Jim Gardner won’t seek re-election to the Pueblo Board of Water Works

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Jon Pompia):

Now, after 18 years on the city’s Board of Water Works, Jim Gardner, 85, won’t be seeking reelection…

“I’m old,” Gardner said with a laugh. “But I can shoot my age in golf and I want to spend more time going that.”

When a vacancy on the water board opened up in 1999, Gardner was appointed by City Council to fill the slot.

He said frequent conversations with a friend — well-known civic activist and longtime water board member Bud Whitlock — helped spur his interest in water and related issues.

“Mr. Whitlock would talk about it all the time as being very important,” Gardner said. “And water is an engineering type thing and I’m interested in that kind of stuff.”

After his appointed term ended in 2000, Gardner chose to run for the seat and was successful in obtaining it — a pattern he repeated for three terms.

Along the way, Gardner said he “really got to know Alan Hamel,” the longtime executive director at Board of Water Works of Pueblo. “And he was a good guy to work with.

“One of the first things I remember is working with Alan to reduce the cost of operation in the water department. I thought we were spending too much money on the buildings and so forth. And we got that done.”

Another cause Gardner championed was the filling of key department positions with local, rather than out-of-the-area, talent.

“People were retiring, especially from important sections,” Gardner explained. “And Alan came to a meeting one day and said, ‘We will have do a big search for a financial director,’ and so forth.

“And I said, ‘You know Alan, I think we can find them all right here in town.’ And Alan did just that — he never went outside out of town again.

“It’s important that they use local people who are qualified,” he said.

Now that he is stepping down, Gardner has offered his endorsement to Sandy Gutierrez, who just announced her intention to run for the open board seat.

“I’ve known her over the years to be a level-headed person,” he said. “And she will learn a lot working with the board.”

A board, by the way, that Gardner praised as being top shelf.

“I’m proud to say that we worked to get a good board and today we have a first-class board. It’s very cohesive,” Gardner said. “They all have good heads. No one carries an agenda to the board. They listen to the staff, which I also will say is first-class.

“It’s amazing how well we work together.”

One of the major acquisitions Gardner played an instrumental role in is the purchase of the Bessemer Ditch.

“That goes back years ago, during the drought of 2001, 2002,” Gardner said. “And I was worried about the Western Slope curtailing our water through the mountains.

“And I said, ‘We’ve got to buy more native water.'”

And the city did just that, securing 32 percent of the Bessemer Ditch.

“It’s going to cost a lot of money but it’s native water, and the federal government can’t mess with us. Now, we’ve got a lot of water but we need security.”

On all levels, Gardner’s tireless efforts on behalf of the board are appreciated and will long be remembered.

“Jim got on the board shortly after I started working,” said Alan Ward, Pueblo Water’s water resources division manager. “So pretty much my whole career he’s been on the board.

“And he’s led us through some big capital projects like the purchase of the Bessemer Ditch. He’s dedicated a lot of years to us and he will be missed, I can tell you that.”

As an architect and principal in HGF Architects, Inc., Gardner’s elaborate handiwork can be seen throughout the region — from Buell Children’s Museum/Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center to Pueblo Community College’s Academic Center and Learning Facility to the Pueblo City-County Health Department building.

Pueblo County Planning and Development Board okays gravel pit near Bessemer Ditch

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Anthony A. Mestas):

[A] contentious battle over a proposed gravel pit at Badger Hills between Avondale Boulevard and 40th Lane came to an end with a granted permit from the Pueblo County Planning and Development Board.

If appealed, the decision would go to the Pueblo County commissioners.

The company has been granted a special-use permit for a 1,500-acre mineral and natural resource extraction and mining operation.

Those in opposition of the proposal have complained about the amount of truckloads that would travel along 36th Lane to U.S. 50 in front of Vineland Elementary School and Vineland Middle School.

The opponents said they do intend to appeal the decision. They have 10 days to do so.

Earlier, there even was contention on the vote. The permit passed 5-1. Donald Thorne voted no. Then he resigned from the commission. He said he was not happy with some of the decisions the planning commission has made recently.

Fremont Paving has an existing gravel pit on 36th Lane. If the commissioners allow the permit, a private road would connect the existing gravel pit to the new operation. The haul route from there would continue on 36th Lane.

John Paul Ary, of Fremont Paving, said his company is limited to 70 trucks a day from the new site to the existing one. Those in opposition said there would be 200 plus trucks a day when added to the truckloads already coming from the older operation.

Those in opposition also have said the operation would cause environmental concerns in the area and thick dust.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update: Reclamation approves cross-connection for the North and South outlet works

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam -- Photo/MWH Global
The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Ever since it began storing water 40 years ago, the Pueblo Dam has been evolving as the needs of water users change. The next step will integrate the south outlet works with the newly constructed north outlet works on the face of the dam to provide more reliability to the urban populations that depend on Lake Pueblo as a source of water. The cross-connection is part of the package approved last week by the Bureau of Reclamation. Other pieces are the Arkansas Valley Conduit and a master contract for some members of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

“We get a better quality of water coming out of the reservoir. That cuts down on chemicals used for taste and odor issues,” said Terry Book, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works.

The cross-connection will allow users of both outlets to continue using the dam when one outlet or the other is closed in an emergency or for planned maintenance.

“When one goes down, you can pull from the other side and still get part of your water,” Book said.

The dam was completed in 1974, but the south outlet — as the name implies, is on the south side of the Arkansas River — wasn’t used until 1983, when Pueblo West took its initial diversion of water. Two years later, the Fountain Valley Conduit, which serves Colorado Springs and four nearby water providers, began drawing from the south outlet. Pueblo hooked onto the south outlet in 2002, after gaining a license in 2000. The south outlet also supplies the Pueblo fish hatchery, operated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The north outlet — formerly the primary outlet for the Arkansas River — was completed last year as part of the Southern Delivery System, which will begin serving Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West in 2016.

The Southeastern district, Colorado Springs and Pueblo water board are jointly developing a hydropower project at the north outlet works, which also continues to provide water to the Arkansas River.

There also are three gates that can empty water into the basin below the dam when the north outlet is closed. The Bessemer Ditch also has a direct connection to Pueblo Dam.

Before the interconnect is constructed, it would require a 40-year contract between Reclamation and those parties using the outlets.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.

Pueblo Board of Water Works: 3% water rate hike likely, budget public hearing Tuesday

Pueblo photo via Sangres.com
Pueblo photo via Sangres.com

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Pueblo Board of Water Works will have a public hearing on its 2014 budget at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Alan C. Hamel Administration Building, 319 W. Fourth St. The board is expected to approve a $34 million budget that will mean a 3 percent rate increase for Pueblo water users. The average monthly residential bill will increase about $1 per month, or $3 per month during summer months if yard watering is factored.

The budget includes $100,000 for the CARES program, administered by Catholic Charities, that provides emergency funding for families. Last year, the program helped about 900 families.

About $23 million in revenue, or 70 percent, comes from metered accounts, while water leases contribute $8.22 million, or 25 percent.

Personnel services account for 41 percent of expenditures, while operation and maintenance costs make up 30 percent. Capital expenses amount to 17 percent, and fund transfers 12 percent.

Among the largest expenditures are $4.8 million for debt service, largely for the 2009 purchase of Bessemer Ditch shares, and $3.37 million for utilities, mainly electricity purchases from Black Hills Energy.

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.

Pueblo: The PBOWW is eyeing a water rate increase of 2.75% in their new budget

pueblo.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

While you were dumping all that water on the lawn last summer, you were keeping your water rates down. The Pueblo Board of Water Works got a detailed look at the proposed 2013 budget Tuesday, with no major surprises in the picture. A public hearing will be Nov. 20.

This year’s dry, hot weather meant a lower-than-expected increase in next year’s water rates — a 2.75 percent increase.
Why? Metered sales were projected to bring in $22 million, but all the extra watering meant an additional $800,000 in projected revenue. “Any time we have a situation where expenditures are lower or revenue higher, our customers get a benefit,” said Seth Clayton, director of administrative services and finance.

The water board also will see revenue of $7.6 million — in a $32.3 million budget — from water leases next year, including $5.2 million to power companies. While spot leases are not expected, the water board has several long-term contracts that provide additional revenues.

Expenditures are expected to be relatively flat, as opposed to this year’s steep hike in electric rates. Electricity purchases amount to about $3.4 million. A 1.49 percent salary increase is included, along with a 1.25 percent hike in health insurance and 5 percent drop in dental insurance.

An end to the drought could hurt next year’s revenues, which are based on consumption of 8.35 billion gallons for residential use. Outside lawn watering is the biggest variable for revenues, Clayton said. “Our customers are using their water wisely,” he said. “If we see a normal year, we will not see the consumption we have this year.”

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here and here.

The Pueblo Board of Water Works is still actively trying to score shares on the Bessemer Ditch

measuringwithweir.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Since 2009, the Pueblo water board has spent $59 million to purchase 5,541 shares, roughly 28 percent, of the Bessemer Ditch. The water board bought farms in 2010-11, but needed funds to pay for electric rate hikes in 2012. The board also wanted to hold the line on water rates “We still have an interest in purchasing shares and I’m sure there is interest in selling,” Hamel said. “But we did not budget any money to buy shares this year.”

The water board anticipates spending another $1 million for a change case in Division 2 Water Court, which most likely would be filed in 2013. The change would allow water to be moved from the ditch into the city’s water system. Contracts for the sales allow the water to remain in use on farms for the next 20 years. The change case will cover only those farms purchased by the water board, and will not apply to other water users along the ditch, Hamel said.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Two Rivers Water Company has inked a purchase contract for a farm on the Bessemer Ditch

bessemerditch1890waterarchives.jpg

Here’s the release from Two Rivers Water Company via PR Newswire:

Two Rivers Water Company announced today it has entered into an agreement to acquire the operating assets of Dionisio Produce & Farms, LLC, including 150 acres of high yield irrigated farmland and 150 shares in the Bessemer Mutual Ditch Company, a senior water right on the main stem of the Arkansas River. Dionisio Produce & Farms has been producing vegetable crops in Pueblo County, Colorado since the 1930s.

Two Rivers will also lease approximately 170 additional acres of farmland and purchase farm equipment, essentially merging the former operations of Dionisio Produce & Farms into Two Rivers’ farming subsidiary. Russ Dionisio, the third generation owner/operator, will join Two Rivers and continue to manage the farming operations on the acquired and leased land. Two Rivers intends to operate the acquired assets under the Dionisio name, one of the most respected growers under the Bessemer Ditch with well-established produce marketing relationships.

John McKowen, Two Rivers’ CEO, commented, “Acquiring Dionisio Produce & Farms is an important strategic transaction for our company for several reasons. First, Dionisio is a trusted grower of fruits and vegetables for human consumption, which are a higher value agricultural category that compliments the Company’s existing livestock fodder crops. Second, this acquisition brings membership in the Bessemer Ditch, which takes its water by direct diversion from the Arkansas River. Finally, Russ Dionisio’s experience, reputation and proven skill in growing and marketing high value crops add substantially to our farming knowhow.”

The acquisition, which is subject to on-going due diligence, is expected to close by July 31, 2012. Two Rivers has advanced $400,000 into escrow to support Dionisio farming operations during the current growing season. The financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but the Company expects to arrange bank financing for a portion of the acquisition.

Russ Dionisio said, “I am proud of the Dionisio farming tradition in the Arkansas River Valley and pleased to join Two Rivers to help carry on our business. By joining Two Rivers, I will be able to concentrate on farming, the part of the business I love, and rely on the Company’s skilled business managers to handle the finance, insurance and compliance aspects of our integrated enterprise. Two Rivers has demonstrated the skill, capacity and perseverance to redevelop both farmland and water infrastructure to support productive agriculture in Huerfano and Pueblo Counties. I am eager to integrate Dionisio into this dynamic organization.”

As noted, the acquisition includes shares in the Bessemer Mutual Ditch Company. The Company’s President, Gary Barber, noted, “The productive integration of fertile land and reliable water under the Bessemer Ditch is a model the Company is trying to emulate as we build out our farm and water assets on the Huerfano and Cucharas Rivers system. When we finish refurbishing our upstream reservoirs and integrate a drought-proof groundwater component to our system, we expect to replicate the level of water reliability of the Bessemer Ditch that has sustained the Dionisios for more than 60 years, through all hydrological and weather cycles. By integrating the Dionisio business into our own, Two Rivers will gain not only a new source of farm revenue but also experience in growing and marketing the higher value crops that are the long-term future of our Company. This acquisition supports both our existing and our planned water rights and infrastructure, allowing us to manage our resources in conjunction with the Bessemer system.”

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

A water development company that plans to restore agricultural ground in Pueblo and Huerfano counties is purchasing a farm on the Bessemer Ditch…

The acquisition will be added to the 4,700 acres Two Rivers already owns in southeastern Pueblo County and Huerfano County. The company has purchased nearly all of the Huerfano-Cucharas ditch, Cucharas Reservoir and the Orlando Reservoir system. The Bessemer Ditch water rights will allow the company to add fruits and vegetable crops to the forage crops it is growing on the other acreage, McKowen said. It also gives the company a direct water right on the Arkansas River, part of the long-term strategy for finding water to fill Cucharas Reservoir…

The purchase of Bessemer shares is the latest in transfers that are changing the nature of the Bessemer Ditch. For years, the ditch was a collection of relatively small farming operations. Pueblo County’s largest ditch flows through Pueblo and irrigates about 20,000 acres, mostly east of Pueblo. It receives its water directly from Pueblo Dam. The Pueblo water board has purchased about 28 percent of water rights on the ditch since 2009 for $10,150 a share, and continues to make purchases. All of its contracts include allowing the farmers to use the water for irrigation for 20 years. The St. Charles Mesa Water District has purchased about 10 percent of the Bessemer Ditch over the years for domestic water service on the St. Charles Mesa.

More Bessemer Ditch coverage here and here.