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

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Project Healing Waters

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Friday, December 19, 2008

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Here's a look at the effects on Colorado Springs' proposed Southern Delivery System if the current design were changed to accommodate moving water out of basin or other connectors, from Chris Woodka writing in the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Increasing the use of a proposed water pipeline from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs would trigger a new federal environmental review and would also have to pass muster with pipeline sponsors. Pueblo County could have something to say about it, too.

Concerns about the Southern Delivery System's potential to enable more agricultural dry-up were expressed in comments in the environmental impact statement released last week by the Bureau of Reclamation. In any case, Colorado Springs is opposed to using the pipeline to take water out of the Arkansas Valley, said John Fredell, SDS project director. "It's very much in our own interest to see that there's no water taken out of the basin and pumped over the hill," Fredell said. "Clearly, the pipe is not going over the hill."

But there's nothing saying other users in the valley could tie in, providing all the right conditions are met...

Reclamation would require a new evaluation under the National Environmental Policy Act if other water rights were included in the pipeline other than those identified in the EIS, or if water from the pipeline were sold to third parties above the identified use.

Questions about yield limits, expanded use of water rights and additional users were raised by Pueblo County consultant Ray Petros in comments on the draft EIS. Petros pointed out the SDS pipeline, operated at full capacity year-round, could deliver about 87,000 acre-feet annually. The anticipated average annual yield of the pipeline is listed at 52,900 acre-feet and impacts to the river are modeled on that figure. The modeling in the EIS shows a hole would be created in the Arkansas River through Pueblo closer to 60,000 acre-feet, on average, by SDS, however. In other words, flows would drop 13.3 percent to an annual average of 547 cubic feet per second from existing conditions of 631 cfs. Overall flows down Fountain Creek would increase 35 percent to 253 cfs from 188 cfs, or about 48,000 acre-feet on average annually, according to the same analysis...

While a 2004 intergovernmental agreement provides some protection for Pueblo, curtailing exchanges during low-flow periods, Pueblo County is still concerned more water from third parties could be added to the pipeline and create further impacts on the flows. "Any approval should condition the use of the project on the use of only existing water rights, and not the acquisition of additional water rights without further environmental study or review," Petros wrote in his comments on the draft EIS. Reclamation agreed and included the provision in the final EIS, which is a precursor to a record of decision expected next month...

If the county commissioners approve a 1041 permit for the pipeline, staff is asking commissioners to include a condition of approval that would require an amendment if any water is "sold, leased or delivered to any entity other than the currently listed applicants."[...]

Other El Paso County communities are looking at their own pipeline east of Pueblo and have sought water rights along the Bessemer Ditch. The newly formed Super Ditch, a corporation formed by farmers in the Lower Arkansas Valley to market water, needs ways to move the water north. The Fremont County Planning Commission discussed the possibility of tapping into the pipeline, if it were to come up Colorado 115. Rancher Gary Walker even brought up the possibility of a tap at a Pueblo County commissioners hearing last week. The final say would belong to Colorado Springs, which would need to gain the cooperation of both Reclamation and Pueblo County, if contracts and permits are issued.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:45:33 AM    

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