“We’re looking for versatility for other uses,” said Bill Grasmick, who sold water rights to GP and continues to farm for the Littleton-based company. “We’re adding some ability to use the wells for other local uses, such as water for oil wells. It’s the ability to change the use from irrigation, but it may not ever be used.” Grasmick is also a member of the board of the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association, which filed the application in Division 2 water court last month.
The application also includes four wells owned by the Santa Fe Trail River Ranch, six by Ronald Wollert and two by the East Prowers Cemetery District.
The board had questions about the projected yield of the project, the problem of brine disposal from a proposed treatment plant and the idea of moving water out of the Arkansas Valley — which goes against the mission adopted by the district after voters formed it in 2002. “I compliment your approach, opposed as I am to any water leaving the valley,” said Reeves Brown, a Beulah rancher who sits on the Lower Ark board. “There’s a limit to what we think agriculture can give up in order to support growth in Colorado.”[…]
Upon questioning from the Lower Ark board, Nyquist said the only definite use for the water is in Elbert County. The Cherokee Metro District in Colorado Springs and Castle Rock in Douglas County have been approached, but decided on other options, at least in the short term, Nyquist said. “Right now, the pipeline ends at Falcon,” Nyquist said.
“It’s only a short distance to Reuter-Hess Reservoir (in Parker), which has 60,000 acre-feet of empty storage space,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark district…
GP is looking at either deep injection of brine or a solar heating system that would evaporate the water [ed. by-product of the proposed reverse osmosis water treatment plant]. The heating system, which could also generate steam to power turbines, has not been tested on a large scale, Nyquist said. It would also generate 16 truckloads of salt per week. “It could be used as sidewalk deicer,” Nyquist said. “As a private business, we will figure out another manufacturing opportunity for something that would just be waste.”[…]
[Karl Nyquist] said the assessed valuation of the ground on which the treatment plant is built would be greater than the value of the ground dried up. The combined wages from jobs at the treatment plant, reservoir and continued farm operations would more than make up for the temporary farm jobs that would be lost as a result of the dry-up, Nyquist said.
The Cherokee Metropolitan District on Tuesday chose to buy Denver Basin aquifers water rights from the Sundance Ranch in northern El Paso County from the Greenland Basin Pipeline Co. Cherokee will build the pipeline from the ranch, which is roughly 15 miles to the north. The water rights, pipeline and storage for the project will cost about $19.5 million for an annual yield of about 1,000 acre-feet…
A proposal by GP Water, which wants to build a 150-mile pipeline from Lamar to serve the Front Range with treated water, was put on hold but not totally rejected, said Sean Chambers, manager of the Cherokee district. GP Water, a Littleton company associated with C&A Holding Co., proposed a short-term water supply from wells near the Elizabeth area in Elbert County as a short-term solution for Cherokee. Water from the Lamar pipeline would be used to meet greater needs in the future.
“We need to know we wouldn’t be the only ones signing up,” Chambers said. “Forty years is a long term for encumbrance of debt, and we didn’t want to be the only ones at the table.”[…]
The purchase of the Sundance Ranch should tide Cherokee over for 10 years, the term of the bonds that will finance the project, he added. During that time, the district plans to look at its other options, which include the Southern Delivery System now being built by Colorado Springs, and the Lamar pipeline. There could be other possible sources of a new water supply as well — the district recently reviewed eight different proposals before deciding on the Sundance Ranch purchase…
Cherokee wants time to get a better idea of the dry-year yield of the Lamar ditch and sort out issues with the Arkansas River Compact associated with GP’s plan to build the Lamar pipeline, Chambers said. The compact between Colorado and Kansas has a provision against moving water out of the region unless it can be proved that it would cause no depletion in state-line flows.
More Cherokee Metropolitan District coverage here.
“If an area is in economic decline, you want to slow the decline, you don’t want to make it worse,” said Ken Weber, an anthropologist who wrote numerous reports on economic changes in Crowley County and the Great Plains as a researcher at the University of Colorado from 1986-1996. Weber, 67, grew up in LaJunta in the 1950s, and returned to the area a few years ago to live in Pueblo after working for two federal agencies. Weber frequently attends area water meetings and had a hand in creating the Arkansas Basin Roundtable agriculture-urban transfers report and tipping-point study…
Crowley County already was in decline by the time Colorado Springs and Aurora purchased most of the remaining water rights on the Colorado Canal in the 1980s. Its population dropped to less than 3,000 in the 1980 Census, less than half of its peak in 1920. Prowers County is on a similar path. Its population peaked in 1950 at nearly 15,000. In 2010, the population dropped to its lowest point, 12,551. Irrigated agriculture in Prowers County has suffered through decades of economic turbulence, as witnessed by the sale of many farms on the Fort Lyon Canal to water developers and half of the farms on the Amity Canal to Tri-State Generation and Transmission…
Unlike past water grabs, the GP plan has included an incentive for Prowers County — a water treatment plant. Bill Grasmick, a longtime farmer whose family sold water rights to GP Water, called the plan “economic development” for Lamar. An economic analysis, prepared by GP as part of a water-service bid, says the equivalent of 41 full-time farm-labor jobs would be lost when the water is taken off 4,000 acres of ground. Those jobs would be replaced by 13 jobs in the water treatment plant and seven jobs at a gravel mining operation. The payroll would increase to $3.3 million a year with the new jobs from the existing $2 million paid annually from the present farming operation. Property taxes would go up to more than $600,000 from $15,000 on the land, with the water treatment plant and gravel operations, according to Peter Elzi, of THK Associates, a GP planning consultant…
“We can know the engineering and technical parts of a project, but not the economic and social part,” Weber said. “All of this operates in a social and historical context, and to the extent we ignore that context, our decisions are somewhat blind.”
More coverage from the Castle Rock News Press (Ashley Dieterle):
A 12-month moratorium on service plans and service-plan amendments related to water districts was passed by the Elbert Board of County Commissioners during the Sept. 14 board meeting. The moratorium also applies to water sanitation districts and metropolitan districts that provide water services. The moratorium stemmed from the application withdrawal of an amendment to the service plan for the Elbert and Highway 86 Commercial Metropolitan District during an Aug. 24 board meeting. The controversial petition, which would have allowed a 150-mile pipeline transporting water from Lamar to the county, was withdrawn when county residents were unhappy with the commissioners for allowing the petition to reach public hearing.
Questions about cost, economic impact, water quality and whether the project is speculative greeted Karl Nyquist, a partner in GP Water, which is proposing a 150-mile, $350 million pipeline from the Lamar Canal to northern El Paso County and other points along the Front Range. Up to 12,000 acre-feet of water annually could be delivered…
“You’ve said the water template [ed. ag water transfers template developed by the Arkansas basin roundtable] would be used as a guide, how does it get enforced?” asked Dave Taussig, an attorney from Lincoln County.
Nyquist responded that a change case in Water Court, when it is filed, would protect other water rights in the Arkansas Valley. The socioeconomic concerns identified in the roundtable report could be addressed in the Prowers County 1041 land-use process, he added…
Others wanted to know if GP Water was merely a water speculator. “We own the water and won’t go to court until we have end users in mind,” Nyquist said.
During his presentation, he said GP has bid for water service to Cherokee, Castle Rock, Bennett, the district it controls in Elbert County and others. Nyquist said the plan had come to light through media reports before it was fully formed…
The project includes a reservoir, underground storage and treatment plant near Lamar in Prowers County, which Nyquist said would more than offset the loss of agricultural jobs…
GP submitted a proposal to the Cherokee Metropolitan District in Colorado Springs to provide up to 4,000 acre-feet annually for $7 per 1,000 gallons. That works out to about $9 million per year for about one-third of the projected supply…
GP plans to reduce its storage costs by using underground reservoirs, which will cut down on water losses from evaporation. Water quality is better during high flows when GP would store the water, Nyquist explained…
About 40,000 acre-feet of underground storage is available under the ground GP owns. GP estimates its water rights would yield an average of 8,000-10,000 acre-feet annually to move from the Arkansas River basin.
Brine from the treatment plant — which Nyquist said would be about 3-5 percent of the total water supply — would be injected 4,000-8,000 feet underground into formations that are already watered, Nyquist added.
Karl Nyquist, a partner with GP Water, will discuss his proposal to build a reservoir and treatment plant at Lamar in order to move up to 12,000 acre-feet annually to growing Front Range communities. This will be the first presentation to the roundtable on the plan, which came to light in July when Nyquist and his partners asked the Elbert County commissioners to expand the Elbert and Highway 84 Commercial Metro District, which they control, as a way to expedite the project. The company has proposed using the roundtable’s report “Considerations for Agriculture to Urban Water Transfers” as a way to identify third-party impacts if water is moved from Prowers County, a rural area historically dependent on its farm economy, to growing cities on the Front Range…
GP Water proposes to pump water from Denver Basin aquifers in Elbert County to supply the Cherokee Metro District in Colorado Springs. In the long-term, GP proposes to pump treated water from Lamar to Cherokee and other users. Nyquist held five public meetings in Prowers, Elbert and El Paso counties during August to explain the plan to local communities that would be involved. About 1,000 people showed up to protest the expansion of the district at an Aug. 24 Elbert County commissioners meeting. The district withdrew its application in response to the public opposition, but Nyquist said the company will still work toward building the pipeline project…
The Lamar Canal is closely tied to the Granada Ditch, where some irrigators are fearful of what could happen to their water deliveries if the GP project is developed.
GP Resources, LLC, is a Colorado-based agriculture and natural resources company committed to providing treated drinking water and water storage for users throughout the Front Range and southeastern Colorado as part of a new regional water project intended to serve as a model for how in-state water transfers can be structured in a way that benefits all stakeholders.
The project involves limited amounts of ground water from Elbert County and a significant amount of agricultural surface water from the lower Arkansas River, both of which are privately owned by GP Resources. It is anticipated that the project will create jobs and provide homeowners and businesses with access to much-needed renewable water supplies, helping solve the increasing problems associated with reliance on aquifer resources.
In an effort to make this project a model for how water transfers should be done, GP will take guidance from the Water Transfer Template developed by the Arkansas River Roundtable as a framework for addressing the needs and concerns of all stakeholders.
Significant groundwork has gone into project analysis, finance, and planning. Key components include:
Investments in equipment, systems, and practices to increase the efficiencies of current water consumption on GP’s farms based in Lamar. Large portions of the farms will continue to be irrigated after the project is completed and the remaining water will become available for municipal use after going through Colorado’s mandated water court process. The court process ensures that downstream agricultural and municipal users will not be adversely affected by the change in use. Since this is an existing diversion, the project will not remove any water from the Arkansas basin that is not already being consumed and therefore should have minimal environmental impact. In addition, all required permitting processes will be followed and the project will comply with the Arkansas River Compact.
Investments in GP’s water rights and systems in Elbert County, involving a local water District to provide the transmission of GP’s privately owned and adjudicated water on an interim basis to a water District in the greater Colorado Springs area. This will include construction of a below-ground pipeline through or adjacent to an existing service easement for most of the alignment and will bring much-needed relief to the community, which has experienced problems with its current water sources. Upon delivery of GP’s renewable water supply to this community, the same pipeline will be re-used to deliver additional renewable water to other Front Range communities.
Investments in water treatment, storage, and transmission facilities which will allow the efficient movement of GP’s Lamar water to Front Range and eastern plains communities, providing them with a stable, cost-effective, and perpetual water supply. Additionally, jobs will be created in both Elbert and Prowers counties through the construction, on-going maintenance and operation of the system.
To implement these plans, GP is currently in discussions with several water Districts to provide them with an efficient solution to their water needs as quickly as possible. GP has also had preliminary consultations with relevant County and State authorities to ensure its project is responsive to local needs and provides a win-win for key stakeholders. GP plans to continue these efforts through immediate contact with all interested parties in the Arkansas Valley, eastern plains and along the Front Range.
Colorado water law does not allow speculation so when the GP Water starts their change case in water court it will be important to have customers lined up. Municipalities are given wide latitude (Great and Growing Cities Doctrine) in planning because of the length of time it takes to plan, fund and build facilities but speculation findings bit Pagosa Springs and High Plains A&M in recent years.
The Cherokee Metropolitan District has supply woes after they were deemed to be pumping out of priority from the Upper Black Squirrel designated groundwater basin. They’ve been buying supplemental water supplies from Colorado Springs but they’re looking for a permanent supply. It looks like they’re in talks with GP. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
The pipeline, proposed by GP Water of Littleton, is one of two options that survived a review Wednesday by Cherokee’s board, said Sean Chambers, manager of the district. A contract with GP Water would move its proposal from the realm of speculation by identifying an end-user, a condition required under Colorado water law. GP has purchased 40 percent of the Lamar Canal, and plans to market it to Front Range communities, but has not filed an application in Water Court…
Cherokee is also looking at a proposal by the Greenland Basin Pipeline Co., which would provide water from Denver Basin aquifers in Northern El Paso County through a much shorter pipeline that the district would have the option of purchasing…
Currently the district buys about one-third of its water supply — 1,000 acre-feet a year — from Colorado Springs at the rate of $13.60 per 1,000 gallons. (Pueblo water customers pay $2.21 per 1,000 gallons.) The rate is tied to Colorado Springs’ rate increases of 12 percent each year expected through 2016 to pay for Southern Delivery System. That gets compounded, since Cherokee’s rate is 187 percent of the Colorado Springs base rate. The proposals Cherokee is looking at would cut the cost of water to $6-$7.50 per 1,000 gallons, Chambers said…
In June, GP Water also submitted a proposal to Castle Rock, and continues to negotiate with other water providers, [Karl] Nyquist said.
“Our project will continue to move forward, the service plan amendment would have allowed Elbert County to participate in the benefits,” said Karl Nyquist, a partner in GP Water. “The service plan amendment was certainly not necessary for the project as proposed and we will move forward as planned.”[…]
Bill Long, president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, doubts the cost figures that GP has shared so far, and said the pipeline would do little to meet the state’s municipal water gap. “I’m not at all surprised they pulled the Elbert County proposal,” Long said. “My hope is they could get behind a better long-term solution than one which has such a detrimental impact to one small area in a basin that is already water-short. In my mind, they aren’t even close to being a part of the solution.”[…]
The expansion of the authority of the Elbert County and Highway 86 Commercial District, which was formed by the GP partners to provide area water service, would have expedited both water plans and provided additional revenue to Elbert County, but Nyquist said there are other ways to pursue the project.
Hundreds who attended a Wednesday Elbert County commissioners meeting cheered when it was announced that the proposal to expand the district was withdrawn. GP Water hosted two public meetings in the county, but apparently did not convince enough people it was good for the county…
The pipeline would be designed to pump up to 12,000 acre-feet annually, but GP estimates its yield from water rights it owns would be an average of 8,000-10,000 acre-feet annually. Nyquist says treated water will sell for $6-$7 per 1,000 gallons, a competitive rate. Negotiations with several potential end users are under way, including the Cherokee Water District near Colorado Springs. Nyquist said other negotiations are confidential, but focus on El Paso County.
The district’s retreat, which its director calls temporary, was met with loud cheers and whistles from about 1,000 people — the county has a population of about 22,000 — who showed up at the county commission meeting expecting a vote. Instead, a statement of withdrawal from the attorney representing Elbert and Highway 86 Commercial Metro District was read into the record…
Karl Nyquist, head of GP Water and the district director, said the pipeline is not on hold but didn’t provide any details about how he would proceed without authority to operate across county lines. “Our request to delay the vote on the district service plan amendment is simply to allow more time to educate the public and provide the facts about the project and its benefits,” he said in a news release. “The project will be moving forward in all respects despite this delay.”
The next time around, however, the district may face tougher challenges from county officials, who said they would make changes to the review process and who are facing intense public pressure. “We appoint you,” said Jim Eller, who teaches at Metropolitan State College of Denver, to commissioners Del Schwab and Kurt Schlegel. “You disappoint us, we dis-appoint you.”[…]
Elbert County, which does not have a renewable water source, relies on its aquifers, which are generally being depleted faster than they can be recharged. Many in the community fear that Nyquist will take too much water out or that his plan to store treated Arkansas River water in the aquifers will hurt their water quality. Additional concerns were raised after Nyquist failed to rule out using water for the oil and gas companies, which use millions of gallons for exploration.
More coverage from Barbara Preskorn writing for the Lamar Ledger. From the article:
Nyquist and his firm GP Resources, held a second stakeholder meeting at the Lamar Community Center, Tuesday, August 23 to share his business plan “Southeast Renewable Water Project Initiative: A new vision for Colorado’s water future.” Following the template offered by the Arkansas River Basin Roundtable, Nyquist’s firm is starting the process of obtaining comment from stakeholders about water issues. Several attorneys and water engineers in the firm’s employ were present as well as were representatives of the Lamar City Council, the Prowers County Commissioners and Prowers County Development, Inc. Colorado Springs water attorney David Shohet, retained by the City of Lamar, was also in the packed crowd.
“We are proposing a win-win sustainable business opportunity for Prowers County that will provide the region with a water treatment plant and with water storage in the gravel pit on land that I own. We have engineers studying the possibility of underground alluvial storage. One possibility for disposing of brine would be deep underground injection that is used successfully elsewhere.”
“Construction jobs and permanent operational jobs will be created, property tax will increase on the land where the treatment plant will be located because this is a private and not a government enterprise. We expect that school enrollments would go up as a result of these new jobs.” Nyquist stated…
When asked about how this project might be impacted by future extended extreme drought that this county is currently facing, water engineer consultant, Ken Knox stated that “Periods of extreme drought from the 1950s, 1977 and 2002 have been reviewed and that information is being considered in the GP Group’s plan. Few records exist from the 1930s, but indications are that the 1950’s actually were dryer.”
Jillane Hixson, Hixson Farms, stated that she was “under the impression that according to the Colorado-Kansas Compact agreement, river water could not be transferred from below the John Martin Reservoir.” Nyquist responded “This will be reviewed in water court when the application for change-of-use is filed. We will be able to show that no harm will be caused to downstream users, to wildlife or to the environment.”[…]
Roger Stagner, Mayor, City of Lamar, stated following the meeting “The Lamar City Council is watching this proposed business project very closely, but we do not have enough information yet to form an opinion as to whether this would be beneficial to the community or how much benefit it might bring to the region.”
Joe Marble echoed his statement “The Prowers County Commissioners are waiting to receive GP Resources 1041 permit application. We will then have enough information to review the proposal. We will probably need our own legal expertise to help us in this review process.”
“Why should agriculture, which is already short on water, be the reservoir for the state?” Brown asked. “We need to go forward with a better analysis of the shortage and what is needed to support agriculture.” Brown also is a member of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and Arkansas Basin Roundtable, and has often tried to keep the issue in front of those groups…
Earlier this month, the [Arkansas Basin] roundtable formed a committee to address Brown’s concerns. In the process, he hopes to guide the state to a new way of thinking about its water needs. At last week’s Lower Ark meeting, Brown expanded on the need for the committee, which is closely aligned with the district’s goals. “The agriculture industry deserves to be more than the stepchild for water supply in the future,” Brown said…
Water users in El Paso County — Fountain, Widefield, Woodmoor and Donala — have been buying farms and ranches for water in recent years. Large blocks of water have been purchased on the Fort Lyon and Bessemer canals for future municipal use. Half of the Amity Canal was sold to Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association for a future power plant. And there are agricultural operations that easily could turn into municipal supply projects throughout the valley, potentially catching the valley off-guard as GP’s plan did. Large blocks of agricultural water have been consolidated in Pueblo and Otero counties, causing public officials to worry about where the water could be headed…
The Lower Ark board is one of few water agencies in the state that firmly supports a Flaming Gorge pipeline. Last year, it supported Aaron Million’s idea for the 560-mile line from the Green River in Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range because it would develop unused state entitlement in the Colorado River basin and take pressure off Arkansas Valley farms. Million has always insisted that some water from the pipeline be set aside for agricultural and environmental uses. The state’s roundtables have committed to investigating Million’s plan, along with a similar proposal by the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition, as a way of filling the water supply gap…
At a roundtable meeting earlier this month, Fremont County rancher Tom Young asked whether the state should seriously consider importing water from the Missouri River basin in South Dakota, rather than looking for more out of the Colorado River basin from Flaming Gorge Reservoir.
Representatives of Otero, Bent and Prowers Counties, Lamar city officials, representatives from Kansas and concerned area residents filled the multipurpose room at the Lamar Community Center on Tuesday night to listen to Karl Nyquist with C & A companies, discuss his plans for a pipeline to take water from Lamar to Elbert County.
Calling the proposal a “win-win,” [Carl Nyquist] said the proposal would create jobs for Prowers County, while providing water for Front Range communities. “How we stumbled into water, is I came down here about 10 years ago and bought a farm, believe it or not,” Nyquist said. About 15 years ago, water tap fees were increasing rapidly and Nyquist said he began doing research and began purchasing land with water rights, the first of which was the West farm, east of Lamar…
The pipeline would run from Prowers County, into Kiowa, Cheyenne, Lincoln and into El Paso County.
An abandoned gas line easement has been purchased and the line will be put in its place, Nyquist said.A water treatment plant would provide diversification of jobs in Prowers County away from agriculture, Nyquist said, which would be a benefit. The jobs would be long term-permanent jobs, he said. Nyquist said there would be 63 sustainable jobs associated with the project and seven with the gravel pit.
Meanwhile, 300 or so attended a public meeting in Elbert County to hear about the proposed pipeline. Here’s a report from Ashley Dieterle writing for the Castle Rock News. From the article:
The meeting drew so much interest, some people had to sit on the floor of the school’s gymnasium.
Before the project can begin, the Elbert Board of County Commissioners must approve an amendment to the Elbert and Highway 86 Metropolitan District’s service plan.
Since Nyquist and his team first showed up on the board’s agenda on July 13 many people in the county have voiced concern. At the July 27 board meeting at the Elbert County Fairgrounds, more than 300 people attended, many of whom voiced their concerns about the project moving too fast. During that meeting Nyquist requested a 30-day extension in order to educate people in the county about the project.
“We would like the extension to be able to utilize this meeting and hear the comments from the public,” he said. “We believe it is a very important issue for Elbert County and we want to hear more from the public. We have heard very reasonable concerns, and we need to address those concerns.”
Questions are being raised the cost of construction and operations for the project. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
Commissioners from Bent and Otero County raised questions at last week’s meeting, concerned about similar projects that might affect their own counties.
Prowers County commissioners, who have talked with Nyquist about his plans for a gravel pit just outside Lamar, were caught off-guard because they were not told it would become a reservoir to feed a proposed treatment plant for the pipeline. Prowers County would have land-use authority under 1974’s HB1041, which allows counties to regulate statewide projects. Eagle County used that law to delay development of the Homestake II project by Colorado Springs and Aurora. Pueblo County applied conditions to the Southern Delivery System under the same law. Because of the role of commissioners as a quasi-judicial body in the 1041 process, they are restricted in what they can say about the project.
Bent County commissioners questioned Nyquist’s estimates of brine disposal based on the experience the city of Las Animas has had in dealing with reverse-osmosis. Nyquist claimed only 3 to 5 percent of the water would be lost to brine, which would then be injected into deep wells. Las Animas has far greater losses in its process.
Bent County Commissioner Bill Long also questioned the claim that GP Water’s treatment plant would increase the tax base as promised just because a private company is building it. “What if it sells to a water district?” Long asked. Nyquist said those types of questions would be addressed in 1041 negotiations.
Finally, Chris Woodka reports on the opposition to the pipeline from farmers in the lower Arkansas Valley in today’s Chieftain. From the article:
“It took us by surprise. This is my grandfather’s farm,” said Diane Gass, whose family irrigates 360 acres on the Granada Ditch. “This is my heritage, which is the reason I become so emotional at the meeting. We’re not going to go down without a fight.” The meeting she refers to was called last week by GP Water to explain to local residents its proposal to pump water from a treatment plant near Lamar to El Paso, Elbert and other Front Range counties. Another public meeting will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Lamar Community Building…
While the pipeline would be slightly larger than needed to move the water historically used to irrigate 4,000 acres, there won’t be any push to buy up more rights, [Karl Nyquist, one of three principal partners in the project] said. “We’ll only take the water we own,” Nyquist said. “We’re working hard not to affect anyone on the ditches.”
Nyquist insisted the project will keep farm land viable, but didn’t entirely rule out the possibility that GP might purchase more rights in the future. “Never say never,” he said…
[Diane Gass’] farm produces wheat and hay. Much of the hay this year has been sold to Texas, where drought conditions are threatening the cattle industry. “What happens here could have a domino effect,” she said.
The larger issues are those affecting the towns near farms, something she didn’t think much about when she lived in Lamar. “When I saw a hail cloud living in town, I worried about my roof. Now I see one and think, ‘There goes my profit,’ ” she said. “When you’re talking about water to drink in these cities, nobody asks, ‘What are you going to eat?’ They just don’t think about it.”
Karl Nyquist, one of the partners in the GP group, outlined the scope of the project for about 75 people, including local water rights owners, county commissioners from throughout the area, state water officials and attorneys. Prowers County would gain full-time jobs, tax base and economic diversity from the project, while losing seasonal farm labor and water, Nyquist said. “We think we can provide benefits on this end, in Prowers County,” he told the group. “We have tried to engineer a project that can be supportable in Prowers County and supportable on the Front Range and good for everyone.”
Those attending the meeting questioned whether GP could treat the water in a cost-effective manner, how the brine from treatment would be dealt with and whether the tax benefits of a privately built project would last if it were turned over to a public district at some point. Nyquist explained that Water Court, the Arkansas River Compact Administration and Prowers County 1041 regulations would sort out those kinds of issues. The project is being aired at a series of public meetings in Lamar, Elbert and El Paso counties as Nyquist and his partners seek approval for expansion of their Elbert County water district.
[Karl Nyquist] told the Elbert County Commissioners that the Highway 86 Commercial Metro District owns shares in the Lamar Canal, which outrank those of Pueblo, Colorado Springs and Aurora.
According to a press release from Nyquist, contributions for the pipeline from Elbert County would include the approval of the Water District Expansion Plan and temporary export of privately owned groundwater already adjucated for Municipal and Industrial (M&I) use.
“He’s stuck his stick not into a hornet’s nest, but into a rattlesnake nest,” Dan Rasmussen, who lives across from the proposed gravel pit said.
The benefits to Elbert County would be large, including Performance Improvement Framework (PIF) revenue from commercial projects and a renewable water source for the community. The oil and gas industry would not deplete groundwater supplies, the pipeline would provide economic growth and jobs, and the pipeline would provide a long term solution for communities with water issues. Additionally, property values would increase, due to a secure water supply.
Prowers County would experience some loss of irrigated farmland, export of some privately owned water out of the basin and loss of seasonal farm labor jobs, according to the release.
Meanwhile, it seems that GP Resources is looking to transfer ag water with as little impact to Prowers County as possible. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
The Grasmicks have sold their land and Lamar Canal shares to GP Water, which plans to build a treatment plant near Lamar and a pipeline to Elbert and El Paso counties to deliver drinking water to the Front Range. The family has invested in GP Water, will continue farming for GP on the Lamar Canal and sees benefits for Prowers County from the deal. “With GP, it was the first time I had talked to people who talked about how to build a project that would have benefits at both ends of the line,” said Bill Grasmick, 64, the oldest of three brothers in the family corporation. “I’m looking at this as economic development.”[…]
There have been other offers for the water from the Lamar Canal since the 1990s, along with a slew of changes. Grasmick is the president of the canal company, and those changes are a daily fact of life for him. Many areas along the canal were dried up for use by the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association, which augments depletions to the Arkansas River from well-pumping. Grasmick also sits on the LAWMA board, so he understands the conditions put on Colorado wells by the U.S. Supreme Court lawsuit with Kansas over the Arkansas River Compact. Cattle feedlots, the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the city of Lamar also have taken water from farmland under the canal over the years. There also have been water speculators — High Plains A&M, Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association and others — showing up on the doorstep over the past two decades…
The Lamar Canal has one of the most senior water rights below John Martin Reservoir, with an 1875 priority date, Grasmick explained, standing at the ditch intake on the Arkansas River in Lamar. The Lamar Canal diverts water to the south of the river for about 21 miles, where it flows into the Granada Ditch. The route goes through an area once irrigated by the Manvel, X-Y and Graham ditches, whose headgates were damaged by the 1965 flood and which now primarily provide LAWMA water. On many days, the Lamar Canal virtually “sweeps” the Arkansas River, which then gains return flows as it makes its way to Kansas…
A proposed gravel pit will be dug on 260 acres owned by GP. It eventually will become a 10,000 acre-foot storage site that would serve a water treatment plant at the beginning of the pipeline. It’s near Lamar’s sewage treatment pond in the industrial park just outside Lamar, and within sight of the old Neoplan bus plant and associated industrial buildings. One corner of a field of corn badly damaged by feeding deer shows the possibility for wildlife areas, and possibly hunting clubs. Most importantly, there are still crops being grown in both dry and irrigated fields. Grasmick said that will continue…
GP will continue to farm, through its agreement with the Grasmick family, using LAWMA shares. The advantage is that the best farmland can be irrigated, including some of the land taken out of production in the past. Pivot sprinklers eventually will replace all flood irrigation on the ditch, he predicts…
Grasmick agrees with GP’s analysis that the jobs and tax benefits that come with building a treatment plant at Lamar will offset the farm jobs and land that will be lost. There also is the possibility that treated water from the plant could be used by area water districts struggling with how to meet water quality regulations.
[The Lamar pipeline, a] $340 million proposal would divert the water 150 miles from where it was traditionally used, possibly out of the Arkansas River basin. “Private enterprise has got to pull the sled,” Karl Nyquist, GP Water chief executive, said. He touts both municipal and agricultural benefits of the project he is proposing. “But nothing is done in the private sector without an idea of making money.”[…]
Nyquist said the up-front costs of developing a large project can be too much for a growing community to afford. There is a competitive market for new sources of water as cities that rely on the Denver Basin aquifers slowly tap it out. GP Water quietly bought up shares of water in the Lower Arkansas Valley for nine years before deciding to make its move…
At a state Roundtable Summit in Denver last March, former State Engineer Jeris Danielson, who has worked as a consultant for both Boyce and Million, asked Gov. John Hickenlooper if there is a place for private development of state water projects. “We have to be careful bringing in private capital as part of the solution,” Hickenlooper answered. “I don’t have a problem with bringing private capital into the picture, but we need to make sure their goals line up with the state’s goals.”[…]
State officials are taking a wait-and-see approach to private projects, watching projects like Flaming Gorge and the newly announced GP plans cautiously. “I think the jury’s still out,” said Alan Hamel, a member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works. “In recent years, it has become harder to develop a large water project unless you’re a big water provider.”
Hamel said there could be a place for the private sector in filling state water needs, but like Hickenlooper he urges caution. “The unincorporated areas are struggling with coming up with a way to replace non-renewable groundwater assets,” Hamel said. “The Flaming Gorge Task Force is a way to flush out the issues. I think, before we’re done, there have to be some public-private partnerships.”
Be sure to click through. Mr. Woodka provides a lot of detail about water projects in Colorado in the article.
More coverage from Karen Crummy writing for The Denver Post. From the article:
Elbert County residents fear the group will take too much water out of the aquifers, some of which are being depleted faster than they can be recharged. County residents are also worried about an eventual plan to store treated Arkansas River water in their aquifers, fearing it will hurt their water quality. Meanwhile, Prowers County, where Lamar is located, is expected to lose irrigated farmland and seasonal farm-labor jobs as Arkansas River water is pumped north. “The big concern in our community is dried-up land. It’s extremely difficult to get things to grow after it dries up,” said Prowers County Commissioner Henry Schnabel. “I would rather the water was used in our area, preferably for agriculture. But we don’t know much about (the plan) right now.”
Karl Nyquist, head of GP, said the “net benefits” in both counties will outweigh the negative impacts. The pipeline from the Arkansas River means Elbert County will eventually get a renewable water source, which he said should help with economic opportunities. Prowers will enjoy a larger tax base and higher-paying jobs from the plant that will treat the river water to drinking standards. He also said GP intends to retain some farmland, using sprinkler irrigation. “We’re trying to create a win-win for every stakeholder,” said Nyquist, who has scheduled community meetings in Elbert, El Paso and Prowers counties this month to educate residents on the project…
After the public questioned the speed with which the proposal was being considered [by the Elbert County Commissioners] and the secrecy surrounding it, the commission delayed voting on the matter until Aug. 24. “This project popped up and caught a lot of people by surprise,” said John Stulp, special water adviser to Gov. John Hickenlooper and director of the Interbasin Compact Committee, a group created under a 2005 state law to promote cooperation on water- management issues and storage projects…
…through public records and an interview with Nyquist, The Denver Post was able to put together a basic picture of the project. Generally, the financing involves GP Water Group, which is made up of Nyquist and his two partners, David Pretzler and David Bechtel. Pretzler and Nyquist are also on the Highway 86 district board. Both men are also partners in C & A Holding Co., a real- estate management and development company. The Highway 86 district owns 180,000 acre-feet — roughly 58 billion gallons — of aquifer water. That water would be pumped through a 32.5- mile pipeline from southwestern Elbert County to Falcon, which is 15 miles northeast of Colorado Springs, for use while districts are waiting for Arkansas River water. Nyquist said the group is not focused on oil and gas exploration, which is set to begin in Elbert County and will need millions of gallons of water. But he also didn’t rule it out in the future. GP, which owns 39 percent of the Lamar Canal, will pull water from the Arkansas River near Lamar. Once GP, or one of its related companies, goes through the courts to change the use of the river water from agricultural to municipal, it will build a treatment facility near Lamar and the pipeline to Falcon. The group is already constructing a gravel pit in Lamar for water storage. Additional storage at the other end of the pipeline will be in aquifers…
The Arkansas River Compact Administration — made up of two Colorado members, two Kansas members and a federal representative appointed by the president — must give its seal of approval, said Steve Witte, an engineer for Colorado’s natural-resources division. It’s unclear how long that will take. “There isn’t a lot of precedent for this,” Witte said, noting that others have considered similar projects but haven’t followed through.
Developers who want to build a 150-mile pipeline from Lamar to growing communities in El Paso and Elbert counties estimate it would cost about $340 million to construct. “We believe we can build it cheaper than government engineers would estimate,” said Karl Nyquist, CEO for the GP Water Group. “We’ve done a fair amount of this type of work, and there are a few similar projects we’ve watched.”
GP Water proposes to build a 24-inch diameter pipeline to deliver water from rights it owns on the Lamar Canal. Customers would include the Cherokee Water and Sanitation District near Colorado Springs, and potentially other users in Elbert or El Paso counties. It would deliver up to 12,000 acre-feet annually. The primary purpose of the project is to provide renewable water to growing communities that are now mining the Denver Basin aquifers as more wells are drilled…
GP’s engineering team estimates it would cost between $330 million and $340 million to build the proposed pipeline. The cost includes the water, pump stations, a treatment plant at Lamar and the pipeline…
There would also be costs associated with treatment and transmission. Water would have to be treated for high salinity and pumped at least 2,400 feet uphill…
In most court decrees for water transfers, only the consumptive use of water may be moved. The Lamar Canal water rights have already been changed to allow multiple uses, but GP would need a new decree to use the water in a new location. GP plans to be able to move the water within five years.
Here’s the schedule of GP Water Group’s planned public meetings:
Thursday: Elbert County issues, the old gym at Simla High School, 619 Pueblo Ave., Simla.
Aug. 16 and 23: Prowers County issues, Lamar Community Building, 610 S. Sixth St., Lamar.
Aug. 17: Elbert County issues, Legacy Academy Charter School, 1975 Legacy Circle, Elizabeth.
Aug. 22: El Paso County issues, Sand Creek High School, 7005 N. Carefree Circle, Colorado Springs.
The GP Water Group of Littleton spent the past nine years quietly buying shares on the canal, which has one of the oldest water rights on the Arkansas River, with the intent of both farming and selling water to satisfy Front Range municipal water needs. While the company’s initial client, the Cherokee Water District near Colorado Springs, would receive Elbert County groundwater, the goal is to develop a renewable source from the Lower Arkansas Valley to serve communities that are essentially mining their groundwater reserves, said Karl Nyquist, CEO of GP Water. “Our goal is to create the most value for the water we already own, while having a net positive economic impact for Prowers County,” Nyquist said.
The 24-inch-diameter pipeline would be capable of delivering up to 12,000 acre-feet of water annually — equivalent to a little less than half of the potable water used in Pueblo each year. Nyquist said the water would be sold for $6-$6.80 per thousand gallons, which is a competitive rate for growing urban areas along the Front Range. The project would require a change case of water rights in Division 2 Water Court. If all goes according to schedule, the pipeline could be built and delivering water within five years…
The water would be destined to fill the gap in municipal supplies, particularly in northern El Paso and Elbert counties. Some of the Arkansas River might end up in the South Platte River basin, since both counties straddle the divide between the two basins. GP has had preliminary discussions with Castle Rock and other users in the South Platte basin as well…
The historical consumptive use of the water GP owns on the Lamar Ditch is about 8,000-10,000 acre-feet annually, which is the amount the company would move on its own. To continue farming, GP has purchased about 1,100 shares of well augmentation water through the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association…
Elbert County commissioners on Aug. 24 will consider a request to expand the district’s scope to statewide service. GP Water is planning five public meetings in Elbert, El Paso and Prowers counties over the next three weeks to explain its plan.
Here’s the release from the GP Water Group via The Prowers Journal:
GP Resources, LLC, a Colorado-based farming and natural resources firm, announced plans today to provide water to Front Range communities, Elbert County, and others as part of a new regional water project intended to serve as a model for how in-state water transfers can be done in a way that benefits all communities involved. The project involves limited amounts of ground water from Elbert County and a significant amount of agricultural surface water from the lower Arkansas River, both of which are privately owned by GP. It is anticipated that the project will create jobs and provide homeowners and businesses with access to much-needed renewable water supplies, helping them to solve the increasing problems associated with reliance on aquifer resources.
GP will hold a series of public information sessions to describe its plans in detail, take questions, and listen to community viewpoints in order to further increase the project’s benefits. Two meetings have already been scheduled in Lamar. These meetings will take place on August 16th and August 23rd from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. in the multi-purpose room of the Lamar Community Building. Additional meeting times and locations in Elbert county and other venues will be announced soon. In an effort to make this project a model for how agricultural transfers should be done, GP will take guidance from the Water Transfer Template developed by the Arkansas River Roundtable as a framework for addressing the needs and concerns of all stakeholders. Significant groundwork has gone into project analysis, finance, and planning. Key components include: — Investments in equipment, systems, and practices to increase the efficiencies of current water consumption on GP’s farms based in Lamar.
Large portions of the farms will continue to operate after the project is completed and the remaining water will become available for municipal use after going through Colorado’s mandated water court process. The court process ensures that downstream agricultural and municipal users will not be adversely affected by the change in use. Furthermore, because this is an existing diversion, the project will not remove any water from the Arkansas basin that is not already being consumed and therefore should have minimal environmental impacts — 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 a water district in the greater Colorado Springs area. This will include construction of a below-ground pipeline through or adjacent to an existing service easement for most of the alignment and will bring much-needed relief to the community, which has experienced problems with its current water sources.
Upon delivery of GP’s renewable water supply to this community, the same pipeline will be re-used to deliver additional renewable water to Elbert County and others. –Investments in water treatment, storage, and transmission facilities which will allow the efficient movement of GP’s excess Lamar water to Front Range communities and Elbert County, providing them with a stable, cost-effective, and renewable water supply. Additionally, jobs will be created in both counties through the construction, on-going maintenance and operation of the system. To implement these plans, GP is currently in discussions with several water districts to provide them with as efficient a solution to their water needs as possible. GP has also had preliminary consultations with relevant County authorities to ensure its project is responsive to local needs and provides a win-win for key stakeholders. GP plans to continue these efforts through immediate contact with all interested parties in the Arkansas Valley and along the Front Range.
More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
Over the last nine years, GP quietly purchased 40 percent of the Lamar Canal, which already is used for municipal industrial, augmentation and wildlife in addition to agricultural purposes in the local area. Moving the water to growing communities could have grave consequences for Prowers County.
Nyquist would prefer that everyone benefit from his plan. In a benefit analysis, GP acknowledges that Prowers County would lose some irrigated farmland, export water out of the basin and lose seasonal farm jobs. On the plus side, the company plans to keep some of the farmland in production, improving it with sprinkler irrigation. It would increase the tax base with construction of a water treatment plant that would create jobs and diversify the local economy. Finally, it plans to develop aquifer storage in Prowers County, which would benefit all water users by reducing evaporation.
The most surprising thing about the company’s approach, however, is that it wants to subject the project to analysis under a water transfers template developed by the Arkansas Basin Roundtable. The template was the first attempt in the state to address third-party impacts from water projects — making up for the closed shops on Main Street, loss of tax base and other problems that come with the sale of water. While the template was widely hailed in water circles, it has never been put to practical use. “Our water attorney, Wayne Forman (of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck), suggested we use it,” Nyquist said. “In all of our projects, if we can work with all of the stakeholders, we have a better chance to find a win-win solution.”
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.
“It caught me by surprise,” said Henry Schnabel, chairman of the Prowers County commissioners. “I’m encouraged that the Elbert County commissioners aren’t jumping out and making a decision. I hope they are reasoning this issue on some level that can address the impact on the county where the water is being taken.”
Elbert County Commissioner Kurt Schlegel said his board is concerned with what happens in Elbert County. “We don’t have any say-so with water rights outside of the county,” Schlegel said.
While there is some speculation about whether the water would be used to support a burgeoning oil and gas development industry, Schlegel said the primary use for the water would remain residential and for commercial development in Elbert County based on public presentations.
The Elbert-86 metro district manager, Karl Nyquist, is traveling and could not be reached for comment. A spokeswoman said the district plans to share more details about its plans in the next month. “We’re looking forward to explaining the details of what we believe is a conscientious project that will benefit communities on both ends of the pipe,” said Michele Ames, district spokeswoman. “That’s why we’ll be holding public meetings soon in both Elbert and Prowers counties in hopes that community members will come, hear about the project and get their questions answered.
More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:
“Because of our free enterprise system, there’s nothing preventing anyone from doing a water project,” said John Stulp, who chairs the Interbasin Compact Committee. “Still, I think the people who have been involved in this project should have taken it to the roundtables.”[…]
The Colorado Water Conservation Board last year completed a study looking at various transbasin proposals. It found the costs of moving water from the Lower Arkansas Valley were high because of water quality and the pumping costs because of the increase in elevation. However, the CWCB has not studied this particular proposal.
“It was a surprise to me,” said Alan Hamel, CWCB member and executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works. “My personal hope, as a CWCB member from the Arkansas Basin, is that they will share the project with the roundtables, so issues can be identified and everyone better understands what’s being proposed.”[…]
The pipeline, rather than being advanced in secrecy, should be evaluated both for the potential benefits and harm, Hamel said. “The negative impacts of this project are entirely to our basin,” he said.
From the Associated press via The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
The 39-acre Elbert and Highway 86 Commercial Metro District, first created nine years ago, intends to build a 150-mile pipeline from the Lamar area to Elbert County. Water from the Arkansas River would be pumped up to the county, which is southeast of metro Denver.
C & A Development Co. requested a 30-day continuance for more public review of the proposal. The commissioners approved the request for a continuance until its Aug. 24 meeting…
Elbert County lacks a renewable water source, such as a river fed with yearly snowmelt. Instead, the county relies on underground aquifers, which are generally being depleted faster than they replenish. To encourage economic development and stabilize water rates, the county must import water, said the district’s director, Karl Nyquist, in a letter Friday to the Wild Pointe Ranch Homeowners Association. But the plan — particularly the speed with which it is being considered and the secrecy surrounding it — has raised eyebrows in the rural county.
In the past 15 months, gas and oil companies have paid out $25 million for leases, and they are expected to spend another $25 million by the end of the year as the industry expands in Elbert County, said Craig Curl, the county’s independent consultant and director of the Elbert County Enterprise Authority…
Because the water district, which now provides residential and commercial service in the Wild Pointe development, asked to expand its service rather than create a new entity, the proposal wasn’t legally required to go through the county’s planning department. On July 7, the county recommended approval of the district’s expansion. Six days later, the county commission held a public hearing. If the plan passes, it wouldn’t be the first time the Elbert County Commission approved the creation of a statewide water district. In 2002, it backed the controversial formation of United Water and Sanitation District — Colorado’s first statewide district. It consists of a 1-acre patch of land that can serve water users across the state. So far, the public hasn’t been told much about what the expanded district would do.
The service plan includes provisions permitting the district in certain situations to impose mill levies — new taxes — within its boundaries as high as $30 for every $1,000 of taxable property to pay off debt or for operations and maintenance. State law generally requires district property owners to vote on mill-levy increases.
The pipeline and other projects will be financed through bonds, mill levies and fees, according to the district’s proposal, but even estimated costs have not been disclosed.