News Column

Conduit funding priority for state

May 23, 2014

By Chris Woodka, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.

May 23--The state showed more support for the Arkansas Valley Conduit Thursday, pledging cooperation in helping to obtain federal funding for the $400 million project.

"This is the last piece of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project," said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. "It's been a long wait for something that was promised 50 years ago."

Broderick gave an update of the conduit to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which met Thursday at the Pueblo Convention Center.

Contract negotiations will begin later this year for the conduit and two associated federal contracts to provide a master storage lease in Lake Pueblo and a cross-connection between south and north outlets on Pueblo Dam.

In the meantime, the Southeastern district is searching for ways to make sure federal funding arrives in a timely fashion in order to begin design work -- a two- to three-year process -- and construction of the conduit. The conduit will provide fresh drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo.

The CWCB already is a partner in the project and has committed $60.6 million in loans that will help pay the 35 percent local match to the federal project.

The federal money will be repaid through user fees and through Reclamation contracts under 2009 legislation.

Several CWCB directors reiterated support Thursday.

"It was a great project then, and it's a great project today," said Travis Smith, director from the Rio Grande basin.

Alan Hamel, who represents the Arkansas River basin, said state water leaders need to back the project and work with the Colorado congressional delegation to assure funding.

"We couldn't agree more," said James Eklund, CWCB executive director. "Mike King (Department of Natural Resources director) and I have approached the delegation and they have been receptive, Sen. Michael Bennet in particular."

Eklund also asked Broderick if all of the 40 communities that will benefit from the conduit have water quality issues.

"Yes, it's universal," Broderick replied.

Of the total, 17 communities face radionuclide issues, while all of them are dealing with high salinity in water. Even those that have installed reverse osmosis purifying systems are facing issues of brine disposal.

"I don't see regulations getting easier," Broderick said.


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Source: Pueblo Chieftain (CO)

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