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Wolfe approves 2013 water plan

Posted: Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Dick Wolfe

Courier editor

ALAMOSA — Colorado Division of Water Resources State Engineer Dick Wolfe approved Sub-district No. 1’s 2013 Annual Replacement Plan yesterday with several terms and conditions.

Wolfe stated, “The approval of this ARP is made with the understanding that if the ARP proves insufficient to remedy injurious stream depletions, the State Engineer has the authority to invoke the retained jurisdiction of the Division No. 3 Water Court.”

In his findings on Tuesday, Wolfe determined the 2013 Annual Replacement Plan (ARP) was supported by data and had sufficient water sources to remedy injurious stream depletions this year. The plan is effective from May 1, 2013 through April 30, 2014.

“Subdistrict No. 1 has presented sufficient evidence and engineering analysis to predict where and when injurious stream depletions will occur and how the Subdistrict will replace those injurious stream depletions to avoid injury to senior surface water rights,” Wolfe stated.

Sub-district No. 1 is under the umbrella of its sponsoring district Rio Grande Water Conservation District (RGWCD), which took responsibility again this year as financial guarantor in the event its sub-district failed to replace injurious stream depletions caused by groundwater withdrawals by sub-district wells.

“The RGWCD is created by statute and has a mill levy which provides an annual and consistent stream of revenue, and can act as a financial guarantor for Subdistrict No. 1. In the ARP, the RGWCD pledges funds to acquire water or compensate parties directly to ensure that injured parties are kept whole,” Wolfe stated.

The ARP specifies how the sub-district will replace injurious depletions to senior surface water rights in 2013. The 2013 plan was sent to the state engineer and water court on April 15.

The San Luis Valley’s first water management sub-district covers nearly 3,400 irrigation wells in the Valley’s closed basin, one of the major farming areas of the Valley. Irrigated acres in Sub-district 1 last year totaled nearly 150,000.

The ARP anticipates that 2013 well pumping in Sub-district 1 will be about 255,000 acre-feet. The 2012 pumping was 261,055 acre-feet; 2011, 323,761 acre-fee; and 2010, 304,445 acre-feet.

“As drought conditions continue, it is appropriate to estimate 2013 pumping similarly to 2012 based on fallowing information submitted by Subdistrict No. 1 and information that insurance programs continue to be utilized,” Wolfe stated in his April 30 decision.

Irrigators within the sub-district have contracted with the sub-district to fallow about 9,000 irrigated acres this year amounting to a reduction of approximately 15,600 acre-feet of water.

One of the sub-district’s primary purposes is to make up for depletions to surface water rights caused by well pumping in that region. The estimated total depletions this year are 5,389 acre-feet.

Replacement water sources this year include: Williams Creek Squaw Pass Transbasin Diversion water, Tabor Ditch No. 2 and Tabor Ditch No. 2 Enlargement Transbasin Diversion water and Pine River Weminuche Pass Ditch Transbasin Diversion water, all currently stored in Rio Grande Reservoir (in addition to some Tabor Ditch water stored in Beaver Park Reservoir); Santa Maria Reservoir Company water currently held in Santa Maria Reservoir and Continental Reservoir; and Closed Basin Project water, a source contested in the 2012 ARP.

The Closed Basin contribution this year of 2,500 acre-feet amounts to nearly half the total depletions the sub-district will have to replace in the 2013 ARP.

The ARP had included 86.5 acre-feet of consumptive use water from Ruby Reservoir for augmentation of wells, but Wolfe denied the use of that water until a substitute water supply plan is submitted and approved by his office.

Water stored in reservoirs will be released to the Rio Grande throughout the year when required by the water division office.

In addition to water sources to make up depletions, the sub-district has a forbearance agreement with the Rio Grande Canal Water Users’ Association. In exchange for compensation to the association, the sub-district will not be required to physically replace injurious stream depletions to the Rio Grande resulting from the operation of the ARP on those days in which forbearance is in effect.

When the total amount of estimated remedied injurious stream depletions to the Rio Grande Canal that are covered under the term of the agreement equals 2,000 acre-feet, Sub-district 1 will need to begin replacement of injurious stream depletions to the Rio Grande Canal.

Wolfe approved the 2013 ARP with terms and conditions including: Deliveries of stored water made available for the replacement of injurious stream depletions shall be determined by the Division Engineer; the sub-district must provide daily replacement water accounting on a monthly basis; new replacement water is subject to water court approval; and deliveries of replacement water must be measured in a manner acceptable to the Division Engineer with measuring devices installed and maintained as required by the Division Engineer.

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