#Snowpack news: Halfway through the snow accumulation season the #ArkansasRiver basin #runoff prospects are looking good

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map February 23, 2020 via the NRCS.

From The Pagosa Sun (Chris Mannara):

This week, [San Juan River watershed] snow water equivalency (SWE) is listed at 19.5 inches. Last week it was 19.1 inches.

The precipitation average increased from last week, going from 23.7 inches to 25.2 inches this week.

Arkansas Valley cantaloupe planting April 2012 photo via The Pueblo Chieftain

From KOAA.com (Tyler Dumas):

The National Weather Service is reporting that the Arkansas River Basin’s snowpack, which feeds into the Arkansas River, is at about 116 percent of its average.

At this rate, chile and cantaloupe farmers downstream can expect a good amount of water coming their way by the time the run off starts.

“People that are use to getting water, farmers, municipalities, they should be getting their normal load. If we continue to build up a bigger snowpack, then more people are going to get water as the year moves on,” said service hydrologist, Tony Anderson.

The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors will continue to eschew fluoride dosing, CDPHE presentation on tap

Calcium fluoride

From The Pagosa Sun (John Finefrock):

The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors briefly discussed fluoride in drinking water at its meeting on Feb. 13.
PAWSD stopped putting fluoride in the local water supply in 2005.

“The state has contacted us, and they would like to give us a presentation on the pros and cons of [fluoridation of] the water,” PAWSD Manager Justin Ramsey said. “We do not put fluoride in the water. I have no wish to put fluoride in the water. I told the state I’ll be happy to sit through their little spiel.”


Asked for comment on the fluoride issue, San Juan Basin Public Health’s (SJBPH) Brian Devine, Water and Air Quality Program manager, sent the following statement via email: “SJBPH supports the evidence-based practice of public water providers distributing water with the optimal levels of fluoride for public health. For some water providers, that means adding fluoride to drinking water, for others in naturally highly-fluoridated areas, it means removing it. Optimal levels of fluoride strengthen growing teeth in children and protect tooth enamel from plaque in adults, leading to less tooth decay. This means lower lifetime health costs and improves the opportunity for everyone to live a healthier life. These benefits led community water fluoridation to be named one of the top ten public health achievements of the twentieth century by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) and BootJack Ranch water court case update

Bootjack Ranch. Photo credit: Mountain Workshop

From The Pagosa Sun (Chris Mannara):

Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) and BootJack Ranch are in water court regarding various opposition of diligence claims.

At the Jan. 16 regular meeting of the PAWSD Board of Directors, PAWSD District Manager Justin Ramsey explained that BootJack Ranch, in 2018, started opposing PAWSD’s diligence on its water rights…

Ramsey later explained that, in one instance, BootJack had requested that PAWSD no longer take water from Four Mile if the river levels dropped below a certain percentage during certain months.

“I said that’s an absolutely ridiculous request. We turn our water off three weeks out of every month. It’s idiotic,” he said.

On Aug. 2, 2018, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) placed a call on the San Juan River, which Ramsey explained correlated to BootJack’s earlier requests on PAWSD not taking water from Four Mile.

“Those numbers, they did corresponded with that. I think BootJack figures we quit turning the water on, and the water would get to the San Juan, CWCB wouldn’t do their call and they wouldn’t lose their water,” Ramsey explained. “So they wanted us to augment their water rights is what that was for.”

According to Ramsey, BootJack Ranch is going after PAWSD’s diligence claims…

What PAWSD has decided to do is oppose all of BootJack’s water rights issues, Ramsey noted…

Ramsey noted that there will be a meeting with BootJack to see if the two entities can just “leave each other alone.”


Ramsey explained that PAWSD went to the water court previously and explained that it needs 20 cubic feet per second (cfs) from Four Mile, which the court agreed to.

“Now it’s called a non-perfected right. We don’t use that 20 cfs at this point. Our plan is to use it in the future,” he explained.

According to Ramsey, the rea- son BootJack has filed this claim opposition relates to water from Four Mile that goes into the San Juan River.

“The CWCB has an instream water right. The CWCB is the only entity in the state that’s allowed to have an in-stream water right. That goes from I think the 1st Street bridge in Pagosa down to McCabe Creek,” Ramsey explained. “If the water level drops, then they can do a call. That’s what they did last year.”

That call affected BootJack, Ramsey noted…

There has never been a time since PAWSD has had the Four Mile water right that it has been able to pull water in the summer, he explained, adding that PAWSD loses that ability in the first part or middle of May.

#SanJuanRiver Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

Dry Gulch Reservoir site. Credit The Pagosa Daily Post

From The Pagosa Sun (Chris Mannara):

At a regular meeting of the San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) Board of Directors on Feb. 3, the board nominated a few direc- tors to sit in on a subcommittee related to the Running Iron Ranch and San Juan River Headwaters Proj- ect (formerly known as Dry Gulch Reservoir).

Chair Al Pfister and board mem- bers John Porco and Doug Secrist were nominated to be on the six- person subcommittee that will also consist of three members of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) board.

SJWCD board member Bill Hudson will serve as an alternate for SJWCD’s portion of the subcommittee.

This subcommittee was formed as a result of a joint work session between the SJWCD and PAWSD boards on Jan. 23.

At that work session, it was suggested that a subcommittee should be created to craft an intergovernmental agreement between the two organizations regarding the property and determine what should be done when the Weber leases on the property end in 2023 and for a potential reservoir project…

Also at the Feb. 3 meeting, the SJWCD board briefly discussed who to nominate to be appointed to the Pagosa Springs Urban Renewal Au- thority (URA) Commission.

The 11-member URA commission is set up to consist of the seven town council members, an elected member of the school board, one person appointed by the county commissioners, one mayoral appointee and one person appointed by the taxing districts that levy taxes within the URA boundaries.

A URA’s primary goal is to help redevelopment within the town, and tax-increment funding ( TIF) is a common source of funding for specific URA projects…

Also at the Feb. 3 meeting, following an executive session, the board advised its legal counsel, Jeffrey Kane, to settle various cases the district, along with PAWSD, has with BootJack Ranch.

In a follow-up interview on Feb. 4, Kane explained that there are five cases the SWJCD is a part of.

Two of those cases involve both PAWSD and SJWCD as applicants, while the other three, BootJack Ranch is the applicant, Kane explained.

“The motion that was carried gave me authority to prepare stipulations with certain terms and negoti- ate with the parties to try and settle the cases,” he said.

Also at the Feb. 3 meeting, the SJWCD board elected its officers for the year.

Al Pfister was voted to be chair of the board. He previously served as secretary. Susan Nossaman retained her seat as vice chair.
Porco was elected as secretary after having previously served as chair.

Candice Kelly retained her seat as treasurer.

#MancosRiver watershed plan update

Mancos and the Mesa Verde area from the La Plata Mountains.

From the Colorado Ag Water Alliance via the Fencepost:

Agricultural producers in southwest Colorado, mostly cow-calf ranchers, expended less labor to access the same amount of water to irrigate their pastures since implementing improvements to their irrigation ditches as part of a community-wide project. They also have seen improvement in riparian habitats. A new video, which can be viewed at https://www.coagwater.org/stream-management, portrays the impact to the community of these project improvements.

The improvements were implemented following development of the Mancos Watershed Plan in 2011. The community project was able to acquire $6 million along with Natural Resources Conservation Service cost share dollars to improve irrigation ditch diversion structures, install pipe irrigation systems and reduce ditch bank erosion in some of the 49 ditches that divert water off the Mancos River and its tributaries. The funding also allowed the watershed to improve the river’s fisheries.

“Ranchers involved in the project were skeptical at first of the help proposed by the watershed plan and the different values and perspectives of those involved in the project,” said Gretchen Rank, director of the Mancos Conservation District. “But as they saw the opportunities to improve their irrigation system, while also improving the environmental health of the river, they agreed to work together on the project.”

“We learned not to make assumptions based on personal views and knowledge,” Rank said. “Involvement in the stakeholder process enabled participants to recognize the diversity of opinions, needs and knowledge that are brought to the table. Throughout the process, participants gained respect for other perspectives, often changing the way they think about the watershed. Decisions made at the watershed level affect everyone within that watershed, so it is important that decisions are data driven and community informed for the best possible outcomes.”

Through the watershed planning process, several ditches were identified as being in dire need of better diversion structures that would require a lot less maintenance and upkeep, according to Ben Wolcott, Wolcott Ranch, Mancos, Colo., who also served on the Mancos Conservation District board of directors.

“Before any of this got upgraded, irrigation diversions were just push-up structures and anything cobbled together, sometimes tree trunks and whatever was in the river,” said Wolcott. “Most years we didn’t even get any water, but now with the new diversion structures and screens we have in place in front of piped ditches, we’ve seen leaps and bounds in (improved) efficiency. I go to each headgate once a week instead of daily, and that is mostly a five-minute maintenance check. The diversions can handle high water really well and then still divert water under low flows.”

Another rancher who has benefited from the project is Ryan Brown, Reddert Ranch, Mancos, Colo. “Over my 60 years, I’ve seen the river channel deepen, which makes it harder to dam up diversions. It was helpful when the Mancos Conservation District came to us and asked if it could help make those diversions more efficient.”

Tom Weaver, Ratliff Homestead, Mancos, Colo., said that before water piping was installed there was a lot of seepage and evaporation in his and his neighbor’s irrigation ditch. “There’s more (water) going down the river now due to increased efficiency.”

Rank added that the piping and diversion improvements have allowed fish to pass through upstream to reach their spawning grounds, while reducing soil erosion and the spread of noxious weeds.

“I think it is important for local landowners to stay involved with their communities and with the organizations that are helping facilitate the changes and improvements like this,” said Wolcott. “Their voice can be heard, and their values can be shared.”

The Mancos Watershed Plan is the second of three projects showcased in a video series. The series is produced by the Colorado Ag Water Alliance and River Network with the goal of demonstrating how farmers, ranchers, ditch companies, conservation districts, environmental groups and other entities have come together to improve river health, irrigation efficiency and environmental and recreational use of Colorado’s limited water supplies.

“As Colorado’s population grows, farmland is pressured by development, and agricultural water is being sold or rented to municipalities,” said Greg Peterson, CAWA executive director. “It is imperative that we work with others to preserve agricultural irrigation water and that farmers and ranchers get involved in watershed planning.”

To see a six-minute video of the Mancos Watershed Project, a fact sheet on this project and other resources, visit https://www.coagwater.org/stream-management. For more resources on funding for agricultural infrastructure improvements, contact Greg Peterson with the Colorado Agricultural Water Alliance at coagwater@gmail.com.

Grants to help fund stream management planning, such as those used by the Mancos Watershed Project, are available through the Colorado Water Conservation Board. For more information on stream management planning in your area, visit http://coloradosmp.org or contact Alyssa Clarida with the Colorado Department of Agriculture State Conservation Board at alyssa.clarida@state.co.us

Farmington: #ClimateChange: What it means for us, March 27, 2020

Global CO2 emissions by world region 1751 through 2015.

Click here for all the inside skinny:

San Juan County Climate Awareness Coalition


SAVE THE DATE! Friday March 27th
8:30 am – 5:00 pm

Cost: $5 donation encouraged at the door, no charge to register

Location: San Juan College, Farmington, NM

Workshops include:
* Agricultural sustainability: climate change in our backyard
* Insect migration
* Disease re-emergence
* Environmental racism and the impact on Native communities
* Transitioning our energy economy
* Plastics
* What we can do: the personal and the political
* Film festival

And much more!

Fri, March 27, 2020
8:30 AM – 5:00 PM MDT

San Juan College
4601 College Boulevard
Farmington, NM 87402

#SanJuanRiver Headwaters Project (Dry Gulch Reservoir) update

Dry Gulch Reservoir site. Credit The Pagosa Daily Post

From The Pagosa Sun (Chris Mannara):

A recap of the current agree- ment between the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) and the San Juan Conser- vation District (SJWCD) regarding Running Iron Ranch, San Juan River Headwaters Project (formerly known as Dry Gulch Reservoir) and various leases on the property were topics of discussion by both boards at a joint work session on Jan. 23.

The property is jointly owned by PAWSD and SJWCD, PAWSD Manager Justin Ramsey explained, and there is also an agreement with the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) that includes terms for both entities to abide by.

There is an ongoing 15-year lease with the Weber family on the property; that lease expires on Jan. 3, 2023, Ramsey added…

The purchase of the property was made via a $9.2 million loan that PAWSD has with the CWCB and a $1 million grant that the SJWCD received.

However, in 2015, the property was appraised for about $4.5 mil- lion, he explained…

Park Ditch included with the prop- erty, specifically 9.1 cubic feet per second (cfs), Ramsey noted…

PAWSD’s loan with the CWCB was restructured in 2016 and, with that restructuring, the loan was broken into two parts, “Loan A” and “Loan B.”

Loan A was described by Ramsey as the “planning period,” which en- compasses 20 years — from Sept. 23, 2016, to 2036 — on how PAWSD and the SJWCD will move forward with a project on the property.

The amount for Loan A is $4.2 million and PAWSD is paying that off with a 1.75 percent interest rate.

After that planning period ends, PAWSD will go into an “optional extended planning period,” or Loan B.

“We can extend it for another 20 years and then we’ll start paying on the remaining $4.5 million, but it’s deferred for 20 years,” Ramsey said, noting the loan would be deferred from 2036 to 2056. “We’re not pay- ing anything on it, so it’s a fairly sweet deal at this point.”

Loan B’s interest rate will be for 3.5 percent, Ramsey added later.

According to PAWSD Director of Business Services Aaron Burns, the current remaining balance for Loan A is $3.35 million.

Since the restructured agree- ment, the annual payment on Loan A is $256,000, Burns noted…

Weber leases

There are four separate par- cels of property that encompass the Running Iron Ranch prop- erty, Ramsey explained, noting that those four parcels have been leased to the Weber family.

One parcel is 68.11 acres, an- other is 5.49 acres, one is 40 acres and the final one is 552.73 acres, according to Ramsey.

Additionally, there is a sand and gravel lease on that property, Ramsey noted.

“When the property was pur- chased, we went into a 15-year lease agreement with the Webers, the regional owners of the ranch. It was four different agreements for a $1 a year,” he said. “I think we got $60 out of this and not just $15.”

The lease agreement is from Jan. 3, 2008, to Jan. 3, 2023, according to Ramsey.

Additionally, the lease agree- ment can be extended via written consent from both the landlord and the tenant, and Ramsey explained that if it is extended the lease should be more for $1 a year.

The lease agreement also states that the Webers kept 18 acres of retained property that PAWSD has to provide access to, Ramsey noted, adding later that a legal access easement to the retained property has been provided.

Other requirements under the lease with the Webers is that PAWSD has to provide irrigation to the retained property, but this expires if the Webers no longer own the property.
Both districts also have to pay all fees associated with the Park Ditch and the Webers get use of the water, Ramsey explained.

“We promised that we won’t interfere with their development of that retained property if they are going to develop something in the future,” Ramsey said. “At this point, I have heard nothing of anything being developed out there.”

One thing the Webers have to do is comply with all applicable laws, including environmental laws, Ramsey noted.

“It’s kind of nice that the state oversees that,” he said. “So, it made me feel much more comfortable that I learned of that.”

If the lease with the Webers ends, the Webers are obligated to restore the premises and take other actions required by applicable min- ing laws and regulations, Ramsey explained.

The Webers must also remove all personal property and improve- ments at the conclusion of the lease, he added later.

According to Ramsey, the Webers are interested in extending the lease.