The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board of directors addressed two Water Court cases during the May board meeting, an ongoing case to change the use of irrigation water rights in Coaldale and a new filing by the town of Buena Vista for a plan of augmentation for McPhelemy Pond.
The Coaldale case, 2016CW3055, involves Hayden Creek water rights associated with the CB Ranch, which was purchased by Security Water and Sanitation District.
The Upper Ark district has filed a statement of opposition in the case, and Security has filed its preliminary engineering report, proposed decree, proposed water accounting and a revegetation proposal.
In preparation for the district’s response to the filings, Chris Manera, district engineer, has begun a consumptive use analysis.
Manera reported that he is examining return flows from historic irrigation that provided water for approximately 150 acres of alfalfa crops.
An accurate determination of these return flows will be a key factor in this case since Security is required to replace return flows to avoid injury to other water rights.
District Manager Terry Scanga said the San Isabel Land Trust would like to work with Security so that some the historically irrigated land can continue to be used for agriculture, which would prevent the types of problems experienced by the dry-up of other ranches in the Upper Arkansas Basin.
He reported on a meeting with Security and the land trust to discuss the possibility of leasing some of the water for that purpose and said both parties are interested in continuing discussions.
Board members voted to allow district staff to facilitate those discussions.
Kendall Burgemeister, attorney for the district, reported that Security has lost the use of well-water sources due to contamination in the aquifer, making the Hayden Creek water rights more critical to the city’s water supply.
Scanga said another possibility would be for the land trust to acquire other sources of water to keep some of the land irrigated.
In Water Court filing 17CW3022, the town of Buena Vista’s proposed augmentation plan to replace water from evaporative water losses from McPhelemy Pond, would involve exchanges on Cottonwood Creek and use of Cottonwood Reservoir water for augmentation.
Since the Upper Ark district owns Cottonwood Creek water rights and operates Cottonwood Reservoir, board members voted to get into the case to ensure that its water rights and operations are not negatively affected.
According to Buena Vista’s Water Court filing, the amount of water to be augmented is 1.37 acre-feet annually.
In Case 96CW17, the town has a conditional decree for an appropriative right of exchange to allow the town’s purchased Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water to be stored in Cottonwood Reservoir.
As part of its recent filing, Buena Vista also seeks to include augmentation for McPhelemy Pond as an additional use of that water.
At the meeting district directors also:
• Welcomed new board member Dennis Giese, who was appointed to fill the Division 3 seat, corresponding to Chaffee County School District R-31, which was vacated when Frank McMurry resigned.
• Received a detailed presentation from Manera about the efficiency of the DeWeese Irrigation System and potential improvements to increase water storage potential and improve the exchange potential on Grape Creek below DeWeese Reservoir.
• Heard a report from Scanga about meetings of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable and the Colorado Inter-Basin Compact Committee, including the next phase of the Statewide Water Supply Initiative, which will examine how existing projects can meet future water demands.
• Approved an increase in the district education budget from $10,000 to $25,000 to fund a new website and an educational video.
• Heard a report from the Resume Review Committee, responsible for reviewing Division 2 Water Court filings.
• Learned that a “mutually beneficial” agreement with Poncha Springs was reached concerning the Friend Ranch water.
• Learned that Chaffee County officials entered into an intergovernmental agreement with the town of Buena Vista for source water protection.
• Received a legislative update from consultant Ken Baker, who reviewed legislation taken up in the 2017 legislative session.