U.S. Water News Online
PUEBLO, Colo. -- The Bureau of Reclamation has unveiled an
aggressive schedule to study how a water swap involving Aurora and
southern Colorado will affect the Arkansas River basin.
A draft environmental assessment could be finished by April,
according to the recently released timeline. A final assessment could
be released as early as June or July.
Aurora is seeking a federal contract to store 10,000 acre feet of
water in Lake Pueblo and exchange that water for 10,000 acre feet in
Twin Lakes and Turquoise reservoirs. The deal allows Aurora, which
projects its population will swell to 500,000 in the next 50 years,
to more efficiently manage its Arkansas River water rights.
The bureau and Aurora have had temporary contracts in the basin
for more than a decade, but the latest plan would provide long-term
Fryingpan-Arkansas Project storage space for water transfers out of
The project was established by Congress decades ago to protect the
over-appropriated Arkansas River.
Joe DeLuca, chairman of the Chaffee County Board of Commissioners,
said environmental assessments for small county roads take longer
than the proposed timetable for the Aurora study.
``I've never seen a study go so fast,'' he said. ``It leads one to
conclude that this is a done deal and that they are just going
through the motions.''
An environmental assessment is not nearly as comprehensive as an
Environmental Impact Statement. The latter can take years to
complete, but DeLuca said it would be appropriate in the case of the
Aurora water deal.
Greg Felt of the Arkansas River Outfitters Association said he was
forced to rely on bureau officials to protect his livelihood.
``We don't get to go head to head with these guys from Aurora over
(reclamation) contract exchanges,'' Felt said. ``I have to count on
the bureau listening to my input. . . Everything could be lost.''
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