The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District board of directors discussed several topics at its December board meeting, including the district’s efforts to complete the dry-up of Thompson Ditch near Buena Vista.
The dry-up is necessary for the district to be able to use its Thompson Ditch water right to augment out-of-priority water usage in the Cottonwood Creek drainage.
District General Manager Terry Scanga reported that the district has entered into an agreement with the Yale Lakes Homeowners Association to stop diverting water into Yale Lake.
Scanga said the next step is to install piezometers to monitor groundwater levels in the area previously irrigated by the Thompson Ditch, and hydrologist Jord Gertson and engineer Chris Manera will install the devices soon.
Harvard Lake will not be drained, Scanga said, until Gertson and Manera can assess the effects of draining Yale Lake.
Scanga also said the owners of nearby Ice Lake are trying to prevent the lake from being drained by finding ways to reduce evaporative losses from the lake as well as possible sources for augmentation water to offset evaporative losses.
Addressing an issue that arose following maintenance work on the outlet ditch at the district’s Conquistador Reservoir in central Chaffee County, attorney Kendall Burgemeister reported on a “disappointing” meeting with local landowner James Hood and his attorney.
The work involved removing an overgrowth of willows along the ditch. Willows are phreatophytes, deep-rooted plants that draw water directly from the water table, and failure to remove them can cause water losses that injure downstream water users.
Burgemeister said the meeting was scheduled 2 months out after Hood’s attorney contacted Upper Ark district officials to complain about work performed on the outlet ditch where it crosses Hood’s property.
The ability of a water-right holder to maintain a ditch used for that water right is protected by Colorado law, and while Burgemeister said Hood was “not happy,” he had no proposals to address the situation.
During the engineers’ report, Manera said the U.S. Bureau of Land Management will analyze the use of DeWeese-Dye Ditch with the intention of improving the efficiency of the ditch.
The ditch diverts water from Grape Creek, southwest of Cañon City in Custer County, and that water is stored in DeWeese Reservoir, one of the lakes in which the Upper Ark district stores water.
Manera said information provided by the district’s new gauge “was really helpful” in convincing the Bureau of Land Management to analyze water losses in the ditch.
In a brief discussion of the state water plan currently under development, long-time water attorney John Hill commented, “You could solve the problem if you could declare bluegrass a noxious weed.”
In other business, Upper Ark directors:
• Unanimously approved contracting with Hancock Froese & Co. LLC to conduct the district’s 2015 audit.
• Learned that Manera recently updated the emergency action plans for Boss Lake and North Fork Reservoir.
• Learned that Manera has begun the mapping to support a new Fremont County augmentation plan.
• Heard updates on district filings in Water Court from Burgemeister, including a report on the resolution of a Victor-Cripple Creek exchange case that the district opposed and then stipulated out of.
• Learned from Director Greg Felt that scientific research demonstrates that the last time the Earth’s atmosphere contained current levels of carbon dioxide, there were no polar ice caps, without which ocean levels would rise 60 feet.