PRID board increases funding for beaver control

District water engineer working on State Water Plan

At their quarterly meeting on April 1, Pine River Irrigation District directors voted to double the district's annual contribution for control of beavers in irrigation ditches.

The 2014 budget had a $2,500 contribution to the federal Wildlife Services (Animal Damage Control) program jointly funded by La Plata and Archuleta counties and several agricultural groups.

"The county recently asked if we'd be willing to contribute more," PRID dam superintendent Brian Sheffield said. The county will match any increase, he said. Contributions from the other ag entities are mostly in the hundreds of dollars, not thousands, he said.

"I think the consensus was to increase it," director Phil Lane said.

Director Bob Witt added, "When we do it, everybody pays," versus contributions from some ditch companies but not others.

Audience member Jerry McCaw said, "It's the little ditches that have the most problems with beavers. So this is the fair way to do it as far as I'm concerned."

The board voted unanimously to increase PRID's contribution to $5,000.

In other action:

. Sheffield reported a predicted in-flow of 202,000 acre feet inflow to Vallecito this spring. As of that morning the reservoir held 95,287 AF. Before the meeting, Witt said of the snowpack, "We were doing pretty good until this wind and dust started... The snow looks red."

. Auditor Mike Branch presented the 2013 audit. "The irrigation district did well last year," he said, with revenue somewhat above budget and operations spending below budget. Reserves increased by $197,000 to more than $1.7 million.

Branch noted he's been unable to find documentation that the board formally committed reserve money for repairs. "That's a lot of money to be sitting around with no apparent purpose in life," he said. "If you are thinking there will be major expenses in five or 10 years, let's commit it to that so it doesn't look like we are hoarding cash."

The board voted to designate $1.5 million of reserves for maintenance and repair of the dam and related facilities. They also approved the audit.

. At the recommendation of water engineer Steve Harris, directors agreed to provide a letter of support for Bob Wolff to replace Harris on the Colorado Water Resources and Power Authority board. Wolff is president of the Animas/ La Plata board and is on the Southwest Water Conservation District board. Harris's term ends in December.

. Harris reported on the State Water Plan, which is supposed to be finished late this year. "I've been spending a huge amount of time regarding this, a day or two a week," he said. "The big water plan issue with the inter-basin committee is trans-mountain diversions, how to meet East Slope water demand without drying up ag, for instance on the South Platte (River Basin)... how to figure out when there's water to divert to the East Slope, and when there isn't. It's a snail's pace. Each meeting is like pulling teeth."

He added, "I don't think there will be anything real specific in the water plan by the end of the year. Ag dry-up on the East Slope is the default position."

Harris noted the legislation he proposed with State Sen. Ellen Roberts to limit lawn sizes in subdivisions created after 2016 if the water supply comes from a permanent transfer of water from ag. "Half the people loved it, and half hated it," he said. It made it through a senate committee but "couldn't pass the senate because of opposition from some of the big water providers."

He asserted, "It's a direct trade-off, the size of your lawn and ag dry-up."