The Southwest Basin Roundtable recommended for approval $194,000 worth of grants toward regional 2018 water projects during a meeting Wednesday in Cortez.
The Roundtable also recommended the Colorado Water Conservation Board approve another $250,000 in grant applications for water projects.
The town of Rico, which is looking to upgrade its municipal water system, was recommended for $90,000 in grants for a project that would restore the Silver Creek water diversion system.
Rico Town Manager Kari Distefano explained that the town of 256 residents currently relies on well water, but the community doesn’t like its taste and the hard water is clogging up cooking equipment and coffee makers.
“We would like to get the Silver Creek system back up and running,” she said. “The well provides enough for town, but does not allow for much growth.”
Rico has a more senior water right on the Silver Creek, but the municipal water diversion went offline in 2014 because of system problems.
The grant funding would pay for a feasibility study to determine how much it will cost to get the Silver Creek system operational, and may provide grant matching funds for future project construction.
Distefano said the capital improvement project also includes planning for replacement of problematic exterior water meters on homes with more reliable interior meters. Of the total Rico grant amount, $30,000 was provided from Southwestern Water Conservation District.
Ducks Unlimited was recommended for a $50,000 grant from the Southwest Roundtable for a project improving the Sambrito Wetlands south of Navajo Reservoir in Colorado. About $170,000 was recommended by the Roundtable board for approval from state conservation board grant fund.
The mitigation wetlands were created as part of the Navajo Reservoir project and are relied on by migrating waterfowl and wildlife habitat including the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse.
Infrastructure that diverts water from West Sambrito Creek to the wetlands needs rehabilitation, said Jason Roudebush, of Ducks Unlimited.
The Animas Air Park was recommended for a $43,000 grant to help pay for a larger pipeline that would be used to deliver water from nearby Nighthorse Reservoir to Durango for municipal use.
Also, the Mountain Studies Institute was recommended for a $22,545 grant for a stream management plan on the Upper San Juan River Basin; the town of Ignacio was recommended for a $48,750 grant for an irrigation utility improvement project; and the Florida Consolidated Ditch Co. was recommended for a $99,000 grant for the Florida Canal Diversion Structure from the state and roundtable.
The grants still require final review and approval from the Colorado Water Conservation board at their March meeting.
Matt Clark gave an update on a successful restoration project on the Dolores River at Redburn Ranch. The $300,000 project funded in 2015 by state water grants revamped a diversion to improved irrigation for the landowner and allows for fish passage. It was completed this fall, Clark said.
The project replaced a cobble push up dam in the middle of the river needed to divert irrigation water into a canal. The dam blocked fish passage eight months out of the year and had to be rebuilt every year after the spring runoff.
The diversion was moved upstream and the cobble dam was replaced with rock weirs 200 feet apart that step down. Pour overs allow for fish and boating passage.
“The improvement helps the landowner, and removed a fish barrier, plus it came in under budget,” Clark said.
State grant funding for water projects is significantly lower due to reduced severance taxes, said Megan Holcomb, of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
The reason is because of a 2015 Colorado Supreme Court decision that ruled the state had unfairly denied British Petroleum tax breaks. The severance taxes are used to fund state water projects, but now there is significantly less because the state has to pay back the company retroactively, and it now collects at a lower rate.
To find out more about the Southwest Basin Roundtable grant opportunities, visit its website.
This story has been corrected to clarify that the recommended water grants still need final approval from the Colorado Water Conservation Board during their March meeting. email@example.com