From The Estes Park Trail-Gazette (Tim Mosier):
The one item on the agenda was Ordinance 11-21 (passed unanimously) which amends chapter 13.24 of the Estes Park Municipal Code (MC) regarding agreements to provide raw water.
According to a memo to the board from Utilities Director Rueben Bergsten and Water Superintendent Chris Eshelman, the amendment is to assure the responsible management of water resources by requiring Town Board approval for raw water agreements lasting more than a year.
“The responsible management of our raw water resources, I think we would all agree, is becoming more and more important,” [Rueben] Bergsten said at the meeting….
The question for the state as a whole, and Estes Park itself, is how many entities to allow access to our water resources and for how much?
“We do anticipate, as time goes by, more and more and more property owners are going to be coming to the Town of Estes Park asking for what’s called replacement water,” Bergsten told the board. “We do this for a lot of people. It’s a matter of keeping the local economy healthy.”
A typical client seeking replacement water is someone using well water, or river water for irrigation and have water needs that still outweigh their supply.
“The Town owns 300 acre-feet of Windy Gap water rights. Windy Gap water can fulfill augmentation plan requirements for replacement water,” the memo said. “The Town has occasionally entered into long-term agreements with entities to supply replacement water.”
The most recent agreements made were: Preuss in July 2020, Idlewild in April 2019, and Cheley Camp in May 2012.”
Bergsten and Eshelman believe these raw water lease agreements are beneficial to the local economy and the surrounding communities; however, they tie up the town’s water rights.
“Town Staff foresee an increase in the number of replacement water requests as the State Water Commissioner increases their effort to audit augmentation plans,” the memo said. “Their audits included private wells.”
While requiring Town Board approval for raw water agreements lasting more than a year does have advantages such as reducing the administrative workload required to account for water use and augmentation, and supporting the responsible management of the town’s water, Bergsten and Eshelman are mildly concerned they may appear to be over reaching.
“Requiring properties to connect to our system might appear heavy-handed; however, their alternative requires them to pay an engineering firm to develop an augmentation plan, hire a lawyer to process the augmentation through water court, and secure replacement water from the Town,” the memo explains.