Tri-State’s attempt to restrict irrigation pumping in the Lower Ark Valley puts farms at risk


LAMAR, Colorado – Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc. is asking the Division 2 Water Court to demand from the Lower Arkansas Water Management Association – a non-profit association owned by members of farmers, ranchers and farming businesses in the Lower Arkansas River Valley. that use groundwater wells – to limit the initial pumping of some members each year to the amount of pumping that would be available in the driest years, regardless of actual conditions. The LAWMA water tribunal case concerns wells that will be used as an additional water source for 11 farms under the Fort Lyon Canal.

LAWMA has been implementing its membership augmentation plan in the Lower Arkansas River Basin since 2007. LAWMA members own shares that represent the superior surface water rights purchased by the association. The augmentation plan allows LAWMA members to use their groundwater resources in the most efficient and economical manner while keeping the entire river for other water users.

“Tri-State’s request goes far beyond what is necessary to protect their water rights,” said Don Higbee, director of LAWMA. “We ask why is a major electricity supplier seeking to restrict the annual amount of water independent farmers and ranchers can pump to protect water rights that Tri-State will likely never use?” “

According to Higbee, if Tri-State is successful, the result would be to reduce the initial pumping allowance for some LAWMA members by about 57%. This drastic reduction could have a disastrous impact on farmers who rely on these actions to plan the planting and production of crops.

Tri-State says there is a need to require LAWMA to be the driest year on record every year to protect the electricity supplier’s water rights for power generation in the coal in southeast Colorado.

However, Tri-State has announced in 2020 the withdrawal of all coal-fired plants in Colorado and New Mexico, and will not go ahead with the planned coal-fired plant in Prowers County. From LAWMA’s perspective, without the Prowers County facility, there will be no need for the tri-state to maintain a portfolio of water rights in the Lower Arkansas River Basin.

“Tri-State’s request to base allocations each year on dry year conditions is worrying about how LAWMA is currently allocating water to its stocks,” said Paul Casper, Arkansas River Farms operator. 7. “The economic impacts of the dry year allocations each year will be devastating for my farm – just as they would be for other farmers in the valley if these conditions were applied throughout the augmentation plan. I can’t plant as many crops with an initial dry year allocation as I do with an allocation based on real conditions, because farmers can only plant crops that they know they will have enough water for.


LAWMA’s dry year allowance is typically set at around 0.35 acre-foot of water per common share, while its average annual allowance is generally set at around 0.82 acre-foot per common share.

“The Tri-State proposal would force LAWMA to waste some of its top water rights in something other than the driest year because those supplies would exceed the amount required to replace the dramatically reduced pumping from some members,” he said. Higbee said. “Much of this water would flow down the river to the Colorado-Kansas state line, resulting in a boon to Kansas with no benefit to Colorado water users.”

Tri-State’s position not only endangers LAWMA shareholders, it also endangers the agriculture and economic development of the Arkansas Valley.

Higbee added, “LAWMA has spurred regional economic development opportunities over the years, allowing new businesses to come to the area and be successful, including a new dairy farm in Prowers County, Big R Farms and Nature’s Alternative. Farms in Bent County, and GP Aggregates in Prowers County. These new businesses, which have created more than 100 new jobs, are dependent on increased water supplied by LAWMA. Tri-State’s position threatens the ability of local farmers and ranchers to irrigate and jeopardize the economic gains of Bent and Prowers counties.

Farmers at the Amity Canal, which Tri-State claims to protect, would also be negatively affected if Tri-State’s demand were applied to all LAWMA members. Farmers who irrigate land under the Amity Canal have relied on their LAWMA actions to pump an average of about 8,700 acre-feet per year from 2011 to 2020. These same farmers could see the amount of their initial LAWMA pumping allowance reduced to approximately 3,600 acre-feet. annually if the Tri-State request was applied to all LAWMA members.

Higbee concluded, “LAWMA has always taken a ‘good neighbor’ approach when working with the Tri-State. We have worked with them to their advantage on many issues. Now, Tri-State is taking the position that farmers in the Lower Arkansas River Basin should be held to higher standards than major cities in the Denver metro area – and higher standards than the Plan’s own executive order. increase in Tri-State. This is not the way we do things in the Lower Ark Valley. “

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