Roy Vaughn of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation had a tale of heavy snowpack for the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District Board of Directors on Wednesday.

“Do you predict this will happen every year?” asked LAVWCD General Manager Jay Winner.

“No,” said Vaughan, who is more used to telling tales of light snowpack and drought to come.

Statewide snowpack is at 155 percent of normal, and the Arkansas River snowshed is at 165 percent.

“We need to take care before a crisis arises," Vaughan said. "We will delay releases from the Western Slope.” 

Winner asked if the La Veta snowpack is strong.

“Yes,” answered Vaughan. “The run-off is delayed, but when it comes, it will be fast and hard. We will need to keep up with releases.”

Winner asked about opening the ditches to prevent flooding in La Junta.

The Fort Lyon Canal could be critical in keeping away flood danger. Meetings with the Corps of Engineers have already taken place and will continue. “It’s a good plan if the state allows it,” said Leroy Mauch, vice chairman of the LAVWCD board.

Director Reeves Brown commented that water storage available is critical, also. Pueblo Reservoir is now full, but water will be coming down the ditches as needed.

As of May 13, there were 235,526 acre feet stored in the Pueblo Reservoir, with 38,381 acre feet of excess water capacity and 28,912 acre feet of winter water. The main danger is a widespread rain event which would trigger a heavy flow in the Fountain Creek area.

In other news, Mike Weber, LAVWCD engineer, reported he had a successful outcome with the McClave Soil Health Project, a demonstration of what water engineering can do to improve farming and a community.

Before the pipes were laid to transport the water to farms at McClave and take the excess water back to the river, school children had to cross two deep ditches to get to school, said Weber. Now the ground over the pipes is completely flat, allowing for safer conditions.

Weber said that while the project was going on, some of the farmers were upset that they couldn’t take water at certain times; but after it was finished, they were happy. They didn’t lose so much water to evaporation and the school kids were safer. More farmers in the area are now considering doing similar projects, said Weber, and there may be some opportunities to help with the engineering.

“Jack (Goble) did the engineering for the McClave Project,” said Weber, and he handled the construction. Habitat Construction from Rocky Ford was low bidder for the ditch work. Weber found a kind of pipe, ADS HTPE Water Tight Pipe that was $45 a foot as compared with PVC at $70 a foot, and it actually worked better. This pipe has been used in projects for 20 years and is not yet in need of replacement. Rocky Ford Pipeyard was low bidder for the pipe.

Project funding came from a variety of sources. Colorado Water and Power Authority contributed $300,000, the Environmental Protection Agency 319 grant funding through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment provided $50,000, the farmers in the project contributed a match of $12,000 for the pipe, for a total of $362,000. The project actually came in under budget, said Weber.

An audit report delivered by Andrew Froese, of Hancock Froese & Company, revealed that the engineering projects actually help the financial well-being of the LAVWCD as a whole. LAVWCD has $30 million in total assets. There has been a $414,653 positive change in net position from last year.

Lee Hancock, the district's conservation easement program manager, delivered his report, “Conservation Easement Legislative Input,” which showed new hope for conservation easements.

According to Hancock, Colorado House Bill 19-1264 provides that the Division of Conservation shall, by June 1, convene a working group comprised of four Democrats and four Republicans, to develop proposed statues and regulations for the following items: 1. Alternative Valuation Method, 2. Retroactive Tax Credit, Payment or Refund Program, 3. Recommendations for Administering Orphaned Conservation Easements. The bill has passed both houses and is now awaiting signature of Gov. Jared Polis.

People who should pay attention are those affected by the retroactive tax credit, payment or refund program. They are taxpayers who claimed credits between Jan. 1, 2000, and Dec. 31, 2013, and whose tax credits were denied in whole or part. The bill will also affect development of eligibility criteria.

The bill will continue the study commissioned by LAVWCD and completed by Colorado State University, in collaboration with Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust and CSU, on ecosystem service values and the application process of the Alternative Valuation Method.

Finally, it was reported that the LAVWCD, which started with two engineers - Jack Goble and Weber - will be taking on eight interns this summer to help out with projects.

bmcfarren@ljtdmail.com