by Bill Knowles
WALSENBURG — The Huerfano County Water Conservancy District has its new website up and running, it was announced at the district’s last board meeting. Even though the site is a new one at www.hcwcd.net and is just beginning to see new information posted, it is worth the visit and additional information will be making its way onto the site in the future, such as meeting minutes.
The gauges at the Boyd Ranch and the Harrison Bridge were noted as having been repaired during discussion about old business. Both the Boyd Ranch and the Harrison Bridge are located along the Cucharas River. However, Doug Brgoch, the water commissioner for the Cucharas River Basin, said there had been a sudden change in the elevation of the flow at the Boyd Ranch.
The cause for the elevation change was unknown and could be either rock slippage or ice movement causing the problem. The change was seen in a 40-foot difference in the flows going through the new gage. The cause will be determined next spring when the area can be accessed.
The board looked at several infrastructure projects and discussed a grant from the Division of Water Resources (DWR) that will be instrumental in paying for the projects. One of the projects, along the Huerfano River where it crosses I-25 just north of exit 59, will receive new stream gauges. The projects are part of a larger water improvement effort.
The second project is along the Cucharas River where it crosses Colorado Highway 10, east of Walsenburg, west of County Road 210. The third project is along the Huerfano River where it crosses under County Road Bridge 616. Those are the three current projects involved in a recently posted RFP (request for proposal) and will be funded by a grant from DWR.
HCWCD has a grant through the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to improve the water infrastructure in Huerfano County. That involves installing monitoring wells, new stream gages and creating a futile call model. DWR is a close partner with the District on the project. The District is at the stage where they are ready to install three of those gages.
Newer applicants to the augmentation plan, who happen to be cannabis growers, put $10,000 on deposit with HCWCD to pay for engineering and legal fees required to add them to the plan. The District just conducted a reconciliation and determined that two are due refunds and three owe the District money. The one applicant that has not been added to the plan yet is Emerald Valley, managed by Scott Clark. It is hoped that Clark will join the plan soon.
The board officially approved the meeting dates for the HCWCD with a 5-0 vote. The dates are fixed on the fourth Monday of the month and will be held in the meeting room at the Spanish Peaks Library beginning at 6 pm. The meeting notices will be published in the World Journal and posted at Walsenburg City Hall, La Veta Town Hall, and the library.
Legal cases looked at were regarding the river exchange the district has been working on. The court will issue its statement by the end of February. The case involves the Cucharas Sanitation and Water District, the Huerfano County Water Conservancy District, and the Town of La Veta. The plaintiffs are asking the water court to approve joint conditional water storage rights and conditional appropriative rights of exchange. A second legal case involving an exchange application from Walsenburg was discussed during executive session. The board voted 5-0 after coming back into regular session to authorize counsel to develop a statement of opposition to Walsenburg’s water court filing, 2017CW3063 based on discussion with counsel.
Reporting on the conditions of both the Huerfano River and the Cucharas River, Brgoch indicated there was no real news to be had. The flow of the Huerfano was at 12.5 cubic feet per second and the Cucharas River was flowing at 13.5 cfs at the Harrison Bridge.
It was also reported no calls have been made along the lower Huerfano River at this time. Brgoch also reported the fill on the Maria Reservoir should be completed sometime this week. The Holita Reservoir is still under construction. It will be March before the Holita project is completed, meaning it will have to compete with the calls along the Arkansas.
The Orlando’s 1906 call has come in. They are taking about 4.5 cfs to 5 cfs in the call even though they could sweep the river according to Brgoch. They had started out taking 12 cfs but the canal is full of sand so only the water that’s going over the top is being taken.