$28 Million in Funding Puts Arkansas Valley Conduit on a clear path forward

The Administration reversed two years of no funding for the Arkansas Valley conduit by including $24 million in its FY '20 spending plan for additional dollars provided to the Bureau of Reclamation by Congress. This commitment of meaningful resources will provide for completion of the final design, environmental compliance and the start of construction of the pipeline from Pueblo to Boone, the first community facing water quality challenges.

l to r Bill Long, president, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Jim Broderick, executive director of the SE District, Senator Cory Gardner, SE board member Alan Hamel, Christine Arbogast and SE board member Kevin Karney.

The Administration went one step further in its commitment to the conduit by requesting an $8 million line item in the FY '21 budget now under consideration in the congressional appropriations process.

Conduit proponents credited the long-term commitment of the bipartisan congressional delegation and the recent commitment of $100 million in Colorado Water Conservation Board funding for the seismic shift in the Administration's position. Of special note is the work since the CWCB action by Senator Cory Gardner and his House colleagues Congressman Scott Tipton and Ken Buck, whose districts include the conduit service area.

"Over the long-term push for this drinking water supply project, we have appreciated the hard work of Senator Bennet, along with Senator Gardner, and the entire House delegation. Their persistence, multiple letters and phone calls and meetings with the Administration for more than a decade have brought us to this important juncture," Bill Long, President of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District said.

Long also noted the support of Governor Jared Polis, who recently asked the Administration to include funding for the conduit in the FY '20 spending plan.

The District will be working with the Bureau of Reclamation in the coming weeks to chart the path forward to project construction, and with the Colorado General Assembly to get final approval for the state spending package. In addition, proponents are hoping for an additional funding request in the FY '21 Administration budget to be released soon.

l to r Senator Cory Gardner, Christine Arbogast and Kirk Russell, finance lead for the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board unanimously approved the funding package on November 20. It will now be included in the CWCB's annual projects bill, requiring legislative approval. Kogovsek & Associates has reached out to area legislators and regularly updated them and the office of Governor Jared Polis on the conduit's need for both federal and non-federal funding. SECWCD will provide additional details to the CWCB board at its January meeting and will continue working with the Colorado General Assembly and the Governor.

In the last two federal fiscal years, the Administration has failed to include a budget request for the conduit. Work has continued on final pre-construction tasks utilizing carryover funds, but the SECWCD sought a comprehensive discussion with the Bureau of Reclamation on the need for federal dollars, and that discussion included the need for non-federal contributions.

The talks with Reclamation have also focused on the most efficient design, alignment and infrastructure sharing with the Pueblo Board of Water Works. Those discussions continue.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board memo is here CWCB board memo. The project datasheet is here datasheet

In addition, Reclamation and the SECWCD will approach other agencies, including USDA rural development and the EPA, seeking non-Reclamation partnerships focused on connecting water providers in the Lower Arkansas Valley to the mainstream conduit.

Kogovsek & Associates is working closely with the Colorado congressional delegation on the funding issues, and they in turn are in regular communication with the Administration about the need to move forward with this critical safe drinking water supply project.

A signed letter was sent to Secretary Bernhardt from Senator Bennet, Senator Gardner, Congressman Tipton and Congressman Buck. letter

This map shows the modified New Concept route of AVC beginning at a point just east of the Pueblo Airport Industrial Park. This route is under discussion by the Bureau of Reclamation and the Southeastern Water Conservancy District but has not reached final approval stages.

Implementation of farm bill provisions underway

With passage of the 2018 Farm Bill in December, the Administration then embarked on implementation of the bill's provisions.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is working on the details which affect the growth of hemp as a legally recognized crop; the conservation programs like CREP and EQIP; and forest and watershed management for purposes of forest health and forest fire management.

The bill, passed with strong bipartisan support, has been generally praised for its protection of conservation programs as well as removing legal obstacles for the growth of hemp by farmers in regions across the country. There has been praise for progress on the forest health issues, but some critics in the West do not believe the bill provided all of the necessary tools to protect and manage forests in a manner which prevents catastrophic fires and reduces negative impacts on watersheds and therefore water supplies.

Work on state, water district agreement for Kansas refuge continues

While the local groundwater management district and the State of Kansas continue efforts to develop a conservation plan, the Water Protection Association of Central Kansas (WaterPACK) is engaged in ongoing exploratory efforts to fund augmentation for Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

Kogovsek & Associates has been retained to assist in finding funding resources for conservation and infrastructure. The concept is creation of partnerships between the WaterPACK and non-governmental organizations, as well as possible application for federal grants and foundation funding.

The refuge's manager, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has determined that an insufficient amount of water is reaching the refuge to support the wildlife species which depend on it. However, the Kansas State Engineer determined that no mandatory curtailment is necessary at this time because of higher than normal precipitation during the last water year.

Reduction of water use by the irrigators is a necessary part of the effort to improve water supplies within the refuge boundaries. But, irrigators need to manage the conservation effort in a manner which minimizes impacts to the regional rural and ag economy.

While water users work with the State of Kansas, Kogovsek & Associates and WaterPACK President Kent Moore met with staff of Kansas congressional offices and with Refuge managers and scientists and the manager of the groundwater district affected.

A coordinated effort by all levels of government and the local water rights holders/producers is absolutely necessary to resolve this issue in a manner which benefits the refuge and minimizes the economic and environmental impact to the producer and the basin.

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