From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Aurora City Council Monday gave the green light for the deal, which would match an offer of $30.48 million from Ginn Development for a private ski resort at Minturn. The council’s action was final because a waiver of reconsideration was included in the initial motion. Pueblo City Council Monday approved the sale on first reading, a requirement under the city charter any time an asset is sold. Council’s final approval will be on the July 27 agenda.
Aurora was able to match the offer because of a clause in a 1997 lease agreement with the Pueblo water board that gave it a right of first refusal if Pueblo sold any of its transmountain water rights. The contract specifies that only water brought into the Arkansas Valley from the Western Slope can be used in the Aurora leases. “Aurora’s concern was that if we sold any of our assets we would not have the ability to supply water for the lease,” said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo water board. “At the time we had no plans to sell any assets.”[…]
Aurora and Climax formed a partnership called the Fremont Pass Ditch Co., with Aurora controlling two-thirds of the company and holding an option to buy the entire Columbine Ditch in the future, said spokesman Greg Baker. Aurora earlier bid $30.5 million on the Columbine, but wanted to spread out payments over five years. The city reallocated its resources to offer the full amount this year, as Ginn Development had in its bid. “This is high-quality mountain water, and you don’t see that for sale too often,” Baker said. “The fact that it comes into the basin above Twin Lakes makes it perfect for us.” Since the Arkansas River does not flow directly into Twin Lakes – where Aurora removes water from the Arkansas Valley through the Otero Pipeline and Pumping Station – Aurora would have to exchange water from the Columbine Ditch into its accounts. But the exchange opportunities are greater near the headwaters and Aurora has other ways to use the water in the Arkansas Valley, Baker said.
Climax mine, owned by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., is located on Fremont Pass and could use the water directly. Last year, the company said it is still revamping the mine with the intention of reopening, but timing could be delayed by a weak economy.