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Colorado's public lands are faced with new challenges but water and land management depend on working together. Read about the relationship between water and land in Colorado and how Coloradans are converging to restore Colorado's public lands in the Spring 2018 issue of Headwaters magazine.

Browse articles and find a flipbook of the magazine here.

Connecting the Drops

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Water Education Colorado

A Permanent Pool for Recreation and Wildlife in John Martin Reservoir

They're trying to buy a little assurance.

The Colorado's Division of Wildlife and State Parks, along with the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association, have money and a deal to firm up a permanent pool for recreation and wildlife in John Martin Reservoir.

The catch: The deal can only be finalized if Kansas grants approval.

The three want to buy half interest in the Kessee Ditch, a more stable water right expected to annually produce up to 3,500 acre feet for the pool. The contract expires Feb. 28.

‘It's urgent from the standpoint of available funding,’ says Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte. ‘We've been waiting for two years for the Kansas folks to provide some written comments on what conditions they feel are necessary to protect their interests if they were to grant their consent.’

The Arkansas River Compact stipulates that water for the pool must be acquired then approved by the compact administration before it can be transferred.

The permanent pool, authorized by Congress in 1965, was not part of the original compact. A decade later the pool was expanded to 15,000 acre feet from 10,000.

Since 1980, DOW and Parks have leased water, mainly from Colorado Springs or Pueblo, to keep the pool afloat, says Grady McNeill, DOW's resources support section manager. Urban growth and the 2002 drought translate to scarce rental opportunities.

If Kansas doesn't approve the Kessee Ditch purchase, says McNeill, there's ‘no certainty we can find the water to maintain the pool.’

The ditch is downstream of John Martin, so McNeill says the group would ‘just be shortstopping’ the water in the reservoir.

‘The proposal's been discussed,’ says Kansas State Engineer Dave Barfield. ‘It's obviously a significant item. Kansas does have concerns. It sets some legal precedents that we have to consider.’

Barfield says the year's been a busy one as the two states worked to tie up loose compact settlement and decree ends before Colorado State Engineer Hal Simpson retired. He says Kansas officials will meet with the John Martin proponents in January to work through concerns.

‘It's going to be a challenge to get it done’ before the end of February, Barfield says.

And what happens if the deal evaporates?

Says McNeill: ‘If we don't have a water supply for the pool, it's vacant.’

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