Water Diversions, Part Five — Pagosa Daily Post

George Washington addresses the Continental Congress via Son of the South
George Washington addresses the Continental Congress via Son of the South

From the Pagosa Daily Post (Bill Hudson):

About halfway through the public portion of the November 25 meeting of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) board of directors, board member Burt Adams was pleading with the other four directors — Mike Church, Glenn Walsh, Paul Hansen and Gordon McIver — to conduct their discussion openly, in public session.

“In this public offer that CWCB has made here — this public proposal — there are at least ten items in the offer that I believe would be detrimental to PAWSD. … So we have this public document here, and I believe our discussion should be held in public.”

Director Glenn Walsh responded to Mr. Adams.

“Well, I have maybe 15 points that I’m real pessimistic on. So, going into executive session is by no means a ratification of the deal that’s on the table.”

The PAWSD meeting had been publicized as an “executive session” .. meaning that the press and the public would be excluded from the meeting. A discussion of “the deal that’s on the table” would be held in secret, in other words.

The issue itself, however, was anything but secret. The current PAWSD board has publicly rejected the idea of building a $357 million reservoir in Dry Gulch — a project that had been approved by a previous PAWSD board of directors. PAWSD had signed an Letter of Intent to cooperate with San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) president Rod Proffitt, in offering PAWSD’s 90-percent ownership of the Running Iron Ranch to the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) in exchange for some kind of “loan forgiveness” on the $9 million loan made to PAWSD by CWCB.

The CWCB staff had responded with a publicly-issued outline of a completely different agreement, seemingly aimed at getting Dry Gulch build anyway, even though — to my knowledge — no one anywhere has quantified a
the need for such a reservoir, ever since the bogus Steve Harris projections were rejected by the Colorado Supreme Court.

If you haven’t yet read the CWCB offer, you can download it here.

The Colorado Sunshine Law prohibits government boards from making decisions in secret. But the same law allows an executive session for the purpose of “instructing negotiators.” Is it possible for a board to give confidential directions to a negotiator… without making some decisions secretly? It’s a good question. In the end, four of the five PAWSD board members voted to make certain negotiating decisions in secret.

I have to give the PAWSD board a lot of credit for their lengthy discussion on November 25. I’ve witnessed a lot of local government boards go into executive session to argue very important public issues, without so much as a howdy-do. On November 25, the PAWSD board publicly argued at length — with one another and with the audience — the wisdom and ethics of discussing the CWCB offer in closed session. I’ve never witnessed a government board take an executive session vote so seriously.

However, the audience was never provided a copy of the CWCB proposal under consideration, so we were listening to a discussion that didn’t always make a lot of sense to us. It was clear, from the 51-minute public discussion, that different board members had different interpretations of the CWCB offer.

How much interest would be charged, exactly? What would happen to the $1 million SJWCD grant? How much would the balloon payment total?

More Pagosa Springs coverage here.

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