PAWSD discusses 2018 preliminary budget

From The Pagosa Sun (Chris Mannara):

[The budget was] presented to the board of the Pagosa Area Water Sanitation District (PAWSD) on Sept. 21.

The PAWSD budget includes four funds: a general, debt service, water enterprise and wastewater enterprise.

In a follow-up phone call with The SUN, Business Services Manager Shellie Peterson explained some of the larger changes for each portion of the budget…

Water enterprise fund

There were also a few notable proposed changes to the water enterprise fund.

“There are a lot of similarities to the water fund and the wastewater fund,” she said.

Both are proprietary funds, she explained.

“These are supposed to be run as you would a private business, meaning that the amount that you charge for service charges in all of your different revenues, ideally, should cover all of your related operating expenses and your capital expenditures and the debt service that’s involved with the enterprise funds,” she said.

Peterson noted that PAWSD can transfer from the general fund up to 9.99 percent of a funds’ revenues.

“So in doing that in a small way we’re subsidizing the enterprise funds with a little bit of tax dollars,” she said.

Capital projects was also included on the water enterprise fund as having a projected negative 35 percent change for 2018.

This projected change would move the capital projects budget from $428,211 in 2017 to $279,890 in 2018.

According to the draft budget summary sheet, there is a distinct decrease in capital expenditures, but many of the decreases are off- set by “increases in major mainte- nance item expenditures.”

“We’re projecting to spend less on capital next year,” she said.

In an email to The SUN Peterson explained that the reason for spending less on capital is that some years present a bigger need for capital projects than others.

“There really is not a ‘why’ to capital spending. Some years present the need for major new construction or processes more so than others,” Peterson wrote.

Water loss was also listed as a larger maintenance item in the draft budget.

“During the restructuring of the Colorado Water Conservation Board loan for the Dry Gulch prop- erty, a commitment was made to spend $125,000 per year on water line replacement or repairs to re- duce water loss,” she wrote.

Peterson noted that the water line replacement or repairs are not capital expenditures.

“They will not be capitalized and depreciated over a useful life,” she wrote.
The next big capital project will be the installation of ultraviolet disinfection at the San Juan Water Treatment Plant.

“That work is being engineered this year, dirt work, excavation will be started next year, and the UV project itself will be bid out in 2019,” she wrote.

The ending fund balance for the water enterprise fund is projected to have a 12 percent increase.

This would raise the balance up from $5,061,503 in 2017 to $5,666,128 in 2018.

“That’s saying if everything went exactly according to this formula I would have just over $5 million at the end of 2017, in this fund, and then yet I’m projecting to have a 12 percent increase in that ending fund balance,” she explained.

Why the fund balance is going to go up involves a few things, Pe- terson noted.

“Part of the reason that the fund balance is going to go up is because my revenues are going to go up just a titch, but my expenses are going to go up too, just a little bit,” she said.

Wastewater enterprise fund

Peterson explained that the wastewater enterprise fund and the water enterprise fund work in the same way, but offer different services.

“They operate identically other than the fact that they provide two completely different services,” Peterson said.

The majority of revenue that the wastewater fund receives is from the minimum monthly ser- vice charge for wastewater, she explained.

“The wastewater fund is less complicated because it’s a flat rate, everyone who is connected to Pagosa Area Water sewer is paying $32 per equivalent unit,” she said. The wastewater fund’s revenue is easier to determine because it doesn’t have a oating volumetric rate that the water enterprise fund has, Peterson noted.

Two of the bigger proposed percentage changes within the wastewater enterprise fund were wastewater collection and capital projects.

Wastewater revenue is projected to increase by 42 percent for 2018. The potential increase would move wastewater’s budget of $458,300 in 2017 to $652,935 in
2018.

“It means we are expecting our expenses to be higher in that department,” she said.

Collection of wastewater in- volves everything that happens in the collection system, the pipes underground, to bringing the sewage to the sewer plant, Peterson explained.

“We expect to go out to bid on $200,000 basis to have a commer- cial sewer line cleaning service come in,” she said.

The company responsible for the line cleaning would spray the sewer lines clean, and install cameras and create tapes from the cameras, Peterson explained.

With these tapes, PAWSD could see any potential problems within the sewer line, she explained.

Right now PAWSD is using local firm, Pagosa Rooter, to clean its sewer lines.

“They just aren’t able to televise for us, but we’ve been doing cleaning that way,” she said.

The problem for PAWSD is that it is harder to have larger firms come to Pagosa Springs because they won’t mobilize for that small amount of work.

“That’s the lion share of why that budget is going to increase,” Peterson said.

Another reason for the increase for wastewater revenue is having lift station rehab at lift station 21 and lift station 7, Peterson ex- plained.

Capital projects was again listed under this section of the budget.

Capital projects is proposed to have a 59 percent decrease in the proposed budget, from $371,525 in 2017 to $153,320 in 2018.

“In the capital department, we just have less being forecast, really where the big dollars are this year is more in the maintenance line,” Peterson said.

Both the water and wastewater funds stay at close to the same level of total expenditures, but the weighting is changed for this year, she said.

Durango: Russian Olive mitigation

Russian Olive

From The Durango Herald (Mia Rupani):

Mountain Studies Institute and Southwest Conservation Corps continue to wage war against the Russian olive, an invasive species that chokes out native trees and degrades the quality of the watershed.

Last year, MSI was awarded a $195,000 grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and an additional $52,000 from Colorado Parks and Wildlife for a three-year Russian olive-removal project.

Removal efforts continued Saturday morning at Animas Valley Elementary and Christ the King Lutheran Church with two saw crews from SCC, and help from Durango Daybreak Rotary Club.

MSI’s Amanda Kuenzi said the project specifically targets Russian olive trees on private land…

Originally introduced for ornamental landscaping, the plants are native to East Asia and Russia, and consume nearly 75 gallons of water per day.

They are considered a “List B noxious weed,” which requires local governments to manage their spread under Colorado state law…

“Russian olive reduce wildlife habitat, interfere with nutrient cycling and outcompete native species,” Kuenzi said. “The wetlands have been deteriorating in the West because of irrigation practices and water storage. We have to protect these important ecosystems.”

She said crews will be working on removal efforts through mid-November with about 60 private landowners throughout the Animas River Valley.

On Saturday, the Rotary Club collected wood from the removal effort for its firewood-distribution project.

Lake Nighthorse update: Annexation by the City of Durango, completion of recreation infrastructure in the works

Lake NIghthorse September 19, 2016.

From The Durango Herald (Mary Shinn):

…the city of Durango must annex the lake on County Road 210 and finish several construction projects before it’s ready for visitors, said Parks and Recreation Manager Cathy Metz. Durango City Council also needs to address a request to make the lake a no-wake area.

While there is no exact opening date, the city is targeting April 1, but this will depend on the construction season during the winter, Metz said.

City staff members have forecast an opening year for the lake in the past, but this time, the city is setting aside funding for operation in its 2018 budget. Lake operation, including staffing and materials, is expected to cost about $478,000, according to the city budget. City staff members will manage the lake and an entrance station where they will inspect boats for invasive species, such as zebra mussels.

Operational costs not covered by user fees will be split with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Metz said. The cost split with the bureau will include the cost of providing police presence at the lake.

The city is also planning to finish construction projects, including an overflow parking lot and a breakwater before the lake opens.

The city has proposed spending $300,000 next year on a breakwater and a courtesy dock. A federal grant will pay for the overflow parking lot, which is in the design stage.

Efforts to annex the property into the city are also underway. The lake and shoreline need to be within city limits so Durango Police Department can patrol the area…

The Animas La Plata Operation Maintenance Replacement Association is also discussing how to direct visitors away from areas around the lake where there are archaeological sites and cultural resources…

While a lot of work remains to be done to open the lake, some construction is finished, including an access road, boat ramp, parking lot and restrooms.

The entrance station where boats will be inspected is also close to completion, she said.

The city anticipates charging $5 for a day pass and $50 for an annual pass, she said.

San Juan Water Commission amends operating rules

Navajo Lake

From The Farmington Daily Times (Hannah Grover):

The San Juan Water Commission approved the amendments during its Wednesday meeting in Farmington. Commissioner Jay Burnham, who represents Farmington, abstained from the vote because the city is still waiting for legal analysis on the changes.

Burnham favored tabling the amendments for a month, but the commission approved the amendments to enable a pending application for water rights to be reviewed and presented to the commission next month.

One amendment will allow the executive director, Aaron Chavez, to approve short-term emergency allocations. The short term is defined as less than 90 days. The San Juan Water Commission can approve longer emergency allocations of up to a year. The commission consists of representatives from the county, cities and rural water associations.

Commissioners also discussed a template agreement for temporary water allocation of reserve water for member entities. The commission directed staff members to create options for temporary and permanent allocations because of concerns that an entity could be granted water for 10 years and have to fight to keep the allocation after that term expired…

The template would help the commission get permission from the Office of the State Engineer to create points of diversion to send water to various entities. If the commission does eventually adopt a template, it would serve as a guidance and not be set in stone for every allocation.

“Each instance is going to have its own issues and nuances,” said Commission Chairman John Beckstead, who represents San Juan County.

#ClimateChange: “We are stealing from other living things” — David Radcliff #ActOnClimate

A residential solar hybrid unit. Photo from Navajo Tribal Utility Authority via Energy.gov.

Here’s a report about religious groups in Colorado and New Mexico working to abate the climate crisis from Sarah Tory writing for The High Country News. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Last year, [Pastor Jim Therrien] joined the Interfaith Power & Light campaign, “a religious response to global warming” composed of churches and faith communities across the U.S. Since 2001, the network had expanded its membership from 14 congregations in California to some 20,000 in over 40 states. The group provides resources to churches and other faith communities for cutting carbon emissions — helping install solar panels, for instance, and sharing sermons on the importance of addressing climate change.

Therrien says he is merely “following the Scripture.” In the process, however, he has joined a growing environmental movement that brings a religious dimension to the problem of climate change…

Here at his hardscrabble New Mexico parish, Therrien continues to practice what he preaches. On a hot day in July, he herded 28 visitors into the mission’s two white vans for a drive out onto the Navajo Nation. The group, mostly Easterners, ranged in age from 8 to over 60 and had traveled to the Lybrook mission as part of a weeklong fact-finding trip. Like Therrien, many were members of the Church of the Brethren, a Protestant denomination with a history of activism. More recently, their focus had shifted to environmental issues — especially climate change.

“It’s concerning that our government is pulling back from what we should be focusing on,” one of them, Jim Dodd, told me. Recently, the giant Larsen Ice Shelf had broken off from Antarctica, and Dodd was worried. “Villages already at sea level are going to get flooded,” he said.

Leading the group was David Radcliff, director of the New Community Project, a Vermont-based organization. “It’s a fairness issue for the rest of God’s creatures,” he told me. Radcliff has led “learning tours” around social and environmental justice issues for church groups, most recently, to the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Radcliff, a small, wiry man with an intense blue gaze, wore a white T-shirt with a very long slogan on the back. “Earth is a mess,” it said, and “God’s not amused.” If you aren’t satisfied, it added, “do something about it.”

For Radcliff, discussing the facts of climate change isn’t enough. That’s where religion comes in. “At a certain point, you have to talk about the consequences, and past that it becomes a conversation about morality,” he said. Take moose in the Northeast: They are dying from tick infestations exacerbated by a warming climate, caused by humans taking more from the Earth than they need, he said. “We are stealing from other living things.”

San Juan Water Conservancy District wants a 1 mill increase for the San Juan River Headwaters Project

Graphic credit Wikipedia.

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Marshall Dunham):

The ballot question seeks to raise the district’s mill levy to 1 mill for 30 years and allow the district’s debt be increased by $2 million with a maximum repayment of $2,885,803.80 for the purposes of acquiring additional land for its reservoir project…

Holsinger was the first to speak, explaining that he serves as legal counsel to the SJWCD.

“Water is Colorado’s most precious natural resource,” then explaining that water storage has “transformed the West.”

He also noted the agreement among experts that water storage is vital and reported that the demand for water continues to grow, with Archuleta County’s population projected to more than double in the next 30 years.

“Conservation alone doesn’t cut it,” he said, also suggesting that the project could become a “crown jewel” in the state park system.

San Juan Water Conservancy District in the hunt for a new General Manager

San Juan Mountains March, 2016 photo credit Greg Hobbs.

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Chris Mannara):

With the termination of the ser- vices agreement with [Rod] Proffitt, the SJWCD is now looking for a general manager…

“In the bylaws, there is a provision hat allows for a general manager for the district, so we do have enabling legislation on our behalf so that we can do that,” Proffitt said.

The services agreement with Proffitt was entered into in October of 2012…

The search for the new general manager will be open to the public, Proffitt said in a phone call to The SUN…

Following the Sept. 8 decision, Rueschhoff noted that Proffitt still holds his position as chair, and re- mains on the board of directors.

Proffitt noted that it is still impor- tant that water and land use issues are being handled effectively.