River water project to benefit De Beque, farmers, energy firms
Ranchers and De Beque residents will gain irrigation water and the energy industry will have access to water for drilling under a project that will pump water out of the bottom of the Colorado River.
Energy companies will pay most of the cost of the project that will use an existing intake at the bottom of the river to draw water out and pipe it into existing ditches and a small impoundment that energy companies can draw on for their drilling activities.
“It’s definitely an asset to the community,” said De Beque- area rancher Tom Latham. “The town will benefit, irrigation and agricultural people will benefit and the oil and gas business will benefit.”
Latham and rancher Dale Albertson represent the Bluestone Water Conservancy District along with members of the board of the Colorado River Water Conservation District in pushing the project, for which work could begin this year.
Called the Kobe Project, the water it draws from the Colorado will be devoted mostly — 75 percent — to agricultural use and 25 percent for industrial use.
Black Hills Exploration & Production is bankrolling almost all the estimated $7 million development cost, some of which it will recoup through lower water costs and from other energy companies that use water from the project, officials said.
The Kobe project will draw 25 cubic feet per second from the Colorado, with 5 cfs set aside for industry and the rest for De Beque and agriculture, said Ray Tenney, an engineer with the River District.
The water won’t necessarily expand agriculture in the area, but it will be a welcome layer of security against continued drought, Latham said.
“The last two years, if it had been in place, it would have been a benefit,” Latham said.
Water availability also will make it easier to develop natural gas in areas that otherwise might have been impossible because of the difficulty of trucking it in, said Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca, who until recently served as the county’s representative on the project.
“This really is a great local project converting local conditional rights to absolute rights for diverse purposes,” Acquafresca said.
The project also illustrates the need for water to remain in the Colorado as opposed to being diverted east to the Front Range.
“If we want to be more than a donor basin, we need to have a robust economy,” Acquafresca said.
“Kobe is a good example of what we need to be doing here with our water resources.”