Steamboat Springs: Water dedication policy

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Steamboat Springs is looking at adopting an ordinance that would require developments to have water rights to develop or money to help the city develop water before being annexed. Here’s a report from Brandon Gee writing for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. From the article:

As currently drafted, the city’s water dedication policy would require developers to bring water rights — or money to help develop the city’s existing water rights, through means such as infrastructure — to the table as a condition of annexation. The policy expresses a strong preference for actual rights before a fee in lieu, and also prefers pre-1922 water rights [Pre-1922 rights are senior to the Colorado River Compact].

At a recent meeting of the Steamboat Springs City Council, resident Mary Brown said the only place to find senior water rights, older than the compact, is on agricultural land. “They’re going to dry up a farm somewhere. That’s just how it works,” Brown said. “Eventually, by requiring the delivery of wet water to the city, you are promoting the drying up of ag land in the county. … I think it will have far-reaching, adverse consequences.” As a result, Brown said, the city would be better off accepting cash to firm up its existing rights. A recently adopted Steamboat Water Supply Master Plan concluded that “the city and the (Mount Werner Water and Sanitation) district have a reliable long-term supply source … capable of meeting projected demands throughout the next 20 years,” but that it should “increase redundancy in the community’s water supply.”[…]

Others, including Council man Steve Ivancie, said they would prefer a stricter policy that brings actual raw water to the table. Ivancie also spoke out against a clause in the draft policy that would give council authority to accept other considerations in lieu of water rights. “This policy should be as airtight as possible,” Ivancie said…

Public Works Director Philo Shelton said the intent of the policy is not to have developers go out and purchase a random assortment of water rights throughout the valley. Rather, Shelton said the city hopes developers seeking annexation will dedicate the water rights tied to their land to the city. “We want to make sure we get that piece of paper with the land,” Shelton said. When a parcel has no active water rights associated with it, Shelton said, the city likely will work out a different arrangement, as it has decided to do with the proposed Steamboat 700 development west of city limits. Instead of water rights, Steamboat 700 will be asked to pay for improvements that will allow the city to put existing water rights to use — such as those in the Elk River and Stagecoach Reservoir. The developers’ payment will be based on a water demand study for the project.

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