A report on the town’s geothermal heating utility was provided to the Pagosa Springs Town Council at a regular meeting on July 7.
The geothermal heating system has been operated and owned by the town since December of 1982, according to Public Works Director Martin Schmidt.
The town put out a bid and Alan Plummer Associates Inc. was awarded with an assessment of the utility, Schmidt explained.
Currently, the geothermal system has 32 customers that range from a school to small residences, Schmidt explained.
The geothermal system is fully operational and the town has not experienced any failures that would inhibit the utility to heat those that the town committed to heating, Schmidt added.
A report from Alan Plummer As- sociates Inc. Project Engineer Steve Omer done for the town touches on the system’s current conditions, ca- pacity and expansion opportunities…
One idea for an expansion opportunity was to cool homes in the summer with the geothermal piping using river water, Schmidt noted.
“When you actually look at theriver data, the average temperature of the river through the summer months is 63 and a half degrees, and 63 and a half degrees doesn’t give us enough of a difference,” he said…
Another expansion opportunity looked into by Omer was the limits of the geothermal system and how many more customers the town could add to the system.
“We found that we could not add a customer like the high school. Just the high school would overwhelm the system.” Schmidt said.
As of June 10, water from Four Mile Creek has been turned off due to a call on the creek, leading to a drop in collective diversion flows, according to Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District Manager Justin Ramsey.
Last year, water from Four Mile was turned off on July 24, according to Ramsey in an interview on Monday.
“The average day that it’s turned off is June 13, the mean is June 15, so we’re not that far off,” he said. “It’s the mean. I’m not overly worried. I would prefer to keep it on. From here on out Hatcher is going to start dropping.”
According to a press release from Ramsey, total diversion flows are now at 4.3 cubic feet per second (cfs) due to the loss of the water from the Four Mile diversion.
Last week, total diversion flows were listed at 5.8 cfs.
This week, the West Fork diver- sion is still contributing 3 cfs and the San Juan diversion is adding another 1.3 cfs.
As of June 15, three local lakes are full, according to Ramsey’s press release. Stevens Lake, Lake Pagosa and Village Lake all remain full, as they were last week…
As of Wednesday, the San Juan River had a reported flow of 221 cfs, well below the average for June 17 of 1,260 cfs.
The highest reported flow total for the San Juan on June 17 came in 1995, when the river had a flow of 4,080 cfs.
The lowest reported flow total came in 2002, when the San Juan River had a flow of 41.4 cfs.
At its regular meeting on May 5, the Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District (PSSGID) approved a purchase of $73,317 for additional pumps for pump stations.
Pumps were previously pur- chased in December of 2019 and have since been installed, Public Works Director Martin Schmidt explained during the meeting.
Since the installation of those pumps, however, they have seen failures and other issues, Schmidt explained.
The town ultimately got the assistance of its on-call engineer service, RG and Associates (RGA), to further investigate the problem and the town’s lift stations, Schmidt explained…
RGA, through its research, found that a series of things are causing pumps to fail, Schmidt explained.
Currently, staff is looking at prices for swing check valves to replace a ball valve pump control, he explained.
“That is something that really needs to be done no matter what else we do in this phased process because the current system creates a lot of dead head time,” Schmidt described.
According to Schmidt, “dead head time” is where pumps are pumping against a closed valve.
“For any pump system, there is an allowable amount of time that can happen, but because we have two 115 horsepower pumps, pumping in series, that time is shockingly short for our system,” he said. “Because we have so much power pushing against the valve, we need to get rid of that ball valve and put in something that opens when sufficient pressure is built.”
Other things the PSSGID can do with swing check valves is re- programming the PSSGID’s vari- able sequencing drives for slower startup and shutdowns, Schmidt added.
Additionally, town lift stations have seen cavitation from an in- correctly sized reducer, Schmidt explained.
“What it’s doing is it’s destroying the impellers, it’s destroying the wear plates,” Schmidt said, adding that cavitation causes main seals to be lost on the pumps.
In a follow-up email on Tuesday, Schmidt described cavitation as being caused by pressure changes in a fluid, which creates bubbles that collapse “violently.”
Part of the recommendation is to get a pump with an 8-inch inlet into the dry-well location, paired with the pumps purchased in December, he explained at the meeting…
Rebuilding and trying to fix the current pumps would put the price within $10,000 of buying a new pump that hasn’t had cavitation and other issues.
Additionally, rebuilding old pumps costs about $17,000 each, he added later…
According to Schmidt, the additional pumps will solve the cavitation issues in a single train at both lift stations.
“We spent $56,000 and change in December and because of a few different things, now we’re looking at $73,317 for a pair of pumps,” Schmidt said. “If you approve the purchase of these two pumps to- day, we still have four pump loca- tions that will be running pumps in some state of disrepair and not operating at full ability.”
According to RGA’s recommen- dation, the town would purchase those two pumps and then four additional ones, Schmidt added.
The motion to approve the pur- chase of additional pumps at the cost of $73,317 was approved via a unanimous vote of the PSSGID board.
During a strategic planning session held on Monday, the San Juan Water Conservancy Dis- trict (SJWCD) board of directors brought a familiar reservoir project back into the public eye.
That reservoir, known as Dry Gulch or the San Juan River Head- waters Project, was seen by voters on the November 2017 ballot as Ballot Issue 5A.
The SJWCD’s request for that ballot was specifically an increase to 1 mill to help with land acquisi- tion for the Dry Gulch project.
However, local voters were against this ballot issue, with 75.44 percent of voters being against the measure (2,697 votes), while only 878 voters, or 24.56 percent, were in favor.
During the work session on Monday, the SJWCD board of di-rectors came together in hopes of getting together a framework for a strategic plan that will guide the board in the future.
At one point in the meeting, the board of directors, under the guidance of volunteer consultant Renee Lewis, discussed some potential goals to include in that strategic plan.
Not every SJWCD board member may agree that the board needs to proceed with building a reservoir, Lewis stated.
“But, you also have to keep in mind that you’re still contractually obligated with CWCB [Colorado Water Conservation Board] to be the lead manager of that project,” Lewis said.
Legally, SJWCD is still the manager of that project, and also, Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) is no longer involved in this deal, Lewis noted.
The only things asked of PAWSD is to not inhibit SJWCD from accomplishing its goal and to help the district with water rights in any way that it can, she added.
Those water rights, according to SJWCD Chairman John Porco, are an asset of the district and are “virtually, entirely, keyed” to the eventual construction of a reservoir.
“That, I think, has to be in the plan, that it’s not off the table,” Porco said.
If the reservoir is somehow not involved in the strategic plan, Porco cited that legal repercussions could be incurred by the district that were “significant.”
“If we were to simply discard those, I would think that con- stituents could, if they chose to, question our serving the fiduciary rights of the district,” Porco said, “because we have, in essence, given away a compensation. We have given away a major asset of the district.”
The SJWCD as a whole should think “long and hard” about not including the potential construc- tion of Dry Gulch in its strategic plan, Porco added.
SJWCD board member Al Pfister later questioned whether or not the water has to be specifically put in Dry Gulch, or be put in another res- ervoir for the same beneficial use.
At the time of the meeting, Porco did not know the answer to Pfister’s question and suggested contacting the board’s legal counsel.
“I agree that we should not just be giving our water rights away. That to me would be negligence on our part,” Pfister said.
The Dry Gulch project should not just be abandoned, Pfister noted, but there should also be an alternative for those water rights.
Per Porco’s estimation, in talks with former legal counsel, he was informed that those water rights were for a specific use.
Another issue under the surface
Later in the discussion, SJWCD board member Bill Hudson pointed out that the district has 24,000 acre feet (AF) of conditional water rights for a reservoir at West Fork.
The SJWCD has had these water rights since 1967, Hudson noted.
According to Hudson, the district needs to file a point of diversion (POD) change on those water rights before 2021.
In addition to the POD, the SJWCD has to define a location of storage for the water, Hudson added later.
“And we haven’t even started that process. This is a 24,000 acre-foot conditional right, and that seems like a very critical piece compared to Dry Gulch, which we’ve already gone through our due diligence on Dry Gulch in 2017,” Hudson said. “But, this is in two years. We’re going to lose 24,000 acre feet of water rights if we don’t fulfill this obligation.”
As part of the strategic planning he district’s current legal coun- sel on these issues.
“Should we talk about it eventually? Yes.” Pfister said.
Amidst more discussion about whether or not this topic should be discussed, SJWCD board member Doug Secrist noted that all of these things should be included in the strategic plan.
“We are not in a position here today to settle those and to decide what we’re going to do specifically because we still have a lot of re- search to do,” Secrist said.
The West Fork water rights are a big issue and due diligence should be exercised on it, but the SJWCD needs to find out how exactly to first proceed, Secrist added later.
“Every six years the water district has gone through due diligence, gotten that right reconfirmed as conditional. We still intend to build a reservoir at the West Fork, not at Dry Gulch, at the West Fork,” Hud- son said.
In order to shed some light on this topic for the district, Lewis, who had been involved in the his- tory, offered some background.
After the local drought of 2002, reservoir discussions took place, and West Fork was listed as one of the site locations, Lewis explained.
Lewis explained that, at the time, that’s why PAWSD and SJWCD went into this deal together and then PAWSD eventually deeded its share of 10,000 AF to SJWCD.
Due to this deeding of 10,000 AF, SJWCD has been paying for the due diligence on it.
“This location was obviously abandoned once the purchase of Running Iron Ranch went through,” Lewis said.
The SUN reported in May of 2014 that Running Iron Ranch was purchased to support the original 35,000 AF reservoir plan; however, that plan eventually got reduced to the 11,000 AF plan we know today.
“It’s always been understood, whether it’s ever been written down anywhere, that at least, to my knowledge, that that is not a viable reservoir location. At least as of when the Running Iron Ranch was purchased,” Lewis explained. “So, we’re still hanging on to that right. It was always my understanding that the intent was to move that right to potentially the Running Iron Ranch location.”
Later, Lewis explained that there is a legal doctrine titled the collec- tive system theory, which is still ac- cepted in water court in Colorado.
What this doctrine means is if the SJWCD is still filing diligence on its Dry Gulch water rights and the district is still making efforts toward that project, the water court will approve its collective system water rights, Lewis explained.
After more brief discussion about the various water rights issue, Porco again suggested ta- bling the discussion in order to do more research and consult legal counsel.
However, Hudson responded by pointing out that the West Fork water rights are two times bigger than the Dry Gulch ones and something needs to be done on the West Fork rights in two years.
“What we’ve established is that these water rights are married together, and so that they both need to be addressed as we move forward with the strategic plan,” Secrist said.
Local lake levels have seen minimal increases since last week, per a press release from Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District Manager Justin Ramsey.
Hatcher Lake is sitting at 31 inches from full as of Feb. 4, com- pared to last week’s total of 34 inches.
Stevens Lake remains at last week’s total of 133 inches from full. Lake Pagosa has risen slightly, going from 24 inches from full to
23 inches from full.
Village Lake sits at 12 inches from full, compared to 14 inches from full last week.
Lake Forest is 4 inches from full, when last week it was 6 inches from full.
There is even a bit more lake water available for treatment and delivery this week, with 74.7 per- cent being available this week when last week there was only 73.8 percent available.
Total diversion flows have dipped to a total amount of 5 cubic feet per second (cfs), down from the 6 cfs total that had been consistent in previous weeks.
The Four Mile diversion still has a flow of 3 cfs; however, the West Fork Diversion flow has dropped from 3 cfs to 2 cfs.
Within the press release itself, Ramsey explains that the West Fork diversion flow dropped intentionally due to two things. The first reason is that production had been reduced at that diversion, leading to the gate at the West Fork diversion being closed, the press release explains.
In addition to reduced production, the press release indicates that in previous weeks, the estimate of the West Fork diversion flow being at 3 cfs may have been a little too high, so the 2 cfs marker is a little closer to accurate.
Once again, the press release notes that Four Mile flows are inconsistent due to fluctuating river flows and ice dams.
From Jan. 25 through Jan. 31 this year, water production totaled 10.23 million gallons.
Contributing to that total is the Snowball water treatment plant, which produced 3.06 million gallons, and the Hatcher water treatment plant, which produced 7.17 million gallons.
Last year, from Jan. 25 through Jan. 31, water production totaled 9.22 million gallons.
Last week’s water production totals, which encompassed Jan. 18 through Jan. 24, totaled only 10.06 million gallons.
Snow water equivalency (SWE) totals are up from last week, with totals being recorded at 15.1 inches as of Feb. 4, up from last week’s total of 13.7.
The SWE median has also risen only slightly, going from 19.2 inches to 19.5 inches this week.
The median and averages are based on data from 1981 through 2010.
Those two increases have also increased the SWE percentage of median this week, with the SWE being 77.4 percent of median currently, compared to last week’s 71.4 percent of median.
Precipitation totals have risen from 18 inches to 19.4 inches an the average has also increased from 21.2 inches to 22.4.
Currently precipitation totals are 86.6 percent of median, up from 84.9 percent of median.
Ramsey indicated in an interview with The SUN that he hopes that SWE data will break above 80 percent with snow in the forecast this week.
During a special meeting held on June 7, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) board was presented with the re- sults of a rate study conducted by Stantec…
Lay began the presentation by explaining the financial goals of the rate study. Some of the goals included:
• Maintaining a combined debt service coverage ratio of 1.25 per- cent.
• Maintaining adequate reserve requirements.
• Water and wastewater analysis performed as separate utilities and minimizing the rate impacts for both.
• Fund future utility operations and capital investments in the most financially prudent way possible.
Lay also explained that when it came to the water utility there were some assumptions factored into the rate study.
Those assumptions were:
• Utilizing annual cost escala- tion factors, 3 percent for both capital projects and operations and maintenance (O&M) fixed/variable expenses.
• Using a 2 percent growth rate for account growth based on PAWSD’s projections.
• Accounting for a consumption decrease in 2021 and 2025 to plan for a potential drought period.
• A decreased capital improve- ment fee in 2019 to $1,509 per equivalent residential unit (ERU) from $2,658 currently.
• Also decreasing the raw water acquisition fee to $1,726 per ERU from $1,959.
The presentation then moved to what PAWSD’s water rate revenue projections are, as well as projec- tions for funds with no rate adjust- ments for water utility.
Regarding water rate revenue projections, Lay explained that these projections are based on 2 percent account growth rates, but lso include a 5 percent reduction for consumption.
Lay also added that these water rate revenue projections do not include any rate increases from a revenue standpoint.
From the graph within the pre- sentation, PAWSD is projected to increase its water rate revenue each year aside from the fiscal years of 2021 and 2025 in which that 5 per- cent consumption decrease occurs.
Despite those decreases in those two years, in the fiscal year for 2028, PAWSD is projected to have about $4.2 million in water rate revenue.
Conversely, with no rate adjust- ments or debt in regard to water utility, PAWSD is projected to spend more funds than it currently has in the fiscal year for 2018.
This deficit is only projected to grow larger with each fiscal year, and, by 2022, PAWSD is projected to use about $10 million while only having about $4 million available.
For the years 2023-2028, PAWSD would be using about $6 million whilst having only about $4 mil- lion available with no debt or rate adjustments.
Water utility rate scenarios
Lay then presented the board with the three rate scenarios for water utility.
The first rate increase proposed would utilize a 12.5 percent rate adjustment, which was described by Lay as the “baseline scenario.”
This scenario would see rate increases from 2019 to 2021, three months of O&M reserve with no re- duction, 100 percent or $500,000 in annual waterline expenditures and the Snowball treatment plant project being debt funded by $3 million.
Waterline expenditures can also be described as waterline replace- ment, PAWSD District Manager Justin Ramsey added.
The proposed financial impact of this scenario on PAWSD custom- ers could raise their bill an addi- tional $19.35 from the current total of $68.16 to $87.51 in 2028.
All three proposed financial impacts also include the proposed rate increase for wastewater as well.
For all three scenarios, the Snowball treatment plant is debt funded, Lay added.
The second scenario presented by Lay was a 5 percent rate adjust- ment, which was described as the “alternative scenario.”
This scenario would have rate increases from 2019 to 2023, O&M reserves would be reduced below a three-month threshold in 2021- 2024, and waterline expenditures would also be reduced to 20 per- cent or $100,000.
Within the second scenario, PAWSD customers could see their bill increase from the current amount of $68.16 to $82.17 in 2018, an increase of $14.01.
The final alternative, which Lay noted as the “preferred” scenario, involves a 6.5 percent rate adjust- ment.
This scenario has the same rate increase and O&M reductions as described in the second scenario.
However, in this final scenario, only 50 percent or $250,000 would be allocated for annual waterline expenditures.
The financial impact within the preferred scenario would see PAWSD customers average bill in 2018 go from $68.16 to $85.56, an increase of $17.40.
From the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (Sally High) via The Pagosa Sun:
Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (GGP) welcomes Colorado School of Mines (CSM) and Colorado Geologic Survey back to Pagosa Springs this week.
CSM’s seventh Geophysics Field Camp builds on previous years’ research into Archuleta County’s geothermal plumbing.
The GGP invites the public to a scientific retrospective of collected data and updated interpretations of the local geothermal resource on
Wednesday, May 23. The workshop is at the Archuleta County CSU Extension building from 6 to 8 p.m. The GGP workshop contains two presentations.
Dr. Andrei Swidinsky and Stephen Cuttler of CSM will present a seven-year retrospective of the geophysical data collected by CSM students. Each year’s field camp adds to our understanding of the underground structure of our geothermal aquifer.
Dr. Paul Morgan is senior geo- thermal geologist at Colorado Geological Survey. In 2017, Morgan published Origins and Geothermal Potential of Thermal Springs in Archuleta County, including Pagosa Springs, Colorado, USA (Revisited). The paper was first presented at the international Geothermal Resource Council’s 2017 conference. The Archuleta County public can hear Morgan’s revised interpretations at the GGP workshop.
The GGP is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit operating an educational park in downtown Pagosa Springs. The nonprofit park demonstrates geothermal direct energy use, year-round horticulture and environmental awareness. Twenty-first century water conservation and geothermal potential are priorities of GGP’s mission.
GGP’s Education Dome is busy with student and volunteer activity, and the Community Garden Dome and Innovation Dome are being constructed. Pagosa Springs Centennial Park’s Riverwalk is the site of the GGP project.
There is no charge for the GGP’s geothermal resource update work- shop, although donations to the nonprofit are accepted. The public is welcome.
The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) board held a public hearing on [May 1, 2018] evening to discuss the 2018 Drought Management Plan and to take public comment.
PAWSD District Manager Justin Ramsey began the presentation by briefly discuss- ing the precipitation levels for the district.
“We’re just a little bit more than 50 per- cent of what we usually get,” Ramsey said. In regard to snow-water equivalency,
Ramsey noted that, for 2018, “we’re out.”
Triggers and levels of plan
“The triggers are basically going to be a combination of the amount of water in the reservoirs plus the amount of water we have pulled in from the river,” Ramsey explained. “It’s going to be a ratio between that and what our expected water use for the year is going to be.”
PAWSD is going to base these triggers off of what the district used in 2017, Ramsey noted.
When 90 percent of that use is met, that is what will trigger level one of the drought management plan, Ramsey stated.
Level two is triggered by 70 percent use, 50 percent would trigger level three, 40 percent triggers level four and 30 percent use will trigger level five, Ramsey described.
From the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership via the The Pagosa Daily Post (Sally High):
The Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (GGP) will begin construction of two more growing dome greenhouses — the Community Garden Dome and the Innovation Dome — in spring 2018. These two domes will be installed next to the existing Education Dome in Pagosa Springs’ Centennial Park on a parcel leased from the Town of Pagosa Springs.
The Colorado Water Plan (CWP) Engagement and Innovation Fund granted Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership $174,500 for the construction of the nonprofit organization’s second and third growing domes. The Colorado Water Conservation Board approved the CWP grant earlier in November. These funds, coupled with a $34,000 matching grant from Colorado Garden Foundation awarded last February, allow the GGP to fulfill its agreement to build three geothermal greenhouses.
Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership is a volunteer-driven 501c3 educational organization, building a Pagosa-scale botanic park within Centennial Park on the San Juan River Walk. Its mission is “to educate the community in sustainable agricultural practices by producing food year-round using local renewable energy.” Demonstrating the value of Pagosa’s geothermal resource remains an organizational priority.
The October 2017 Smart Growth America Report listed the GGP as an important amenity for the community. Both the Archuleta County Community Economic Development Action Plan and Downtown Colorado Inc. identified the GGP as a priority for downtown economic revitalization. With the Education Dome completed in 2016, the GGP began fulfilling its mission in 2017.
In GGP’s first year of operations, the Education Dome and Amphitheater became busy gathering places. GGP hosted its 5th Colorado Environmental Film Festival Caravan in downtown Pagosa. Five Lifelong Learning Workshops explored various environmental issues and celebrated the biodiversity of the San Juan River Walk. Two well-attended special events included the first San Juan Sounds live concert and the 2nd Colorfest Breakfast with Balloons. Pagosa’s youth began horticultural activities and GGP’s volunteers nurtured an abundant garden for the community.
2018 promises more classes, educational workshops and special events in Centennial Park. Children from 4-H, public and charter school classrooms, and home schools are already learning each week in the Education Dome. The 6th Environmental Film Festival is planned for mid-April. Lifelong Learning Workshops will include in-depth education about the wise use of Colorado’s water. Live music and performance are planned for the GGP Amphitheater, as well as the 3rd Colorfest Breakfast with Balloons.
The Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership operates through a professional Board of Directors, numerous volunteers, five strategic committees and an enthusiastic membership base. GGP committees include (1) Soil, Seeds and Water; (2) Site; (3) Fundraising and Special Events; (4) Landscaping; and (5) Programming. An informational question and answer session for the community is planned for January 2018.
Learn more at the GGP website at pagosagreen.org.
Sally High is the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership Board President.
Tens of millions of people, billions of dollars of agricultural production and an enormous amount of economic activity across a vast swath of America from California to the Mississippi River are all dependent on rivers born in the mountains of Colorado.
In a time of mounting demand and limited supply, the need for all citizens to better understand and participate in decisions affecting this critical resource is paramount. Colorado’s population is expected to double by 2050, with a good portion of that occurring on the Western Slope. Where will all that water come from?
To discuss this, as well as a multitude of other issues, Pagosa Springs will once again be the location for the educational 11th annual Water 101 and 201 seminars.
Sponsored by the Water Information Program, the seminars will take place on Oct. 5 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Oct. 6 from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Ross Ara- gon Community Center (451 Hot Springs Blvd.).
The seminar qualifies for 11 continuing education credits (CECs) for Realtors and six CECs for lawyers for completion of both days. The seminars are open to the general public as well.
Topics include water law, an explanation of water-related agencies and organizations, the Colorado Water Plan and implementation, as well as discussion about timely and important water topics and issues. The 201 session will provide more in-depth information on water law to include compacts and the water court process.
The seminar features a lineup of quali ed speakers, including the keynote, Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs (retired), as well as representatives from fed- eral, state and local agencies.
Space is limited, so register early. The early-bird registration fee is $40 before Sept. 22 for the 101 workshop, $30 for the 201 session before Sept. 22, and $60 for both days. For those seeking CECs, add $10 to each of the preceding. The registration fee includes snack and an information packet both days, as well as lunch on Oct. 5.
The San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) board discussed several aspects of its proposed Dry Gulch raw water storage project during its regular meeting Monday night, including loan nancing, a mill levy increase, contracts and new names for the project.
Among the decisions made at the meeting was approving a resolution allowing the district to apply for a $2 million loan to help acquire property needed for the project, as well as for preconstruc- tion expenses.
That loan, however, would be contingent upon the SJWCD successfully raising its mill levy to one mill during an upcoming election.
In introducing the topic to the board, chair Rod Profitt explained that he had already submitted the loan application to the Colo- rado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), but that the resolution would “essentially” formalize that application.
Profitt noted he would be appearing before the CWCB during that board’s meeting in May (to be held in Pagosa Springs) to see if the loan is approved, at which point the SJWCD would have to work on the mill levy increase being approved…
The resolution further states, “the costs to acquire the rest of the land needed for the reservoir basin and pre-construction expenses are expected to be $2,000,000.”
The 40-year loan, Proffitt explained during discussion, comes with a 2.75 percent interest rate, which mean debt-service pay- ments of about $96,129 per year.
One mill, he said in response to a question by board member Al Pfsiter, would raise about $213,000 per year, meaning the district would also have funding for other projects such as the stream management program…
The resolution passed 5-0, with board member Ray Finney absent from the meeting.
Last month, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) refinanced its 2006 enterprise revenue and improvement bonds through the issuance of series 2015 enterprise revenue refunding bonds. The refinancing is slated to save the district $528,000 in interest payments over the next nine years.
According to Assistant Manager Shellie Peterson, PAWSD took advantage of interest rates that have dipped to historic lows to refinance the bonds, which total $5.26 million. With the refinancing, PAWSD will be paying an average true interest cost of just under 1.94 percent.
In addition to the savings over the next nine years due to the refinancing, PAWSD will also shorten its outstanding debt service payments by two years.
According to Peterson, the savings from the refinancing are realized directly by the district’s ratepayers.
PAWSD is currently working to finalize its 2016 budget. The district began budget talks in October, holding a public hearing on Oct. 15.
The draft budget was published online prior to the hearing. Some changes were made during budget talks in October, and changes will continue to be made until the budget is adopted in December.
The calculations are made based on the anticipated 2015 revenues and expenditures as compared to the projected 2016 revenues and expenditures.
We’re lucky here in Colorado. When we grow weary of ordinary, everyday political controversies — federal immigration policy, perhaps, or governments collecting personal data on private citizens, or another federally mandated standardized test foisted on our children, or more locally, streets and roads slowly crumbling into asphalt dust — we always have one big controversy that can serve as a welcome diversion:
I attended a couple of diversionary discussions last month in Pagosa Springs, on the subject of Colorado water. The first discussion took place on November 17 at the Ross Aragon Community Center, in the South Conference Room, and was hosted by the Southwest Basin Roundtable.
The second meeting — related in a somewhat diversionary way — involved the elected board members of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) and resulted, after considerable discussion, in a closed-door executive session. More about that later… we’ll start with a summary of the Roundtable meeting .. which, interestingly enough, was attended by not a single member of the PAWSD board…
The November 17 meeting was sparsely attended — about 24 people, mostly members of various water boards or commissions — even though the subject matter may ultimately prove relatively momentous: namely, the impending Colorado Water Plan, and more specifically the portion of that plan known as the Southwest Basin Implementation Plan. We started the meeting by going around the room and introducing ourselves. I was struck by a comment from one of the non-governmental attendees.
“I’m Donna Formwalt, Pagosa Springs. We’re ranchers here. And I’m very interested in the water takeover by the Forest Service.”
The Colorado Water Plan is an initiative of Governor Hickenlooper’s office, begun as the result of an executive order issued in May 2013. A press release posted on the Governor’s website states:
Gov. John Hickenlooper today directed the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to begin work on a draft Colorado Water Plan that will support agriculture in rural Colorado and align state policy to the state’s water values.
“Colorado deserves a plan for its water future use that aligns the state’s many and varied water efforts and streamlines the regulatory processes,” Hickenlooper said. “We started this effort more than two years ago and are pleased to see another major step forward. We look forward to continuing to tap Colorado’s collaborative and innovative spirit to address our water challenges.”
But as Ms. Formwalt hinted with her comment about the Forest Service, Colorado’s innovative and collaborative spirit will be challenged, in the coming months and years, by officials serving non-Colorado governments. The U.S. Forest Service, for one. And the governments of the “Lower Basin States” for another.
Are we preparing well enough for that conflict?
From the Colorado Water Plan website:
Colorado’s Water Plan will provide a path forward for providing Coloradans with the water we need while supporting healthy watersheds and the environment, robust recreation and tourism economies, vibrant and sustainable cities, and viable and productive agriculture.
Of course, no one — not even Governor Hickenlooper — can actually “provide Coloradans with the water we need.” Only Mother Nature can actually provide water, last I looked. But what the Governor and the Colorado Water Conservation Board mean to provide is a generally accepted plan for portioning out the limited water Mother Nature provides, in a state where supposedly conflicting interests want to preserve the status quo. History has taught us, you can preserve the status quo for only so long — and then people start fighting.
In the case of an ever-more-precious resource like water, the key battles might be between Rural Colorado and Urban Colorado, or they might be between this state where so many American rivers find their source — Colorado — and the several states where those rivers end up in water taps, a thousand miles away.
The Colorado Water Plan is, I assume, an attempt to keep both types of battles from getting too nasty.
The Southwest Basin — a geographic area defined by the Colorado Water Conservation Board — is located in the southwest corner of Colorado and covers an area of approximately 10,169 square miles. The largest cities are Durango (pop. 15,213) and Cortez (pop. 8,328). The region also includes three ski areas: Telluride, Wolf Creek, and Durango Mountain Resort.
A good deal of water flows through the Southwest Basin, and a good number of people want to get their hands on a share of it — including the people who will likely move into the region over the next 30 years or so. The Southwest Basin is projected to increase in municipal and industrial (M&I) water demand between 17,000 acre feet (AF) and 27,000 AF by 2050, according to Roundtable projections.
From the Roundtable web page:
Southwest Basin’s Major Projects and Programs
Dry Gulch Reservoir
Animas-La Plata Project
Long Hollow Reservoir
La Plata Archuleta Water District
It’s confounding, how that Dry Gulch Reservoir keeps showing up… like a bad penny.
More Colorado Water Plan coverage here. More Dry Gulch Reservoir coverage here.
According to 18th century Scots poet Robert Burns, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
Pagosa Verde owner Jerry Smith must have this line of poetry running through his mind all the time when dealing with the federal, state and local government, and Monday night’s meeting of the Pagosa Area Geothermal Water and Power Authority was probably no exception.
The authority, which consists of three town councilors (David Schanzenbaker, John Egan and Mayor Don Volger), the three county commissioners (Michael Whiting, Steve Wadley and chairman Clifford Lucero) and one at-large seat held by Mike Alley, just barely had enough members show up at Town Hall to achieve a quorum for the meeting.
Town Manager Greg Schulte, along with County Administrator Bentley Henderson and County Attorney Todd Starr, acts as staff for the authority, began by giving some background information for the people in the audience who may not have attended the authority’s previous meetings.
The original intent of the authority, as spelled out in the agreement between the town and the county, was to enter into an agreement with Pagosa Verde to form a separate entity — Pagosa Waters LLC — as a public/private partnership.
Pagosa Waters would then consist of three people: one appointed by the authority, one appointed by Pagosa Verde and one at-large member. The point being, this arrangement would ensure joint ownership of the project between the two local governments and Pagosa Verde, while at the same time allowing the project to be managed by a full-time, working board instead of part-time government volunteers.
According to Schulte, a wrinkle in the plan occurred because of a recently awarded grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs worth nearly $2 million. Archuleta County was the official applicant for the grant because DOLA only deals with local government bodies, not private companies.
The $2 million grant from DOLA counts as matching funds for a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, which was awarded earlier this year to Pagosa Verde. However, since Pagosa Verde is a privately owned, for-profit company and Pagosa Waters LLC would be a public/private partnership, DOLA had concerns about the legality of Archuleta County funneling its funds into the project.
Schulte then alluded to a meeting held last week involving himself, town attorney Bob Cole, Starr and another attorney, Russ Dykstra, who has some experience with similar situations.
Starr then took over the briefing, explaining, “He has been involved in some very large public/private partnerships … and his suggestion was that, from everybody’s stand-point, an LLC is probably not the form we want to take. Some sort of concession agreement is the best way to do it because we can take care of all of Jerry’s requirements and all of our requirements.”
Nobody doubts that the Colorado town of Pagosa Springs has hot water. It bubbles to the surface at around 140 degrees and in quantities sufficient to sustain a large commercial spa and several more public pools along the San Juan River.
As well, the hot water heats 13 businesses and 5 homes in downtown Pagosa Springs plus the Archuleta County courthouse, delivering this energy at a cost roughly 20 to 25 percent below the going rate for natural gas and 30 percent less than electricity.
But is there sufficient hot water available to produce electricity, warm 10 acres of greenhouses, and deliver heat to 600 homes?
Geologic modeling suggests there is, but until additional wells are drilled, as is expected later this summer, there’s no way of knowing for sure. If those exploratory wells confirm large volumes of hot water, then two large-bore wells will be required to extract the hot water and, after the heat is transferred from the water, return it underground.
Federal and state grants this year have given the project traction. The U.S. Department of Energy delivered $3.9 million, followed by $1.9 million from state sources. The town and county governments created a consortium called the Pagosa Area Geothermal Water and Power Authority to provide 30 percent in local funds, or $520,000, as required by the federal grant.
A private company, Pagosa Verde, which is pushing the project, came up with an equal amount in in-kind services. It owns 20 percent of the project and has the backing of a South Carolina-based investment firm called Natural Energy LLC.
Another milestone occurred in late May, when Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper stopped in Pagosa to sign H.B. 14-1222 into law. The law, co-sponsored by Sen. Ellen Roberts, a Republican from Durango, and Sen. Gail Schwartz, a Democrat from Snowmass Village, lengthens the repayment period and otherwise provides great flexibility for private-activity bonds issued with the backing of the state government for geothermal and other renewable energy projects.
Michael McReynolds, policy advisor at the Colorado Energy Office, says the new law recognizes the large costs of proving the geothermal resource exists before development can occur.
However, other areas of the state are interested in replicating the business model of diverse revenue streams being assembled at Pagosa Springs. “It really depends upon the specific communities and what they want to pursue,” he said when asked if the new law will be used to finance other community renewable energy projects.
Jerry Smith, the chief executive at Pagosa Verde, says the new law was “huge” in allowing the project in Pagosa Springs to go forward.
In providing access up to $16.7 million available for as little as 2 percent interest, Smith’s project can now proceed. He estimates the need to spend $26 million before revenue can be gained.
“It’s a community-scale project, replicable throughout the Rocky Mountain states. I wanted town and county citizens to own it,” says Smith. “They only way they could participate was by forming an authority, similar to a housing authority. It’s a quasi-governmental authority.”
The public-private partnership is called Pagosa Waters LLC.
Because of the lower-cost money produced by the state and federal grants plus the clear bonding authority enabled by the new state law, he sees a financial path opening up.
Bonds will be just 2 percent. “That’s essentially free money,” he says. “We can borrow as much as we need to secure revenue for the project, “and it’s a way we go.”
Cheap borrowed money also relieves the onus of finding extremely hot water and arranging for sale of electricity, says Smith. If tests reveal merely hot water, such as bubbles up in the local springs, then that’s still hot enough for greenhouses and living rooms.
From the Romans forward
Hot water originating underground has long been put to practical uses. Romans at Pompei used hot water to heat buildings.
The Idaho Capitol Building has been heated with water drawn from 3,000 feet below ground, but 86 buildings with more than 5.5 million square feet of space are also heated by a separate geothermal heating district, according to Jon Gunnerson, geothermal coordinator for the City of Boise Public Works. It is the largest geothermal heating system in the United States, he says.
Commercial electrical production from geothermal sources began in 1911 in Larderello, Italy. The first commercial electrical production in the United States began in 1960 at The Geysers in California.
In 2013, according to the Geothermal Energy Association, the United States had 3,386 megawatts of installed geothermal capacity, or about three times as much as the trio of giant coal-fired power plants found in the Comanche complex near Pueblo, Colo.
Less prominent than photovoltaic panels, geothermal was nonetheless responsible for 0.41 percent of all electrical generation last year, ahead of solar at 0.23 percent. Biomass, wind, and hydro all produced more than geothermal.
California far and away has the most geothermal installed capacity, followed by Nevada, then trailed more distantly by Hawaii, Utah, and Idaho.
In Colorado, geothermal resources have been used to heat small greenhouses associated with the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs, near Buena Vista, as well as commercial springs. But no electrical production has been achieved because of concerns that new uses will rob existing users of their heat.
“Until very recently, Colorado’s geothermal potential for generating electricity has been assigned little promise,” notes the Colorado School of Mines at its geothermal website. “This appears to be based more on a lack of study, rather than on sound science.”
The website article goes on to note that a 2008 report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that Colorado is the top state in the nation for potential commercial development of its heat, mostly if deep wells are drilled near Rico, Trinidad and other hot spots in a process called enhanced geothermal recovery.
Potential in Pagosa
Just how much electricity the Pagosa project could produce depends upon the heat of water. Colorado School of Mines studies concluded a strong likelihood of substantial hot water 2,000 to 5,000 feet under the land leased by Smith’s company about two miles south of downtown Pagosa Springs. Hot water for the downtown heating district is drawn from a depth of 300 feet.
Smith says it’s a cinch that the water found 2,000 to 5,000 deep will be at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of the water found closer to the surface. If so, it should be enough to produce four megawatts of round-the-clock electricity, what is called base-load generation.
If the water is 250 degrees, as the geological modeling suggests, it could generate 12 megawatts—and still have residual heat for the greenhouses and the homes.
Archuleta County altogether has baseload demand for 20 megawatts of generation. Another renewable source, a proposed biomass plant that would burn forest products to generate electricity, would generate 5 megawatts. Both biomass and geothermal generators probably need to get paid more for their electricity by the local electrical cooperative, La Plata Electric, than what the cooperative currently pays.
Biomass plant proponent J.R. Ford last winter said he needed 15 to 20 percent more than what the La Plata and other electrical cooperatives pay wholesale provider Tri-State Generation and Transmission. Tri-State’s power comes primarily from coal, natural gas, and hydroelectric.
Both the geothermal and biomass projects in Archuleta County are representative of small sources of electricity called distributed generation. In a famous 1976 essay published in Foreign Affairs, Aspen-area resident Amory Lovins advocated more localized generation as necessary to shift power production from giant but often distant coal-fired power plants. In that same essay, Lovins also stressed that more local sources of electricity would reduce the vulnerability of the grid to terrorism.
“Distributed energy is what the world needs to get to,” says Smith, who cites Lovins as one of his heroes.
Smith moved to Archuleta County in 1989 after a career in the entertainment industry in California. He describes himself as a “liberal arts guy who values things that most people find technical and dry.”
Geothermal is wet, of course, but whether it moves forward in Pagosa Springs depends upon the outcome of a review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The 600 acres of land leased for the drilling between the San Juan River and Highway 84 has a plant species, the Pagosa skyrocket (Ipomopsis polyantha), which has been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
The plant grows one or two feet tall, often in the understory of Ponderosa pine, and has been found in only three places, all near Pagosa Springs.
The federal grant money triggered the need for a biological assessment, which will be the basis for a biological opinion. If adverse effects can be avoided, such as by using care in the placement of wells, the Fish and Wildlife Service can approve the drilling this summer.
Existing wells reach a maximum 1,200 feet, but Smith expects to need wells 2,500 to 5,000 feet deep. The working hypothesis is that the underground rocks at the site are fractured than those that provide the water for the commercial hot springs and downtown heating district.
How will anybody know if the new wells are tapping a new source of heat instead of robbing the existing geothermal resource? Smith says his company will inject heat and pressure gauges on all local hot-water wells, “so they know immediately whether we are tapping the resource.” Colorado law and new regulations in Archuleta County protect existing geothermal users in case of damage to their resource.
Chris Gallegos, who administers the town’s geothermal heating district, says it’s “an unknown” whether Smith’s project would impair the existing users. “Through the test wells we should be able to determine whether the extraction of that heat would affect us or not,” he says.
The Town of Pagosa Springs council met in executive session with town attorney Bob Cole last Thursday, Dec. 19, with the topic of conversation centering on matters involving funding for a possible geothermal electric utility. According to town manager David Mitchem, council gave Cole instruction during the executive session. Mitchem said that the executive session did, “move the process forward,” but that no decisions were made at the meeting. A decision, Mitchem indicated, is expected in the next three weeks to a month…
Mayor Ross Aragon said the geothermal utility discussed Dec. 19 was the same contract the county [Archuletta] earmarked money for, and said the town and county have been and are expected to continue to be on par with each other in contributing to the project.
In 2013, both the town and the county pledged $65,000 toward research on geothermal resources and the possibility of using a geothermal resource to create power. That exploration work is being done by Pagosa Verde, LLC, headed by Jerry Smith.
The Pagosa Springs Sanitation and General Improvement District board voted last week [week of November 25] to accept a bid from Hammerlund Construction Company for work on a pipeline and pumping stations needed to deliver wastewater from the town’s current lagoon site to the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District’s Vista treatment plant.
Art Dilione, special projects manager for Bartlett & West, the company tasked with handling the bidding process for the town, sent a letter to both town manager David Mitchem and Gregg Mayo, special projects director for PAWSD.
The letter, dated Nov. 19, explained how the project was originally bid on Oct. 2, but all of those bids came in well above the engineer’s estimate as well as the project’s budget, so those original bids were rejected and the project was rebid on Nov. 12.
During Tuesday afternoon’s PAWSD board of directors’ meeting, the directors looked at the gallons of water being produced both at Hatcher and Snowball.
At Hatcher, in the time since new meters were installed and monitored, Nov. 6-8, the plant produced 174,000 gallons of water, with 124,310 gallons sold — a loss of 49,690 gallons in the three-day period.
The Snowball treatment plant, which has one meter left to be installed, produced 10,951,611 gallons of water, with 7,697,100 sold between Sept. 29 and Oct. 28, making for a monthly loss of 3,254,511 gallons of water.
PAWSD District Manager Ed Winton said one area of water loss was discovered when PAWSD and Bartlett and West engineers, “shot elevations.” During the process, engineers realized the Reservoir Hill and Cemetery water tanks are not at the same elevation, as had been thought — there is a 38-inch disparity. Since the two tanks work together, when one is being filled, instead of filling completely, it fills part way and the other tank overflows.
Director Roy Vega asked how much of the overall water loss can be attributed to the tank overflowing.
Winton said he could not answer that, but did say that just fixing the tanks would not solve the overall water loss problem.
By the next regular meeting in December, all the new water meters should be installed at the treatment plants, which should provide accurate monthly numbers.
The Town of Pagosa Springs would like to make residents and businesses at the east end of town aware of increased, construction-related traffic in the vicinity of the River Center.
Over the next several weeks, construction and hauling crews will be working behind the River Center performing various tasks associated with the town’s “Fishing is Fun” fish habitat and angler access project along the San Juan River corridor.
Work will include hauling dredged silt from the fishing ponds via dump truck to the sanitation lagoons on South 5th Street. Work will also include hauling river habitat enhancements (root wads, boulders, etc.) to the River Center
Construction activities will begin this week and continue intermittently until approximately mid-December. Work will be performed during the daytime work hours of 7 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday. Weekend work may be performed periodically, when necessary.
During the meeting, the board reviewed the 2013 draft proposed budget for the first time during a regular meeting. This was an initial discussion on the budget, and no action was taken.
The General Fund total revenue in the 2013 draft proposed budget is $968,490, down from $991,102 in 2012.
The total expenditures in the draft budget is $1.3 million, up from $1.25 million in 2012. This increase is due to several incremental climbs in a variety of line items as well as the addition of three line items: Transportation Equipment, $18,000; Office and Administration Equipment, $11,500; and Administrative Building Remodel/SCAN Network, $50,433.
In the Water Enterprise Fund, the total budgeted revenue for 2013 is $4.54 million, down from $4.7 million in 2012. The total expense for Work in Progress in 2013 is $1.3 million, up approximately $500,000 from 2012. The areas where it increases most are: reservoirs/watersheds, $220,000; water treatment plant upgrade, $75,000; and distribution system upgrades, $703,772.
Total maintenance is proposed to be $151,959 in 2013, and total administration is proposed to be budgeted at $371,691.
Debt Retirement and Transfers is $1.07 million.
In the Wastewater Enterprise fund, the total revenue for 2013 is budgeted at $2.2 million, down nearly half from $4.1 million of the 2012 amended budget.
The biggest increase for the Wastewater Enterprise is in the Work in Progress category, where the Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District Pumping Project is budgeted at $1.24 million.
Total Wastewater Treatment for 2013 is budgeted at $401,000 with the biggest increase seen in line item Operator Salaries, rising to $82,623 from $38,200.
Total WasteWater Maintenance is budgeted at $73,444 for 2012, only a slight increase from the $68,946 in the 2012 amended budget.
During Tuesday’s Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation board of director’s meeting, with both directors Mike Church and Roy Vega excused, the board unanimously passed a motion to send a letter, “requesting substantial completion” to the Colorado Water Conservation Board regarding their $11. 2 million loan, of which only $9.2 million has been drawn and used.
The letter will be sent to Kirk Russell, CWCB’s finance section chief, who had recently told PAWSD that he needed a letter of intent and direction by Sept. 18 to present to the CWCB board.
PAWSD Business Manager Shellie Peterson will write the letter to inform the CWCB board that PAWSD does not, with the current board, intend on building Dry Gulch Reservoir and they will not be drawing the remainder of the loan out. The PAWSD board used $9.2 million of the CWCB loan, along with the San Juan Water Conservancy District’s $1 million CWCB grant, to purchase the Running Iron Ranch in 2007 as a reservoir site. Prior to this letter, there had been discussion by previous PAWSD boards considering use of the rest of the funds to buy a small portion of the adjacent Laverty property in order to have enough land to build the reservoir.
Phil Starks, of the Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District, reported to town council the approval of a $2 million loan from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority for a project that would allow sewage to be pumped from downtown Pagosa Springs to the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District’s Vista treatment plant, enabling the clean-up of the old sewage lagoon site near Yamaguchi Park…
Although Stark reported success in getting a vote of approval from the water authority, he went on to say, “We have to still do a lot of paperwork. One thing is getting the legal opinion of Mr. Cole (town attorney Bob Cole).” Another is getting the approval of town council, but the sewer line project is still moving forward…
Ken Charles, from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, which, along with the state water authority, had a say in whether or not to approve the loan, said, “When I took that proposal back and it had changed from a wastewater treatment plant to this pipeline project, everyone said this was a completely different project and we should ask them to re-apply to the program. I just told them this is a prudent decision in all sorts of ways. You’re saving money in the long run, and you’re avoiding another discharge point into the river. It was a win-win situation, and you let your staff work out the details.”
Pagosa Springs, Colorado is famous for the hydrothermal activity in its groundwater system, though the system is poorly understood. At present, the hot water flow is used for both tourism and the heating of some buildings, but further expansion of the springs’ usage could reduce the effective energy produced in both cases. To better understand the nature and extent of the hydrothermal flow, several geophysical methods were designed and implemented, including: Gravity, magnetics, electromagnetics, seismic, Direct Current (DC) resistivity, and ground penetrating radar (GPR), all of which were tied in with global positioning system (GPS) data. The surveys were designed to determine the structural geology, the locations of water sources, and the direction and magnitude of that flow. These geophysical surveys were employed to give students a better understanding of geophysical methods as well as assisting Pagosa Springs in learning more about the complexion of the springs so as to better utilize the hydrothermal energy without damaging, and hopefully improving, the existing infrastructures.
The data of the geophysical methods was processed, interpreted and integrated by students to attain a plausible explanation of the results and the geothermal system the results describe. At the Stevens Airport and the Barn 3, a survey site far to the south of town, it was shown that the Eightmile Mesa Fault, as well as nearby faults, likely penetrate into the basement geology which could provide a conduit for deep hot water transport. At another site three kilometers south of Pagosa where there were geothermal springs cooler than the Pagosa springs, the data entertains the possibility that there is water flowing from the ridge to the east toward the river to the west. The data also shows that there is likely a fault to the east of the Pagosa Mother Spring. The Pagosa Mother Spring is the main spring in the town that was measured to be at least 1,000 feet deep. Closer to the Mother Spring, on the field southwest and east of the river, the flow of water in the subsurface near the spring was surveyed. Two conduits were expressed in the data: one running east-west and the other going north-south. Finally, one line indicated the possibility of two additional faults north of Pagosa, though further investigation is necessary to better define these results. These integrations can be used to sum up a plausible explanation of the hydrothermal system, however, there are several studies that could still be done in this area to better understand the hydrothermal system as well as hopefully improve the current geothermal usage in Pagosa.
Earlier this month, the Colorado School of Mines Geophysics Department (CSM) released results of research recently conducted throughout the area. After spending two weeks in Pagosa Country this past May, studying characteristics of the area’s geothermal aquifer, a team of CSM students and faculty members provided a lengthy report on findings during that visit.
While not quite as exciting as the almost certain discovery of the Higgs boson that was announced on Tuesday, the report provided some interesting suggestions regarding geothermal resources in the area. Primary among the findings was a suggestion of geothermal resources far more extensive than had been previously postulated.
That report indicated the discovery of three previously unknown faults north, south and west of the “Mother” spring (the Great Pagosa Hot Springs that provides water for local bathers and heating systems).
“First, the seismic results from both the Stevens Airport and the Barn 3 (south of town) line show that the Eightmile Mesa Fault, and possibly other faults nearby, penetrates the basement material,” the report reads. This discovery shows that faults in the area can penetrate the basement (several layers of strified rock that sit atop the water) and provide a conduit for deep and hot water transport.
The Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (GGP) was recently awarded a $25,000 grant from the Laura Jane Musser Fund to contribute to the implementation of the greenhouse initiative in Centennial Park. The Musser Foundation encourages the collaborative and participatory efforts among citizens in rural communities to strengthen their towns in civic areas including economic development, arts and humanities, public space improvement and education…
The GGP aims to:
1) create a center for lifelong education as well as for advanced study in agriculture and renewable technology;
2) provide a test site for the commercialization of year-round organic crops at high altitude using renewable energy;
3) provide affordable, organic, locally grown food for people and businesses; and
4) provide year-round community gardens.
The greenhouse domes will be built in Centennial Park on the banks of the San Juan River. This park will invite locals and visitors alike to pause, enjoy the natural setting, pursue environmental education, experience sustainable agriculture, and appreciate renewable energy technologies.
Commissioner John Ranson expressed that, while he was disappointed that the time and effort given to the MoU did not pay off, he believes the withdrawal of the agreement was the right move. “I think it’s exactly the right thing they should have done,” Bunch said in a Wednesday interview. “It gets things back on the basis it should have been on since day one … We are two separate managerial agencies that need to take care of our business.”
A rift between the BoCC and PAWSD began in the fall of 2009, when the BoCC began requesting financial documents from PAWSD, expressing concerns over PAWSD’s spending, Dry Gulch Reservoir assumptions, service plan and more. The rift then deepened last March, when the BoCC began requesting that PAWSD provide the county with an annual report.
The two boards met in a public meeting in March 2010, where the idea of an agreement or memorandum of understanding between the two boards was mentioned by PAWSD Attorney Jim Collins.
From the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District via the Pagosa Daily Post:
The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District Board of Directors are pleased to announce the hiring of Mr. Edwin (Ed) Winton to fill the position of District Manager. Mr. Winton was selected from a group of four well qualified finalists. His career history includes extensive experience not only in the water/wastewater utility field, but also in management. He will be relocating from Topeka, Kansas, and is expected to assume his new post with PAWSD on approximately March 14, 2011.
The PAWSD Board believes Mr. Winton will be a positive addition to our staff, the District and the community we serve. We look forward to his arrival.
The meeting began with a thoughtful and well-researched presentation by former Pagosa Post magazine editor Glenn Walsh, about the possible future of the [Water Resource Fee] — still under moratorium until April 1. Using input from the Water Supply Community Work Group (WSCWG), Mr. Walsh proposed at least three possible approaches to the WRF, including eliminating it entirely.
The WRF — a new fee charged against all new construction projects in the PAWSD district — was created in 2006 as, supposedly, the primary funding mechanism for a proposed 35,000 acre-foot reservoir in the Dry Gulch valley. As the Archuleta County construction industry began fading into a mere ghost of its former self, starting in 2007, the construction and real estate industries began pointing an accusing finger at the WRF and other PAWSD fees on new construction as one of the culprits in that decline.
Last Thursday, the Town of Pagosa Springs received notice from the USDA that it would receive the funds for the construction of the facility. The money includes $3,145,000 in loans (at 2 percent interest) and $787,000 in grants. Along with other funds secured two years ago (a $2 million loan from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority and a $1.25 million grant from the Department of Local Affairs), the Town of Pagosa Springs has just over $7 million to construct the plant. “I’m relieved that we’re finally moving forward,” said Phil Starks, supervisor for the Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District. According to Starks, the town would most likely break ground on the project in May…
…timing for the funding award was more than mere providence: the town’s current wastewater treatment system occasionally exceeds ammonia levels in its discharge during the winter months, and also risks hydraulic problems and violations during the spring when snow runoff can overload the system. Those violations not only got the town sideways with the CDPHE (which in turn answers to the EPA), but put the town at risk of further sanctions at the state and federal level, severely hampering badly needed economic development in the area…
With the award of over $4 million in USDA funds, the Town of Pagosa Springs can breathe easier, not just in regard to meeting CDPHE mandates, but also in the knowledge that it will soon treat one of its most valuable resources — the San Juan River — with much-improved respect.
Yesterday, the town of Pagosa Springs received notice from the USDA that it would be receiving the funds for the construction of the facility. The money includes $3,145,000 in loans (at 2 percent interest) and $787,000 in grants. Along with other funds secured two years ago (a $2 million loan from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority and a $1.25 million grant from the Department of Local Affairs), the town of Pagosa Springs has just over $7 million to construct the plant. “I’m relieved that we’re finally moving forward,” said Phil Starks, supervisor for the Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District. According to Starks, the town would most likely break ground on the project in May.
With the holiday season quickly being relegated to memory, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation Board and Community Water Supply Workgroup will soon continue their comprehensive look into PAWSD fees at a third work session dedicated to the topic slated to take place Jan. 4…
At the first of the work sessions, held on Dec. 9, PAWSD and CWSW members discussed a number of items with engineers Patrick O’Brien of Briliam Engineering and Mike Davis of Davis Engineering, including items needed for the engineers to update the CIP and system model:
• Determining an acceptable calculation for water demand;
• Determining a correlation between water demand and use per equivalent unit, peak day;
• Determining if the full build-out condition or population projections should be used as the basis for modeling and cost projection; and
• Reviewing operation standards relating to water pressure, fire flow and water age…
The second work session, held on Dec. 15, afforded the group a chance to review the calculation for water demand, review the correlation between demand and use per EU, discuss and define “new growth” and how account holders should be credited for assessed water availability fees, and discuss inclusions.
With some minor changes in the formula agreed upon at the previous meeting, the group agreed to the calculation of water demand, with the agreement made that the chart would be updated on a regular basis.
The discussion then turned to peak day and water loss, which brought up the topic of how much water storage exists and how long district reserves would last.
The local chapter of TU brought forth litigation in 2004 over concerns that the then 35,000 acre-foot reservoir and accompanying rights for diversion and refill amounted to a water grab on the part of PAWSD. Six years later, the [Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District] and SJWCD[San Juan Water Conservancy District] boards voted to allow their lawyer, Evan Ela, of the Denver law firm Collins Cockrel & Cole, to prepare a final decree to be submitted to and approved by District Court Judge Greg Lyman, hopefully closing the case.
The two boards made the decision following an executive session with Ela and water engineer Steve Harris at a joint meeting held on Dec. 1. Following the executive session, the boards made the decision and voted to release a letter between Ela, Sen. Bruce Whitehead and Trout Unlimited’s attorney, Andrew Peternell, which outlines the terms of the agreement…
Though litigation with Trout Unlimited should soon cease, it is still unclear whether or not Dry Gulch Reservoir will be built, when or by whom.
Here’s Part Three of Bill Hudson’s series titled Dry Gulch gets a little drier running in the Pagosa Daily Post. From the article:
The number that will stick in people’s minds, no doubt, is 11,000. That’s the maximum number of acre-feet allowed to be stored in a future Dry Gulch Reservoir, under this agreement — when combining an existing 6,300 acre-foot SJWCD storage right with a new 4,700 acre-foot storage right.
Here’s Part Two of Bill Hudson’s series Dry Gulch gets a Little Dryer running in the Pagosa Daily Post. From the article:
As I say, writing about PAWSD has been an education. The provision of simple, clean drinking water, one of the very few substances absolutely necessary to human life, is not rocket science — after all, we are surrounded by water flowing freely in rivers and streams, and we have numerous underground aquifers accessible by wells. But in political terms, the provision of water is one of the more complicated processes in our governmental system. The right to use water — the water available all around us — is strictly regulated in Colorado, as it is throughout the U.S…
The mountains to the north and east of Pagosa Springs normally collect 300-400 inches of snow during the winter months, and in springtime, the water from the snowmelt slowly enters our local rivers and streams. By June, a massive amount of water is passing through Archuleta County — enough water to supply literally millions of human beings. But the water does not “belong” to the residents of our little community; through a complicated set of legal agreements and court rulings, the water passing through Pagosa Springs every year “belongs” mostly to people living downstream, in Arizona, California, Utah and Nevada.
The agreement, coming after an hours-long negotiation moderated by Sen. Bruce Whitehead, D-Hesperus, effectively ends years of dispute between the districts and the environmental group. “There was a willingness, I think, and a desire for both parties to come together,” Steve Hartvigsen, director of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District, said Saturday.
Though the districts originally requested water rights for 35,000 acre-feet, the agreement gives them the necessary water rights to construct a reservoir no larger than 11,000 acre-feet. In return, Trout Unlimited agreed to drop its opposition to the districts’ water rights request. The next step in the process is to put the terms of the agreement in writing and, once the draft is agreed upon by all parties, it will go to the water division for approval by the division engineer before going to the district water court for final approval…
Both Hartvigsen and [Trout Unlimited attorney Drew] Peternell acknowledged Whitehead’s integral role in bringing the parties together and ultimately as moderator of the negotiations. “A big thanks to Sen. Whitehead,” Hartvigsen said. “Without him there, I can’t say that we would have come to an agreement, not that we didn’t want to.”
Here’s the release from email from Trout Unlimited (Randy Scholfield):
Trout Unlimited announced today that it has reached settlement in principle with the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District and the San Juan Water Conservancy District in long-running litigation on the districts’ claims for water rights for the so-called Dry Gulch Reservoir and Pumping Station project near Pagosa Springs. The settlement, which still needs to be written into a decree and approved by District Court Judge Gregory G. Lyman, sets significant limits on the amount of water the districts can divert from the San Juan River for the proposed project.
The settlement represents a dramatic downscaling of the Dry Gulch project. In 2004, the districts filed an application with the district court in Durango for water rights they claimed to need to serve future population growth in Pagosa Springs and Archuleta County. The districts claimed storage rights of 35,000 acre-feet in Dry Gulch Reservoir, a refill right for the reservoir of 35,000 acre-feet, and the right to divert 180 cubic feet of water per second from the San Juan River.
Under their original application, the water districts could have diverted as much as 128,400 acre-feet of water per year from the San Juan. Under terms of the settlement, the utilities can take no more than 11,000 acre-feet from the San Juan River in any one year and no more than 9,300 acre-feet per year on a 10-year rolling average.
Moreover, the districts are prohibited from diverting water if doing so will cause flows in the San Juan River to drop below minimum flow thresholds designed to protect fish and the environment. These flow thresholds are double the amount of the existing Colorado Water Conservation Board instream flow water rights.
“This is a victory for the San Juan River,” said Drew Peternell, director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project. “The original application could have been devastating to fish habitat and the river ecosystem, but now we have a settlement that balances the districts’ need for water with the health of the San Juan.”
In 2006, TU appealed the decision of the district court awarding the utilities’ 2004 water rights application. Citing concerns that the districts were speculating in water and claiming more water than they needed, in 2007 the Colorado Supreme Court reversed the water court decision and remanded the case. In so doing, the Supreme Court established new, stricter standards for public utilities claiming water rights for future population growth.
In 2008, the district court issued another decree awarding the utilities water rights for a 25,000 acre-foot reservoir and diversions of 150 cfs. Trout Unlimited appealed to the Supreme Court again, arguing that the revised water rights were still speculative and not consistent with credible future water demand projections.
In November 2009, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed with TU, again reversing the water court decision. The Supreme Court reaffirmed its earlier ruling that public utilities must base the size of their water rights on credible evidence of future water needs.
“The settlement underscores that municipal water projects must be based on well-founded, substantiated data about future growth and water needs,” Peternell said. “In a time of water scarcity, Colorado must embrace water solutions that meet a range of needs, including municipal growth, agriculture and wildlife and recreation. No water user can take more than its fair share.”
Here’s Part One of Bill Hudson’s series Dry Gulch gets a little dryer running in the Pagosa Daily Post. From the article:
Evan Ela had been representing both PAWSD and SJWCD since 2004 in their joint attempt to secure new water rights sufficient to fill that crucially necessary 35,000 acre-foot reservoir. That water rights application was approved by Durango judge Greg Lyman, but was then challenged by national fishing organization Trout Unlimited — twice. Both Trout Unlimited challenges were essentially upheld by the Colorado Supreme Court, sending the case back to judge Lyman for further hearings.
Over the past year, PAWSD, SJWCD and Trout Unlimited have been engaged in settlement discussions.
The essential question was this: Would PAWSD and SJWCD be willing to reduce the size of the requested new water rights — and as a result, reduce the size of the Dry Gulch Reservoir — in order to help preserve a free-flowing, wildlife-supporting San Juan River?
One year ago, I would not have expected either the PAWSD board or the SJWCD board to even consider backing down on their requested water rights. But over the past year, a couple of significant changes occurred on the PAWSD board. New directors Roy Vega and Allan Bunch joined that board — and then WSCWG member Jan Clinkenbeard was appointed to a seat left vacant by resigning member Bob Huff. Those changes created a completely new majority on the PAWSD board.
Meanwhile, the SJWCD board also saw a couple of changes to its nine member board, as three resignations led to new members Pat Ullrich, Larry Ash, and Diane Bower being added to the board.
And maybe, everybody was just tired of arguing about Court Case 04CW85.
Last month, Pagosa Springs Geothermal Supervisor Phil Starks presented a report to council stating that the potential for systemic failure is especially apparent in the town’s geothermal heating system, which experienced a cascade of failures during the past year. Initial repairs to the system earlier this summer were immediately followed by failures downline (concentrated along the Lewis Street corridor), most likely the result of differential pressure created when the initial repairs were done. Reporting the work completed over the summer, Starks added that the failures were symptomatic of a system that had exceeded its lifespan and would see increased failures in the near future.
When SUN staff, during a later phone interview, asked Starks if those failures were systemic, Starks replied, “Yeah, essentially.” According to Starks, “It’s the whole system in general because of the nature of the geothermal water, the age and type of piping used, plus the heat of the water. We are fatiguing the system due to the depressurizing and repressurizing that takes place every year.” Currently, the town carries most of its water for geothermal heating through asbestos cement (AC) piping, which under normal circumstances has a lifespan of anywhere between 50 and 70 years. While the AC piping in Pagosa Springs has been in the ground for over 30 years, “The way we use our system is causing the breakdowns,” said Starks. Starks said that breaks occur in the system, “Normally when we repressurize — about one a year,” but added that, with the stress on the aging system, he anticipates that number to increase, similar to what happened this past summer…
Although the Obama administration has allocated hundreds of billions of dollars for infrastructure projects since early 2009 — with allocations especially designated for renewable energy — the town has been slow to pursue those funds. Despite an additional $50 billion being released by the administration this past summer, with those funds tied directly to infrastructure (with priority given to renewable energy projects), the town has just recently investigated availability of infrastructure stimulus money for its geothermal system (Starks and the town, after several fits and starts, have pursued federal funds for construction of its wastewater treatment plant). While Starks said that a grant application was being written by Mary Tighe (the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation’s newly-hired community grant writer), he could not say what kind of priority was being given to the grant application or when it would be submitted.
The board invited PAWSD attorney Evan Ela, of Collins, Cockrel & Cole (Denver), to the meeting to discuss the legality of the district’s WRF since its legality has been questioned by directors Roy Vega and Allan Bunch, as well as a number of the Water Supply Community Work Group. The WRF is an assessment levied on all new construction to help pay for future water development made necessary by growth. The fee is not currently being assessed due to a moratorium in place that will expire Feb. 1, giving the board time to look into the matter.
PAWSD initiated the fee in 2005, as district engineers insisted new water storage would soon be necessary. At the time, a panel of community volunteers decided that new growth should pay its own way, thus resulting in the WRF and other “impact” fees imposed by other local districts, the town and Archuleta County. Before implementing the WRF, PAWSD looked into how similar communities funded future water development, as attorneys from Collins, Cockrel & Cole analyzed legal options. Near the end of 2005, the district board approved the fee…
At Tuesday’s meeting, Ela reiterated the stance that the fee is “fully legal” under Title 32, explaining to the board how each Titles 29, 30, 31 and 32 relate to various governmental and quasi-governmental entities. Ela explained that Title 29, which discusses impact fees, is “entirely directed” towards governments with land regulatory powers and that it is “no accident” such fees were under Title 29. Ela continued that statutes have to be read precisely, also citing multiple court cases in which water districts were allowed to impose “rationally related” development fees for growth to pay its own way. Ela added his belief that courts give latitude on the fees to be rationally related at the time the service is needed…
Two hours of discussion later and with no real headway seemingly made in terms of a consensus between the board members over the legality of the WRF, future discussions concerning both the presence of the fee and the possibility of WRF rebates will have to take place before the Feb. 1 moratorium expires.
When group chairman Bruce Dryburgh called the meeting to order, the group lacked a quorum, though with the arrival of Steve Van Horn, official business could begin — approval of past minutes and “removing members from the island.” Jan Clinkenbeard was voted out of the group due to her recent appointment to the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District Board of Directors, as was Archuleta County Commissioner John Ranson for his conflict of interest in light of the BoCC’s statutory oversight duties concerning PAWSD…
Following a brief hiatus, the group then met with the PAWSD board, with Shellie Peterson, interim district manager, presenting a report on the history of the PAWSD schedule of fees and charges. The presentation included the development and justification of all of the PAWSD fees, with many board members noting the informative value of the report.
PAWSD Special Projects Manager Renee Lewis said in a later interview that the report provided a good platform for the WSCWG’s future work, should they decide to continue on and in what capacity to do so. According to Dryburgh, no further meetings of the WSCWG had been scheduled as of presstime.
As the leaves brown, PAWSD is going green! The Highlands Lagoon Elimination Project is funded in part by a $1.3 million grant from the State’s Green Project Reserve Fund, which is a special pot of federal stimulus funds for green initiatives. The Highlands project will include a biosolids beneficial use facility, which will turn our wastewater sludge into a rich, safe, class 1 soil amendment. That beats dumping the sludge in the landfill!
…if Army Corps of Engineers (ACoE) permitting goes seamlessly, along with other variables, river enthusiasts could have as many as seven new whitewater structures in the river by next summer…
The two new features, set for completion before next spring, will be installed in the portion of the river adjacent to Town Park.
With two new features slated for completion by mid-December, the town also approved engineering for five additional features in the near future, with construction possible as soon as next spring if ACoE permitting can make it through the process prior to late-winter thawing. Of the five features, two are planned for installation just north of the bridge on east U.S. 160, adjacent to the River Center shopping complex. Farther down the river, one feature is planned for the portion of the river adjacent to Town Hall, with two more set for construction adjacent to Yamaguchi Park. With the construction of a total of seven new features in the San Juan River, Pagosa Springs could potentially become a premier destination for rafters, kayakers and other whitewater enthusiasts…
As far as the additional five structures, Pitcher said that engineering and surveying was in process, as well as necessary easement acquisition (to fulfill ACoE requirements). “That’s going good and, as far as easements, I think we’ll have that done. Everyone seems to be supportive of the project.” If Riverbend and the town can secure those easements along with amended ACoE permits, construction on a third phase of the project (for five more structures) could begin as early as next spring.
Meanwhile, a whitewater park may be on the horizon for Montrose. Here’s a report from Kati O’Hare writing for the Montrose Daily Press. From the article:
[Scott Shipley, a world champion kayaker and veteran whitewater park designer] spoke Wednesday to a crowd of about 50 about the Uncompahgre River’s potential for a park. The discussion was part of a follow-up presentation about the city’s ongoing Uncompahgre River Corridor Master Plan process. Shipley said Montrose has the river, with its flow, and all aspects needed for a successful whitewater park. “They’re designed to mesh with the environment” and consider fish passage, vegetation and river access, he said. Designers consider 100-year floods and “most important, are designed that it doesn’t have a negative impact on the community where you put it.”
Here’s a look at the complicated financing web that the town of Pagosa Springs in trying to spin to fund their new wastewater treatement plant from, Jim McQuiggin writing for the Pagosa Sun). Here’s an excerpt:
In early 2010, the town’s fortunes changed. Personnel changes at the USDA created a friendlier environment for the [Pagosa Springs Sanitation and General Improvement District] and it was suggested that the board take a second bite at the apple. Submitting preliminary paperwork to the USDA last spring, both Mitchem and PSSGID Supervisor Phil Starks presented an optimistic picture to the board. Given details of a report that was seemingly positive as far as its potential return on investment, the board gave Mitchem and Starks the green light to renew the pursuit of USDA funding. Mitchem could not say how much money the USDA might provide for the new facility. When asked if the funding would meet the almost $6 million price tag previously estimated for the project, Mitchem responded, “The real answer is, we don’t know yet and we won’t know yet.”
The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District Board of Directors voted Tuesday night to rescind Capital Investment Fees (CIF) imposed on new construction, in favor of collecting a $3,000 deposit per Equivalent Unit (EU) for connection to each of the water and wastewater systems. The move potentially reduces total CIF assessments by more than $1,800 per EU. As discussion during the five-hour PAWSD board meeting turned to consideration of district fees, director Roy Vega proposed a resolution placing an immediate moratorium on both the existing water and wastewater CIFs. Together, those fees equaled $7,831, with $3,579 going to the water enterprise fund, and $4,252 to the wastewater enterprise fund.
As previously reported, Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District Manager Carrie Weiss tearfully announced three staff resignations during last week’s monthly board meeting, including her own. Understandably, following nearly 28 years of devoted district service, it was a particularly poignant moment for her. At the virtual end of a lengthy public session, an emotional Weiss began by first asserting that, “I have some resignations to report.” While clearly struggling to maintain composure, she added, “Um, Lisa Dermody is leaving the district, and Nancy Stahl has, um, agreed to fill her position. It was opened up to the rest of the staff and Nancy was interested and she gladly accepted that. But, it (Dermody’s departure) is a huge loss to the district.” With somber hesitation, Weiss tentatively continued, “… Sheila Berger is leaving … and … it’s time for me to leave the district.”
According to the meeting agenda, the hired facilitator, Maro Zagoras, of Desired Outcomes Inc. (Fort Collins), was to initiate discussions on her specific role, hopeful meeting outcomes, the day’s agenda and equally important, determining a group name and establishing immediate and future ground rules. That was to begin at precisely 4:30 p.m. First, however, Zagoras chose to “train” or educate the panel on proper conduct and procedures necessary in reaching vital decisions relevant to the group’s final charge, which the group itself must ultimately define.
Though the CWSPG has yet to clearly define its true aim — much less name itself, or designate an official group spokesperson — determining the best means of managing PAWSD finances has never been considered its ultimate goal by the 29 additional participants now seated on the panel. Rather, answering whether PAWSD should plan for future water needs and, if so, how, are apparently the questions that drew most volunteers to sit on the CWSPG panel to begin with. Certainly, any future water storage plans will involve detailed financing, in which informed district constituents should play a vital role. However, PAWSD is a complex special district funded by several convoluted enterprise funds, the management of which can’t be taken lightly.
In light of recent community unrest regarding future water planning and storage issues, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors asked that willing citizens step forward and assist in determining how best to assure long-term water supplies. By the June 9 meeting, 21 participants signed on, including local government officials, builders, Realtors, water experts and rate payers.
Toward the end of another lengthy Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors meeting Tuesday night, some convincing community members moved what seemed an immovable object. As a result, the board suspended its construction-related Water Resource Fee (WRF) for six months.
Here’s Part I of Bill Hudson’s series PAWSD Makes an Apology, Of Sorts. From the article:
Last night, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District board and staff made a lengthy presentation for the benefit of the Archuleta Board of County Commissioners. The meeting had been requested by the BoCC, and was destined, I think, to set Archuleta County on a new path. Either the BoCC and PAWSD would enter into a dialog about the proposed Dry Gulch Reservoir and begin to work collaboratively in deciding the future of the county — or the BoCC would begin to exercise its statutory oversight powers, and start intervening in the water district’s financial decisions.
On May 4, the residents and property owners within the PAWSD district went to the polls and elected two new board members, in a landslide election: Allan Bunch, owner of the Malt Shoppe restaurant, and Roy Vega, owner of Vega Insurance. Bunch and Vega ran on a platform that questioned current PAWSD policies — particularly the proposed Dry Gulch Reservoir and its funding mechanisms, along with the high level of debt the district has incurred in recent years.
The San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) and Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) boards of directors met in joint session Monday afternoon, with talks centering around acquiring rights to flood land owned by the Laverty family two miles northeast of Pagosa Springs. While uncertainty appeared paramount throughout the discussion, both boards and their attending legal counsel appeared intent on assisting the Lavertys in creating two separate conservation easements on their property, with hope of eventually acquiring fee title ownership of the inundated portion…
By agreeing to conservation easements on Laverty land, Whiting said the districts will also gain the right to store water up to the 7,400-foot contour line — a level that would constitute a reservoir of 35,300 acre feet. Though few people envision the need for an impoundment of that size in the foreseeable future, the districts feel it prudent to plan for the maximum allowed by court decree.
Problem is, the original court decree, which initially granted the districts sufficient water rights to develop a 35,300-acre-foot lake, has been appealed by Trout Unlimited multiple times. While both sides await yet another decision by Judge Gregory G. Lyman of District Court, Water Division 7, State of Colorado, the court has already reduced district water rights to allow a reservoir of just 25,300 acre feet, including 6,300 acre feet currently held by the SJWCD. Nevertheless, as previously guided by former SJWCD board president Fred Schmidt, the districts believe they must secure a site adequate for expansion, should future growth dictate a need for additional water storage. To do so, according to Whiting, the districts’ only two options have always been to either grab the Laverty land through eminent domain, or agree to conservation easements that will prohibit any future development, other than the reservoir…
On Tuesday, [Southwest Land Alliance (SLA) Executive Director Michael Whiting] insisted easements will give the districts what they need, while avoiding higher costs and the pubic relations nightmares associated with taking land through eminent domain. Given two separate easements, they could eventually flood the portion up to the 7,400 contour line, while resting assured the land above 7,400 feet would not bring residential or commercial development along the Dry Gulch shoreline…
At Monday’s meeting, however, districts’ attorney Evan Ela expressed concern with what he envisioned as their agreeing to a “partner in their lake.” While referring to the SLA, who will hold, maintain and enforce the easements in perpetuity, he feared an SLA board 20 or 30 years down the road that could interpret the agreement terms differently. Further, he suggested the districts try and find some way of eventually “purchasing” the easement on the inundated portion from the SLA. With that, they could eventually gain fee title ownership.
But, Whiting insists that’s not possible. “Only a land trust can hold whatever easements are created,” he said. “The Lavertys selected the Southwest Land Alliance to do these easements. They could’ve used another land trust, but we’re the only game in town. “The districts are a developer,” he continued. “No developers can ever hold an easement that encumbers a property that they themselves would develop, it’s illegal. Water districts can hold easements, but not on property they will develop, and Dry Gulch will be a development of that land.” That said, it appears the only real option the districts have in eventually developing Dry Gulch to the fullest extent possible is to agree to the conservation easements as proposed.
Meanwhile here’s Part VII of Bill Hudson’s series PAWSD Gets Called on the Carpet which is running in the Pagosa Daily Post. From the article:
As we will see in today’s article, the numbers that PAWSD shows us — or that it shows to lenders like the Colorado Water Conservation Board — are never complete numbers, nor are they always “up to date” numbers. PAWSD has at hand numerous reports and studies, dating from various years, and is able to select projections and water usage data as needed from those various reports.
Our readers may have noticed in yesterday’s article that the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District put the district’s taxpayers another $11 million in debt by submitting a 2008 loan application to the CWCB — and then used most of that money to pay off a previous loan they’d already used to purchase land for their proposed Dry Gulch Reservoir, to be built, PAWSD says, some time in the next 50 years.