Coyote Gulch's Colorado Water
The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land. -- Luna Leopold

Project Healing Waters

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

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Division 3 Water Court Judge O. John Kuenhold will hear closing arguments on December 16th in the trial about the Rio Grande Water Conservation District's groundwater management Subdistrict #1. Here's a recap of the trial from Ruth Heide writing in the Valley Courier. From the article:

Testimony in the trial before Judge Kuenhold ended last week, a week sooner than initially scheduled. The judge scheduled December 16 to hear oral arguments from the attorneys in the case. The state, represented by the Colorado Attorney General's office, is defending its approval of the San Luis Valley's first water management sub-district plan as is the sub-district's sponsor, the Rio Grande Water Conservation District. Challenges to the plan have come from individuals as well as organizations concerned about the protection of senior surface water rights.

One of the final witnesses in the trial was Kelly Sowards, president of the San Antonio, Los Pinos and Conejos River Acequia Preservation Association that is contesting the sub-district management plan's approval. Sowards also served on the Rio Grande Water Conservation District board for a number of years. "I feel pretty good about what I was allowed to say," Sowards said following the trial. "I feel sorry for this situation. I am not in it for myself but I want to see justice done or at least injustice corrected as much as possible for my people down here. I hope that we will finally get through this with fair play on both sides." Sowards said he understood the urgency of those wishing to move forward with the sub-district because the sub-district cannot begin collecting fees until this plan is approved by the court. The fees will enable the sub-district to compensate water users to fallow land to fulfill the goal of reducing water consumption in the sub-district's boundaries in the closed basin area of the Valley...

Sowards and others contesting the sub-district plan maintained that the surface water users and the communities they have supported have suffered because they have been curtailed to meet Rio Grande Compact obligations to downstream states while well users have been allowed to continue pumping. Sowards said he believed the judge would probably send the plan back. "I don't think he will approve it," Sowards said. "It looked to me the way the judge talked at the end that it wasn't going to be approved as it now stands." He added, "I just feel it is not going to go any farther as it is set up."

Other testimony from the plan's opponents last week included farmers Bill Ellithorpe and Dick Ramstetter as well as a hydro-geologist who testified that the plan as it is set up is too vague.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
5:41:21 PM    

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Here's a recap of last night's meeting about the management plan for Fountain Creek, from Chris Woodka writing in the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

When it comes to Fountain Creek, El Paso and Pueblo counties are going to have to learn to get along. That was the upshot of Wednesday's meeting marking the end of two efforts aimed at improving Fountain Creek. The Army Corps of Engineers gave its final recommendations under the Fountain Creek Watershed Plan after nine years of discussions, while the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force handed off its plan for a watershed authority...

About 80 people attended, many of them already involved with the Task Force, but with some members of the public showing up as well. A similar meeting will be held tonight in Colorado Springs. A few still weren't convinced the two counties have hit upon all the right solutions. The [U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] was peppered with questions about whether its recommendations were more remedial than preventative. A couple of people wanted to see a dam on Fountain Creek - rejected by the Corps as too expensive for flood control alone. "Even if we find all the money for projects, will we have to do it all again?" asked Ross Vincent of the Sierra Club...

[Charles Wilson, who headed the Corps' study of options to improve Fountain Creek] said one of the key recommendations was to control development, saying it is up to local governments to provide the enforcement. "The recommendations are to get back to the way things were before we paved it and built houses on it," Wilson said.

Bill Alt, a resident on Fountain Creek, praised the task force for its work, but criticized it for reaching what he thinks are flawed conclusions. While floods are a major concern, he said the constant erosion caused by increased flows from the upper end of the watershed in El Paso County have been underplayed in the task force report...

The Corps of Engineers report held no surprises. The major recommendation for Pueblo is to come up with a way to remove sedimentation and vegetation that have reduced the effectiveness of levees built in the 1980s. More than 500,000 cubic yards of sediment have accumulated in the last 20 years, reducing the level of protection from flooding, said Gary Rutherford, the Corps project leader. Rutherford said the Corps would cooperate in funding the project, but would need congressional authorization...

The Corps estimated a dam above Pueblo would cost $186 million to build, but would provide only $22 million in protection from floods. However, the report recommends incorporating water supply and recreation as purposes if a dam or series of dams are pursued. Other projects looked at bank stabilization, creating wetlands and protecting roads or bridges...

Efforts by the vision task force to look at water quality, water quantity and land use were explained. The task force also has drafted an intergovernmental agreement with the help of attorneys from both counties, which could lead to action in the state Legislature to form a special district on Fountain Creek. Voters in both counties would have to approve a property tax in a future election to fund the district. The task force and the Corps recommended consistent development guidelines in the two counties to provide low-impact development throughout the watershed. Dennis Maroney, Pueblo stormwater utility director, said enforcement would be up to each city or county. Stormwater philosophy and technology has changed in recent years to minimize flows into streams by matching historic conditions.

More coverage from the Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold):

At a public meeting Wednesday night in Pueblo, the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force presented its strategic plan, the result of two years of meetings between representatives of 28 organizations. "We needed to get everybody involved, and I think the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force did that," said El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey, a task force member. "The key thing was, is this going to be another study, or is this going to have an action plan, and is it going to be implementable?"[...]

Among the recommendations:

- Institute uniform stormwater practices in cities throughout the watershed.

- Remove regulatory barriers and encourage low-impact development.

- Build a network of recreational trails along the creek.

- Reduce levels of contaminants e. coli and selenium by identifying sources and developing watershed-wide regulations on runoff.

- Develop water conservation programs in communities in the watershed...

So the task force recommended the formation of a state-recognized watershed district for Fountain Creek. The district would have the authority to levy taxes, but it would not supersede local officials in water and development issues, said Gary Barber, task force member and head of the El Paso County Water Authority...

Also Wednesday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its Fountain Creek Watershed Study on flood-control options for the creek. The plan has changed little from the draft presented at public meetings over the past two years. The agency came up with a list of recommended projects on the creek and its tributaries. The largest potential project, a dam on Fountain Creek between Colorado Springs and Pueblo, was not on the list. The Corps' recommendations for Colorado Springs include flood walls and channel work on Fountain Creek from the confluence with Monument Creek south, at about $2 million, and along U.S. Highway 24 from Interstate 25 to 8th Street, at $4.8 million. The Corps also recommended a $2.9 million project to stabilize banks where creek erosion is threatening the U.S. Highway 85-87 bridge. But the study did not make money available, and local governments would have to come up with part of it, which could be a difficult prospect at a time when the city and El Paso County are making deep budget cuts.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:27:31 AM    

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From the Rifle Citizen Telegram (Heidi Rice): "Those building multi-family housing units in Rifle, Colorado will likely pay lower water tap fees than single-family homes, if a proposed ordinance is passed by city council on Nov. 19. Currently, the city charges one EQR (equivalent residential unit) for multi-family units as they do single-family homes, despite the fact that multi-family homes use more water and sewer than single-family homes...Those building multi-family housing units in Rifle, Colorado will likely pay lower water tap fees than single-family homes, if a proposed ordinance is passed by city council on Nov. 19. Currently, the city charges one EQR (equivalent residential unit) for multi-family units as they do single-family homes, despite the fact that multi-family homes use more water and sewer than single-family homes."

Category: Colorado Water
6:17:44 AM    

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