Thursday, October 28, 2010

part 2

"The City of Great Falls is embarrassed to defend an 1889 53,000 acre-ft/yr water right."

I don't agree the City is embarrassed. I think the City is realistic. Below, I posted the issue remarks on municipal claims for the City of Billings. They are multiple, on every right, and are very legitimate.

Right now, on the abstracts that I can see, the only issue remarks for these three Historic Great Falls claims are relative to no volume being claimed on two of them. This is because the three claims share the 20,140 a/f volume, and this should not be an issue with DNRC.

Great Falls has reasonable claims, backed up by historic, beneficial use. CCE stated "City documents show Great Falls pumped between 48 million and 55 million gallons of water per day in the sixties". I would like to see those documents, but apparently, WRSI has recently been asked to review them.  From the letter, we get an idea of what the documents are.

There is some information in the DNRC files. This is pages 13  and 14 of the claim record for 41QJ 123411, the 1966 right. This is page 30 from the same 1966 right. I will be refering to them below.

In the second paragraph of the letter, Mr. Schmidt discusses a memo, and if he is correctly reporting what the memo says, it doesn't seem to have great value.

Regarding the third paragraph, I have a copy of the Location of Water Right Notice of Appropriation. It is a very poor copy, but it states the claim is for 74 cfs. I don't really see anything suspect about it.

Fourth paragraph, I agree, this has no bearing on historic use.

The first paragraph on the second page shows volume calculations and notes that this volume would be difficult to justify. Excessive volume is also a concern in the DNRC issue remarks on the pre-amendment claim file, which notes that the claimed volume equals 1083 gallons per capita, per day. 250 gallons is apparently standard.

The last sentence of the last paragraph caught my notice. "In my view, this question has been vetted, rational explained and voted upon, and there is no smoking gun."

Voted apon by whom? And when?

Now in my primer below, I noted the basic facts regarding the Historic Water rights claimed by Great Falls. In my opinion, based on the information in the DNRC files, and the work of WRSI that I have access to, I believe the action taken regarding these rights was appropriate.

The volume of water is the only thing that decreased, and the volume now claimed, 20,140 a/f, is the amount of water that an estimated population of 71,920 would use. The City has preserved that as the claimed amount for pre 1973 historical, beneficial use. At this time, there appear to be no issue remarks of any significance on that claim. During the adjudication process, DNRC will probably review it and enter it in the decree as it is.

If the amount had remained at over 73,000a/f, there is every likelyhood that other water rights holders in the Missouri and Sun River Basins would have objected to it. DNRC already had issue remarks on it for excessive claimed volume. In the adjudication process, DNRC would accept evidence from the objectors, proving what they think the volume should be, evidence from the City on what we think the volume should be, they would review everything, and then decide what volume we get.

Page 30, link above, shows how the population figure for the current claimed amount was reached.
Page 14 shows water withdrawals by year and acre feet. I simply do not see any evidence WRSI should have done anything differently.

However, I certainly believe this information should have been presented and explained to the City Commission, before all interested citizens, and should be considered public record, maintained by the City Clerk, and available for inspection and copying to any and every citizen who walks in City Hall and requests it.

I find it quite troubling that a City Commissioner repeatedly requested information relative to this water right file, and was denied access to it. The DNRC file has many documents that are not scanned and posted online. WRSI has those complete files, and they are easily available to the City, if in fact, they are not in someones office.

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