$60 million investment first step in accelerated Ark Valley Conduit construction

After submitting an aggressive, accelerated construction plan for the long-awaited Arkansas Valley Conduit, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District welcomed the announcement of a $60 million investment from the Bureau of Reclamation.


The funding was applauded by members of the Colorado congressional delegation, which has long supported the project in a bipartisan approach.Click HERE for the announcement released by Colorado Senators Michael Bennet (left) and John Hickenlooper.

In July, both Senators and Congressman Ken Buck wrote to Reclamation urging this level of funding. Their letter can be found HERE.

"At long last, real hope," Kogovsek & Associates, Inc. President Christine Arbogast said. "This level of funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) on the heels of awarding the first construction contract in September demonstrates a real commitment to deliver safe drinking water to the Lower Arkansas Valley."

The 130-mile pipeline will deliver clean water from Pueblo Reservoir to 40 Valley water providers who rely heavily on contaminated groundwater for domestic water supplies.

As president of the National Water Resources Association during the development of the IIJA, Christine worked with a strong coalition of Western water interests to garner congressional support for a funding package for Reclamation. The agency's baseline budget had hovered around $1 billion for many years, but Congress had recently provided the Bureau with funds well beyond the Administration's baseline request.

In the end, the coalition was successful in getting $8.3 billion into the IIJA for Western water with the strong support of a bipartisan group of Western Senators.

The conduit's construction schedule was originally 15 years, driven by the levels of funding available. With the IIJA investment, SECWCD asked for sufficient funding to cut that timeline in half.

"This project enjoys across the board support," Christine said. "It's only obstacle has been available funding. The IIJA all but removes that obstacle."

Construction of the first reach of the pipeline will begin next spring and will be done by the Weeminuche Construction Authority, an enterprise of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, also a Kogovsek & Associates client.

"We have been working hard to move this project from planning to construction. This announcement follows the first construction contract award, and is a clear indication that the District and Reclamation will continue to partner in this long-time effort to bring clean drinking water to the Lower Arkansas Valley," SECWCD board president Bill Long said.

"Our Senators were key to obtaining more than $8 billion for the Bureau in the IIJA, and our delegation's long-standing bipartisan support along with support from the State of Colorado have put the conduit on Reclamation's front line for construction," he added.

Defending the history and practice of Rio Grande River management

Kogovsek & Associates' clients the Rio Grande and Southwestern Water Conservation Districts are working with the State of Colorado to defend the history and practice of management of the Rio Grande Water River, whose headwaters are in Colorado.

H.R. 7793, the Rio Grande Security Act, has passed the U.S. House of Representatives as part of a broader package of water-related bills. S. 4236 is the companion Senate bill, which has had a hearing but has not yet moved further.

The State of Colorado sent this Colorado comments to New Mexico Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan expressing opposition to the bill. The House bill contains some amendments suggested by the State, but the State did not support its House passage.

We have led our clients' effort to argue, alongside the State of Colorado, that the bill's provisions which allow multiple federal agencies to study the Rio Grande and then propose possible changes to its management and the operation of projects on the river are dangerously precedent-setting. The Rio Grande River operates under a three-state compact, approved by Congress. It is through that compact administration that the river has been historically managed. This reflects the state-based water administration that is time-honored in the West.

Please see this News story for additional information.

More federal funding on its way to assist Greeley in mitigating 2020 fire impacts

The Arapahoe-Roosevelt National Forest received $79 million in additional federal funding to address impacts of the 2020 historic wildfires within its boundaries. Working with Senator Michael Bennet, the City of Greeley is slated to received about $14 million of that funding to help mitigate fire damage which threatens its water infrastructure if not treated.

In addition, Kogovsek & Associates and Greeley are working to obtain additional funding from the State of Colorado for mitigation work, and spearheaded an FY '23 appropriations increase request to be used for mitigation purposes.

The City of Greeley continues to work with the City of Fort Collins, Northern Colorado Conservancy District, Grand County and others to quickly obtain funding needed this spring for mitigation on the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome burn areas. Further mitigation will add to the limited protections provided in 2021 in a determined effort to protect water providers downstream of the 400,000 acre fires.

Water providers fear run-off and monsoon season will bring massive amounts of burn debris into the watershed, potentially causing water delivery shut-off and damage to water infrastructure.

The coordinated efforts include working with the Colorado congressional delegation on potential funding. Congress included emergency fire funding in the continuing resolution for FY '22, and the delegation is strongly urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service to commit funds immediately to the mitigation efforts in the Arapahoe and Roosevelt Forests where the two fires occurred.

In addition, the infrastructure package passed late last year offers further opportunity for mitigation funding.

In 2021, the Colorado General Assembly passed a much-needed wildfire mitigation funding measure with strong bipartisan support, and Governor Jared Polis quickly signed it into law, understanding the immediate need for help on the major burn scars from historical fires in the fall of 2020. The funding will be managed through the Colorado Water Conservation Board in an effort to protect and restore watershed health to the fire regions.

"Colorado's support will further the efforts of local communities, working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Forest Service, to protect water providers and water quality downstream of the fires," Kogovsek & Associates President Christine Arbogast said. "The non-federal effort had to be undertaken even though the vast majority of the burn area is federal land. The potential damage while waiting for more federal support is enormous."

To see how the ash from the burn scar affects the downstream water click here Poudre River

She added that emergency supplemental funds are needed, along with a fresh look at how forest management, wildfire prevention, wildfire suppression and wildfire mitigation programs are managed and funded.

Our firm has been retained by the City of Greeley, Colorado to assist them and a coalition of other stakeholders in securing federal and state support for a much-needed mitigation plan following the catastrophic Cameron Peak Fire last fall. The coalition will also coordinate with another group of organizations seeking similar support for the mitigation of lands burned in the East Troublesome Fire during the same period.

At one time, the two historically damaging fires came close to merging.

"During these times of prolonged drought in the West, we've experienced the added threat of wildfire, the reality of more wildfires, the increasing severity of wildfire, and of course the aftermath of wildfire. For water providers, like the City of Greeley and its partners in this effort, the problems really begin after the fire is out," Christine Arbogast, president of Kogovsek & Associates, Inc., said. "The potential damage to water quality and to water infrastructure is enormous, and must be mitigated in a timely and effective way. Any delay in starting the mitigation plan only increases costs later."

Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, who chairs the key subcommittee which deals with forest health and management, and Senator John Hickenlooper have asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for help. (click here to read the letter)

President Biden restores Bears Ears National Monument

Bennet Applauds the Biden Administration's Decision to Restore Bears Ears National Monument

Bennet Fought to Protect Bears Ears for Years

Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet released the following statement after the Biden Administration announced they will restore protections for Bears Ears National Monument: "Over the last four years, tribal communities, Coloradans and the American people have made clear: Bears Ears is a wild and sacred place that should be protected.  With this decision, President Biden has listened to and respected the tribes from the Four Corners Region, including the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. By restoring Bears Ears National Monument, President Biden has helped our nation reaffirm our commitment to our tribes, and ensure the area is managed in a balanced way to not only preserve our cultural heritage, but also strengthen our economy. I look forward to the administration moving forward on a management and funding plan, developed in partnership with our tribes, that will protect this sacred landscape for generations.
Ute Mountain Ute Councilman Malcolm Lehi, Tribal Chairman Manuel Heart, and Colorado Senator Michael Bennet attended the White House signing ceremony.

Following a strong appeal from Native American Tribes with close ties to cultural and archaeological features of a monument first created by President Obama, President Biden restored the monument to its original size after the previous Administration gravely diminished it.

biden signs

The President did so on the recommendation of Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, who visited the monument last spring and had meaningful consultation with the Tribal representatives, including Kogovsek & Associates' client the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. The Tribe is based in Towaoc, Colorado near the Utah border, and also has the White Mesa community in San Juan County, Utah, in the heart of Bears Ears.

Ute Mountain Chairman Manuel Heart and Malcolm Lehi, the tribal council member from White Mesa proudly attended the signing ceremony at the White House. They have worked with the Bears Ears tribal coalition and with
Senator Michael Bennet, who has been a strong and
vocal supporter of restoring the monument to its
original 1.3 million acres.

President Joe Biden signs the restoration of Bears Ears National Monument to its original size while Tribal leaders, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Senator Michael Bennet look on.

The very important work of developing a management plan for the monument will now begin, and will including the Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies along with tribal representatives.

At the same time, it is expected that the State of Utah will appeal take this decision to the federal court. Utah and its congressional delegation have long opposed the monument and were instrumental in the massive reduction of monument acreage.

Lawsuits filed by the Native American Tribes and national environmental groups decrying the previous Administration's slashing of the monument's size were recently removed the active docket of the federal court, but have not been formally dismissed.

Opinion: We're running out of water.
It's time to overhaul Colorado's storage system

Read the piece here opinion

Ute Mountain Ute Tribe receives significant resources in FY '22 congressionally directed spending

Working with Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe will receive nearly $5 million in the current fiscal year to help fund top priorities.

The congressionally directed spending, commonly known as earmarks, will provide funding for the development of the Tribe's Kwiyagat Community Academy, an on-reservation charter school; for $2 million for much needed housing development; and nearly $800,000 for law enforcement support in its White Mesa, Utah community

"These community-based projects are exactly the type of initiative the congressionally directed spending program is intended to support," Kogovsek & Associates President Christine Arbogast said. "The Tribe is grateful for the Senators' efforts to meet critical needs that are often unfunded by the agencies."

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