states and local communities have the resources to continue work on large-scale, multiyear projects,” Bennet said.
The conduit’s environmental impact statement is being prepared by Reclamation, and the conduit already has a built-in repayment mechanism through 2009 legislation that devotes Fryingpan-Arkansas contract revenue to conduit costs.
The cost of the project is estimated at $500 million. It would deliver fresh drinking water from Pueblo Dam to 40 communities as far east as Lamar. Many of those communities could face even higher treatment costs if the conduit is not completed.
More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.
The funding pipeline for the Arkansas Valley Conduit has sprung a leak. Federal funding pressures could reduce conduit funding to one-third of its current levels and far less than Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District officials had hoped for in next year’s budget. “The conduit is not the only project affected. There are projects under construction that got cut,” Southeastern lobbyist Christine Arbogast told the board Thursday. “Delays cost money, so it’s going to make it more difficult as we move forward.”
The district discussed a figure of $14 million to begin design and construction of the conduit in 2014. However, the budget President Barack Obama submitted to Congress last week included only $1 million for the conduit. The Bureau of Reclamation is on pace to complete an environmental impact statement for the conduit by the end of this year. But several other water projects already being built saw cuts of 75 percent or more in the president’s budget.
If Congress adopts another continuing resolution, rather than a budget, the conduit might retain its current level of funding, $3 million, in 2014, said Executive Director Jim Broderick. Otherwise, the district appears to be out of options to increase funding. “It’s clear the game is different than it used to be,” Broderick said, recounting last week’s visit to Washington, D.C. “This doesn’t stop the project, but it will move at a different pace.”
A federal law in 2009 provided a way to repay the federal government for conduit costs through storage contract payments to Reclamation for use of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. But payments would not start until after the project is completed.
The conduit could cost up to $500 million to build and would deliver fresh drinking water from Pueblo Dam to 50,000 people in 40 communities along the Arkansas River. “We’re concerned about the drop in funding, but we’re still in the pre-construction phase,” Broderick said.
More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.
More bad news for farmers. Earlier this year, groundwater associations determined that there would be limited or no replacement water for wells in the Arkansas Valley. Upon reviewing plans submitted March 1, the state is working with the well groups to determine if more water still is owed from 2012. “Depletions have occurred that have not been paid back,” Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Thursday.
Witte’s staff is reviewing wellpumping plans from the three large well groups to determine how much water might be owed under Rule 14 of the 1996 Arkansas Valley groundwater rules. It could mean a ban on pumping or allowing minimum pumping to occur this year. The state also is looking at domestic and municipal users who may need to implement restrictions in order to keep wells operating this summer. “We are encouraging conservation measures to meet critical needs,” Witte said.
One well association, the Arkansas Groundwater Users Association, factored the 2012 depletions into its 2013 Rule 14 plan, said manager Scott Lorenz after the meeting. He said farmers should be able to pump at 30 percent on the mainstem of the Arkansas River and 48 percent on Fountain Creek. The Colorado Water Protective and Development Association informed its members who did not have their own sources of replacement water that no water would be available. The Lower Arkansas Water Management Association plan called for 30 percent pumping.
The Southeastern board received more gloomy news about snowpack and stream flow conditions. Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Flows could be as low as last year — the second-lowest on record — while storage and soil moisture conditions are even worse.
Meanwhile the Southeastern board also heard an update for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:
A route for the Arkansas Valley Conduit will be recommended when the final environmental impact statement is released later this year. It could be a hybrid of alternatives being studied by the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which can match components of various alternatives. “The Pueblo routes have raised concerns about what’s already in the ground, so the goal is to find a route that alleviates concerns without additional costs,” Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Executive Director Jim Broderick told the district board Thursday.
Reclamation still is working on cost-benefit ratios for the project, which includes storage in Lake Pueblo for the conduit and other needs.
The estimated cost of the conduit, which will provide clean drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo, is $500 million. But that could be high because of standard contingency rates added to early stages of construction projects. Benefits are likely to be in the $500 million range as well, said Broderick, who traveled to Washington, D.C., last month to discuss the project with federal officials.
No route for the pipeline was recommended in the draft environmental impact statement last year, but routes through Pueblo and south of the city are being considered. But the routes generated concern with the city of Pueblo. On Oct. 29, Pueblo interim City Manager Jim Munch, in a comment to Reclamation saying that any of the routes for the underground pipeline through the Pueblo area have the potential to interfere with infrastructure. Pueblo’s letter also detailed concerns about how water quality could be affected by reduced flows in the Arkansas River through Pueblo.
The city’s comments were among 25 received by Reclamation. Most dealt with mapping errors or water quality concerns.
Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar’s upcoming resignation and the political climate in Washington could have consequences for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. “We need to double our effort at Interior to secure funding for the conduit,” lobbyist Christine Arbogast told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Thursday.
Salazar, who battled for the conduit when he served in the U.S. Senate, understood the project, which is being studied by the Bureau of Reclamation, which is part of Interior, she said. “If funding slips, the schedule slips and the costs go up,” she said.
The environmental impact study for the $500 million conduit should be complete before the end of this year. Reclamation will decide the best route for the pipeline which would supply water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo. While funding for the study has remained in place through shaky fiscal times in Washington, the funding for the conduit itself never has been guaranteed. If everything stays in place, the conduit could be built by 2022. That implies annual appropriations would be made by Congress.
“Water resources are not a priority with this Congress,” Arbogast said. “Water is a back-burner issue. It has a low profile and a low priority.”
The conduit was part of the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, but was not built because of the expense. A 2009 bill passed by Congress provided funding through excess-capacity contract revenues to repay the costs of building the conduit.
More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.