The Colorado-Kansas Arkansas River Compact Administration passed a resolution on Feb. 14 that allows Highland Canal water rights to be delivered to the John Martin Reservoir as an additional permanent source of water for the Colorado Parks & Wildlife conservation pool located there.

Resolution 2019-01, Regarding John Martin Reservoir Conservation Pool, began as an interstate pilot agreement between Colorado and Kansas, the two states whose citizens are the primary recreational users of the reservoir, in 2017. The agreement, renewed for 2018, allowed Highland Canal water rights owned by the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association (LAWMA) to be directed to the JMR conservation pool.

The agreement was widely recognized as the first new source of water for the pool in nearly 40 years. With the passage of the new resolution, the Highland Canal water rights have been secured as the first permanent source of water acquired in 40 years.

"The agreement that the states have worked on involves the use of the Highland Canal water right," said Bill Tyner of Colorado's Division of Water Resources. "That water right is owned by LAWMA, and it and Colorado Parks & Wildlife worked together to approach the administration several years ago to begin these discussions."

The permanent agreement allows water to be delivered from Highland Canal to the permanent pool at JMR from March 1 through Nov. 15 each year. It also allows a water management agreement between Colorado Parks & Wildlife and LAWMA regarding the Highland Canal water rights to move forward in water court with certainty.

"The two states are still doing a little bit of minor work to get that agreement ready for final signature," said Tyner.

Without such an agreement, the reservoir can run dry, negatively impacting the economic benefits of a healthy fishing and boating facility. A healthy fishery is estimated at impacting the surrounding communities by as much as $825,000 a year, Coyote Gulch reported in August 2017.

Kevin Salter, ARCA assistant operations secretary, reviewed how storage distributions to account holders would be handled by ARCA with the new resolution: Gains and reductions in storage capacity would be surveyed on a regular basis, more frequently than surveys on the reservoir have been in the past. Slater noted that this year JMR actually has a gain in storage capacity, something that's uncommon for the reservoir.

"The last survey that's been done is in December 2017," said Salter. "That will be implemented in a new (data) table that is expected to occur on Nov. 1, 2019.

"In the past, those have happened just on a date certain, but in this case we're looking to do something maybe a little different."

ARCA is formulating a pro rata gain and reduction distribution adjustment that would be performed on a monthly basis. The distribution method will be slightly different for distributing gains than for distributing reductions.

The purpose of the restructured distribution system is to make gains and reductions in storage fairer to all the accounts involved.

"The reductions that would occur in any particular account would depend on when that elevation area capacity table was implemented," said Salter. "If you implemented it on April 1, you'd have compact conservation storage that would share in that reduction ... along with all the other accounts.

In months of gained storage capacity, ARCA will calculate the gain attributed to the current month and then allocate 1/12 of it proportionately.

""It's a good thing for Colorado, it's a good thing for JMR, it's a good thing for Colorado Parks & Wildlife," said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, based in Rocky Ford. "It's going to let Colorado Parks & Wildlife add to their permanent pool. They'll be able to store more water in the (reservoir)."

Winner believes the passing of Resolution 2019-01 will open the door for future agreements to allow those in agriculture and other industries store their water in JMR. This is particularly good news, according to Winner, because the reservoir has been underutilized in the past.

LAVWCD is currently working on a water storage project involving the reservoir, said Winner. It currently has 29 entities interested in storing their own water at JMR.

"That's the nice thing about it," said Winner. "It's a good deal all around."