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Water Smart Grants have big impact on local users

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Photo courtesy Uncompahgre Water Users Association Construction on Drop 5 hydropower plant on the South Canal by the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association is nearly complete and the plant is expected to start generating electricity by the end of July

Last month the U.S. Departments of the Interior and Agriculture announced funding of the Water Smart Water and Energy Efficiency Grants for fiscal year 2016. The funds are made up of $15 million in USDA funds and $32.6 million from the Bureau of Reclamation for a total of $47.2 million.

Steve Anderson, manager of the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association, participated in the announcement at a ceremony in Brighton. Anderson said, "It was a privilege to represent the association and our over 3,000 shareholders."

This funding provides an opportunity for not only the association but also local farmers to seek funds.

Anderson spoke about the history of the association's participation in various grant programs to reduce salt and selenium in the Colorado River and expressed gratitude to the Bureau of Reclamation and Department of Agriculture. The association has received in excess of $32 million in state and federal grants to reduce salt and selenium loading in the Colorado River.These funds were used to line or pipe more than 100 miles of canals and laterals. It is estimated that these efforts have resulted in the removal of 27,000 tons of salt and 3,000 pounds of selenium for the Colorado River.

The Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association has been very successful in taking advantage of Water Smart Grants. To date, the association has received over $1.75 million in Water Smart Grants. These funds were used to automate the river diversion gates for the M&D and Ironstone Canal. Funds were also utilized to finance its involvement in Drop 4 on the South Canal and the Shavano Falls Hydro on the M&D Canal Electric Plants.

The association has also been notified that it qualified for a Water Smart Grant in the amount of $1 million to fund the association's responsibilities for the construction of Drop 5 Hydro Electric Plant on the South Canal. The association also has a construction loan for Drop 5 with the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

The Drop 5 Plant is expected to come online during the second half of July. With the addition of Drop 5, the Uncompahgre Project will have the capability to produce 17.0 mkw.

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