From The Alamosa Citizen (Chris Lopez):
FOR an initial payment of $20 million Douglas County can become a partner of Renewable Water Resources in its plan to export approximately 20,000 acre-feet of water per year from the San Luis Valley, according to an RWR proposal to the Douglas County Commissioners.
In its proposal to Douglas County, RWR said it currently owns approximately 9,800 acres in the San Luis Valley and has options to purchase an estimated 8,000 additional acres. “The Parties will enter into one or more agreements (the “Contract(s)”) governing the adjudication of approximately 22,000 acre feet of water per year (the “Water Rights”) in Water Division No. 3 (the “Water Case”),” according to the terms of agreement presented to Douglas County.
The proposal establishes terms of value for the water rights that Douglas County would own and how it would get a fixed per annual acre-foot rate below current water market rates that other Front Range communities are paying.
“In consideration for the Initial Payment, the Purchase Price for the water rights will be fixed at $18,500.00 per annual acre foot. At that Purchase Price, the Water Rights would be substantially below their current market value, especially for trans-basin water that can be used to extinction. Currently, metro districts and other water service providers in the Colorado Front Range are acquiring water rights for more than $40,000-$50,000 per acre foot for senior rights. With an early investment in RWR, the County can take a leadership role in securing renewable water rights at a significant discount.”
The three Douglas County Commissioners are split on the proposal, based on interviews Alamosa Citizen conducted Tuesday with the county commissioners…
Douglas County has been seeking community input on how to spend $68.2 million of federal funding received through the American Rescue Plan Act. Securing additional water rights to meet its growth is one of the priority areas Douglas County has identified for the federal funding.
Douglas County will host a Town Hall on Thursday to hear from residents on how to prioritize spending of the American Rescue Plan Act. The water rights proposal from RWR is one of the proposals expected to be discussed at the meeting…
Renewable Water Resources needs to find a customer like Douglas County to move its proposal forward. The plan relies on drawing water from the Upper Rio Grande Basin and exporting it to the Front Range. Without an identified end user for the exportation and sale of the water, RWR can’t file its plan in Colorado Water Court.
If Douglas County moves ahead with RWR, State Sen. Cleave Simpson of Alamosa said RWR would need to acquire the water rights and then file in district water court a change to the water rights decree to go from agricultural use to municipal use. He said land RWR owns doesn’t have irrigation well water rights and that RWR would need to buy wells and well permits for its exportation plan…
Simpson has met with the commissioners. He said that Douglas County thinking it can use money from the federal American Rescue Plan Act for the RWR proposal is a twist he didn’t see coming.
“I think it’s unconscionable to use those federal dollars to diminish one community in support of another community,” he said. In addition to representing the San Luis Valley in the Colorado Senate, Simpson is the general manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, which is leading the opposition to the RWR plan.
Read more of Alamosa Citizen’s journalism on the Rio Grande Basin and the RWR project: