Arkansas Valley Superditch update: Three year pilot program will move 500 acre-feet annually from the Caitlin Canal to El Paso County

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Under the three-year program, 500 acre-feet of water would be sold each year under a lease agreement to Fountain, Security and Widefield at a cost of $500 per acre-foot. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District has paid the legal and engineering bills for the Super Ditch so far, and heard an update on the proposed program at its meeting Wednesday. The Super Ditch board, made up of representatives from seven canal companies, heard the proposal earlier this week.

Under the plan, 400 acres of the 1,200 acres enrolled in the program would be dried up, earning an average of $945 per acre. The Catlin Canal irrigates more than 18,000 acres. Water would be taken at the Catlin headgate and either exchanged to Lake Pueblo during high-flow periods or placed into recharge ponds along the canal, consulting engineer Heath Kuntz explained…

A dozen farmers will set aside 100 acres each and fallow one third of that ground each year to refine engineering questions about the ditch. The rest would be farmed as usual, but farmers would have the opportunity to make improvements on the fallowed ground. So far, all of the participants have indicated they would rotate acreage, although Kuntz would like at least one to fallow the same ground for three years, for the sake of the engineering study. Some of those in the program own more shares than are needed to irrigate their acreage, while others are water short. Flood irrigation, sprinklers, drip irrigation and even some who mix well and surface irrigation sources have signed on. The amount of water credited to dried up ground varies from farm to farm, according to the shares per acre, cropping pattern and method of irrigation. Farms were chosen to represent as many scenarios as possible…

The water would be exchanged or traded into Lake Pueblo under a substitute water supply plan, rather than a court decree, during the pilot program. The Super Ditch plans to get approval for the plan by December. Exchanges would likely be available only during a few weeks during spring, and the Super Ditch could also move water through trades with other water users who have storage accounts in Lake Pueblo. All of the water used in the program would first flow through the Catlin Canal headgate and allowed to pass through the ditch, if it is being traded or exchanged, or moved into recharge ponds. The recharge ponds would slowly release water back to the Arkansas River over several years, mimicking the way return flows make their way back into the system. Flows that are exchanged can be measured at augmentation stations.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

Colorado Public Radio series — ‘Thirsty Cities, Dry Farms’

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Here’s the link to the transcript Part 1: Buy and Dry of Megan Verlee’s series. Here’s an excerpt:

REPORTER: [Orville] Tomky still mourns the changes to his county. But John Stulp, the governor’s water advisor, and a farmer himself, says it would be a mistake to see the farmers as victims in this story; for many, being able to sell their water rights is a godsend.

JOHN STULP: “If you do not have sons or daughters who are willing to come back to the farming operation, oftentimes a farmer’s irrigated water rights become their 401K, their retirement fund.”

REPORTER: We’re talking about some big money here. Rights to the most desirable agricultural water can go for more than $10,000 dollars an acre-foot, and farmers often own hundreds of those. Cities are always looking to buy. It’s hard to pin down exactly how much of the state has gone back to grass, or is on its way. because of urban water buys. But best guesses put the number at hundreds of square miles. State Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs is an expert in Colorado water law. He says what happened in places like Crowley county made Colorado officials more cautious about water deals between cities and farmers.

HOBBS: “People realized that the tax base was being affected by these transfers. So the legislature basically adopted what I’m going to call mitigation.”

REPORTER: Now the cities can’t just buy the water and walk away, they’ve got a lot to do before they ever see a drop of it.

HOBBS: “The legislature has provided there must be re-vegetation when water is permanently removed. There are in leiu taxes that must be paid to support the local library and fire district and town, for thirty years.”

Here’s the link to Part 2: Super Ditch of Megan Verlee’s series. Here’s an excerpt:

[John] SCHWEIZER: “I always got tickled at my mother. She didn’t think you should ever gamble. But she and my father farmed all their married life, and if that’s not a gamble, I don’t know what is.”

REPORTER: It’s not farming’s perpetual gamble but its potential one-time payout that has Schweizer worried these days. Over the past few decades, a lot of his neighbors have cashed in their water rights, selling to cities and retiring, along with their farms. We’re not on the road long before we see the effects of that transfer. The land changes from green to brown, weedy fields crisscrossed with the remains of old irrigation systems.

SCHWEIZER: “See, there’s an irrigation canal right there, that indentation.”

REPORTER: Schweizer doesn’t want to see any more farmland dry up around here, so he and other farmers here are working on a different way to meet cities’ water needs. He’s president of what’s called the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch.

SCHWEIZER: “The Superditch is a not a ditch at all. It’s just a combination of the ditches in the valley. I just like the idea of it: leasing part of your water and continuing to own it.”

REPORTER: So instead of individual farmers selling off water rights, irrigators in the valley band together to lease up to a quarter of their total water to cities. The farmers take turns leaving some of their fields bare for a few years, but they all get to stay in business. Schweizer says it might even make it easier for people like his son to continue the family farm.

SCHWEIZER: “If the water’s sold, it’s impossible to ever pursue and fulfil that dream. And with the Superditch concept, and if it becomes a reality, then most of the water stays on the land and they continue to do what they’ve dreamed about doing for generations to come.”

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here.

Lamar-Elbert County Pipeline: Developers face the challenge of finding water rights for the project along with Arkansas River Compact constraints

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

One of the biggest obstacles could be the Arkansas River Compact, which led to a 24-year U.S. Supreme Court lawsuit between Kansas and Colorado. The Arkansas River Compact Administration would have to approve any transfer of water from Water District 67 in Colorado, said Steve Witte, Division 2 Engineer and operations secretary for the compact…

Assuming the backers of the Lamar-Elbert County pipeline are willing to risk the expense, there would be the problem of finding enough water to make the venture profitable. GP, in a news release, says it plans to develop water rights it owns in the Lamar area, which apparently are on the Lamar Canal. The Lower Arkansas Well Management Association owns about one-third of the canal, and while the ditch has some senior water rights, the majority of its rights are fairly junior in the area’s priority system. So other water rights may have to come into play to make the project successful.

The owner of the largest collection of water rights in the Arkansas Valley says he is not involved in GP’s proposed pipeline. “I met with Karl (Nyquist) more than a year ago,” said Mark Harding, president of Pure Cycle. But he did not sign any agreements to participate. “If there was something tangible, we’d take a look. I didn’t think they had anything to offer.”[…]

“We are looking to develop our asset down there in a partnership with agriculture and municipal interests,” Harding said. “Non-participating water rights still need to be protected, and we are still interested in doing rotational fallowing.” Harding does not rule out a pipeline to the Front Range at some point, and said one is probably needed for the Super Ditch to realize its full value. “If we’re wildly successful, we’ll keep the water on 300,000 irrigated acres and bring in another source of income for farmers,” Harding said.

But, he said he thinks any pipeline proposal would have to move through the basin roundtable process set up in 2005 to resolve interbasin transfer issues. He sits on the Metro Roundtable. “I’m a firm believer in the cooperative framework we have set up,” Harding said.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

[Public meetings in Lamar] are planned for 7 to 9 p.m. Aug. 16 and 23 at the Lamar Community Building, according to a news release from Karl Nyquist of GP Resources, a farming and natural resources firm. Additional meetings are planned in Elbert County…

GP plans to use the water transfers template developed by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable to address community concerns about the project, he said. In the news release, he outlined the approach GP plans to use to developing water:

– Investments to increase efficiencies of GP farms in Lamar, which would remain in production after the project is completed. The news release did not indicate how much farmland is owned, but Nyquist has water rights on the Lamar Canal. The water rights would have to be changed for municipal use in Water Court, but GP does not plan to change the point of diversion.

– Investments in GP’s water rights and systems in Elbert County, involving an upgrade of the capabilities of a local water district to allow transmission of GP’s privately owned and adjudicated water on an interim basis to an unspecified water district in the greater Colorado Springs area.

– Long-term investments in water storage, treatment and delivery systems to serve other Front Range communities.

More Lamar-Elbert County pipeline coverage here. More Pure Cycle coverage here and here.

Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board meeting recap: The board approves dropping challenges to Aurora’s 2007 deal for excess capacity storage in Lake Pueblo

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A new agreement that removes Aurora’s connection with federal legislation that would look at enlarging Lake Pueblo was approved Wednesday by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. The Aurora City Council would have to approve the agreement to put it into place. The agreement would end any further attempts by the Lower Ark district to challenge Aurora’s 2007 contract with the Bureau of Reclamation. the district sued Reclamation in federal court shortly after the contract was awarded…

Under the new agreement with the Lower Ark district, Aurora would support federal legislation to enlarge Turquoise Lake and Lake Pueblo without its previous insistence on including provisions that allow Aurora to use Fry-Ark facilities. The new agreement also would require Aurora to support using its payments on the contract to help fund the Arkansas Valley Conduit.

More Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District coverage here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch: The IBCC and CWCB are watching closely to see if alternative ag transfers can be a model for the South Platte Basin as well

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

John Stulp, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s water adviser, said a proposed trial lease by the Super Ditch to El Paso County water users next year is a better way to test the proposal than state legislation proposed this year. “HB1068 was shot down in short order, and for good reason because it wasn’t well vetted,” Stulp said. “The sponsors have thought of a way to do it without going to the Legislature.”

“The rest of the state is looking to this part of the state to see how the lease-fallowing program works,” Stulp said. Stulp, along with Colorado Water Conservation Board Executive Director Jennifer Gimbel, addressed the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board at its monthly meeting Thursday…

He praised the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, one of nine set up in 2005 when the IBCC was formed, for showing leadership at the state level. Among its accomplishments was the formation of a Flaming Gorge pipeline task force in conjunction with the Metro Roundtable. The task force will meet June 29 to decide how the state should proceed on two proposals to build a Flaming Gorge pipeline. The pipeline is the brainchild of Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million. A Colorado-Wyoming Coalition, led by Parker Water and the South Metro Water Supply Authority is doing its own study about whether to pursue a Flaming Gorge pipeline. “We’ll look at the pros and the cons, but it’s an appropriate time to get that started,” Stulp said.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch update: Caitlin Canal shareholders queue up to lease 500 acre-feet of water in pilot program to run in 2012

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The pilot project would sell 500 acre-feet of water through a lease agreement to the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority. Under the agreement, water would be delivered to Lake Pueblo, where it could be used for exchanges or for direct use through the Fountain Valley Conduit. Fountain has made a firm commitment to take water, but other members of the El Paso County group including Donala and Security are interested in participating as well, said Curtis Mitchell, conservation and supply manager for Fountain. Water would sell at $500 per acre-foot, allowing the shareholders to retain ownership of the water right.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch: Pilot program between the Pikes Peak Water Authority and the Caitlin Ditch planned for 2012

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A transfer of up to 500 acre-feet of water to the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority is planned in 2012 from the Catlin Canal to demonstrate how future Super Ditch deals could work, said John Schweizer, president of both the Super Ditch and the Catlin Canal. “The Super Ditch board agreed that we should limit the scope to one ditch, because of the complexity,” Schweizer said Wednesday…

During the transfer, the number of acres equivalent to the consumptive use of the contract would have to be dried up. No water rights owners would be forced to participate. Accounting for the transfer would be handled through a state administrative plan. The Super Ditch has filed an exchange plan in Division 2 Water Court, but does not yet have a decree. No change of use application has yet been filed…

Water would be delivered to Lake Pueblo, where the city of Fountain can either use it directly through the Fountain Valley Conduit or store it…

So far, the results at controlled test plots at the Rocky Ford Agriculture Research Center show that land that has been fallowed one, two or three years still can produce more than 200 bushels of corn per acre after it is brought back into production. In terms of annual return, corn netted between $120-$640 per acre, after costs of production were factored in. Corn prices were significantly higher in 2010 than when the study began in 2007 — the price increased to $4.89/bushel from $3.29/bushel. The cost of leaving ground fallow was $100-$200 per acre, which would have to be factored as an expense into a lease agreement.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch: ‘Corn-Fallow’ workshop May 18 to discuss rotational fallowing

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From the La Junta Tribune Democrat:

Corn-Fallow Workshop … Wednesday beginning at 1 p.m. in the meeting room at the Colorado State University Extension Building, 411 North 10th in Rocky Ford…

Speakers will include John Schweizer, president of the Super Ditch, talking about why the Super Ditch was formed, who is involved and where the Super Ditch is today. Jim Valliant, research scientist, CSU Arkansas Valley Research Center, will present results of a 4-year study of fallowing land for 1, 2 or 3 years and then planting corn as compared to continuous corn. Jeff Tranel, CSU Extension ag and business management economist, will discuss costs and returns based on the results of the 4-year study and ideas for leasing amounts. This study was funded by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

Dr. Perry Cabot, CSU water resources specialist, will report on results of two demonstration projects on Corn-Fallow funded by the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

One of the problems could be bringing ground back into production after leaving it fallow for as long as three years. Lease agreements could be reached in some cases after farm ground was prepared in the fall. Jim Valliant, a CSU Extension researcher, and Jeff Tranel, a CSU extension economist, will share the results of studies at the Rocky Ford Agriculture Research Center that show the effects of fallowing land for one, two or three years and the costs of bringing the land back into production. This study was funded by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

John Schweizer, president of the Super Ditch, will talk about how it was formed, who is involved and where things now stand with the company.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

Arkansas River basin: Fort Lyon Canal water still on the land for the most part despite Pure Cycle purchase

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The long-term plan for the water is to move it north to new homes east of Denver, but with a weak housing market, no court authority or infrastructure is in place to move water and people still hungry to farm on the Fort Lyon, the water stays.

It’s a matter of time, as the owner still has plans to eventually move the water. “We don’t have any expectations about when the water will be moved,” said Mark Harding, president of Pure Cycle Corp., the Thornton-based company that bought High Plains A&M’s assets on the Fort Lyon in 2006. High Plains purchased about 23 percent of the shares on the Fort Lyon Canal and in many cases the farms associated with them in 2001 for about $1,750 an acre — roughly $40 million. The company won a battle to take the water out of the canal, in rotation in 2003, but lost a Water Court case to change the water rights in 2004 and a state Supreme Court appeal in 2005. Pure Cycle stepped into the picture the next year, buying High Plains out in a $100 million deal. Initially, the company announced plans to build a $400 million pipeline to move the water to the Denver area to serve thousands of future homes. That plan is still in the picture, but Harding is not in any hurry to move the water…

The company’s official line remains moving the water to valuable real estate it owns or holds service rights in the Denver area. “This is a long-term investment for us,” Harding said. ”We will look at the opportunities over a long period of time.” For at least a few more years, at least, it appears the water will be staying with the land…

Pure Cycle leases the water back to farmers for about $70 an acre, with varying terms based on water availability. The 63 tenant farmers, in turn, have sales of about $3.5 million on 14,500 irrigated acres, irrigated by 21,600 shares of the Fort Lyon. Tenants also receive any payments from government farm programs. Another 1,275 acres are leased as grass pasture…

About Pure Cycle

Pure Cycle is a Thornton-based water and wastewater service provider listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange.

– Last year, Pure Cycle purchased the 940-acre Sky Ranch property east of Denver in the Interstate 70 corridor. The largely undeveloped area is zoned for 4,400 homes and 1.35 million square feet of commercial and retail property. Previously, the company had a service agreement for the property. It also leased oil exploration rights to Anadarko on the property.

– The company has a long-term contract to provide water to portions of the Lowry Range, east of Aurora, that may be developed in the future. As a member of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, Pure Cycle is working with Denver Water and Aurora in the WISE partnership that looks at ways to share urban water infrastructure.

– Pure Cycle holds the largest block of agricultural water rights in the Arkansas River basin, with 21,600 shares of the Fort Lyon Canal, almost one-quarter of the ditch. Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association owns half of the Amity Canal, which historically irrigated much less ground than the Fort Lyon.

– Besides its Arkansas Valley Water Rights, Pure Cycle has ground water, surface and storage rights in the South Platte River and Colorado River basins.

More Pure Cycle coverage here and here. More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

The Arkansas River Roundtable approves a study of water law and new water sharing strategies

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The study would help projects like the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch, or any effort that would allow farmers to retain water rights yet lease water, to determine what limitations could work against the concept, and what laws might help implementation. The study would then be discussed in a facilitated dialogue to air concerns in public…

The $20,000 study would be administered by the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority, which [Gary Barber, chairman of the roundtable] manages, and would be jointly funded by four separate roundtables, in hopes of avoiding the pitfalls of a failed bill that raised numerous objections. The study of laws would be done by Sand Dollar Research, a firm headed by policy analyst Dick Brown. Heather Bergman, of Peak Facilitation and the facilitator for the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force, would referee community discussion about the findings…

Reeves Brown, a Beulah rancher who sits on the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board that has supported Super Ditch, said the valley needs to find ways to make better use of water. “There’s extra water that could be put to use every year,” Brown said.

Some were nervous about the implications of changing water law. “You really risk a lot. What’s to prevent expansion of use?” asked Terry Scanga, manager of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District. “It’s important to find out where we are now.”

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Western Governors’ Water Policy Arm to Consider Water Sharing Recommendations This Week in Santa Fe

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Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Emily Wilmsen):

The Western States Water Council – the water policy arm of the 18 Western Governors – this week will consider recommendations from diverse Western water leaders representing agricultural, environmental, and urban interests.

The report – “Agricultural/Urban/Environmental Water Sharing: Innovative Strategies for the Colorado River Basin and the West” – is the result of convening representatives from The Nature Conservancy, Family Farm Alliance, Western Urban Water Coalition and two dozen others who set aside long-held positions and built new alliances for creative water sharing strategies for mutual benefit. The full report is available at http://www.cwi.colostate.edu/watersharing.

Colorado State University’s Colorado Water Institute facilitated the meetings and produced the report as a response to a 2008 challenge by the Western governors: “States, working with interested stakeholders, should identify innovative ways to allow water transfers from agricultural to urban uses while avoiding or mitigating damages to agricultural economies and environmental values.” The project was funded by the Walton Family Foundation.

Some strategies detailed in the report include:

• Farmers and cities in Arizona trading use of surface water and groundwater to the advantage of both;

• Ranchers in Oregon paid by environmentalists to forego a third cutting of hay to leave water in the stream for late summer fish flows;

• A ditch company in New Mexico willing to sell shares of water to New Mexico Audubon for bird habitat on the same terms offered to a new farmer to grow cantaloupe;

• A California flood control and water supply project creatively managed to meet multiple goals of restoring groundwater, maintaining instream flows for wild salmon and steelhead, and providing water for cities and farms;

• Seven ditch companies cooperating in Colorado in a “Super Ditch” scheme to pool part of their water through rotational fallowing, for lease to cities, while maintaining agricultural ownership of the water rights.

“While these strategies sound like good common sense, they all face sizable obstacles,” said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute. “If we want to share water for the benefit of all, we need a lot more flexibility, all members of the group agreed.”

The group’s recommendations to the Western Governors were developed to provide that flexibility, Waskom said.

Highlights of the recommendations:

• Design robust processes that give environmental, urban and environmental stakeholders opportunities to plan together early on, instead of one-sided “decide, announce, defend” processes that frequently result in opposition and polarization.

• Foster a flexible, watershed based approach that can lead to cross-jurisdictional sharing of infrastructure, cooperatively timed water deliveries, and strategies to facilitate real-time, on-the-ground, state-of-the-art water management for optimal benefit of cities, farms, and the environment.

• Break down legal, institutional, and other obstacles to water-sharing strategies by developing criteria and thresholds that protect agriculture, the environment and any third parties to water sharing transactions. And experiment with creative approaches such as “water resource sharing zones” that could be set up for trading of water, financial resources, and even locally grown food while encouraging interaction between agricultural, environmental, and urban neighbors.

• Expedite the permitting process when programs or projects have broad support of agricultural, urban, and environmental sectors.

• A governor-championed federal/state pilot review process should be established where a state liaison and a federal designate are appointed to co-facilitate concurrent agency review and permitting without repetitive, costly information exchanges. Permitting is important to protect environmental, economic, and social values, the group agreed, but cumbersome permitting processes often lasting years need an overhaul.

In coming months, group members will meet with environmental, agricultural, and urban groups throughout the Colorado River Basin and the West to encourage further dialogue.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Included in the report are the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch and guidelines for water transfers developed by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, as well as a description of $3 million in state projects looking at how water resources can be shared. Colorado State University’s Colorado Water Institute developed the report, along with The Nature Conservancy, Family Farm Alliance, Western Urban Water Coalition and about two dozen others who participated in brainstorming sessions to find ways to share water in order to satisfy agricultural, environmental and urban interests. It grew out of a 2008 challenge by governors to identify innovative water transfers, and was funded by the Walton Family Foundation. The report looked at water-sharing programs in California, Arizona, Oregon, Wyoming and New Mexico as well as Colorado. Everything from water banks to lease programs like Super Ditch were considered.

Recommendations included basinwide planning and development of projects, breaking down barriers to water transfers and finding creative, flexible approaches that are acceptable to urban, rural and environmental concerns.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project: Lake Pueblo master storage contract update

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Here’s an in-depth look at what it’s going to take to get a contract in place, including an environmental impact statement, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

The EIS will study the cumulative impacts of storing non-project water in Fry-Ark reservoirs, which could total close to 100,000 acre-feet in the next 50 years. A 2006 Reclamation study determined there is about 130,000 acre-feet of storage space available annually. Current contracts account for about 50,000 acre-feet of storage annually, and Southern Delivery System contracts now under final review would amount to 40,000 acre-feet. Security, Fountain and Pueblo West are in both the SDS and Arkansas Valley Conduit contract processes. Many other current users who rely on one-year contracts are in the Southeastern’s master contract proposal.

Thursday’s meeting was primarily about the cost of the EIS to each participant, and there was some wrangling about how some participants had reduced the amount requested, thus increasing bills for smaller districts…

Joe Kelley, La Junta water superintendent, asked if communities could expect to see as much or more of the water they signed up for in determining their share of the EIS cost. [Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District general manager Jim Broderick] and [Southeastern attorney Lee Miller] said the numbers used for the EIS are most likely a minimum that communities can expect to receive if they participate in the later phases of building and operating the conduit. Some communities may drop out, and the final decision will be made by future Southeastern boards. “We have spent four to five years in this process to determine use,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern board. “It’s not likely that the board would make changes.”

More Lake Pueblo coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Under operating guidelines, an estimated 12,800 acre-feet of water would have to be released from the dam beginning April 15 to maintain flood storage capacity in the reservoir. But the Corps has agreed to allow 25,000 acre-feet of the flood control pool to be used to store water until May 1, and 12,500 acre-feet until May 15, said Roy Vaughan, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation manager of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. “Unless something unusual happens, we shouldn’t have to release anyone’s water,” Vaughan told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday.

Here’s a look at the Arkansas Valley’s winter water program from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The winter water program was first envisioned in the 1930s, and began after completion of Pueblo Dam in 1975. It was formalized in a Water Court decree in 1987. It allows irrigators to store water from Nov. 15 to March 15. “One of the multiple purposes of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project was to store . . . irrigation water for summer use,” attorney Alix Joseph told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday. The southeastern district oversees the operation of the program, which benefits most of the major ditches between Pueblo and John Martin Reservoir, as well as the Amity Canal. The glaring exception is the Rocky Ford Ditch, which is now almost largely owned and controlled by Aurora. Rocky Ford always had the opportunity to join the winter water program, but Aurora’s decrees have changed how it uses the water.

The use of winter water, or Fry-Ark water, is frequently referenced in Water Court applications, which is always a red flag for southeastern district lawyers. When water changes from agricultural to urban uses, the accounting becomes complicated. “Any decree that uses winter water for purposes other than agriculture cannot store in Pueblo Reservoir,” Joseph said. That provision relates to the repayment of the Fry-Ark Project.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.

Monument: Board of trustees meeting recap

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From the Tri-Lakes Tribune (Lisa Collacott):

The town of Monument unanimously approved four resolutions pertaining to water at its most recent board of trustees meeting.

To establish a contract with El Paso County Water Authority and make the name change to Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority.

To participate in the Colorado-Wyoming Project Participation agreement.

To sign on the Super Ditch Project Participation agreement.

To sign on the Southern Delivery System Project Participation agreement.

Monument has been paying dues to the EPCWA and PPRWA. Recently the two water authorities merged and stayed with the name of PPRWA. The dues to the water authority for 2011 will cost the town $2,950. “It’s a good thing for the town. We were paying dues to two authorities and there really was no need for two authorities,” said Rich Landreth, public works director…

The Board of Trustees also approved the resolution for the Super Ditch Participation Agreement. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District is considering a plan to lease water used for agricultural purposes to cities. The town of Monument has been part of the project for several years.

The final resolution approved was the Southern Delivery System Project Participation Agreement. The project would allow members to negotiate, as a group or individually, the delivery of water through the SDS with Colorado Springs Utilities.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1068 withdrawn

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According to Joe Stone writing in The Mountain Mail the bill has been withdrawn. Here is Mr. Stone’s recap of a recent Upper Arkansas Water Conservation District meeting. From the article:

District engineer Ivan Walter reported the Temporary Water Transfer legislation, House Bill 1068, was recently withdrawn from consideration after numerous objections.

One reason for objections, Walter said, is that most entities in the state water community consider the [Hydrolocical Institutional Model] inappropriate for determining consumptive use under widely varying conditions. It was developed by Kansas to quantify water depleted from the Arkansas River by wells in Colorado. Terry Scanga, UAWCD general manager, said the model contains presumptive numbers that could cause injury to water right holders. Because lower valley right holders rely on return flow from upstream use, inaccurate numbers could affect amount and timing of return flow, Scanga said. With a change of water right under a temporary transfer, faulty numbers could cause more water to be transferred than was historically used. Scanga explained that could lead to premature calls by holders of senior rights in the lower valley. Premature calls, he said, would cause injury by reducing the amount of water available for junior right holders in the upper valley.

He said a more robust model would have statewide benefits and other entities have expressed interest in supporting the project, including Pueblo Board of Water Works, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “If we don’t do this,” Scanga said, “it will cost us several hundred thousand dollars in opposition costs.”[…]

Hydrologist Jord Gertson reported ice caused gauges to stop functioning properly at Cottonwood Lake and Poncha and Texas creeks. He said the fill rate at Boss Lake dropped from 20 acre feet per month in December to 15 acre feet in January. He said O’Haver Reservoir lost about 4 acre feet of water in January. Gertson said backup equipment was purchased for weather stations and stream gauges and will enable the district to replace any component that might go down, thereby minimizing data loss. Gertson updated directors about offering provisional stream, reservoir and weather data via the district website at http://uawcd.com/water_resources.php.

In other business, directors:

• Learned the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation approved $285,000 for high-elevation data collection platforms and wants to highlight success of platforms already installed within the district.

• Approved financial reports indicating a district general fund balance of $11,985.12 and an Enterprise Committee general fund balance of $59,764.09.

• Heard an augmentation report indicating the state approved applications for 251.81 acre feet of augmentation water.

• Learned about House Bill 11-1066, which would grant some priority to seep ditch rights in continuous use at least 25 years.

• Learned of efforts by Colorado Historical Society to list irrigation ditches on the historic register which would complicate maintenance and operation of irrigation equipment on those ditches.

• Approved $1,000 annual district membership in Family Farm Alliance because the organization provides contacts and information about federal legislation.

• Agreed to oppose a Catlin Canal Co. application for change of use for as much as 40 percent of the company ditch shares.

• Learned about progress on the Arkansas Basin Decision Support System, including need to study evaporation from undecreed reservoirs estimated as much as 30,000 acre feet per year.

• Voted to enter Water Court case No. 10CW98 involving exchanges on Beaver Creek by the City of Victor, Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining Co.

• Learned the district reached an agreement in principle with owners of Willow Creek Ranch near Leadville including protections for district water.

• Received feedback from directors about the recent Colorado Water Congress annual convention.

• Heard a legal report from attorney Julianne Woldridge regarding district applications and court decrees.

Here’s an essay from Dave Miller about the legislation. Mr. Miller writes, “Colorado’s HB1068 is the product of Balkanized single-basin water planning.” More from the article:

U.S. Department of Interior reports indicate Colorado has beneficially used only about 2.2 million acre-feet of its annual 3.87 million acre-feet of Colorado River Compact entitlements since the 1970s. This means Colorado still has major interstate rights that should be developed as soon as possible for urban growth. As a primary headwater state and water source for 11 down-river states, Colorado has several innovative high-altitude renewable water and energy storage sites and solutions for state and regional needs. This breakthrough high storage concept is described in Central Colorado Project’s (CCP) White Paper, dated April 4, 2007, and its applicable U.S. Patent No. US 7,866,919 B2, dated Jan. 11, 2011.

To date, Colorado’s statewide water planning entities — Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority and the Interbasin Compact Committee — have not shown interest in Colorado’s integrated high-altitude storage options for statewide and regional water and energy needs. This skepticism would, in all likelihood, change to enthusiasm if preliminary modeling were used to confirm the extraordinary economic and environmental advantages of high-altitude reservoirs for Colorado and the southwestern region.

More coverage from Patrick Malone writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

State Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, withdrew HB1068 to give a task force time to develop a better approach to long-term leasing and fallowing of land. Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, was the bill’s Senate sponsor. The bill would have established a pilot program that allowed agricultural water-rights holders downstream from Pueblo Dam in the Lower Arkansas basin to lease up to one-third of their holdings to municipalities for up to two 40-year terms, meanwhile, fallowing the land it would have watered. It also would have granted authority to the state engineer to approve water transfers presently under the purview of state Water Courts. Fischer said the bill’s intent was to establish a long-term leasing mechanism so agricultural holders of water rights could continue to reap financial benefits for their rights without forfeiting them. “I was trying to solve a very complex issue about how we in the future as a state are planning to be able to meet our water needs as the population of our urban areas increases without having the default be permanent ag dryup, or buy-and-dry, as they call it,” Fischer said.

Fischer said he proposed to give the state engineer authority over water transfers to make the process more accessible. He said going through the existing channels in Water Court to establish leasing arrangements is cost-prohibitive to most holders of water rights. Last week, John Stulp, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s appointee to head the Interbasin Compact Committee, visited the Arkansas Basin Roundtable and the formation of a task force to review leasing of water rights developed. So instead of moving forward with his proposal, Fischer said allowing the task force to fully study how best to approach leases would be prudent…

[Arkansas Basin Roundtable member Bud O’Hara] said the proposed pilot project that could have stretched into 80 years of leasing represented too long a time frame. He said granting authority over water transfers to the state engineer might not be seamless, considering turnover in that post that typically follows election of a new governor. “There is an existing process for getting concerns reviewed through Water Court, and an opportunity to comment,” O’Hara said. “We just want them to use that process rather than circumvent it by going directly to the state engineer.”

More Dave Miller coverage here and here. More Upper Ark coverage here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch: The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board agrees to form a committee to look at how winter water fits in the project

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District agreed to coordinate formation of the committee at its meeting Thursday, as part of a $225,000 grant request for the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District on behalf of the Super Ditch. The grant was approved last week by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, which forwarded it to the Colorado Water Conservation Board. It will be accompanied by a letter of dissent from roundtable member Dan Henrichs, superintendent of the High Line Canal.

Henrichs and some others on the roundtable objected to the grant because the Super Ditch exchange application is in Water Court and the information could be used in the case. Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district, said the information would be available for anyone to use, and most roundtable members agreed that it is better to know how agricultural water can be quantified for exchange, storage and transfer.

Winter water is just one piece of the grant. The program was established by a court decree to allow irrigators to store water from Nov. 15 to March 15 each year. Water can be used later in the growing season, when flows are typically diminished…

[Southeastern Executive Director Jim Broderick] said the Division of Water Resources, Southeastern, the Bureau of Reclamation and winter water participants need to meet to see how using winter water in programs like Super Ditch that sell water through lease agreements. Henrichs was on hand to make sure winter water interests are included. “We have to work out winter water before it’s put out before the whole world and becomes a battle,” Broderick said. “We want the process to be inclusive.”

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Water rights holders representing 67 percent of the land and 70-75 percent of the water under seven ditches proposed for inclusion in Super Ditch returned cards indicating they might be interested in selling water through a lease program, said Peter Nichols, water attorney for the district. If those who sign up accept contracts — they’re under no obligation to do so — there would be more than ample water to fill the current demand, Nichols said.

The Super Ditch has letters of agreement to supply water up to 8,000 acre-feet annually to El Paso County water users for 40 years and up to 140,000 acre-feet over the next 37 years to Aurora…

The Lower Ark district mailed cards to all shareholders on the Bessemer, Catlin, Fort Lyon, Holbrook, High Line, Otero and Oxford ditches last fall in order to identify the potential source of water under its application in Water Court. The deadline for returning the cards is Feb. 15. While some in the Super Ditch asked the Lower Ark district to directly contact water rights owners who have not signed on, the district has resisted. “If people don’t participate, we’re not going to twist their arms,” said Jay Winner, general manager. “It’s an individual choice.”[…]

Meanwhile, the district is moving ahead on several fronts to support the Super Ditch. It is requesting a $225,000 grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board for engineering that would determine how to move water to Lake Pueblo, and a separate $28,000 grant to develop an online tool that would help farmers decide whether a lease program makes sense.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Called the Super Ditch, it’s not really a ditch at all. Instead, the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch is a corporation formed in 2008 that hopes to gain the support of ditch companies in the Arkansas Valley to stop the pattern of buy-and-dry that has ravaged agriculture in the valley for 60 years. The basic philosophy of the Super Ditch is to pool water rights from seven ditches to create one-stop shopping for municipalities or others hunting for water. Backers say this will lessen the chances that water rights are purchased, and the water permanently taken from the land.

A study by The Pueblo Chieftain earlier this year found that at least 145,000 acres — a third of the valley’s farmland — could be dried up if cities were using all of the agricultural rights they already have purchased.

“It may be 30 years, 100 years or 150 years, but there will be a time. . . . As short as we are on water, there will be a day when it will not be economical to run water from the Continental Divide through dirt rivers and dirt ditches to my headgate,” said Lamar farmer Dale Mauch. “You can wish and think you can make ’em go away. They’re going to keep coming because they need this water.”[…]

“If anyone in this country thinks the cities are not going to try and buy the whole thing, they haven’t been paying attention,” [John Schweizer, president of the Super Ditch] said. “This way the farmer gets to keep the water to sell as another crop.”[…]

Ray Smith, president of the Oxford Canal, was asked to resign from the Super Ditch board after he opposed the company’s application for a right to exchange water in Division 2 Water Court. Smith still contends that taking any of the water out of the river would reduce the water needed to carry water to his fields. “Once this water is removed from the river, there will be a direct effect on the amount of water and water quality to the major ditches in the Arkansas Valley,” Smith said. He also said the amount farmers are being offered in initial leases of the Super Ditch are insultingly low and the 40-year terms tie up the water too long.

Smith brought his concerns to the October meeting of the Super Ditch board, but other members argued no farmers are required to participate in any lease, and that it will be valuable in the long run to have a mechanism in place that avoids the historic buy-and-dry deals…

By the year’s end, ditch companies and their shareholders were debating the pros and cons of the Super Ditch. Interest is especially high — 80 percent or more — on the Fort Lyon Canal, which already has seen many of its shares sold to outside water interests. The Catlin Canal changed its bylaws to allow for leasing outside the ditch. The Fort Lyon, Bessemer, High Line and Holbrook canals already allow for lease programs, while the Otero will consider the proposal in January. Of the seven ditches envisioned to participate, only the Oxford has rejected the idea, although some individual shareholders of the Oxford have expressed an interest.

Be sure to click through and read Mr. Woodka’s short bio of John Schweizer.

More Super Ditch coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We’ve still got a long ways to go, because there’s a lot of legal stuff,” said Super Ditch President John Schweizer. “There is a lot of paperwork and permits involved, but it all looks very promising.”[…]

Super Ditch delayed its signup date to Feb. 15 at the request of the High Line board in order to give shareholders on all seven ditches time to consider the pros and cons of signing on.

High Line shareholders also approved a feasibility study that would allow the ditch company to buy shares that are for sale. “It might be a way to help young farmers get a start,” [Superintendent Dan Henrichs] said.

More than 80 percent of those on the Fort Lyon Canal have returned cards saying they are interested in participating in Super Ditch contracts. Dale Mauch, a former Fort Lyon president who represents the canal on Super Ditch, said there are many frustrations that have been expressed by farmers, and more are interested in participating in a water leasing program. “The groundswell of Super Ditch is gaining momentum,” Mauch said. “It’s a way to deal with all these issues we’re facing.”[…]

The Lower Ark district is paying for the legal and engineering fees to jump-start Super Ditch, and is sponsoring the compliance plan for the irrigation rules to reduce the costs to farmers. On behalf of the Super Ditch, the Lower Ark sent out packets asking 2,000 shareholders on the seven ditch systems if they are interested in the program and has received more than 600 positive replies with some replies from each ditch.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

Long range Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District plan update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“This is going to be a marathon in the future,” Manager Jessie Shaffer said Tuesday. “Our goal is to get a renewable water supply for all of our customers.”

Woodmoor is committed to spending as much as $138 million over 12 years. The district began preparing for its drier future five years ago, and has no intention of pulling out.

Woodmoor has met opposition to its plan from more than 20 objectors in Water Court, including outspoken criticism from the Pueblo Board of Water Works that its plan is speculative and potentially harmful to other water rights. “Our attorney has been talking with their attorneys,” Shaffer said…

Shaffer brushed aside questions about whether water used in Woodmoor would cross the Palmer Divide into the South Platte River basin. He has said in the past that return flows from the Woodmoor system ultimately flow down Monument Creek, which joins with Fountain Creek at Colorado Springs…

The plan calls for exchanges to a reservoir south of Fountain, where it could be piped about 35 miles north through a 16-inch pipeline for use in Woodmoor with an elevation gain of roughly 1,500 feet, according to an engineering report produced as part of the court case. Woodmoor plans to develop its own reservoir at Stonewall Springs, near the Pueblo Chemical Depot, as part of the exchange system…

Shaffer could not say when the project would become critical for Woodmoor’s future water needs, citing the general plan that is posted on the district’s website when asked about the need for new supply. “The Denver Basin aquifers are in decline, and it’s a finite resource. At some point they become less reliable,” he said. “The board has decided to move forward on a renewable supply.”

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch: Bob Rawlings and The Pueblo Chieftain editorial board jump on the Super Ditch bandwagon

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Bob Rawlings):

Those of us who share that passion [to protect and preserve the water of the Arkansas basin] have been greatly disheartened by the destructive assault on our water from urban developments to the north. We must do everything within our collective power to stop the loss of our precious water, which is the very lifeblood of the Valley.

Until recently, we expressed only guarded support for the idea of a Super Ditch. The concept is for a group of farmers on irrigating ditches to lease water (the temporary sale of the water, but not the water rights) while rotating the land upon which they continue to irrigate their crops.

The Chieftain editorial board, which I chair, now has come to the conclusion that the Super Ditch is the most practical means available for protecting the Lower Arkansas Valley’s water. It’s not because lease-fallowing doesn’t come without risk. It does. But we believe that on balance the Super Ditch is far superior to losing the water forever through the permanent sale of the water rights.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch board meeting recap

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Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through and check out the sidebar about the consumptive use factor calculation for the various ditches. From the article:

“I think Super Ditch is a good idea. . . . Participate or don’t participate, but don’t be jealous of what your neighbor has,” one speaker said. “It’s always going to be better to lease the water than sell it and retire to Arizona.”

The Super Ditch board held the meeting at the Gobin Community Center in an attempt to inform shareholders of seven ditches about two pending lease agreements with the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority and Aurora and measure interest in participation…

Bart Mendenhall, attorney for the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, explained that only the amount of consumptive use of a crop could be leased, and that the amount likely would be the same coefficient as was applied in the H-I (hydrologic-institutional) model under the Kansas v. Colorado case.

That amount is anything but certain. Consumptive use is technically the number of inches of water a plant uses to grow, but defining it is like shooting at a moving target. The state now is locked into the H-I model, but has spent millions of dollars on studies such as a weighing lysimeter at the Rocky Ford Agriculture Research Center to refine it. In addition, the availability of water, the amount of rain, the type of crop and the method of irrigation all play a role.

Then, there are percentages of consumptive use determined as part of the 24-year Kansas v. Colorado U.S. Supreme Court lawsuit that the State Engineer’s Office likely will require in any change case or administrative contract, Mendenhall said.

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Super Ditch board mailed out information packets to shareholders on seven ditches on proposed leases to sell up to 8,020 acre-feet of water annually to Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority and 10,000 acre-feet in three years out of 10 to Aurora.

“Never in the life of the valley have seven ditches come forward with this type of effort,” Super Ditch President John Schweizer told 120 people at the Rocky Ford meeting. “The idea is to lease water as a crop.” The Super Ditch initially will limit farmers to 35 percent of eligible acreage in any given year, which caused some to question whether payments would be small if spread out over the 200,000 acres irrigated under the ditch systems — Bessemer, Catlin, Fort Lyon, High Line, Holbrook, Otero and Oxford. Dry up of ground also must be rotational. Schweizer said the idea is to proportion the acreage to avoid detrimental impacts to those who keep farming.

The ditches annual have diversions of about 600,000 acre-feet, and many of the ditches could meet the demand of the two leases now on the table. Pure Cycle, which owns more than 20,000 acres on the Fort Lyon Canal, could alone fill both orders and has submitted a card indicating interest in the leases.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch: Lots of questions and a good deal of interest at recent public meetings

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

More than 400 water rights owners have returned cards the Super Ditch board sent out earlier this month to shareholders on seven ditches in an attempt to measure interest in the fledgling water leasing program. And more than 120 attended a meeting Thursday at the Gobin Community Center. About 30 people turned out for an evening meeting at Lamar.

They peppered the Super Ditch board with questions for two hours about how the program would work: how much water would be available, where it would be stored and when water contracts would be expected. Many wanted to know why they had to sign up by the end of November, before many of the ditches had annual meetings to discuss the proposal among themselves. “The reason we need a commitment now is that we have to identify a source of water for the court case, an environmental impact statement and 1041 permits,” explained John Schweizer, president of the Super Ditch. “By returning the cards, you keep your options open.”

The Super Ditch board decided to send out the cards and host the meetings after a meeting last month. The board has lease agreements with the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority and Aurora and now needs to show it has ditch shareholders interested in filling the supply. “Otherwise, you are speculating,” Schweizer said…

“The best thing about leasing is that you can control your vote,” [Dale] Mauch said. “The cities are going to keep coming. We came up with a way to to deal with it so we can take advantage of it in the future. If Super Ditch can supply the water, 50 years from now, it’s the Walmart of water.”

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Two meetings today will help test support for the Super Ditch. The Super Ditch board this month sent signup cards and information packets to shareholders on seven ditches in advance of the meetings, which are at 1 p.m. at the Gobin Community Building in Rocky Ford and at 6 p.m. at the Bowman Building at Lamar. The process will gauge interest among water rights owners for contracts with the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority and Aurora. While agreements have been signed, the specific water rights to be used in meeting supply have to be identified to satisfy legal and engineering requirements. The Bessemer, Catlin, Fort Lyon, High Line, Holbrook, Otero and Oxford ditch systems are eligible for participation…

The Lower Ark is seeking two grants from the Colorado Water Conservation Board for Super Ditch projects:

– $254,000 for engineering of delivery systems, including storage; the Lower Ark would match with $28,000.

– $28,000 to study long-term farm financial planning from temporary water transfers, with $3,000 from the Lower Ark.

The CWCB funds would come from $1.5 million which is available for studies of alternative projects to municipal purchases of water rights in agriculture.

[Colorado State University] is doing studies on farms owned by the Lower Ark district on the High Line and Holbrook canals to determine how much expense per acre farmers could expect during a lease. That would include the value of crops not grown and ground preparation. Part of the study mirrors corn test plot research at the CSU Arkansas Valley Research Center, but there is an additional economic component as well. Cabot is developing a spreadsheet tool that farmers could use to calculate whether a lease makes sense for them. The research also is looking at whether alternative crops that require less water, such as canola or sorghum, could be grown on irrigated ground as dryland crops during fallowing periods.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

A group plan for irrigators that would allow them to comply with new state rules on surface irrigation in the Arkansas Valley was approved Wednesday. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District approved its plan 6-1 and will begin signing up farmers immediately in advance of Jan. 1, when the new rules take effect. Otero County Director Wayne Whittaker opposed the plan, saying it costs farmers too much and puts the Lower Ark district in a role that should belong to the state. “When we first discussed this, it was going to cost farmers $100 and we would just do the paperwork to submit to the division engineer,” Whittaker said.

More Lower Ark coverage here and here.

Senator Udall intends to sponsor legislation next year authorizing Aurora to use Fryingpan-Arkansas facilities to move water out of the Arkansas Basin

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The information was included in a report by attorneys for Aurora and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District filed late Friday in the Denver U.S. District Court. The report says Udall has agreed to circulate draft legislation along the lines of past attempts to change federal law to allow Aurora to use Fry-Ark storage and exchange contracts to move water from farms dried up in Lake, Crowley and Otero counties into its South Platte collection system. “Senator Udall indicated that he intends to circulate draft legislation in the next Congress so that the congressional delegation can reach consensus on language that will implement the settlement agreement,” wrote attorneys Stuart Somach, for Aurora, and Peter Nichols, for the Lower Ark, in the joint filing.

The legislation is expected to be much the same as language included in earlier versions of the Preferred Storage Options Plan, a provision of a 2003 agreement with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, and in the 2004 intergovernmental agreement among Pueblo, the Pueblo water board, Colorado Springs, Fountain, the Southeastern district and Aurora…

The report indicates that if Congress has not enacted legislation by May 13, 2011 — the two-year anniversary of the settlement agreement [In 2009, the Lower Ark and Aurora reached a settlement that included additional concessions by Aurora and placed a stay on the case for two years. Among the provisions was new federal legislation that cleared Aurora to use the Fry-Ark project.] — Aurora and the Lower Ark will provide an amended settlement agreement recommending administrative closure of the case that preserves the right to reopen the case. Periodic status reports also would be included.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.

The Arkansas Valley Super Ditch Company will hold two shareholder meetings November 18 to gauge interest in the proposed leasing program

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The meetings both will be on Nov. 18: 1 p.m. at the Gobin Community Building in Rocky Ford; and 6 p.m. at the Lamar Community College Bowman Building. Shareholders on the Bessemer, Catlin, Fort Lyon, High Line, Holbrook, Otero and Oxford canals were sent letters last week with information about two lease agreements that would sell water to Aurora and the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority over the next 40 years…

The Super Ditch board has approved agreements that would allow:

– Leases of up to 8,020 acre-feet per year to the Pikes Peak group in El Paso County for the next 40 years. The amount of water could increase to 20,000-25,000 acre-feet per year over time.

– Leases of up to 10,000 acre-feet per year to Aurora in three years out of 10, subject to restrictions specified under intergovernmental agreements until 2048.

Only the consumptive use of water could be leased and farm ground would have to be dried up during the lease period. Leases would be for $500 per acre-foot and the Super Ditch would be responsible only for moving the water to Lake Pueblo. The rate would escalate according to the Colorado Municipal League Utilities Index, and the leases could be extended by mutual agreement.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch Company coverage here and here.

Schweizer said the Super Ditch board has talked about limiting the participation to 30-35 percent of acreage.

Arkansas Valley: Pure Cycle is looking for ways to make some dough on its investment in valley irrigation water

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We haven’t changed our plans at all,” said Mark Harding, president of Pure Cycle. “We’re still very interested in participating in this municipal-agricultural partnership.”[…]

Shortly after the purchase, Harding explained that Pure Cycle was looking for opportunities to use the water within the Arkansas River basin, as well as its stated intention of building a pipeline to take the water from the valley. Harding was among those who incorporated the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch in 2008, improving the chances that those Fort Lyon shares could be used within the valley.

Pure Cycle inherited conditions that were put on its Fort Lyon farms when High Plains A&M attempted to change the use of the water. In 2003, the Fort Lyon board approved moving the water outside the ditch, provided it was taken in rotation. In 2004, District 2 Water Judge Dennis Maes denied High Plains’ application to change the use of water because it was speculative. The Colorado Supreme Court upheld that ruling following a challenge by High Plains. Pure Cycle announced plans to build a pipeline from the La Junta area when it bought the water in 2006, although it soon became apparent those plans were years away. Pure Cycle now serves only about 300 homes, although it is in line to provide water for 24,000 acres of future development on the former Lowry Range east of Aurora, as well as a 5,000-unit development on Sky Ranch. For now, Pure Cycle continues to farm the land it owns on the Fort Lyon…

Harding also is noncommittal on what impact participating in the Super Ditch would have in stopping or delaying a pipeline from the Lower Arkansas Valley. “There are limitations on exchange potential, so I’m not sure what infrastructure would be necessary,” Harding said. The Super Ditch has filed for an exchange decree that would move water up the river and into Lake Pueblo, which still has to be approved in Water Court. Approval of ditch companies, county commissioners and other agencies also is needed before contracts can be drafted.

Meanwhile, Aurora’s hands are tied by intergovernmental agreements with respect to buying and drying more agricultural land. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“We can become a farmer,” Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer said this week. “We can’t move the water [newly acquired water rights], however, so it’s unlikely we’d buy a large amount.” At a meeting with the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch board Tuesday, Tauer talked about putting water supplies from existing or new farms purchased by Aurora into the pool of water rights that could be used for the Super Ditch. That possibility is also accounted for in a 2009 agreement with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District that allows Aurora to participate either as a buyer or seller of water through the Super Ditch.

A 2003 agreement with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District — fortified by the 2004 six-party intergovernmental agreement — doesn’t limit Aurora from acquiring new water rights in the Arkansas Valley, but does prevent it from using existing infrastructure or changing the use of any new water rights, said Mark Pifher, director of Aurora Water.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We appreciate the willingness of Aurora and the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority to take the long view for the benefit of their communities and ours,” Super Ditch President John Schweizer said. “We knew that if we could find a way to meet the city’s needs that also allowed farmers to keep on farming, we would have a good answer for both sides.”

The Pikes Peak group includes Fountain, Cherokee, Donala, Monument, Palmer Lake, Triview and Woodmen Hills water districts in El Paso County. The price of water in the two contracts is identical — $500 per acre-foot escalating according to a utilities price index over 40 years — but the conditions under which water would be purchased vary significantly.

The Pikes Peak group agreed to purchase up to 8,020 acre-feet annually — enough for about 20,000 homes in El Paso County — beginning at 2,000 acre-feet next year. The water would replace overworked groundwater supplies for most of the communities, and would be required annually. Right now, the only way to move the water is by exchange, but the Pikes Peak group is working toward using the Southern Delivery System that Colorado Springs is planning to construct. An environmental impact statement from the Bureau of Reclamation would be required to move water through the pipeline from Pueblo Dam…

Aurora already has the storage and exchange potential to move water, through the Homestake Project with Colorado Springs. Water stored at Twin Lakes is moved through the Otero Pumping Station, and Aurora’s share is delivered to Spinney Mountain Reservoir along the South Platte River…

The biggest hurdle could be the approval of ditch companies. Meetings are planned in early November to inform shareholders of all seven ditches of the details of the agreements. The Super Ditch is a private corporation of individual shareholders from the Bessemer, Catlin, Fort Lyon, High Line, Holbrook, Otero and Oxford ditches. Each ditch would have to look at changing bylaws to allow participation in the leases.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

Aurora inks deal with the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch Company

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The board sees the move as a way to preserve water rights ownership in the Lower Arkansas River basin while providing Aurora with the certainty it needs in water resource planning. “The reason we started working on the Super Ditch was because of the reality that the cities have water needs, part of which was going to come from agricultural water,” said John Schweizer, Super Ditch president. “These leases will allow us to spread the effects of moving water over a number of ditches and avoid the bad effects of buy and dry. These leases will provide farmers with another crop with a guaranteed price and help them manage their risk and their business.”

Under agreements reached with other water users in the Arkansas Valley, Aurora can lease water only three years of every 10. The leases are confined to years when Aurora’s water supply is at less than 60 percent capacity, as a way to make up for lost yield from the Arkansas Valley water rights it owns in Crowley, Lake and Otero counties…

Major provisions of the agreement between the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch and Aurora:

– Aurora could buy up to 10,000 acre-feet of water per year until 2048 for any three years in a 10-year period up to a maximum of 145,200 acre-feet, provided that Aurora may lease more frequently in the final 15 years. The terms are the same as in Aurora’s 2003 agreement with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which was reaffirmed in a six-party intergovernmental agreement in 2004.

– Aurora would pay $500 per acre-foot annually, which would be adjusted according the Colorado Municipal League index of Colorado utility costs.

– The Super Ditch, in cooperation with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, will provide legal counsel, engineering and other services to change water rights on the participating ditches. Aurora may participate as a co-applicant.

– Aurora is responsible for storage and exchange above Lake Pueblo. Aurora has obtained a contract from the Bureau of Reclamation for storage in Lake Pueblo and exchange to Twin Lakes for 10,000 acre-feet of water annually until 2048.

– Aurora agreed to support in concept legislation that would allow administrative approval of long-term temporary water transfers by the State Engineer.

– Aurora agreed to work with the High Line Canal board of directors and shareholders to sustain support of the Super Ditch water leasing program. Aurora reached a similar leasing agreement with the High Line board in 2008.

– The agreement is contingent on the signup of a sufficient amount of water, since water right owners in the Super Ditch are not required to participate in any specific lease agreement.

– Bylaws of participating ditches must be amended by Feb. 1, 2011.

– Aurora must comply with its 2009 agreement with the Lower Ark district, which stayed a federal lawsuit by the Lower Ark district against Reclamation over the Aurora contract. That agreement would extend restrictions on moving water out of the valley past the current 2048 date.

– County 1041 permits and Aurora City Council approval are required.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley Conduit update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The conduit could serve more than 40 communities from Pueblo to Lamar. The largest eight are St. Charles Mesa Water District, La Junta, Lamar, Las Animas, Rocky Ford, May Valley, Fowler and Crowley County. They will meet today with the Southeastern district to discuss the next steps in the project…

[Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District] said the local communities are enthusiastic about moving the project ahead, and are concerned about costs, but realize there are possibilities for partnerships. “The cost factor is a surprise,” Broderick said. “When you combine all of the things that are involved, the costs are favorable to getting this accomplished.” The estimated cost of the conduit several years ago was $300 million, and a state loan of $60 million was obtained for 20 percent of the cost. The federal legislation signed by President Barack Obama provides a 65-35 federal split, with revenues from excess-capacity contracts with Reclamation — such as Southern Delivery System, Aurora storage and the Southeastern district’s proposed master contract — paying part of the costs. One of the purposes of today’s meeting is to go over cost estimates and ranges, Broderick said.

While preliminary studies of the conduit indicate there would be a gap between current supplies and future needs, they do not identify how additional supplies would be acquired. [Dale Mauch, a farmer who supports the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch] said that could be an opportunity for farmers. “People ask me why I’m on this bandwagon to support the Super Ditch when I don’t want to lease my water. It’s just that I don’t like the circumstances now, but those circumstances can change if we get drier. It could change in a hurry,” Mauch said. “It’s amazing how everything is all tied together, and it all revolves around water.” Mauch pointed out that some of those who farm in the Lower Arkansas Valley also are served by water districts that provide domestic water and could benefit from the conduit.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley: Current and potential movement of agricultural water to other uses

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Industrial and municipal water wonks plan far in advance to satisfy projected future water supply needs. In Colorado part of the planning often includes acquiring agricultural rights for a change of use. Regulations designed to protect senior rights holders and satisfy the numerous compacts that Colorado and the downstream states have put in place over the years also put pressure on irrigated land. Here’s an in-depth report from Chris Woodka writing for the The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

New actions in the state threaten to take more acreage. Woodmoor Water and Sanitation has signed contracts that would have the effect of drying up 1,500 acres. A state crackdown on seep-ditch rights could remove water from 6,500 acres, and new agriculture consumption rules could tie up more augmentation water that otherwise would be available for irrigation.

But events already have been set in motion to dry up far more farm ground. Transfers from 1950 to the present could take water off one-third of historically irrigated land in the Arkansas River basin — nearly 150,000 of 450,000 acres, according to information compiled by The Pueblo Chieftain. A recent state report — a draft document projecting potential agricultural demands to 2050 — shows that an additional, as yet unidentified, 63,000 acres could be taken out of production in the next 40 years to meet a municipal “gap” in water supply…

The state report also points to a need for 862,000 acre-feet of consumptive use water annually to fully irrigate land that is expected to remain in production by 2050. However, there would be a shortfall of nearly 400,000 acre-feet, because the full amount of water is not likely to be available in most years. The state estimates that between 350,000 and 400,000 acres of land could be irrigated, but there is rarely enough water available now to satisfy that demand.

In The Chieftain’s study, the 150,000 acres of land potentially removed since 1950 includes land that could be dried up either through direct sales of water rights to cities, towns, speculators or power companies; by loss of storage once used by irrigators; or by decreasing the use of well water either through shutdowns or augmentation.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

A look at water and farming in the Arkansas Valley

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Mauch was president of the Fort Lyon Canal during the 2002 drought, when many of the shareholders decided it was time to sell to High Plains A&M. The investors bought up nearly a quarter of the canal and persuaded others to vote with them. “We were this close to giving up control of the canal,” Mauch said. “Even though our lawyer said we’d be protected, I wasn’t so sure.” Since then, there have been other nettling water issues that Mauch believes continue to chip away at narrow profit margins.

Along with Don McBee, Mauch is helping organize a $200,000 study of leakage in 20 ponds that feed sprinklers. They want to prove something they believe is just common sense: Those ponds lose a lot of water. The Colorado Division of Water Resources has filed a court case on rules governing the consumptive use gains from irrigation improvements and could plug the information into a model that presumes 3 percent seepage. Steering his pickup onto the rim of one of his ponds, Mauch pointed to the curling mud chips on the bottom of the pond: “Three days ago, this was full of water. You’re telling me that’s a 3 percent loss?”

Driving past Harry Reed’s farm — Reed is one of several farmers whose seep ditch rights are under measurement requirements for the first time in 100 years — Mauch shook his head and waved an arm.
“That water never made it back to the Arkansas River,” he said. It’s too close to his own troubles with the state. “They can put a giant pipeline to suck the river out at Pueblo Dam. They talk about building dams on Fountain Creek and recapture water using the Holbrook. I’m 10 miles away from the Arkansas, and they say I’m cheating the river?”[…]

The most important step farmers have taken in recent years to protect their water is the Super Ditch, in Mauch’s opinion. The Super Ditch is the only way to stop municipal water speculators from continuing to raid the Arkansas River basin, Mauch said. “You might think you can keep them away, but you can’t,” Mauch said. “The more prepared we are with a leasing program, the longer we can delay. We have to give them a place to shop, or they’ll buy the store.”

Mauch was among the farmers who incorporated the Super Ditch and praised the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District for helping get it off the ground. The leases should not be limited to the Arkansas Valley in order to realize the full value or the water, he said. Temporarily drying up some land can be beneficial, and in very dry years, water could be more valuable in an urban shower than put on a crop that’s not going to make it anyhow, he added.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The most important tool in the Lamar farmer’s [Dale Mauch’s] shed appears to be the cell phone, even though he often would rather set irrigation tubes than try to deal with computers, global positioning systems and other technology that dominates modern farming.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

Arkansas Valley ag future

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

In the two years he’s been butting heads with the state Division of Water Resources, [Dan Henrichs, superintendent of the High Line Canal] has not been able to reconcile how irrigating with sprinklers could increase water use. There are so many variables — the market price of crops, the type of crop planted, how much water is running down the ditches, whether it just rained, how much water your neighbor is using, whether he’s just cut hay and is bypassing flows, whether it’s raining on the hay just cut, whether a hail storm has wiped out more valuable crops …

“This is not about a bunch of old farmers who want to sell their water and move to an island,” Henrichs said. He ticked off the names of a dozen young farmers who’ve bought farms in the 10 years he’s been superintendent on the High Line.

It’s getting harder to buy land because speculation has driven water prices up. Land under the High Line has sold for as much as $5,700 an acre, more than double what it was a decade ago.
Circumstances vary, but it’s usually farmers “born and bred into the life” who are purchasing the land with the intent to farm far into the future…

The High Line board has given Henrichs unusual latitude as superintendent to travel widely and represent it on water issues. Henrichs is a member of the citizens advisory group for the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District and on the Arkansas Basin Roundtable.
He was a forceful presence in the Vision Task Force that led to the Fountain Creek district. He constant registered complaints as part of the task force looking at consumptive use rules.
There’s a reason for all that. “Where are they going to come next?” Henrichs said, reviewing the Pueblo Board of Water Works foray into the Bessemer Ditch, Aurora’s purchases on the Rocky Ford Ditch and water grabs that sucked Crowley County dry. “They’re going to come to the High Line.”[…]

The events since the historic drought of 2002 bear that out. Rather than sell their water rights after the worst rain year in history, the High Line farmers worked out a lease agreement to sell water to Aurora in 2004-05. Colorado Springs joined in the second year of that deal. Most farmers on the High Line will tell you that the Aurora deal was nothing but a blessing. It allowed them to pay off debt or make needed improvements after a farming season that could have bankrupted them. Soon after, High Line and Aurora jointly filed in Division 2 Water Court to make exchange rights permanent so that if the need for another lease deal arose, they could avoid a time-consuming substitute water supply plan. The High Line-Aurora deal set the stage for the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch, a water lease-fallow land program that includes shareholders from seven ditches, including the High Line. High Line countered with its own leasing program and plans that could include a pipeline to the thirsty cities of the north. This year, a new wrinkle was added when the Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District contracted to buy several farms at the end of the High Line Canal. Moving the water would require a change in the ditch company bylaws, so for now the High Line board will not approve the transfer.

Many High Line farmers do not oppose the sale of water rights — they see it as their right as property owners to sell to whomever they want and bristle when outsiders tell them they cannot. Still, they are wary that taking water out of the ditch could reduce the flows that carry water to their own headgates, and will do what it takes to protect the ditch.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

…Vernon John Proctor, is a board member of the High Line Canal and takes a longer view of the problems agriculture has faced. The current recession began in 2008, but farmers hardly noticed, other than when fuel prices increased, Proctor said. “We’ve been in a suppressed economy for years. Everything we buy is at retail, and everything we sell is at wholesale,” he said…

Proctor was among farmers who leased water to Aurora in 2004-05, and was a member of the board that negotiated the details. He said the lease prevented him from having to sell the water rights. “I’m not looking at selling, I plan to pass everything on to my sons if possible,” Proctor said. “When you can’t produce a crop, you need something to fall back on. As long as you can stay above water, it’s a good life. You are your own boss. “But if you get into trouble, the land and the water are your only assets.”

More Arkansas Basin coverage here.

Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“In 2002, everyone changed their thought patterns, and more people are holding onto their water,” Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District told the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board Wednesday. “This means you will see a full Pueblo Reservoir more of the time.” Broderick explained the timing of a request for a master storage contract by the Southeastern district coincides with an application to build the Arkansas Valley Conduit in an effort to save money on both projects. Because they both use parts of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, authorized by Congress in 1962, both require environmental impact statements…

By combining the two studies, the costs of the master contract EIS could be reduced to $500,000 from an estimated $2 million in 2001, Broderick said. The master contract would allow long-term storage at a locked-in rate, which particularly helps cities within the Southeastern district plan for the future, Broderick said…

Colorado Springs dropped out of the master contract process, but the remaining SDS partners have continued. Pueblo West, not in the original group, is in the current master contract. The Lower Ark district, which was formed by a 2002 vote, is among newcomers to the master contract as well, and indicated a need for 15,000 acre-feet of storage…

The Southeastern district also is requesting space not in the original plan, 5,000 acre-feet, primarily for future use in the conduit. Conduit participants La Junta and Crowley County both want space through the master contract, but Lamar dropped its request. Salida, Florence, Canon City and the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District remain in the contact and were among the original users. Other new users include Poncha Springs, Penrose, Widefield and Stratmoor Hills, which joined at various times in the past decade. In all, the contract totals 28,200 acre-feet of storage.

More Arkansas Basin coverage here.

Southern Delivery System: Colorado Springs Utilities lays out the conditions to share the pipeline facilities

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs Utilities’ position is that new users would provide their own water and storage; meet all the environmental, land-use and federal contracting requirements, and not impede Colorado Springs Utilities water operations and must provide a financial benefit to our customers. Colorado Springs City Council would have to individually approve each application.

In May, the Colorado Springs City Council, sitting as the Utilities Board, agreed to change its policy to allow more flexibility to offer water-related services to other water providers in the region. That ended a long-standing policy that limited water service to the city’s boundaries other than for emergencies or special circumstances and opens new questions about how SDS could be used. The road map for the change was drawn after months of deliberation by the Utilities Policy Advisory Committee, which authored a white paper on regional water delivery in April. During presentations, Colorado Springs made it clear there would be additional capacity in the SDS pipeline to bring water to other communities. At one meeting, Wayne Vanderschuere, Colorado Springs Utilities Water Resources Manager, said there would be available space in the 50-mile pipeline from Pueblo Dam to El Paso County during the winter months, and that off-season pumping would be a way to even out flows and allow full use of the pipeline…

Colorado Springs has not solicited participation, but there has been interest as communities acquire water rights in the Arkansas Valley. The Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority and El Paso County Water Authority provided input for the white paper. Among communities not in SDS that have water rights purchases or pending contracts in the Arkansas Valley are Donala, Widefield and Woodmoor water districts…

The report also reveals that Colorado Springs would need new sources to meet population projections beginning in the 2040 decade. Those sources could include new purchases of water rights, sales of water through lease agreements with the Super Ditch or other entities, physical reuse or other options, Vanderschuere said…

Regional water service would provide financial relief for Colorado Springs’ ratepayers and open the door for other regional water cooperation, such as the lingering issue of stormwater control, the report states.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

he Bureau of Reclamation has received 19 comments on the Southern Delivery System since negotiations with Colorado Springs began in May. The number contrasts sharply with the nearly 400 comments received in 2008 while Reclamation was preparing an environmental impact statement, and the comments are divided between support or criticism of the project. Only three people have spoken during public comment periods during the negotiations: Marilyn June of Pueblo, Pueblo Chieftain Assistant Publisher Jane Rawlings and Walter Lawson, a Colorado Springs resident.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley: Future of farming depends on keeping water in the valley

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

When it comes to water, however, [Ryon Sallee, who farms on the Oxford Ditch near Fowler] is not interested in leasing it to help cities grow, saying he’s soured on the Super Ditch, an enterprise he helped incorporate in 2008. “I’m concerned about them taking any water out of the valley. If they take it above us, will we be able to get the same amount?” Sallee asks. Still, he says, the Super Ditch might benefit some farmers, just not him. “Up to this point, the only ones who’ve made money on the Super Ditch are the lawyers and engineers.”

He’s even more concerned about proposals such as Woodmoor’s plan to buy shares on neighboring ditches, after watching how areas like Rocky Ford and Crowley County have been decimated in past water sales. Sallee also doesn’t like proposed irrigation rules that might limit his ability to make efficiency improvements in the future — he says the state “sold us down the river” to Kansas in adopting them. “We already have to buy our own deeded water to use the wells,” he said.

And, studies that purport to measure consumptive use on an entire canal bother him too. “Each piece of dirt on each farm is different, it can be steep, flat or have rocky soil,” Sallee said. “Every canal’s different.”

Here’s an update on the Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District’s efforts to move water to northern El Paso County from the Arkansas River, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District will have to convince two counties and three ditch companies its plans won’t harm others’ water rights before it is allowed to move water upstream. Woodmoor is committed to spending $10 million to acquire water rights on the Holbrook, High Line and Excelsior ditches in Pueblo and Otero counties. The net effect would be to dry up more than 1,500 acres of farm ground…

Woodmoor plans to move the water through exchanges, but is also open to using the proposed Southern Delivery System, if it is built, to physically move the water. “Our outlook is to work with the ditch company boards, all of them,” said Jessie Shaffer, manager of the Woodmoor district…

Last month, the High Line Canal board initially rejected Woodmoor’s proposal because the ditch company’s bylaws will not allow water to be moved to the northern El Paso County community. Woodmoor has contracts for about 48 shares on the High Line with several owners near the end of the ditch. Each share irrigates 10 acres, so about 480 acres would be taken out of production. Shaffer does not see the situation as a deal-stopper. “We have to work not only with the property owners, but the board. We will have to discuss the bylaws,” Shaffer said. “We’re still moving forward with the High Line contracts.”

This week, the Holbrook Canal board began to contemplate Woodmoor’s attempt to buy an announced 937 shares on the canal — Shaffer said Woodmoor is talking to other shareholders. Each share irrigates an acre. The first meeting between the Holbrook board and Woodmoor is scheduled in September. “I don’t know that we have a whole lot of information to offer at this point, we plan to present our plan in September,” Shaffer said.

On the Excelsior, Woodmoor has entered a contract with Stonewall Springs LLC to acquire a reservoir site and buying 771 shares, which could yield 326 acre-feet of water. While there is some irrigation on the Excelsior, it is used chiefly to provide augmentation for the Arkansas Groundwater Users Association.

More Arkansas Basin coverage here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“If anyone in this country thinks the cities are not going to try and buy the whole thing, they haven’t been paying attention,” said John Schweizer, Super Ditch president. “This way the farmer gets to keep the water to sell as another crop.” Schweizer disagrees with recent objections raised about the Super Ditch exchange application in Division 2 Water Court that the movement of water will diminish flows in the Arkansas River…

He is concerned not only about Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District hunting for water rights on ditches in the valley, but also last year’s sale of more than one-quarter of the Bessemer Ditch to the Pueblo Board of Water Works. “If Woodmoor, or Pueblo, takes the water, it won’t come back for 100 years. I don’t understand the difference,” Schweizer said. “Why is it all right for them to buy up the Bessemer? The people will take the money, spend it and then they’re gone. If the water stays here, the money will be spent here.”[…]

The High Line Canal’s lease agreement with Aurora in 2004-05 was a demonstration of how a temporary contract can help farmers, Schweizer said. “In 2002, we didn’t have enough water to spit at,” he said. The next three years weren’t much better, but the deal with Aurora allowed farmers to sell the water, while keeping some land in irrigation. Since there are no deals yet for the Super Ditch, no one is sure how much land would be dried up. “We’ve talked about a 35 percent limit, but in a drought year, there’s not enough water. All the High Line lease did was help the farmers by giving them another crop, and the money from it was put back in the valley,” Schweizer said…

Schweizer said the water needs to stay in the Arkansas Valley to retain the ability to grow food locally and is convinced that when the time comes there would be no way to keep cities from taking the water, unless they could merely borrow it.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch water court application update

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The 28 objections were filed in February, March and April on the application by the Super Ditch and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, which sponsored the formation of the Super Ditch. Most say the Super Ditch plan is speculative, and other common concerns call for protection of water rights, the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project and the Arkansas River Compact with Kansas.

Among the many claiming the Super Ditch exchange may be speculative was Attorney General John Suthers, filing on behalf of State Engineer Dick Wolfe and Division Engineer Steve Witte…

The Super Ditch is negotiating with the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority to supply water to El Paso County water users, but no final agreements have been announced. Among those potential users is the city of Fountain, which made the point in its application that Super Ditch should be subject to the same restrictions of exchange through Pueblo that other water users face under the 2004 intergovernmental agreement that created the Pueblo flow program…

Most of the ditch companies that would be involved in the Super Ditch filed objections: the High Line, Holbrook, Fort Lyon, Catlin and Oxford ditch companies.

While most used lawyers to express those objections, one ditch company president put his statements into his own words: “The Oxford Ditch Co. feels this application should be denied. Water rights from the Lower Arkansas River to Lake Pueblo and leased to Aurora of the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority will de(p)lete the flow of water in the river,” wrote Oran Ray Smith, president of the Oxford Ditch. “Once this water is removed from the river, there will be a direct effect on the amount of water and water quality to the major ditches in the Arkansas Valley.”

The High Line Canal, along with the city of Aurora, has a similar exchange application pending in water court that would allow a permanent exchange modeled on a 2004-05 lease program. High Line’s objection is one of the most detailed, raising more than 30 points. Other valley ditch groups filed objections, including the Colorado Canal, mostly owned by Colorado Springs and Aurora; the District 67 Ditch Association, below John Martin Reservoir; Excelsior Ditch; and the Arkansas Valley Ditch Association. Three counties, Otero, Bent and Chaffee, filed objections. The Southeastern Colorado and Upper Arkansas Water conservancy districts both filed objections. Southeastern also has an exchange application pending in Water Court, and is primarily concerned about using Fry-Ark facilities mentioned in the Super Ditch application. Two well users groups, the Colorado Water Protective and Development Association and Lower Arkansas Water Management Association objected. Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and Public Service Co., both of which have purchased substantial ditch rights in the Arkansas Valley, filed objections. The city of Pueblo, Pueblo Board of Water Works, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Pueblo West Metropolitan District and St. Charles Mesa Water District are municipal interests who raised concerns about the application.

More Arkansas Basin coverage here.

Arkansas Valley water officials worry that Woodmoor plans will dry up more ag land in the valley

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“These gravel pits are for one thing: To transfer water out of the Arkansas River,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “They scare me.” Winner said gravel pit reservoirs would help communities like Woodmoor, located on the Douglas County line in northern El Paso County, move water rights which have been purchased on canals in the Lower Arkansas Valley.

In fact, Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District board has voted to buy land on the Excelsior Ditch now owned by Stonewall Springs LLC. Stonewall has plans to develop three reservoirs on former farmland. There are also potential reservoir sites at gravel pits near Pueblo Memorial Airport and on other privately owned land on the Excelsior. Woodmoor also intends to purchase water rights on the Holbrook, High Line and Excelsior ditch systems as a way of making up for depletions to the Denver Basin aquifers caused by excessive pumping. The Woodmoor district late last year filed for a decree that would allow it to move water upstream through exchanges…

Winner applauded the commissioners’ recent resolution opposing the dry-up of agriculture. The commissioners in May passed a measure supporting water lease-land fallowing programs, such as Super Ditch, that keep water rights in the hands of irrigators. The resolution supports water leasing — sales of water that do not change ownership — as a way to prevent permanent dry-up of agricultural resources. “The Lower Ark is against these types of buy-and-dry activities,” Winner said.

Arkansas Basin Roundtable public outreach meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The meeting, attended by about 50 people, was the first of three planned this year to share roundtable accomplishments and concerns with the community. Others will be in Salida and La Junta. “We’re not sure what is going to happen, but it’s not going to be like it was,” [Gary Barber, chairman of the roundtable] said.

The roundtable’s essential purpose is to apply the prior appropriation doctrine to a changing set of circumstances that incorporates new needs, such as recreation and the environment, with traditional water uses, such as municipal and agriculture, he explained. Barber used the analogy of a house with one bathroom to illustrate how prior appropriation has changed. It works well if only a couple of people live in the house. When 20 people move in, life gets more complicated. “It’s at the point where we have to do something about it,” Barber said.

Roundtables were created in each of the state’s eight river basins, along with the Denver metro area, in 2005 after top-down approaches were rejected by the state’s voters. Referendum A, which proposed $2 billion for unspecified water projects, was defeated by voters in every county in the state in 2003. Progress has been slow because members were asked to organize themselves. In addition, the ideas from the roundtables have been directed largely at problems within the basins. “We began to hear each others’ stories,” Barber said…

Barber said it is important to develop solutions that are sustainable over time, rather than easy fixes. One model for success during the first five years of the roundtables has been the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force, and that collaborative approach is being applied to other issues, such as the current effort to study whether a task force should look at the Flaming Gorge project to bring water from Wyoming into Colorado’s Front Range, Barber said.

There have been many tangible successes. The roundtable also has been successful in bringing in $4 million for 21 projects — including three pending projects — and another $1 million in emergency funding for the zebra mussel threat in 2008. The group also has completed studies for consumptive needs such as cities, farms and industry, and nonconsumptive needs such as recreation and the environment.

Pat Wells, a Colorado Springs Utilities water resources engineer, worked with Roundtable members to develop the nonconsumptive needs study, which looked at the recreation and environmental values of every watershed in the Arkansas River basin. “From the start, we saw that nonconsumptive needs were important,” Wells said. “There is a lot of interplay between water supply and recreation needs. We really think this contributes to future water supply planning.”

Mike Applegate is a water consultant who developed the consumptive needs report. The 2008 study found that new projects will be needed to supply up to 32,000 acre-feet — possibly enough for more than 100,000 homes — to meet the basin’s needs in the next 40 years. However, the needs continue beyond that into the future as growth occurs, Applegate said. Most of the need, 22,600 acre-feet, is in El Paso County, and some of the needs are shifting. But every amount counts…

New projects could include the Super Ditch water leasing program and building more storage, he added. “Storage has a bad name, but now people are talking about it. To meet the future needs of our state, we need more buckets,” Applegate said. “The problem is here today. We need to do something about it now.”

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project: Federal legislation to allow Aurora’s use of project facilities making little headway in D.C.

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Little progress has been reported in attempts to change federal legislation to allow Aurora to legally use the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to move water out of the Arkansas Valley. Aurora and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District are attempting to persuade federal lawmakers to change the law as part of a settlement of the Lower Ark’s 2007 lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation…

While there have been numerous behind-the-scenes, often closed-door meetings among lawyers, staff and lawmakers since then, there has been no movement toward federal legislation, according to a joint brief by attorneys Stuart Somach, for Aurora, and Peter Nichols, for the Lower Ark. The brief was filed Wednesday in the Denver U.S. District Court. “For the majority of the current 111th Congress, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have both been preoccupied with drafting, debating and passing health care reform legislation, and more recently with financial reform legislation,” the lawyers reported. “This preoccupation and the upcoming congressional election have rendered it difficult for Colorado’s delegation to fully engage in the process for developing the necessary legislation to implement the settlement agreement.”

Nevertheless, there have been meetings with lawmakers and Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar toward drafting the legislation, which includes many of the same provisions that once were bundled in attempts to gain approval for the Preferred Storage Options Plan sponsored by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Meetings this year began Jan. 20, when Aurora met with representatives from the Lower Arkansas Valley Super Ditch, when negotiations on possible leases were opened. No deals have been reached…

On March 9, staff from the Lower Ark district and Aurora met with other PSOP parties: Colorado Springs Utilities, Pueblo Board of Water Works, city of Pueblo, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Fountain. The meeting was not open the public or press, a change from a negotiating process that Salazar, then a U.S. senator, used in 2007 to attempt to solve PSOP. It apparently did not include other parties that had been invited to the PSOP meetings, such as Pueblo West, Lake County, Pitkin County or the Colorado River Conservation District…

Aurora made presentations to the Lower Ark district on March 23, which were covered in The Chieftain. The presentations detailed progress on Super Ditch negotiations, Aurora’s commitment to pay $2 million for Lower Ark projects and shared Aurora’s experience in water lease programs. Meetings with lawmakers began in March, when Aurora and the Lower Ark met with U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and his staff in Washington. Udall directed his staff to set up meetings with staff from other members of the Colorado delegation to discuss the legislation sought under the settlement agreement. There was no public mention of the meetings until the federal court brief was filed. In the March 22-24 trip, Aurora and the Lower Ark district also met with U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter and staff for U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, and U.S. Reps. Mike Coffman, Betsy Markey and Doug Lamborn. Lower Ark officials also met with Ken Salazar’s staff. The first legislative staff meeting was at Udall’s Denver office, was April 30, as staff from the offices of Udall, Bennet, Perlmutter and U.S. Rep. John Salazar met with Lower Ark and Aurora attorneys.

More Aurora coverage here and here.

Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

More than 20 questions relating to river flows, measurement, consumptive use, exchanges and the scope of the company were relayed to the engineers working on the project at meetings with the Upper Arkansas and Southeastern Colorado water conservancy districts and the roundtable earlier this year. Some also wanted to know how leases would be structured and if they had any implications for water deliveries to Kansas under the Arkansas River Compact. “These questions will be answered in the report,” Greg Ten Eyck, of Leonard Rice Engineers, told the Lower Ark board Wednesday…

Only the consumptive use of the water could be sold, with the acreage it irrigates dried up for the period of the lease. The water would have to be exchanged upstream, and the Super Ditch has filed an application for the exchange in Division 2 Water Court…

Ten Eyck also updated the Lower Ark board on policies that would be used to replace depletions under proposed consumption rules for surface irrigation in the Arkansas Valley. The Colorado Division of Water Resources has filed the rules in Water Court with the intent to implement them by 2011. Using a state grant, the Lower Ark district is developing a plan that would allow a large group of irrigators to enter a plan to account for depletions. The idea is to reduce the engineering and paperwork requirements for irrigators, while preserving flows to the river…

In other business, the board:

– Adopted a ballot resolution opposing Initiatives Nos. 10, 12 and 21. The issues would affect the district’s ability to collect property tax, vehicle fees and accrue debt, attorney Peter Nichols said. He added that the district cannot spend money or actively campaign against the November ballot proposals.

– Agreed to stop leasing Twin Lakes shares at a loss from Ordway, Crowley and Sugar City this year under terms of a contract. The district was losing money on the leases.

More Lower Ark coverage here.

Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District approves purchase of three High Line Canal farms

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

he water district will pay three sellers $1.79 million for 41.2 shares of High Line Canal water rights if the sales are closed following due diligence investigations. The purchase would amount to $4,300 per acre. A smaller water right is also included in the package. The farms are a small part of the High Line’s 2,250 shares, and all are near the end of the 85-mile long ditch in Otero County. The High Line diverts south of the Arkansas River east of Boone and ends at Timpas Creek.

“We anticipate using the water in accordance with our exchange decree filed in December,” said Jessie Shaffer, manager of the Woodmoor district. Under that application, water would be exchanged upstream along the Arkansas River and Fountain Creek to Woodmoor, which is in the far northern part of El Paso County, just east of Interstate 25…

Woodmoor would still need to obtain approval from the High Line board and obtain a change of use decree in Division 2 Water Court to move the water. The district does not know when it would seek those changes, Shaffer said…

Two conservancy districts are opposing Woodmoor’s exchange application in Water Court. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board voted to file a statement of opposition in the case in January in order to protect its own exchange capacity on the Arkansas River below Pueblo Dam, which eventually will be needed for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The district also is concerned the Woodmoor exchange could use Lake Pueblo, part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, to take water outside the district’s boundaries. The Lower Arkansas Valley Conservancy District opposed the Woodmoor exchange application largely because it could be used to move water outside the Arkansas River basin…

Woodmoor serves 8,400 people in 3,300 homes. About 400 of the homes are on the other side of the Palmer Divide in the South Platte River basin. All sewer return flows from the district come down Monument Creek, but flows from lawn watering on some homes would end up in the South Platte basin, Shaffer said…

Woodmoor, a part of the [Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority], dropped out of Super Ditch negotiations because of the objections to taking water over the Palmer Divide.

More infrastructure coverage here.

2010 Arkansas River Basin Water Forum recap

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

[Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District] defended the [Arkansas Valley Super Ditch] concept as the best way to keep water rights in the hands of farmers while allowing cities to meet future needs. Aurora is the only community outside the Arkansas River basin that has discussed lease possibilities with Super Ditch, he said. “It’s important to retain water rights in the Arkansas basin. The lease-fallowing program (Super Ditch) is only stop-gap, but it keeps water rights from being sold,” Winner said. “In 20 years, we don’t know what the world is going to look like. We’re trying to keep water in the valley. That goal has not changed.”

Winner also said moving the water to El Paso County water districts outside Colorado Springs could be accomplished in the short term by using the [Southern Delivery System] pipeline. Colorado Springs Utilities is wrapping up studies started last year to look at that possibility, said John Fredell, SDS project director.

In fact, a committee looking at changing Colorado Springs’ policy of not providing water outside city limits is finalizing its work today for possible action later this month by City Council, sitting as the utilities board. SDS also would serve Fountain, Security and Pueblo West. Colorado Springs already has carriage contracts with other communities, but opening SDS to more water providers could be a way for the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority to accept deliveries from Super Ditch after SDS is completed in 2016. “They would have to go through their own NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process,” Fredell said…

Meanwhile, the High Line Canal is looking at the possibility of another pipeline heading north from Boone, said Dan Henrichs, High Line superintendent…A preliminary study of a pipeline in that general area last year by the Pikes Peak water group showed it too would cost more than $1 billion.

More Arkansas Basin coverage here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch: Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District cuts connections

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

In a letter to the Pikes Peak Authority, [Jessie Shaffer, manager of the Woodmoor District] said Woodmoor would voluntarily withdraw from participating in any Super Ditch lease because of the reaction of the Super Ditch board to Woodmoor’s Water Court filing for Arkansas River exchange rights. Late last year, Woodmoor filed for exchange of water rights it wants to purchase on the High Line and Holbrook ditch systems. Woodmoor serves about 8,400 people in northern El Paso County. A few customers in the district are actually in the South Platte River basin, but return flows from water use are routed into Monument Creek, which is a tributary to the Arkansas River, Shaffer said. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, which was instrumental in forming the Super Ditch, in January voted to oppose the water court application. In February, the Super Ditch announced it would exclude Woodmoor in negotiations over a long-term leasing contract with the Pikes Peak group.

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The Super Ditch only works if they can score 11,000 acre-feet of storage in Lake Pueblo. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“We can stair-step the exchanges up the river, rather than all at once into Lake Pueblo, although we could exchange into Lake Pueblo if the conditions are right,” said Peter Nichols, the attorney for Super Ditch…

“We’re making progress faster than most people would have thought possible,” Nichols said, adding that the first change of use case could be filed later this year. While a blanket change of use case for all seven ditches that could be part of the enterprise was first envisioned, the Super Ditch will file a change case for each lease agreement to quantify the type of water being used and to avoid anti-speculation violations, Nichols said.

Super Ditch is working on an agreement with the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority that would begin delivering water next year to users in El Paso County. Bub Miller, Southeastern director from Otero County, asked how the Super Ditch would determine whose water to use. Nichols said the leases would be with individual farmers, but arranged by the Super Ditch board…

Engineering shows that with 85 percent of farmers on six of the ditches participating, up to 58,000 acre-feet of water could be exchanged in a very wet year. A lower figure of 25 percent was used for the Bessemer Ditch, because many of the water rights have been purchased by the Pueblo Board of Water Works or St. Charles Mesa Water District. Other ditches involved in Super Ditch are the Catlin, Fort Lyon, High Line, Holbrook, Otero and Oxford. In a dry year, with only 65 percent of farmers participating, the amount available would drop to just 3,600 acre-feet. The storage is seen as a way to balance the wet and dry years in order to fill contracts.

The City of Aurora is a potential customer of the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Aurora is a potential customer of the Super Ditch, which was established through studies by the Lower Ark district. Aurora is providing technical help for the Super Ditch as part of an agreement with the district. Beyond the physical limitations of moving water, permission is needed from the ditch companies involved, which could be complicated with Super Ditch, which could have involved shareholders on seven different ditches.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.

The Woodmoor Water & Sanitation District wants to drop out of Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority’s negotiations with the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch

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From The Tri-Lakes Tribune (Nicole Chillino):

Woodmoor district manager Jessie Shaffer wrote a letter addressed to the authority suggesting the district stay out of the negotiations with the ditch due to a possible conflict with a recent filing for an exchange plan for water in the Lower Arkansas Valley. The letter was written under the direction of the water and sanitation district’s governing board, said assistant district manager Randy Gillette. “They have given us direction that we don’t have to be involved with these negotiations,” Gillette said. “We do want to be a part of the Super Ditch concept […] but it’s always been stated, at least what I’ve heard, is that individual contracts are going to be the bottom line.” In exchange for stepping away from the issue, the water purveyor also wanted to be excluded from the costs associated with the authority’s negotiations with the Super Ditch.

More Super Ditch coverage here and here.

What is the strategy for Arkansas Valley agriculture?

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

[Retired Lamar Community College teacher Fred Heckman of McClave] has been attending water meetings throughout the Arkansas Valley on behalf of the Fort Lyon Canal Co. for several years, with one goal in mind: To make better use of water. The idea was first proposed at a Fort Lyon meeting in 2004, by Heckman’s son Bert and others in an independent shareholders group that resisted selling to High Plains A&M (now Pure Cycle), but liked the idea of finding more profitable uses for water. The stated goal of High Plains, which had purchased about one-quarter of the ditch’s shares by 2003, was to move water to growing Front Range communities through a pipeline. Pure Cycle has continued with that goal, but has been more open to efforts like Super Ditch that could use its water resources within the valley. The shareholders group from the beginning wanted to expand the horizons of Fort Lyon shareholders beyond the flood irrigation that has dominated valley agriculture for more than 140 years…

Heckman is among those who have joined Super Ditch, a water leasing cooperative that would allow farmers to hold onto their water rights while selling some of the water under contract. “Leasing water would put a cushion of income under the farming operation to help the farmer withstand weather losses and variable prices,” Heckman said. Heckman is wary of new state consumption rules that target improvements on farms like sprinklers and drip irrigation using surface water. The rules ultimately will add costs for farmers who already operate on a thin margin. “Government involvement, no matter what department it comes from, is as much a threat to the farmers survival as the weather and price variation,” Heckman said. “Micro-managing the farmer is coming.”

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project: Lower Ark and Southeastern working to get Aurora federal legislative approval to use the project

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District sued the Bureau of Reclamation in federal court over a 2007 contract that allows Aurora to store and exchange water at Lake Pueblo. As part of a settlement last year, the Lower Ark and Aurora agreed to try to persuade Congress to adopt legislation that officially lets Aurora into the Fry-Ark project. The federal court case was put on hold for two years. Thursday, the South- eastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board was given a progress report on how that legislation is developing. “It all will depend on whether Rep. (John) Salazar is ready to move or not,” Executive Director Jim Broderick said. Reps. Salazar, Betsy Markey and Ed Perlmutter — all Colorado Democrats — hosted meetings about the possibility of legislation and other water issues in Rocky Ford and Lamar last year. By the end of the year, no legislation had been introduced. The Southeastern district has supported the Aurora legislation since 2003, as part of its own agreement with the suburban Denver city of 300,000…

Meanwhile, the two districts took slightly different tacks this week in dealing with two water court filings by Aurora. Aurora is seeking a change of use for water in the Busk-Ivanhoe Ditch, which it shares with the Pueblo Board of Water Works. The ditch was once agricultural and owned by the High Line Canal. Pueblo already has a decree for uses other than agriculture. Aurora and Climax Molybdenum have formed the Fremont Pass Ditch Co. after buying the Columbine Ditch from the Pueblo Board of Water Works last year. They are seeking a change of use related to their own operations. Both are transmountain diversions, and identical water court cases have been filed in Water Divisions 1, 2 and 5.

The Lower Ark board Wednesday voted to enter the cases in order to monitor them and to protect the interests of their own transmountain diversion, the Larkspur Ditch. Lower Ark is buying Larkspur, which imports water from the Gunnison River basin, from the Catlin Canal. The Southeastern board voted to file a statement of opposition in the Busk-Ivanhoe case because the diversion for that tunnel is above the Fry-Ark collection system on the Western Slope.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.

Arkansas Valley Super Ditch Company files exchange case to enable leasing of water to municipalities

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The application would cover exchanges of water from points along a 75-mile reach of the Arkansas River from Pueblo Dam to the Fort Lyon Canal headgate, and would allow shareholders from seven canal companies to move water into Lake Pueblo, where it could be moved into municipal water systems. “We figured it was time to file,” said John Schweizer, Super Ditch president. “We can’t do much until we get this done. There are still a lot of other things to get done as well.”

The exchanges are needed in order to store water so the users can move it into their systems, because there is no other way to move the water upstream from its historic use. The application names Colorado Springs, Aurora and the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority as potential customers. “Adjudication of changes in the type and place of use of the water rights to be used for substitution and exchange is not a purpose of and not requested in this application,” said Peter Nichols, Super Ditch attorney. “The applicants anticipate that they will file one or more applications in the future to change the types and place of use and to quantify the consumptive use.” Right now, the only agreement the Super Ditch board has reached to sell water is with the Pikes Peak group — Fountain, Cherokee, Donala, Monument, Palmer Lake, Triview, Woodmen Hills and Woodmoor water providers in El Paso County. Deliveries of up to 2,000 acre-feet at $500 per acre-foot could begin as soon as 2011 under the agreement…

The application claims 58,000 acre-feet of exchanges — about twice Pueblo’s annual potable water use — but acknowledges there is probably not the capacity in the Arkansas River to take advantage of them all. The exchanges would make use of structures — including at least one reservoir that has not been built — which are not owned by the individual irrigators who would be making the leases. “Applicants will operate the exchanges when there is exchange potential available,” the application stated. “Applicants may operate exchanges continuously for a few hours or days whenever exchange potential is available, which will generally be during spring runoff and following major precipitation events.” There are also release points named in the application such as Lake Meredith or Stonewall Springs on the Excelsior Ditch where water could be released to satisfy the water rights of downstream users…

The 58,000 acre-feet equals the maximum historical diversion of every canal, including the Fort Lyon storage canal, and the “reasonably anticipated demands” of those buying the water, according to the filing. “The claimed exchange rates will allow all shareholders of all Lower (Arkansas) Valley ditches an equal opportunity to voluntarily lease their water,” the application stated.

More Super Ditch coverage here and here.

Cracks in the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority?

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From The Tri-Lakes Tribune (Nicole Chillino):

At the group’s Jan. 20 meeting, Cherokee Metropolitan District general manager Kip Petersen said Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District’s filing for an exchange plan for water in the Lower Arkansas Valley and a letter sent to Aaron Million expressing interest in his project came as surprises to him. Million, a Colorado entrepreneur, is working on a privately studied, built and funded project to pipe water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Utah and Wyoming to areas along the Front Range. The exchange plan filing came as a surprise to several members of the authority and some thought it could hurt the group’s negotiations with projects it is looking at to potentially provide the area with renewable water. “I’m pretty sure that’s hurt our credibility with the Super Ditch people,” Petersen said.

More Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority coverage here.

Arkansas Valley: Woodmoor Water and Sanitation shopping for water rights

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We’re talking to a number of potential sellers in the Rocky Ford High Line and Holbrook systems,” said Jessie Shaffer, manager of the Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District. On Dec. 30, the district filed in Division 2 Water Court for an exchange decree to use water from the Lower Arkansas Valley to supplement its inventory now fed by wells. “We thought it was prudent to file this year. It’s just the first step in a long round to go,” Shaffer said.

The filing surprised backers of the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch, which has reached agreement with Woodmoor and other El Paso County water users to supply water through a long-term lease. “I thought we were looking at doing everything with regional cooperation,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, which formed Super Ditch in 2008.

The Woodmoor district is looking for its own sources of water, but would consider buying water through a lease like Super Ditch, Shaffer said. “We want to buy water rights, but we’re not opposed to leasing,” he said. The Woodmoor district formed in 1964 and serves about 8,400 people north of Colorado Springs near the Douglas County line The district will be looking for reliable sources of water at an affordable rate it can solely control, according to its Web site. Woodmoor now gets nearly all of its water through 14 wells in the Denver Basin aquifers. It also has surface water rights in the Lake Woodmoor area, used for irrigation or replacement. It has worked with other El Paso water users through the Pikes Peak and El Paso County water authorities. Last year, the district approved a long-term plan that includes using water from the Lower Arkansas Valley to supplement the Denver Basin wells with renewable sources…

In its court filing, Woodmoor identifies water rights on the Holbrook, High Line, Excelsior and other unnamed ditches as potential sources for the exchange. The district does not, however, seek to change or claim any of the water rights at this time…

The district also lists reservoirs on the Holbrook and High Line canals and reservoirs that have not been built on the Excelsior Ditch as potential exchange points. There are also a series of reservoirs along Fountain Creek, some of which have not been built, listed in the court case.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.