by Bill Knowles
WALSENBURG — Over 20 Huerfano County ranchers with water interests attended the Huerfano County Water Conservancy District meeting Monday, Jan. 23. They convened to discuss a protest the district will file to block a plan by Two Rivers Water Company that could cause water to be moved out of the county.
According to conservancy board member Dawson Jordan, the way the plan reads, water will move out of Huerfano County and into Pueblo County in the long term via the ditch system. “Water will move down the Huerfano River to the Orlando, out the Robert Rice Ditch and up to the Huerfano Valley Ditch and up to the city of Pueblo,” Jordan said. “They’ll get all this water gathered together and they’ll put it on land down there. This will keep it in historical consumptive use. Our attorney Steve Monson says it looks a lot like the Super Ditch plan, even though it’s not the Super Ditch.”
The Super Ditch is a system that is just starting to be built that will move water from the Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs. It has been in the planning stages for over a decade. “They can farm that water up there and when called on they can move that water to a municipality,” Jordan said.
The Two Rivers plan also calls for the number 19 water right, a storage right, to be stored in the Orlando and a part of the water to be set aside and used as an augmentation source by the Huerfano County Water Conservancy District. But in order to change the use of the right, historical consumptive use has to be proved. And according to former conservancy board member John Vucetich the number 19 has been dry 38 years out of the last 48 years.
The board is considering filing a protest against the Two Rivers plan. However filing a protest can be expensive, possibly running as high as $100,000 by the time it gets into water court. The gathered land owners offered to put funds into the pool to pay attorney fees and push the protest forward. Jordan made the motion to file the protest and the motion was carried on a 5-0 vote of the board.
Huerfano Water Enterprise
A Huerfano County Water Conservancy District Water Activity Enterprise meeting followed the regular water district meeting. Discussed was the purchase of water rights 3, 6, and 8 on the Huerfano by Shell Western Energy Production Inc. and what impact that will have on a deal previously struck by the Enterprise with the Lucking Trust.
Two Rivers had also been pursuing a purchase of water rights 3,6, and 8 in an effort to build the needed flow rates that would move water from the Upper Huerfano to the Orlando Reservoir. However a bidding war between Two Rivers and Shell Western Energy Production, Inc. for the Lucking Trust water rights erupted and Two Rivers lost.
A temporary deal involving a tenth of the Lucking Trust water right had been hammered out giving the Enterprise enough acre feet of water to satisfy its responsibilities to its customers. The water would have been used as an augmentation source for Gardner, Malachite Springs, Paradise Acres, CO 61, and Huerfano County.
Without that lease, the Enterprise could fold and its customers would lose their water. For example the state would shut down the wells used to supply Gardner with its water.
However if the water right could be secured, the Enterprise would be able to move away from the Rule 14 and Substitute Water Supply plans to a permanent Blanket Augmentation Plan. The Rule 14 and SWSP allow the Enterprise to lease augmentation to its customers even though it doesn’t own any water rights. They have been looking for a permanent right big enough to use and have two more years of a five-year plan to secure it.
Members of the Water Enterprise hope to meet with Shell water attorneys to discuss details and negotiate a deal for use of the water right.