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Gardner water station up and running

 HUERFANO — At the November 24 meeting of the Huerfano County Water Conservancy District, County Commissioner Max Vezzani reported that the Gardner Water Station is in operation. He said several people have set up accounts and are taking water. The station has already put out 18,000 gallons of water so far. The Gardner Water Station is not part of the district’s substitute water supply plan, so discussions were held with division engineer Steve Witte about it. Water attorney Steve Monson confirmed that it appears Witte will allow its use in place of Malachite Spring, which was included in the SWSP. Board member Kent Mace said the pipe has been pulled from Malachite Spring, and it is not in use, but people like to fill their canteens there when they’re heading to the mountains, and that use will continue. Director Sandy White announced that the ditch user’s agreement has been signed with Steve and Carolyn Wardell, and he thanked Monson for coordinating that. A 1041 permit was required for the district to build its Red Wing augmentation facility. Board member Beaver Edmundson reported that the 1041 permit application has been approved, and he thanked the county commissioners. White also spoke on the augmentation water applications from marijuana grow operations, and said that there have been four applications; the cutoff date for application fees to be submitted to the District is December 1. The application fee is based on engineering and legal fees to determine if/how the marijuana operation applicants can be added to the district’s temporary SWSP or permanent regional augmentation plan, which is currently in water court. Delmar Janovec, a representative of Nu-Grow Industries from Nevada, asked about structures that would be needed to handle the augmentation water process, and White replied, “We don’t know yet, until the engineers review the applications.” Board member Al Garcia added, “This is a very, very expensive proposition.” Water Commissioner Doug Brgoch reported that the Maria Stevens Reservoir is currently the calling entity on the Cucharas River. On the Huerfano River, the Welton is the call for 13 cfs. Most of the water rights on the Huerfano west of I-25 are shut off. Brgoch said, if the weather warms up and the snow melts, the Reed decree will come back into priority. It is senior to the Welton “if those water rights owners can and will put the water to beneficial use,” he said. Due to landowner requests, the district has communicated concern to Steve Witte about the winter call of the Welton water right. Witte is trying to work out a fair protocol, but there is little data to work with. Brgoch said he would like to have some river gauging stations to obtain data. “What’s important is gauging stations,” he said. “I’m one of those administrators that likes hard numbers.” He suggested placing three or four gauging stations along the rivers, and White asked Brgoch to report back to the district his recommendation on where those gauges should be placed; the district may be able to help with doing that. Brgoch also reported that Two Rivers Water and Farming plans to breach the Cucharas Dam before January 1 because they can’t repair it as they have been ordered to do by the State. The board authorized TZA Water Engineers, at a maximum cost of $6,500, to determine how much augmentation water the district could make available if the entire William Craig Ranch were to be completely dried up. The board will be letting out its William Craig Ranch for lease next year. Bids will be accepted until the end of December. [See classified ad in this issue of the paper.] The ranch is 1,052 acres including range, irrigated hay, a house, a bunk house, barn and corrals. It includes use of 1.25 CFS of #7 water right on the Huerfano. The district is requiring that bidders be experienced irrigators with farming/ranching experience. Regarding the Cucharas River pre-fire watershed assessment, White explained that the consultant, JW Associates, is moving a little slowly, but a final report is expected in the next couple of months. He said the board will hold back the consultant’s final fee until the final report is issued. White said all the agencies that were involved will eventually be able to use the data in the final report to seek grant funding to build the structures that apply to their jurisdictions. Brgoch asked who the lead agency would be going forward. White admitted that, if no one stepped forward, HCWCD would probably be that lead agency. Regarding the water court case to establish the Huerfano regional augmentation plan, White informed everyone that the court decree could come within the next eight months. At that point, the district will start selling water augmentation certificates instead of leasing augmentation water. The court case was filed at the end of December 2013. The board decided to take no action on water cases 2014CW3041, 2014CW3045, and 2014CW18.