Bessemer Ditch shareholders amend bylaws, greasing the gears for sales to Pueblo Board of Water Works (and others)

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Here’s an article describing the mood at Monday’s Bessemer Ditch shareholders meeting, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

In the end, arguments in favor of future sales prevailed over the strong sentiment to preserve a rich agricultural history in Pueblo County. The final vote was, exactly, 12,047.592 shares in favor of selling to 6,471.554 against.

The meeting was tightly run, with former Judge Joe Ulibarri wielding a stern gavel and an outside accounting firm counting the votes. Ulibarri at one point shut down a speaker who had begun railing against sellers. A dozen people spoke, staying within the two-minute limits strictly enforced by Ulibarri. Some offered rebuttals, but there was little verbal animosity of the type that has occasionally flared on the mesa lately.

In order to close voting, accountants and lawyers had to offer assurances that the signed shares which were voted Monday would remain sealed and confidential unless there were a court order to do otherwise. Bessemer board members, some of whom are selling and some who opposed the rules to make the sale easier, were publicly silent. The board as a whole took no position for or against the change.

A policeman was standing watch…

Some facts about the pending sale of the Bessemer Ditch.

– The Pueblo Board of Water Works is buying about 5,000 of the 20,000 shares on the Bessemer Ditch at a price of $10,150 per share. It expects to spend more than $60 million to complete engineering, legal and revegetation work.

– The board has an agreement with the St. Charles Mesa Water District to use the shares it buys first in Bessemer Ditch, then in Pueblo County, as long as it can find users for the water.

– Many of the contracts have agreements to lease water back to farmers for 20 years. The water board does not expect to need the water until about 30 years from now.

– The changes in bylaws do not prohibit sales to others, anywhere in the state. Bessemer takes its water directly from Pueblo Dam, making it difficult for any out-of-basin user to benefit from the water. Aurora, the only out-of-basin user in the Arkansas Valley, cannot buy new shares under a 2003 agreement, but can buy water on a temporary basis through a lease. El Paso County users could use the Southern Delivery System – if it is built from Pueblo Dam – to move water, with proper permit approval, but no arrangements to do that now exist.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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