Elbert County: Commissioners delay action on expanding Elbert and Highway 86 Commercial Metro District statewide and moving water from the Arkansas River near Lamar

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From the Associated press via The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The 39-acre Elbert and Highway 86 Commercial Metro District, first created nine years ago, intends to build a 150-mile pipeline from the Lamar area to Elbert County. Water from the Arkansas River would be pumped up to the county, which is southeast of metro Denver.

C & A Development Co. requested a 30-day continuance for more public review of the proposal. The commissioners approved the request for a continuance until its Aug. 24 meeting…

Elbert County lacks a renewable water source, such as a river fed with yearly snowmelt. Instead, the county relies on underground aquifers, which are generally being depleted faster than they replenish. To encourage economic development and stabilize water rates, the county must import water, said the district’s director, Karl Nyquist, in a letter Friday to the Wild Pointe Ranch Homeowners Association. But the plan — particularly the speed with which it is being considered and the secrecy surrounding it — has raised eyebrows in the rural county.

In the past 15 months, gas and oil companies have paid out $25 million for leases, and they are expected to spend another $25 million by the end of the year as the industry expands in Elbert County, said Craig Curl, the county’s independent consultant and director of the Elbert County Enterprise Authority…

Because the water district, which now provides residential and commercial service in the Wild Pointe development, asked to expand its service rather than create a new entity, the proposal wasn’t legally required to go through the county’s planning department. On July 7, the county recommended approval of the district’s expansion. Six days later, the county commission held a public hearing. If the plan passes, it wouldn’t be the first time the Elbert County Commission approved the creation of a statewide water district. In 2002, it backed the controversial formation of United Water and Sanitation District — Colorado’s first statewide district. It consists of a 1-acre patch of land that can serve water users across the state. So far, the public hasn’t been told much about what the expanded district would do.

The service plan includes provisions permitting the district in certain situations to impose mill levies — new taxes — within its boundaries as high as $30 for every $1,000 of taxable property to pay off debt or for operations and maintenance. State law generally requires district property owners to vote on mill-levy increases.

The pipeline and other projects will be financed through bonds, mill levies and fees, according to the district’s proposal, but even estimated costs have not been disclosed.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

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