Thursday, October 28, 2010

originally posted 11/08

I have written a fair bit about water rights and knowing that the DNRC is currently in the process of scanning a great deal of water rights information into its online database, I checked back there recently to see if there was anything new going on.

They now have the original City application for our water reservation, which was secured by the City two decades ago in anticipation of the Adjudication process, and the projected need for water in the future. On the whole, it is very dry reading.

In a nutshell, the City applied for the reservation, and supplied supporting information relevant to future growth, future use, population projections and such. (They were a little optimistic concerning population projections.)

Now, many people have been saying that the City should have kept its claim for historic use, disregarding the fact that there was no legitimate basis for that amount of consumptive use.  Despite my personal conspiracy thereory regarding why we were in such a rush to drop the access amount, I really don't see the big issue, because I believe that the excess would have been taken during the adjudication process, and we could very well have ended up with less than we are now claiming. I think sticking with a claim we can support, and which has not been objected to, is the best gamble.

During my perusal of the water reservation documents, I noted a bit of history on page 34. (It is actually more like page 46 in the actual file, but it is page 34 in the docs supporting the application, so I am going with that.)

"Although water rights exceed plant capacity, it is prudent for the city to reserve future water needs. The basis for this recommendation is the possibility that the adjudication process will reduce the right to that which the city has beneficially used in the past. The Water Courts recently denied the City of Troy a claim to water in excess of its historic needs, even though diversion capacity was larger than needed but less than the claim (Case 760-79, DNRC. 1988). As stated in the ruling, "Appropriators of water cannot maintain a valid claim to an amount of water in excess of the beneficial use to which it is applied, and when the appropriator or his successor ceases to use the water for such beneficial purpose, the right ceases." (emphasis added)

This is a document submitted by the City, to secure this water reservation, which uses the possible projected loss of our excess claims as a basis for securing the water reservation. This was filed with DNRC and dated 1988.

Now, in 2008, We have adjusted those claimed historic rights. We are anticipating selling water to SME from this water reservation. We are selling IMC water from this reservation, and may need to supply them more in the future, for which there are existing contracts.

Now, the City is anticipating the need for additional water for the future. For this future need, they anticipate spending about $10 million, with another $200,000 just to get it done. Lets think about this. The amount of water the City is looking at is around the same amount as the water reservation, of which a portion is dedicated to IMC, and a portion is dedicated to SME, if they can figure out how to get it.  

By my calculations, if we sell the coal plant 3,200 gpm, 24 hours a day, for 30 years, we will make a total of $8,073,216 off the sale of the water. If the plant uses water for 40 years, that total will go to $10,764,288.

It seems relatively simple to me to look at this, and say, if SME loses the water, we get it back, and satisfy the need for water for future use. If SME uses the water, that revenue should cover purchase of new rights, over time, and there really is no need for the City to charge or tax its residents for purchase of new water.

It seems the recent City government has spent an awful lot of money and effort working on the same things their predecessors apparently had a pretty good grasp on 20 years ago.

As an aside, I had a conversation with someone, I don't remember who, regarding pumps that have been installed for water diversion for the water treatment plant. This water reservation application has a "Historical Summary of Water System Improvements", through 1980, and a table of "Low Service Pumps and Drives" through 1971. These two documents are relevant to the historic use of the City of Great Falls.


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