Colorado officials have made available $15 million for low-interest loans and another $1.65 million in grants to help water providers start repairing systems that were damaged in last month’s historic flooding.
Those announcements were made at a recent meeting of the South Platte Roundtable — consisting of experts from the South Platte River basin, who meet every other month, sometimes more frequently, to discuss water issues in the region. The meeting, the group’s first since last month’s floods, drew a larger crowd than normal and featured discussions on funding recovery efforts.
Nearly all agricultural irrigation ditches, reservoir companies and other water providers in the region experienced damage along their systems — ditches, dykes, gravel pits, canals, head gates and other diversion structures along the rivers that were washed out or destroyed and now need repaired, or even rebuilt.
Water officials at the meeting acknowledged that the $15 million in emergency loans and $1.6 million in grants would only be “a drop in the bucket” compared to the large amount of dollars needed to complete all of the repairs in the region (Frank Eckhardt, a board member with the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District in Greeley, Colo., said at the meeting his district alone has about $1 million in needed repairs).
While the dollar amount may be small, officials stressed they wanted to free up some dollars quickly, so water providers could get started on the repairs, which need to be done before next spring, when water providers will need to capture mountain snowmelt in their reservoirs, and then deliver water to farmers starting to grow crops.
Officials with the Colorado Water Conservancy Board — an organization created about 75 years ago to provide policy direction on water issues in the state — is providing the $15 million in emergency loans and $1.5 million of the $1.65 million in grants. The South Platte Roundtable unanimously agreed at its meeting this week to contribute $150,000 to the grant pot, bringing the total in grant dollars available to $1.65 million.
The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District in Berthoud will serve as the “financial agent” for the grants.
Eric Wilkinson, general manger at Northern Water, explained at the meeting that the grants distributed wouldn’t exceed $25,000, although each water provider could receive up to five grants.
He further noted that, with $25,000 being the maximum, the grants would ideally go toward technical assistance, such as consulting with engineers and other experts, rather than going toward the actual construction work.
The CWCB is handling requests for the $15 million available for emergency loans.
With the emergency loans, the CWCB will offer 30-year loans, which for three years will carry zero percent interest with no payments required. The following 27 years of the loan payments will include interest based on current rates.
The CWCB’s loans typically require a 10-percent down payment, but that’s not required for the $15 million the CWCB recently freed up.
Applications for emergency loans are due by Wednesday, and based on the expected volume of requests, Kirk Russell, the finance and administration chief with the CWCB, said the organization will look to free up more dollars to loan out.
Discussions of doing so will take place during an Oct. 21 meeting of the CWCB, he noted.
Loan applications will also be considered for approval during the Oct. 21 meeting.
The next application deadline for emergency loan funding will be Nov. 1, with those applicatins being considered at a CWCB meeting in November. ❖