Two Rivers Water Company, a company focused on acquiring and developing water rights and irrigated farming assets in the western United States, announced it has completed its most recent capital raise of $5,250,000 which enables Two Rivers to close the purchase and development of an additional 2,500 acres of high yield irrigated farmland in Huerfano and Pueblo Counties in Colorado.
“In the last two years, we have positioned ourselves to aggressively expand our irrigated farmland and water rights portfolio,” said CEO John McKowen. “Last year, we test-farmed 500 acres with great success inside our two river basin in southern Colorado. With the completion of this capital raise, we’ll expand our farmland portfolio to 4,700 gross acres and 3,000 net irrigated acres. The acquisition and development of land at this pace is significantly ahead of our original projections. By purchasing this acreage, and re-directing and concentrating water to the point where high-yield crops can be grown effectively, we are substantially adding value to our assets. We believe our company is positioned to participate in all three booms that are currently occurring: food, water and farmland.”
“When we began the development of Two Rivers over two years ago, people did not totally understand what we were trying to accomplish. They asked why would anyone want to purchase water infrastructure and restore it so we could begin re-irrigating previously irrigated farmland? With a collapsing US Dollar and corn over $7.00 a bushel, people are beginning to understand our reasoning. In these difficult times, investors are looking for certainty and a hedge against US Dollar inflation. High yield irrigated farmland and associated water rights provide investors with that certainty and that hedge. We believe we have a fairly unique concept that profitably integrates the relationship between water resources and irrigated farming. We make our assets worth more than the acquisition costs by re-aggregating disbursed water and land assets back onto the originally decreed integrated system.”
Two Rivers purchased 91% of the Huerfano Cucharas Irrigation Company in 2010. It added the Orlando Reservoir and associated water rights to its water rights portfolio in February of 2011. Two Rivers expects to continue to add to its water rights portfolio to support its agricultural operations in Huerfano and Pueblo Counties. Two Rivers has the ability to store in excess of 70,000 acre-feet of water when its reservoirs and canals systems are fully restored.
The developer of a new RV park, Lazy Z Meadows, near the small city of Sisters has agreed to sell 63 acre-feet of early-priority date water to the Deschutes River Conservancy and associated organizations.
The purchase price was said to be upwards of $400,000. The rights are located on the east side of the Cascade Mountains.
The water is expected to be used in-stream at Whychus Creek, to encourage fish flows.
Developers said they did not expect the water would be needed for their efforts. A downturn in the region’s development economy may also have been a factor. [see Oregon Public Broadcasting, April 30]
Two regional newspapers have published extensive takeouts on the water supply situation – increasingly tenuous – in their respective states.
The Portland Oregonian points out how water demand, and groundwater extraction, has increased dramatically in the last half-century, and how it is expected to continue that way in the next few decades.
The supply difficulties are not limited to the relatively dry portion of the state east of the Cascades, much of which is desert or highly arid country. on the westside, demand has increased heavily, most notably in Washington County (rapidly-growing, and the state’s second largest, located just west of Portland) and Clackmas County (just south of Portland).
Said the article: “In a state that boasts about webbed feet, access to water is increasingly contested. The state estimates that in the coming years, demand will grow by 1.2 million acre-feet; we use about 9 million acre-feet now. Whoever controls the limited supply will control new housing and industry and how farming expands.”
Also today, the Denver Post reports that a mass of Front Range water projects, with a combined estimated price tag of upwards of $3 billion, are putting a squeeze on water supplies there.
Among the concerns: So-far limited cooperation among the various water developers, which include Aurora Water, cities including Denver, Greeley and Fort Collins, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Northern Colorado Water. And despite all the development, some estimates suggest that water still will be in shortfall a few decades out.
Am ambitious plan to redevelop the area near Aurora (in unincorporated Arapahoe County) – a large tract once used as a military bombing range – could fail due to a lack of available water rights.
The Denver-based Lend Lease Communities LLC had said it intended to turn the former military land into a mixed-use real-estate development. The conditions for that development included obtaining enough water, and that need seemed to have been met through an agreement with the Rangeview Metropolitan District and the Pure Cycle Corporation.
Plans also involved development, by Pure Cycle, of a pipeline connecting the Arkansas River Valley to the Denver metro area; the $400 million project would carry an estimated 40,000 acre-feet annually. Some reservoir development also was in planning.
But the details evidently have proven elusive. The developers said in a letter to the state land board, “We have consistently and publicly maintained that our vision for the Lowry Range project includes a sustainable water supply that could consist of an appropriate balance between renewable and nonrenewable sources, and provides adequate wastewater treatment facilities . . . [but] We have determined that various, essential pre-development conditions set forth in the development management services agreement dated June 22, 2007, are seemingly unlikely to be met by the end of the year.”
A U.S. District Court judge has rejected an attempt by California irrigators and logging industry groups to strip protected status from five populations of wild steelhead trout.
The ruling rejects two separate challenges to steelhead protection in California. In the first case, anti-environment group Pacific Legal Foundation, which represents loggers and water users, argued that the National Marine Fisheries Service must make Endangered Species Act listing decisions based simply on the numbers of hatchery steelhead produced each year.
PLF asked the court to remove five separate populations of steelhead from the list of endangered species based on the presence of hatchery fish. In the second case, a group of Central Valley irrigators argued that ocean-going Central Valley steelhead population should be removed from the endangered species list based on their opinion that freshwater resident rainbow trout might someday replace extinct steelhead populations.
The ruling marks the third time that federal courts on the West Coast have rejected arguments that all fish must be treated the same when making ESA listing decisions. In the other two rulings — issued in June, 2007 by a federal district judge in Seattle and in August, 2007 by a federal district judge in Oregon — the courts confirmed that wild and hatchery salmon and steelhead should be treated differently when assessing the health of a fish population. NMFS’s scientific advisors and experts unanimously concluded that it would be “biologically indefensible” to eliminate ESA protection for endangered salmon and steelhead based on the abundance of hatchery fish. Scientists emphasized that these fish need habitat to sustain themselves into the future while hatcheries rely on an artificial environment that doesn’t produce salmon and steelhead that survive well in the wild. PLF, however, asserted that NMFS was legally required to ignore these issues and simply count the total numbers of fish in making ESA listing decisions.
In addition, the court agreed with the conservation and fishing groups that NMFS may protect steelhead without including all freshwater resident rainbow trout in the protected population. Here again, the court found that protecting steelhead was supported by unanimous scientific evidence. The court’s ruling cites extensively from reports of three different committees of independent scientists who all confirmed that steelhead form the irreplaceable backbone of the population. The court concluded that “[i]t is undisputed that the steelhead life form is indispensable to the species as a whole. It would have been arbitrary for the agency to ignore to that reality.”
Contact: ?Steve Mashuda, Earthjustice, (206) 343-7340 x 27 ?Dougald Scott, Northern California Council Federation of Fly Fishers, (831) 427-1394 ?Kate Miller, Trout Unlimited, (503) 827-5700 ?David Hogan, Center for Biological Diversity, (760) 809-9244
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is approving the Navajo Nation’s application to administer the underground injection control program for oil and gas-related injection wells.
The UIC program authorizes specific waste streams to be injected, and prescribes operating measures to ensure that underground sources of drinking water are protected. Under the Navajo Nation’s UIC program, the tribe will have authority to issue permits, conduct inspections, participate in enforcement actions, and support the EPA’s annual reporting.
The program will apply to roughly 400 existing oil and gas-related injection wells, known as class II wells, and any future wells located within the exterior boundaries of the formal Navajo Reservation, and on Navajo Nation tribal trust lands and trust allotments in the Eastern Agency – an area of Navajo Indian land located outside the boundaries of the formal reservation.
The EPA determined that the Navajo Nation’s class II UIC program is at least as stringent as the federal program. The Navajo Nation, which assisted the EPA in implementing and enforcing federal regulations on Navajo lands, modeled its program after the EPA’s program.
The Navajo Nation has worked diligently over the past several years to develop an effective program by enacting the Navajo Nation Safe Drinking Water Act—putting into law UIC regulations, and developing the technical, permitting and enforcement capacity to fully implement the injection well program.
The final rule will publish in the Federal Register within the next week. Additional information about this action is available on the EPA’s Web site at: http://www.epa.gov/region09/water/groundwater/navajonation
Some years ago Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens bought rights to ground water – a lot of it, about 200,000 acre-feet – around the often-parched Panhandle area through his Mesa Water Company, with the idea of selling it. It’s never been sold. Now, as drought conditions hit in some areas around the Panhandle, some Texas officials are looking at that water as a potential resource.
Kent Satterwhite, Canadian River Municipal Water Authority general manager, told the Lubbock Avalanche Journal that “With the current situation at Lake Meredith, I think CRMWA should be open to all options for water supply sources. We haven’t heard from Mesa and haven’t approached them about their water rights for several years. If Mesa has an interest in selling their water in place, we would listen to them or any other water rights holder.”
The city of Lubbock is among 11 cities in the Canadian’s system.
Pickens had considered shipping the water to such thirsty cities as Dallas and San Antonio, but efforts to deliver to those areas have bogged down and may have collapsed.
Association of California Water Agencies President Glen Peterson appeared at a Capitol rally on August 13 with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislators to call for swift action on a water bond package for the November ballot.
Addressing a crowd of more than 1,000 farm workers and others who marched around the Capitol in support of a comprehensive water bond, Peterson said there is too much at stake to delay action on a bond package this year.
“California is in the midst of a severe water crisis, and we need solutions today,” Peterson said. “We need to invest in our water system so it can meet the needs of the environment and the economy. There is no single issue more important to California today and to our future generations.”
Schwarzenegger and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein have proposed a $9.3 billion bond for the November ballot that would fund local resource development, Delta sustainability and infrastructure improvements to address the state’s deepening water crisis.
ACWA’s Board of Directors voted unanimously July 25 to support the package, calling it the right mix of long-term investments in backbone water infrastructure and programs such as conservation, water recycling and groundwater cleanup to improve local water supply reliability.
“It’s time for big thinking and comprehensive solutions,” Peterson said. “We need action on a water bond now.”
For more information, visit www.acwa.com. Association of California Water Agencies
On June 11, a Washington state judge struck down key parts of a water law that would have allowed drastically expanded water use for development. The law, passed in 2003, redefined private developers as municipalities and retroactively allowed developers and municipalities to increase their use of water under old water rights at the expense of other water users and rivers and streams.
“This ruling affects every water right holder who has a certificate based on system capacity or ‘pumps and pipes’ instead of actual use,” said Rachael Paschal Osborn of the Center for Environmental Law and Policy. “Judge Rogers clearly held actual use of water is the standard in Washington. Any water right based on pumps and pipes is now suspect.”
For example, Washington State University holds substantial “paper” water rights based on the pumps and pipes standard; about two-thirds of WSU’s water rights have never been used. Under the court’s ruling, WSU’s unused water rights are no longer valid. The University is mining the Grande Ronde Aquifer—sole source of water for 50,000 people—in order to irrigate its new 18-hole golf course, harming other well owners, the community, and the aquifer.
Judge Jim Rogers of the King County Superior Court held that two sections of the municipal water law were unconstitutional. The first section redefined “municipal water suppliers” to include many private developers, granting them the special rights under the water code previously reserved to public entities. The second section revived water right certificates that had been issued to developers and cities based on the size of the pumps and pipes of their water systems rather than on the actual amount of water they used. In 1998, the Washington Supreme Court invalidated those certificates, but in 2003, the Legislature attempted to reinstate them. Judge Rogers held that law is unconstitutional.
“Municipal water rights, like every other water right, are subject to legal tests intended to protect senior water users and the environment,” said Osborn. “With this ruling, we can finally evaluate paper water rights under these legal tests and ensure orderly and responsible development of state water resources. If water right holders fail the test, then they lose the right.”
“Water is finite. The state is at the end of the water frontier. In the face of climate change, our water future is with aggressive conservation,” Osborn concluded.
On September 1, 2006, Center for Environmental Law & Policy, Sierra Club, Washington Environmental Council, Puget Sound Harvesters and several individuals filed a legal challenge to the Municipal Water Law enacted in 2003. That law, also known as HB-1338, allows municipalities to access huge water rights regardless of impacts on Washington’s rivers and aquifers. In December 2006, six western Washington tribes filed a similar suit and the two cases were consolidated. Judge Rogers issued his oral decision on June 11.
CELP and its co-plaintiffs are represented by attorneys Shaun Goho and Kristen Boyles of EarthJustice.
Defendants are State of Washington, Gov. Christine Gregoire, Washington Dept. of Ecology, Director of Ecology Jay Manning, Washington Dept. of Health, and Sec. of Health Mary Selecky. Intervenors are Washington Water Utilities Council (representing water purveyors statewide), Cascade Water Alliance, and Washington State University.
Contact: Rachael Paschal Osborn (CELP) 509.209-2899 (office) 509.954-4541 (mobile) Shaun Goho (Earthjustice) 206-343-7340, x29
The Washington Department of Ecology and Kittitas
County have signed a groundwater management agreement that will guide how decisions are made on residential
developments served by exempt wells.
Rapid growth in the county has resulted in a proliferation
of the wells that are exempt from water right permits. That
spurred a citizens group to petition Ecology last year and
seek a temporary moratorium on the wells. As an
alternative to the moratorium Ecology and the Kittitas
County Commissioners negotiated the groundwater
agreement over seven months and Ecology hosted four
public meetings to address water supply issues in upper
A key component of the agreement is a groundwater
study that will define the hydrogeology of upper Kittitas
County. Gov. Chris Gregoire asked for and received
$300,000 in funding from the 2008 Legislature for the
groundwater study. The governor also requested and
received $383,000 in funding for Ecology and Kittitas
County to implement provisions of the groundwater
Ecology will hire a watermaster for the region and the
county will add staff and purchase equipment to monitor
and collect data on groundwater use in western Kittitas
County. Senior water right holders have been concerned
that rapid rural development will impair their water
supplies. The agreement will help ensure a water supply for
present and future users.
The final agreement outlines management measures that
will be put in place while the groundwater study is under
way. Now, rural developments relying on permit-exempt
wells for their water supply will be allowed only one
groundwater exemption. Development applications will be
required to show how all domestic and lawn/garden water
use in a development won’t exceed 5,000 gallons per day.
Water metering will be required.
The signed agreement may be viewed online at http://www.co.kittitas.wa.us/cds/current/ and
http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wr/cro/kittitas_wp.html Hard copies of the agreement are available at the
Kittitas County Development Services Center in Ellensburg at 411 North Ruby St. and at Ecology’s office
in Yakima at 15 W. Yakima Ave., Suite 200, Yakima, WA 98902. Tom Tebb, Department of Ecology, water
resources program, 509-574-3989; Darryl Piercy, Kittitas County director of Community Development
Services, 509-933-8228; Dan Partridge, Department of Ecology, 360-407-7139. Department of Ecology
News Release – April 8