How to improve irrigation to McElmo Canyon, the issue of using agricultural water on roads, and boat access on Narraguinnep were addressed at the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co. stockholders’ annual meeting on Jan. 20.
Board president Gerald Kopenhafer explained that because of improving irrigation efficiencies at higher elevations, there are less return flows into McElmo Creek relied on by those farmers.
“If we don’t do something for McElmo, they could start to run out of water,” he said. “It affects the whole community.”
To improve the situation, MVIC is considering buying back Totten Lake from the Dolores Water Conservancy District as a way to store and deliver water to McElmo Canyon more sustainably and earlier in the spring.
If purchased, Totten would receive leftover water in the fall, and the water would begin to be released to buyers in McElmo in April when the growing season begins.
For the project to be effective, repair work is required on the dam. It is currently on a limited fill restriction due to a maintenance issue.
Discussions on Totten are in the preliminary stages, and stockholders would need to approve the plan for an early season lease. If successful, it would add in 1,800 acres into the MVIC service area and bolster the company’s agriculture water right decree. An engineering study will be conducted to determine how much of McElmo Creek is MVIC water.
Water for roads?The county and MVIC are at odds over the county’s using its MVIC water shares for road maintenance. The arrangement is long-standing, but Kopenhafer said because roads are not an official agricultural use under regulations, allowing it could have a negative affect on MVIC’s water-rights decree.
MVIC recently informed the county that it could no longer pull water shares from ditches and canals or use it on roads or at the fairgrounds.
Montezuma County Commissioner Keenan Ertel said the change impacts road maintenance relied on by the agricultural community, and for events at the fairgrounds. The county relies on its MVIC shares to water down rodeo grounds and the race track.
As part of the long-standing agreement, the county and MVIC have shared costs and labor for maintaining MVIC culverts and pipelines that go under county roads. In exchange, the county was granted access to canals to fill their water trucks needed for road blading.
But MVIC said the arrangement violates their bylaws, which state all water diverted must go through a measuring device, and that working on culverts within a county right of way has liability issues. Ertel said they keep records of how much of their water right they use annually.
“We had a working agreement for 60-70 years, but in the last 16 months, it all changed, and we would like to find a solution,” Ertel said.
One possible solution could be that the county buys industrial water from the Dolores Water Conservancy District for use on county roads. The water could be delivered via MVIC canals and a bylaw change allowing it to pull from canals could be put to a vote. Another suggestion was to see if stock-water reserves could be used for industrial uses like roads.
The county commissioners and the MVIC will have a joint meeting in February to discuss the issue and look for solutions.
Electric boats deniedRussell Montgomery made a motion for stockholders to lift the ban on electric motorboats at Narraguinnep, but it died for lack of a second motion. Electric boats are not at high risk for carrying the invasive quagga and zebra mussels, and along with non-motorized craft are exempt from inspections at other lakes.
But MVIC defended the ban saying it would be too difficult to police whether boats were electric or gas-powered, the latter of which can hold water in the engine that may carry the mussel.
A solution would be more state funding for boat inspection stations in order to allow for motorized boating. A bill has been introduced in the Colorado Legislature that would charge a new fee for instate and out of state boats in order for Colorado Parks and Wildlife to pay for more inspections stations on Colorado lakes.
Also at the meeting: A vote to allow shareholders with less than 10 shares to be nominated for election to the board was voted down on a 11-2 margin. There will be a stock pond water delivery March 26-30. And the MVIC office now has a credit card machine if people want to pay their bill that way.