by Bill Knowles
WALSENBURG- John McKowen, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board for Two Rivers Water Company, along with President Gary Barber and John Stroh spoke with the Huerfano County Water Conservancy District during the district’s regular monthly meeting, last Monday.
McKowen said that when Two Rivers Water Company purchased the water rights from Lindsay Case at the end of January 2011, the agreement stated that Two Rivers would return the water to Huerfano County for use if and when any development takes place for at least the next ten years. “We are contractually obligated to use that water here in Huerfano County with the seller. So we’ll see if they get any development off the ground.”
It was also acknowledged by McKowen that the company’s farming operation would not get the fields in Huerfano County ready in time to plant this spring. These fields are below the Orlando Reservoir on the Butte Valley Ditch and the Robert Rice Ditch. “We filed the Substitute Water Supply Plan with the state where it’s supposed to be filed because we’re not looking for a permanent change. We didn’t go into Division 2 water court. If I had gone into water court with a change of use, we’d have ended up losing two-thirds of that water. They’d love for me to do that (file the SWSP in Division 2 water court); they’d move it right to the Kansas line.
“So our intent has always been to farm and irrigate down below those two ditches and below the Orlando,” McKowen said. “We’re going to try to put in as much as 1,000 to 1,500 acres below the Orlando, on the Butte Valley and Robert Rice. We’ll end up growing alfalfa. [We’ll] try to grow organic alfalfa.” The intent would be focused on the production of organic feed for milk cows that are producing organic milk.
According to McKowen, the historic consumptive use (HCU) is in the Butte Valley Ditch so Two Rivers will continue with their SWSP. However they won’t be able to use anything from the Orlando or the Robert Rice Ditch. The SWSP was filed to move water from the Orlando to the Huerfano Valley Ditch which is located in Pueblo County. This would allow the company to begin irrigating the fields near Avondale while they prepare the fields in Huerfano County for planting in the fall.
However Huerfano County Water Conservancy board member Dawson Jordon pointed out that what Two Rivers Water Company is proposing looks similar to events that have unfolded in Northern Colorado.
“When I see what the City of Thornton and their water brokers did to farmland around Ault and out in Weld County, they did it on the premises of buying farms to put a farming system together and irrigating. As soon as they got them all bought, they dried up all the farms and sent the water to Thornton. It fits the same mold and that’s the concern we’re looking at. That’s why we’re going to be watching real close.”
McKowen explained, “In Colorado if you’re going to talk about water, you’re going to talk about farming. I’m more interested in the farming aspect of it. In moving water, you’re not going to get anything past Pueblo water and that 1041 process. It cost Colorado Springs $50 million. If we’re going to use water for municipal use, it’s going to be in Huerfano County.”