Lake County water rights change case targeting augmentation

Leadville

From The Leadville Herald (Rachel Woolworth):

Lake County is moving towards a domestic water solution. On Nov. 15 the Board of County Commissioners, Planning and Zoning Commission and Water Advisory Council met to discuss the future of Lake County’s newly acquired water rights.

Lake County has owned the three irrigation ditches on Hallenbeck Ranch, whose construction dates back to the 1800s, since 1998.

The county recently quantified the water right associated with Derry Ditch No. 3 and changed its use from agricultural, to commercial and residential, through legal process.

The Colorado Division Two Water Court approved Lake County’s augmentation plan on Jan. 9, 2017, after approximately 6 years in water court.

Derry Ditch No. 3 provides Lake County with the right to 74 acre-feet of water; 23 acre-feet are currently leased to Mount Massive Golf Course and 17 acre-feet will go to the City of Aurora. This leaves 34 acre-feet of water to Lake County’s will.

Currently, Lake County businesses and homeowners who live outside the Parkville Water District are dependent on individual groundwater wells. Residents must buy augmentation rights on the open market, an extremely difficult and expensive task said Mike Bordogna, Leadville Lake County Economic Development Corporation.

Under the proposed augmentation plan, businesses and residents within Lake County’s augmentation area would be able to buy affordable water rights from the county itself. “Water equals growth,” said Bordogna.

Lake County established a water enterprise, the legal mechanism by which the county can lease water rights, last January. So far, the county can only lease to the Mount Massive Golf Course and for the evaporative loss of Hayden Meadows Reservoir.

Though the Derry Ditch No. 3 water rights have been available to Lake County much of this year, a lot needs to happen before the water can be leased.

For one, Lake County needs to build a flume to measure water flow on Corske Creek. To do so, the Forest Service must clear out several beaver dams and fallen trees.

Lake County must also find a place to store the newly acquired water. Though there are a multitude of storage options on the table, they are far off in the future.

Lake County has a right to 20 percent of Box Creek Reservoir’s operational capacity; a project funded by the City of Aurora with a 2035 completion date.

Lake County has also won the right to store up to 49.7 acre-feet of water at Hayden Meadows Reservoir starting in 2021…

Lastly, Lake County has the initial permitting to build a reservoir at Birds Eye Gulch, an area that sits on Bureau of Land Management land north of town. The county has five years left, out of a seven year permit, to get the ball rolling.

The BOCC also discussed setting aside money in the 2018 budget to hire an administrative contractor and will start engaging in conversation with parties interested in leasing water.

The BOCC, Planning and Zoning Commission and WAC will meet quarterly to keep the water augmentation plan moving forward.

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