Nestlé Chaffee County Project: Recap of commissioner’s July 1 meeting

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Here’s the next part of Lee Hart’s recap of the July 1 meeting of the Chaffee County Commissioners working meeting for Nestlé’s Chaffee County Project. She writes:

Commissioner Tim Glenn tried to explain the gravity of Scanga’s testimony to fellow commissioners who either didn’t seem to understand the intricacies of water law and prior appropriation or simply did not share Glenn’s concerns. Glenn noted it was Scanga’s role to go “to bat for every water right and ag producer” in the valley and that he found Scanga’s testimony “fairly compelling.”[…]

“If you have a senior water right (as Aurora does), you can take it unless something in writing says you can’t take it,” Glenn explained to his fellow commissioners. Glenn said he’d feel better if Nestle’s augmentation came from a local entity that would probably care more about protecting local water resources than Aurora. Alternatively, Glenn suggested getting an agreement in writing that Aurora won’t draw down depletions and invoke its ability to exchange in a drought year and will only use water sources outside the Arkansas River Valley to supplement any municipal shortfalls created by the Nestle lease. But Glenn, always the pragmatist, said, “I seriously doubt that could happen.”

It’s really pretty simple. Aurora is leasing Twin Lakes water to Nestlé. The Twin Lakes decrees are pretty senior in priority. In times of low water — say, a drought — the river is governed by calls in any given stretch. Calls are made when someone with a decreed water right asks for their water. If current demand in that stretch exceeds the volume of water called for, water is doled out in order of priority, oldest first. So, again in a given stretch, a decreed party might just fall out of priority. This is determined by the decree and ditch company or project rules. Ditch companies generally allocate water equally — so much water per share.

The water that Aurora is leasing to Nestlé is for augmentation. The water will be released from storage at Twin Lakes to the Arkansas mainstem to pay the river for the water that Nestlé plans to pump at Hagen Spring. They’ll always pay this water to the river unless they fall out of priority which has been rare. Remember, Twin Lakes water comes from the rainy side of Colorado. The folks that will be effected in a drought are those junior to Aurora’s Twin Lakes rights.

Nestlé plans to truck 200 acre-feet or so of spring water per year to Denver for bottling.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Basalt: Growth controls effect revenue from sewer taps

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Scott Condon):

Officials from both the Basalt and midvalley sewer districts have criticized the Town Council for clamping down on growth. They claim the town is choking a prime source of income by limiting growth because they won’t collect as many fees for new service. As a result, existing customers could end up paying higher monthly service bills. Mid Valley Metropolitan District (MVMD) board of directors president Robert Clark delivered a blistering criticism of the Town Council’s policies at a recent public hearing held by the Eagle County Commissioners on Ace Lane’s development proposal in El Jebel. Basalt is against approval of the project by the county and wants to force Lane to apply to the town. The metro district supports Lane’s request for 319 residences and 96,000 square feet of commercial space…

The Town Council adopted new growth control measures in April that limit the annual approvals for free-market residences to 32 per year. Developers have to complete for those approvals. Employee housing is exempt. “The Town’s policies are not adaptable to economic conditions and display a lack of concern regarding the financial impact on essential service providers,” Clark said. “Moreover, the MVMD board considers the present Town Council’s position on growth to be inconsistent with the attitude of the majority of residents outside of the town limits in the El Jebel/Midvalley areas.”[…]

Basalt Sanitation District — which provides sewer service to old town Basalt, Southside and the Roaring Fork Club — voiced similar concerns about Basalt’s direction. District Manager Denise Diers attended a public hearing last spring urging the Town Council to reconsider its tough stance on growth. Diers said Monday the district is very small and depends on fees for new service to raise funds for capital improvement projects to the existing infrastructure. Many of the sewer lines in old town Basalt were installed in the 1960s and need replacement. Funds raised through new service are dedicated to that type of work, she said. “We need about 50 tap fees per year to break even on our capital,” Diers said. If that funding source disappears it will create and either-or situation for the district. “It means the district is potentially going to be in disrepair … or that service fees are going to have to go up significantly,” Diers said. Basalt’s charge for sanitation service is already slightly above average in Colorado at $31 per month, Diers said…

When Diers expressed her concerns to the council, members of the board questioned if the sanitation district’s business model should depend on growth — or, in another way of looking at it, if the community should grow to satisfy that business model. Councilman Chris Seldin said Monday that Basalt voters have stated clearly that they want a policy of “slow and smart” growth. “Candidates with these views won the last two elections by wide margins,” Seldin said. “It’s unfortunate if this community vision impacts the Districts’ business models, but the Town’s policy needs to prioritize this clear charge from the voters.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

BLM: Proposed wild and scenic designation for western Colorado streams

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The BLM is moving ahead with studying 155 miles of stream reaches for possible Wild and Scenic designation. Many see it as an intrusion on state control over water resources. Here’s a report from Le Roy Standish writing for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

The designation could limit private property rights on lands adjoining streams designated wild and scenic. The designation also could curtail water rights and possibly touch off an exhaustive fight with the federal government, according to water stakeholders…

Mely Whiting, water counsel with Trout Unlimited, said part of the wild and scenic discussion needs to be about long-lasting effects to the river brought on by permanent activities, such as ranching, on land. “The reality is how long are they going to hold on to that (land) and what is going to come next?” Whiting said of private property owners adjacent to rivers. “The purpose here is to make a statement and preserve it for future generations so they can decide what to do with it.”[…]

The Grand Junction BLM Field Office recently studied 117 sections of streams and rivers on federal lands, not private lands, in the counties of Mesa, Garfield, Delta and Montrose. The resulting eligibility report found 20 segments on 15 waterways as candidates for the new designation. Affected rivers include the Colorado, Gunnison and Dolores rivers. “Including a 20-mile stretch of the Colorado River west of Grand Junction, 18 miles of Big Dominguez Creek, 15 miles of Little Dominguez Creek and stretches of the Dolores and Gunnison rivers,” according to a statement on the BLM’s Web site.

During a briefing to the Mesa County Commission, Catherine Robertson, director of the Grand Junction BLM Field Office, said even though the designation would apply only to federal lands, what happens on adjoining land, or upriver on private lands, may affect the BLM’s ability to manage wild and scenic river stretches. She expands on that statement, as quoted on the BLM’s Web site: “These segments would be determined not to be suitable for designation.”

On June 16 the Colorado River District gathered multiple stakeholders at BLM’s Grand Junction offices. The meeting was to begin the process of analyzing the BLM’s Wild and Scenic River Eligibility study to find a “collective alternative” that everyone can agree on and then submit it to the BLM, said Chris Treese, a spokesman for the Colorado River District…

With the designation could come a federal reserved water right, which could touch off a legal fight on par to what played out over years in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison case, he said. “We would like to avoid that,” Treese said. In an attempt to avoid a legal fight, he is spearheading the effort to bring together local concerns and submit a preferred local alternative to the BLM by mid-2010. “We (the River District) think that a local alternative is a preferred alternative to the unilateral federal designation,” Treese said. “Yet there are those that may favor federal control.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.