River district angles for water project funds | PostIndependent.com

River district angles for water project funds

Greg Masse
Staff Writer

As the state endures its worst drought on record, the Colorado River Water Conservation District is looking to find new ways to prepare for such events.

The Glenwood-based district has come up with a 0.25 percent mill levy increase that district officials say will go far in securing more locally owned water, rehabilitating existing reservoirs and increasing water efficiency.

“The only criticism we’ve received is, `You should have asked for more,'” CRWCD spokesman Chris Treese said.

If passed, the tax would cost the average homeowner in the district about $5 per year, Treese said.

“This is a quarter mill, which is about the same as our current assessment, but it would go toward a different purpose,” Treese said.

Treese and CRWCD engineer Dave Merritt explained that the district made it through the past summer’s irrigation season using temporary agreements and relying on the kindness of other water rights owners.

“We need a long-term solution,” Treese said. “One of the problems we found is even with Ruedi (Reservoir), even if we had the ability to contract on time,” the federal bureaucracy would delay water releases until it’s too late.

To get around the bureaucracy, the money gathered from the mill levy would go toward securing local water ownership. That way, once agreements are reached, the water can be released quickly.

“We can do that and we won’t be tied up with the cumbersome federal process,” Merritt said.

Improvements would consist of building small water-storage projects, making small dam repairs and enabling the enhancement of small off-channel reservoirs – all likely less than 1,000 acre-feet.

“When you’re high up in the basin, it can make a big difference,” Merritt said. “In the smaller towns, a little more water is critical.”

Another type of improvement could entail the lining of irrigation ditches. “Selenium is a problem in the Western Slope,” Merritt said. “If we can take dirt ditches and pipe them,” river water health could improve.

Some of the money could also be used as seed or match money for federal grants, Treese and Merritt said.

“In many ways, this is an expansion of what we’ve been doing,” Treese said.

In all, the district is looking to gain $2.7 million in 2003 and annually thereafter until 2022.

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