Deal in works to reopen irrigation wells |

Deal in works to reopen irrigation wells

GREELEY ” Eastern Colorado farmers whose crops are in danger because their irrigation wells were shut down may be able to restart the wells as early as next week under a preliminary deal worked out Friday, a water official said.

The deal calls for moving 10,000 acre-feet of water, enough for this summer’s crops, from the Windy Gap Reservoir through the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District to offset the water pumped from the wells, said Greg Hertzke, water acquisitions manager for the district.

The deal must still be approved by several cities participating in the Windy Gap Project and by irrigation ditch owners who had sued the Central Colorado district to shut down the wells.

A spokeswoman for the Windy Gap Project did not immediately return a call.

Windy Gap Reservoir is on the west side of the Continental Divide. Water from the reservoir is delivered to the east side of the divide through the tunnels, pumps and reservoirs of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, according to the Web site of the Northern Colorado Conservancy District, which gets at least some of the water.

About 400 wells in the South Platte River Basin were shut down when the state engineer issued a forecast anticipating lower-than-average flows in the river.

The wells draw water that would otherwise flow into the river. When river levels are low, the wells must be turned off to ensure that water users with higher-priority rights get their share.

Some of the farmers had already planted wheat, corn, beets and melons when their wells were turned off.

Gov. Bill Owens declared an emergency for eastern plains farmers Wednesday, freeing up $1 million in state emergency funds and allowing Colorado to apply for federal loans to help the farmers.

Spokesmen for Owens and the state Department of Natural Resources did not immediately return calls.

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