Steamboat Springs: Water rights discussion around Steamboat 700 development

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Here’s a look at the water rights issues around the Steamboat 700 development, from Brandon Gee writing for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. From the article:

Steamboat Springs City Coun cil is nearing a vote this fall on whether to annex the proposed development that could include as many as 2,000 homes during a 20-year build-out. At least one candidate in this year’s City Council election, former City Council President Kevin Ben nett, is accusing council members of encouraging “growth without water,” while the developers think they are paying more than is necessary and that they have been misled at every turn.

As it stands, the city will require Steamboat 700 to pay $960,000 during two years to firm up existing but unused wa ter rights the city holds in Fish Creek, Stagecoach Reservoir and the Elk River. The city will spend the money on preliminary legal and engineering work required to ultimately bring an additional 966 acre-feet of water — the estimated amount needed to serve the development — into the city’s system…

The current council, its attorneys and city staff said they instead were comfortable accepting about $1 million earmarked for water projects, because the city’s Water Supply Master Plan found that the city has a reliable long-term source of raw water but that it should “increase redundancy in the community’s water supply.”

Criticisms that the city is letting Steamboat 700 off the hook for water appear to have legs when compared to what is being required of developer Bobby Ginn in Minturn. Minturn is requiring Ginn to give the town enough actual water rights to serve his massive planned development on Battle Mountain that includes a ski resort, golf course and 1,700 luxury homes. Ginn offered the Pueblo water board $30 million for 1,337 acre-feet of water from the Columbine Ditch near Leadville, according to The Denver Post. That amounts to about $22,000 per acre-foot of water. Steamboat 700 is paying about $1,000 for each acre-foot of water it is helping the city use…

City officials argue that the Brown agreement [1993 agreement with the former owners of the the Steamboat 700 site] does not exempt Steamboat 700 from the city’s recently adopted water dedication policy. Adopted in May, that policy requires developers of land outside the municipal water utility service area 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 approval. Council members began debating the policy in January and voted in March not to require Steamboat 700 to provide “wet” water rights, instead requiring payment for water infrastructure…

Council members didn’t bend and decided to stick to their staff’s recommendation to require the payment throughout a two-year period.

More Yampa River Basin coverage here and here.

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