San Juan #Water Conservancy District votes against BLM water rights demands – The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification
The San Juan Water Conservation District Board of Directors (SJWCD) met on Monday, August 16 to hear a report from, among others, board attorney Jeff Kane on the intent of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to file two water rights applications.
According to agenda information posted on the SJWCD website, the two water rights applications relate to transmontane diversions to the Rio Grande River basin from a tributary of Wolfe Creek. (Note: This spelling of Wolfe Creek is the one found in BLM’s original application for water rights.) It is a tributary of the West Fork of the San Juan River.
Both of these applications could mean the diversion of up to 20 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water.
The BLM said in its requests that the water diversion would be used to support wildlife management and wetland habitat in the BLM’s Blanca Wetlands and Southern San Luis Lakes area.
According to the memorandum presented to council by Kane, this means that any authorization of this type of diversion results in 100 percent depletion of the original watershed. The water that would be diverted under this water rights application would then not be available to support uses or habitats in the San Juan River or its surrounding areas.
The BLM requests a modification of the places and types of use of the 7 already existing cfs of the Treasure Pass Ditch water right. This water right was purchased in 2019. This current agreement provides a 1922 priority for the irrigation of 80 acres. BLM’s new water rights claim requests 13 cfs for the Treasure Pass ditch and the right to authorize the BLM to store and deliver water from the Treasure Pass ditch through multiple reservoirs in the Rio Basin Great for wetland support use in the San Luis Valley.
The BLM is also seeking flexibility in approval so that it can use the water it wishes to divert from the Treasure Pass ditch in the Rio Grande Basin in various ways, according to Kane.
Kane’s report to the board states that “the apps do not limit the ultimate use of diverted water to support wetlands and wildlife.”
The BLM has the burden of proof when it makes a request for modification of water rights. In an application to modify water rights, the applicant must prove that the application will not result in an increase in the use of the water requested in relation to quantity, time and place to what has been historically used, according to the memorandum presented by Kane.
A water rights exchange request is required when proof is required from the applicant that the request will not harm or interfere with other water rights and that it can be enforced, explains the memorandum from Kane. An application for a new water right requires the applicant to provide proof that the water to be used will only be beneficial and that there is indeed water available to be diverted.
As Kane presented his report on BLM demands to the board, he noted that the board and its constituents could be affected in several ways.
The district’s ability to divert and store water under existing water rights or future credits, considering the diversion of water from the Treasure Pass ditch would not only reduce flows from the San Juan River , but would also reduce the water available for the Dry Gulch tank, he suggested.
The report also indicates that habitat in tributaries of the San Juan River could also be affected. BLM’s apps could also affect the efforts of district voters to divert and use water if a Colorado Compact call were to arise.
The appeal of the Colorado Compact is the need to reduce the growing risk of a downsizing of the compact that could result in water shutdown for users in the upper basin states of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Arizona, Utah and Wyoming, Kane told the SJWCD board. .
Kane also noted that the San Juan-Chama project currently diverts an average of 110,000 acre-feet per year from the San Juan River to the Rio Grande basin and that the BLM proposes to divert more water from the tributary of the Wolfe Creek than at any other time in history.
Kane recommended that council file statements of opposition to the BLM’s demands.