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Solution in the works for Malachite water woes

WALSENBURG– “It’s a heartbreak I’m out of. I’m done. I opened that Spring for the community,” Kent Mace told the Huerfano County Water Conservancy District at its August 25 meeting. Mace said his family filed on the Spring so that the Gardner area would have a legal source of water. Unfortunately, owning the spring has led to a tangle of water needs versus state augmentation requirements. Malachite Spring reported to the district zero use for July 2014. The Spring owes the district $11,000 for the estimated augmentation water for the whole year. The spring has been a source of water to Gardner residents and people out of the area for decades. Without augmentation water, the use of the spring is illegal under Colorado water law. The state engineer’s office has the obligation to shut down the spring if the augmentation water is not paid for. “If you haul water away from the source, it’s considered 100% consumed,” said water commissioner Doug Brgoch. In order to offer residents an alternative, the Huerfano County commissioners have devised a strategy to

place a water station in Gardner, and County Commissioner Max Vezzani told the district that the county hopes to have the station installed in October. Vezzani clarified that even if the county doesn’t find any grants in time to install the water station in October, it would likely advance the money to install it if the county will be repaid by the Gardner Public Improvement District at a later date. Essentially, a standoff exists among the state, the owner of the spring, and the users of the spring. The water station would end that standoff. Brgoch and the district will go over the numbers and make sure the augmentation water being furnished to the Gardner Public Improvement District will be enough to cover the water station for the rest of 2014. Assuming no more water use is reported on Malachite Spring this year, $6,000 of augmentation water is due for the spring. Mace told the board that there is an account with $1,500 in it to pay toward the invoice for augmentation water. With $6,000 and $1,000 of that already paid by Mace, with another $1,500 in an account. District Chairman Sandy White said it looks like the balance due is $3,500. Director Ray Garcia said, “Maybe we just need to suck it up.” However, three board members were not in agreement, it was decided to refer the matter to the district’s local attorney to find out what the options are for getting full payment. Garcia then gave a lengthy report on what’s been happening on the district’s ranch, substitute water supply plan, and regional augmentation plan. The state is requiring the district to prove that the water ending up in the recharge pond actually goes back to the Huerfano River. The district can’t count water credits unless they can prove the water goes back to the river. Garcia reported the hay has been baled on the district’s ranch. The district is searching for someone to purchase this hay, approximately 129 bales weighing 800 pounds each. In 2015, the district will be taking bids for a cash lease on the ranch, which includes pasture land and irrigated hay land. The neighbors to the district ranch, Steve and Carolyn Wardell, are still in negotiations with the district on a ditch user’s agreement on the William Craig irrigation ditch. The district has written a statement of work and request for proposals to design and construct the Red Wing Augmentation Facility (pond). The board indicated it will be finishing up these documents and sending them out soon, with hopes to at least begin the design this fall. Brgoch reported that the Badito stream gauge will be getting a complete overhaul because it has been problematic for years. He also reported that testing and interviews for a new Water Commissioner on the Huerfano River will be conducted in the next few weeks. Brgoch said there are about eight strong candidates for the position out of twenty applicants. Mayor Jim Eccher reported on the Walsenburg City Lake dam. The city has an engineering report and it is going to be looking for grants and loans to do the required work on the dam. The state is requiring the city lower the level of the lake by three feet , which is the equivalent of 125 acre-feet of storage. Understandably, the city would like to find a way to retain all of the storage capacity while complying with the state’s requirements. Brgoch suggested the city contact DOLA to tap into its drinking water fund. White suggested the city try to obtain a Colorado Water Conservation board grant and loan combination to pay for the work on the dam. Eccher said, “Storage is important around here.” The district agreed to support Walsenburg’s attempts to find grants and loans and promised to draft a letter of support when it is required.