U.S. Water News Online
LA SALLE, Colo. -- State officials asked municipalities to
share water with about 200 farmers who could lose 30,000 acres of
crops after the state shut down their wells.
Agriculture Commissioner Don Ament, along with several elected
officials made their plea to three cities -- Boulder, Centennial and
Sterling -- an irrigation ditch company and a mining company in
Leadville whose lawsuit is tying up an agreement that could help the
"We don't need 30 days in court," Ament told reporters and a group
of angry farmers during a news conference.
Farmers who planted onions, corn, and sugar beets before the state
shut down their irrigation wells could lose crops worth up to more
than $3 million, far surpassing the $1 million in grants set aside by
the state to help farmers.
Colorado law gives farmers an annual allocation of water from
streams and wells. They can use more if they can replace it through
water purchased elsewhere. But farmers without a backup plan can have
their supply shut down by the state.
A state engineer discovered this month that the snowpack in the
South Platte River Basin had melted faster than expected, greatly
reducing water supplies. Municipalities sued, worried they wouldn't
have enough water for residents, and a judge said wells without plans
to replace the water had to shut down.
A deal was struck to get the farmers some water by tapping into a
reservoir, but that is tied up by the lawsuit, Ament said. The three
cities suing are afraid that using reservoir water to complete the
deal would end up with more water being drawn out of the South Platte
Kim Lawrence, an attorney representing the farmers, said the
groups objecting to the deal could allow water to flow if they would
talk to the judge who issued a court order shutting the wells down.
"This is about kicking someone when they're down. They're hoping
these people go under," Lawrence said.
Tim Buchanan, an attorney for the Harmony Ditch Co., said he
cannot agree to the reservoir deal because he has not seen the
"We need the objectors to step up and solve this problem," said
Tom Cech, executive director of the Central Colorado Water
Conservancy District. "That's the only way we're going to solve this
problem and save the crops and save the farms."
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