Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

Screenshot of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project boundaries via Northern Water’s interactive mapping tool , June 5, 2019.

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

Brad Wind, general manager of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District based in Berthoud, and Jim Hall, Northern Water’s senior water resources engineer, briefed the LSPWCD’s board of directors on Northern’s efforts to keep Colorado-Big Thompson water from leaving the Northern District…

Wind told the Lower board that Northern is working to enforce Article 19 of the 1938 contract between Northern Water and the federal government, known as the Project Repayment Contract. That article, one of 27 contained in the contract, specifies that all seepage and return flows from the use of Colorado-Big Thompson project water are reserved to Northern Water and are not to be taken outside the district’s boundaries.

On May 9, Northern adopted a resolution saying it would “take appropriate actions to enforce Article 19 consistent its interpretation of Article 19.”

Wind said the heavy lifting in that effort will be tracking how C-BT water, and resulting seepage and return flow, are used. He used the phrase “colors of water,” which is a concept that holds that, through close monitoring and accounting, mixed waters from various sources actually can be tracked through multiple uses. For instance, water that is native to the South Platte Basin can be accounted differently from C-BT water, which is diverted from the Colorado River into Grand Lake and piped through the Adams Tunnel to Estes Park and held in Horsetooth Reservoir and Carter Lake for distribution to C-BT members.

Return flows are water that has been diverted from the river, used to irrigate crops or for municipal use, and either seeps back to the river through the ground or is discharged after treatment. Much of the river’s flow in the lower reaches in late summer and through the winter is from return flows from upstream use. Return flows are crucial to irrigators in Weld, Morgan, Washington, Logan and Sedgwick counties.

“To protect return flows, we have to know what they are,” Wind said. “We have to be able to quantify what return flows are coming from C-BT use and what’s from native water. It’s complicated.”

Hall told the Lower board that there is the danger that “change of use” cases going through Colorado water courts could result in return flows from C-BT water being shipped out of the Northern district in violation of Article 19.

“We’re starting to see change cases on irrigation ditches moving water outside the district boundaries,” Hall said. “That’s why it’s important to track this stuff. It’s easier to track municipal water because we can look at their (wastewater treatment facility) discharges, but it’s harder to prove agricultural return flows.”

Hall said return flows from native water are not subject to Article 19, only C-BT return flows.

Wind said Northern will be watching closely all change of use cases that go through Colorado’s water courts and will continue monitoring water usage in the district to make sure C-BT water doesn’t leave the district.

#SouthPlatte River Master Plan presentations, February 12, 2019

South Platte River Basin via Wikipedia

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

Authorized and funded by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the South Platte Master Plan was launched two years ago to find ways to make the river more “flood resilient,” both to handle the flooding as it occurs, with minimal damage to property and structures, and to quickly recover from a flood in the aftermath.

The project area includes 130 miles of the South Platte River from the Weld-Morgan County Line to the Nebraska state line.

Project representatives will present the plan Feb. 12 at the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District’s board of directors meeting at 9 a.m., then meet with the Logan County Water Conservancy District board at 11 a.m. The plan will be presented again at 1 p.m. at the CSU Engagement Center.

Both conservancy districts are interested in seeing how they can work with the Master Plan…

The LCWCD recently decided to change its focus away from the idea of building a flood control dam across Pawnee Creek. Miller has said the “big project” simply isn’t feasible and may not be for some time. Instead, the district will shift its focus to smaller projects that will mitigate flooding in the immediate future.

The Lower South Platte district, meanwhile, is interested in finding water storage potential and funding for storage projects along the lower reaches of the river.

The meetings on Feb. 12 are public meetings but space is limited in all of the venues.

Sterling City Council meeting recap

Pawnee Creek

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

Brad McCloud, a public relations specialist with EIS Solutions, told the Sterling City Council Tuesday evening that the Logan County Water Conservancy District is shifting its focus away from a single large project to a series of smaller ones.

“There have been a lot of changes over the past two years, so (LCWCD) has re-devined their mission and taken a new direction,” McCloud said. “We’re in the process of developing a master plan to take (the district) to the next level.”

McCloud said the “major project” of building a flood-mitigation dam across Pawnee creek isn’t completely off the table, but it probably won’t be done in the foreseeable future…

The conservancy district was formed in 2000 after flash flooding of Pawnee Creek in the spring of 1997 caused widespread damage in the Sterling area. The district was formed specifically to mitigate flooding in the Pawnee Creek drainage area of Logan and Weld Counties.

The centerpiece of the district’s efforts at that time was a proposed dam 131 feet high and 6,800 feet long across the Pawnee about a mile north of where the creek passes under Colorado Highway 14, 11 miles west of Sterling. In the case of a flood along the order of the 1997 event, which flooded southern parts of Sterling, the dam would hold back about 90,000 acre-feet of water.

During an interview Tuesday, prior to the city council meeting, McCloud and LCWCD General Manager Shane Miller said the “big project” simply isn’t feasible and may not be for some time. While they weren’t specific about what other projects should be done, Miller said the district will shift its focus to smaller projects that will mitigate flooding in the immediate future…

McCloud said the LCWCD hopes to work closely with the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, which is looking into water storage possibilities in the basin. Although LCWCD isn’t legally allowed to store water for irrigation or recreational uses, McCloud said some of its work may fit with projects that would be proposed by Lower South Platte.

LCWCD also will work closely with the sponsors of the South Platte River Master Plan, which was developed in 2017 to find ways to mitigate flooding damage on the river in Morgan, Washington, Logan and Sedgwick counties.

The Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District tentatively approves the proposed $1.35 million 2018 budget

Illustration shows water availability, in blue circles, compared with demand at various places along the South Platte River. The yellow area is the study area. (Illustration by Stantec).

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

The Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District’s board of directors tentatively accepted the 2019 budget. Technically, the district’s budget will soar to $1.35 million next year, but like the 2018 budget, much of that is in the form of grants for specific water study projects.

The district will manage almost $350,000 in Colorado Water Conservation Board grant funds to create the South Platte Regional Development Concept. The project, being done by the South Platte Regional Opportunities Working Group, would help identify viable water storage projects in the South Platte basin.

Another grant, this one for $236,245 from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, would be used by the Northeast Colorado Water Cooperative to find ways to develop infrastructure for water exchanges, primarily when water augmentation plans are involved.

The $1.35 million figure also includes $316,312 in leftover funds from the 2018 budget. Actual operating expenses for the conservancy district are budgeted at just under $760,000 for 2019.

Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District hopes to act as agent for Water Supply Reserve Fund Proposal

Illustration shows water availability, in blue circles, compared with demand at various places along the South Platte River. The yellow area is the study area. (Illustration by Stantec).

From. The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

The Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District will submit a proposal to act as fiscal agent for the Water Supply Reserve Fund Proposal being drawn up by the South Platte Regional Opportunities Working Group. That decision came during Tuesday’s meeting of the district’s Executive Committee.

The $390,000 project, described in the nearly impenetrable technical language of water experts, is essentially the next step after the South Platte Storage Study, which was completed late last year.

The study, authorized by the Colorado General Assembly in House Bill 16-1256, looked at the stretch of the South Platte River between Kersey and the Nebraska state line in an attempt to find water storage to fill a crippling water gap that is just 12 years away. According to the 2015 Colorado Water Plan, by 2030 the need for water in Colorado will exceed supplies by 560,000 acre feet, or 182 billion gallons per year, and most of that is here in the South Platte River Basin.

Joe Frank, general manager of the LSPWCD, said the study is good at indicating what can or should be done to meet the growing water gap, but it says nothing about how to do it or by whom. And it’s the “by whom” part that needs to be addressed next, Frank said, because without an entity to fund an promote projects, nothing gets done.

Drawing pipelines and pumps is the easy part, for me, because I’m an engineer,” Frank said. “But we have to figure out who we are, and that’s the hard part. The institutional structure is what we still have to figure out, and that’s a big part of this (new project.)”

The new project first establishes a fiscal agent and project sponsors, initially SPROWG members, to prepare a funding proposal and a work plan. It’s that fiscal agent part that Frank asked his executive committee to consider. LSPWCD was the fiscal agent on the South Plate Storage Study; the job entails making sure funds are paid to the right people at the right time and are properly accounted for.

According to an Outline of Proposed Tasks, the next task – and the one Frank thinks will be most crucial – is to identify or create an organization to support “the development, operation, financing, ownership and governance of the South Platte Basin regional water development concept …”

Lower South Platte Water Conservancy board approves $1 million budget

South Platte River near Kersey September 13, 2009.

From The Sterling Journal Advocate (Jeff Rice):

The district’s board of directors approved the resolutions by a 9-0 voice vote.

The district levies one-half mill on all property within the district, which includes parts of Morgan, Washington, Logan and Sedgwick counties.

The budget itself was formally approved by the board’s executive committee during the November meeting.

For the first time in the district’s history the budget has inched up over the $1 million mark, although a large chunk of that is for grants for specific projects in 2018. The bottom line on the budget is $1,024,992.

The district will use almost $350,000 in Colorado Water Conservation Board and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation funds to help the Northeast Colorado Water Cooperative find ways to develop infrastructure for water exchanges, primarily when water augmentation plans are involved.

The budget also contains $269,107 for contingency reserve, a capital reserve of $20,000, and a TABOR reserve fund of $10,000. Subtracting the reserve funds and project grants from the $1,024,877 budget proposal leaves a little more than $376,000 for district operations.

On the revenue side, the district anticipates a 4.3 percent increase in general property tax revenues based primarily on higher valuations for property as opposed to greater value because of development.

The budget includes a separate budget for the Julesburg Recharge Project, which is a subsidiary of the LSPWCD. Although all of the funds for the JRP are contained within the overall LSPWCD budget, they are accounted separately. The JRP began in 1990 as a recharge demonstration project. In 1993 it was incorporated into the LSPWCD as a water activities enterprise. That means participating well users pay for all costs associated with the recharge project and well augmentation while LSPWCD manages the project and provides water and financial accounting for the augmentation plan.

Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District 2018 budget numbers

The Platte River is formed in western Nebraska east of the city of North Platte, Nebraska by the confluence of the North Platte and the South Platte Rivers, which both arise from snowmelt in the eastern Rockies east of the Continental Divide. Map via Wikimedia.

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

The Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District’s budget will exceed $1 million for the first time in 2018.

The district’s Board of Directors Executive Committee got its first look at the proposed budget during Tuesday’s meeting.

District manager Joe Frank pointed out that the budget is somewhat inflated by two grants totaling more than $341,000 the district has received, one from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and one by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The CWBC grant will be used to match the USBR grant to help develop a marketing plan for the Northeast Colorado Water Cooperative.

The district also will enjoy about a 4 percent increase in general property tax, mostly from increased valuations on real estate.

Total increase in the budget is about $70,000, or roughly 6.8 percent over this year’s budget, which also contained large water study project grants.

The Bureau of Reclamation grant of $236,245 is one of nine the bureau awarded earlier this month as part of its WaterSMART Water Marketing Strategies program.

LSPWCD will use the funds to help the NECWC find ways to develop infrastructure for water exchanges, primarily when water augmentation plans are involved…

…pumps and pipelines cost money, Frank said, and a lot of it, and that means heavy participation by everyone who needs water. The “water marketing strategy” the NECWC has in mind would try to expand participation with municipalities and industrial water users who are not yet part of the cooperative.

That’s all part of an effort established by the Colorado Water Plan unveiled in November 2015 to address a looming gap in water supplies. Without water development, the gap between supply and demand in the South Platte River Basin is expected to grow to 196,000 acre feet by 2050. That, according to the Bureau of Reclamation’s statement on the grants, “is creating a growing incentive to identify creative solutions, driving up interest in water marketing by multiple types of water users.”