Proposed MOU between the Archuleta County Board of Commissioners and the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District scrapped by county

March 6, 2011

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From the Pagosa Sun (Randi Pierce):

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.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here and here.


Trout Unlimited and the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District agree to settle Dry Gulch lawsuit and have worked out the terms for a proposed decree

December 10, 2010

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From the Pagosa Sun (Randi Pierce):

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.

More Dry Gulch Reservoir coverage here and here.


Trout Unlimited and the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District agree to settle Dry Gulch lawsuit and have worked out the terms for a proposed decree

December 8, 2010

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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.

More Dry Gulch Reservoir coverage here and here.


Trout Unlimited and the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District agree to settle Dry Gulch lawsuit and have worked out the terms for a proposed decree

December 7, 2010

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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.

More Dry Gulch Reservoir coverage here and here.


Trout Unlimited and the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District agree to settle Dry Gulch lawsuit and have worked out the terms for a proposed decree

December 6, 2010

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From The Durango Herald (Patrick Young):

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.”

More Dry Gulch Reservoir coverage here and here.


Pagosa Springs: Community Water Supply Planning Group update

July 12, 2010

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From the Pagosa Sun (Chuck McGuire):

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.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here and here.


Pagosa Springs: Long-term water supply planning group inaugural meeting recap

June 18, 2010

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From the Pagosa Sun (Chuck McGuire):

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.

From the Pagosa Sun (Chuck McGuire):

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.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here.


Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District update

June 12, 2010

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Here’s Part V, Part VI and Part VII of Bill Hudson’t series PAWSD Makes an Apology, Of Sorts which is running in the Pagosa Daily Post.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here.


Pagosa Springs: The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District and the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners talk shop

May 28, 2010

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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.

Here’s Part II, Part III and Part IV. More Pagosa Springs coverage here and here.


Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District board election recap

May 15, 2010

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From the Pagosa Daily Post (Bill Hudson):

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.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here.


Pagosa Springs Area Water and Sanitation District board of directors election

May 1, 2010

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Here’s Part I and Part III (I haven’t found Part II yet) of Bill Hudson’s look at the election of the board. I would think that Dry Gulch Reservoir will be part of conversation.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here and here.


Pagosa Springs: Dry Gulch Reservoir update

March 20, 2010

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From the Pagosa Sun (Chuck McGuire):

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.

Here’s Part IV of the series.

Here’s Part V of the series.

Here’s Part VI of the series.

Here’s Part VIII of the series.

More Dry Gulch coverage here and here.


Archuleta County: Board of Commissioners ask the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District to produce and annual report complete with the details about the proposed Dry Gulch Reservoir

March 13, 2010

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Here’s Part I of Bill Hudson’s series PAWSD Gets Called on the Carpet running in (Pagosa Daily Post) report from last week’s meeting. From the article:

As a few of us discovered for the first time yesterday — sitting in the audience in the Commissioners meeting room at 10am — the County Commissioners have the power to request an “annual report” from any special district located all or partly within their county.

And that is what the Board of County Commissioners want from PAWSD, according to the letter (pdf) approved yesterday. Give us an annual report, the BoCC asked, that will clarify your financial condition and your long range plans. Especially, give us some justification for the planned 35,000 acre-foot Dry Gulch Reservoir, and the related impact fees.

Here’s Part II of Bill Hudson’s series PAWSD Gets Called on the Carpet running in the Pagosa Daily Post. From the article:

The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District has found itself in the position of such a forward-thinking parent in the past few years — assuring us, the residents of Archuleta County, that if we would just pony up and swallow their $360 million, 35,000 acre-foot reservoir and water treatment project at Dry Gulch, our great grandchildren will someday have plenty of water.

At Tuesday’s PAWSD board meeting, board member Bob Huff referred to Dry Gulch critics as folks who “want to kick the can down the road” — meaning, they want to put off the hard decisions, and the immediate costs of a well-considered plan for the future. “We, as a board, have decided, we’re not kicking the can down the road. We’re going to start planning; we’re going to start moving on that plan. And that’s what the Dry Gulch [property purchase] is all about. We’re moving forward in a step-by-step way…

The most vocal of PAWSD’s critics include, of course, the Pagosa Area Association of Realtors and many of our local developers and builders who see the water district’s Water Resource Fee impact fees and Capital Investment Fees and Inclusion Fees — running $30,000 or more for a large, new home in Pagosa Springs — as part of the reason behind the slow demise of the Archuleta County construction industry, beginning in about 2006 when those new fees were established by PAWSD.

Here’s Part III where Hudson steps through the commissioner’s letter.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here and here.


Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District board meeting recap

February 11, 2010

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Here’s part one of Bill Hudson’s series about the Pagosas Area Water and Sanitation District board meeting on Monday from the Pagosa Daily Post.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here.


Special meeting of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District board Monday

February 7, 2010

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From the Pagosa Sun:

A special meeting of the Board of Directors of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District has been scheduled for 9:15 a.m. Monday, Feb. 8. The primary purpose of this meeting is for discussions with the Board of Directors of the San Juan Water Conservancy District on water matters and the development of raw water projects. Towards the end of the meeting, the boards of directors are expected to enter into executive session for the purposes of conferences with legal counsel for receiving legal advice on litigation and discussing matters related to land acquisition for development of raw water facilities and other matters subject to negotiation involving both districts pursuant to Sections 24-6-402(4)(a), 24-6-402(4)(b), and 24-6-402(4)(e), C.R.S. The meeting will be held at the district’s administrative office located at 100 Lyn Ave.

More Pagosa Springs coverage here and here.


San Juan Water Conservancy District unveils 2010 budget

January 9, 2010

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From the Pagosa Sun (Chuck McGuire):

…the district has said it will continue working with the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) to obtain additional land for a future reservoir, the exact size of which will be determined sometime in the future. It will also participate in the final phase of the Lower Blanco River Restoration Project in 2010, as it has throughout the first three phases. Once complete, the project will afford improved water quality, fishing and public access to several miles of mountain stream.

The bulk of the district’s anticipated 2010 income is based on property tax revenues subject to statutory limitation of $102,648. Calculated by a certified mill levy of 0.316 mills, it is based on a countywide assessed property valuation of $324,836,502, excluding bond and interest payments, and election-approved contractual obligations. On the budget’s revenue side, the district expects $50,000 in grants (Environmental Protection Agency and Southwest Water Conservation District); the $102,648 in mill levy money; $7,500 in specific ownership tax; $2,700 in delinquent tax and interest; and another $6,000 in interest earned. The total should equal $169,348, or some $63,000 more than last year. As for expenses, the proposed Dry Gulch Reservoir project will account for the lion’s share, with $162,050 going to land acquisition and water rights. The Blanco River restoration project will receive $5,000 in district support; while other ditches and streams, cloud seeding and various contributions will total another $3,500. Assorted administrative and legal expenses will add up to $49,400, as public relations, education, and treasurer’s fees will cost $5,600. Total expenses should be $225,550. In 2010, the district expects expenses to exceed those of 2009 by approximately $33,400. As the new year begins, its budgetary fund balance will amount to $220,279, while its year-end budgetary fund balance should equal $164,077. The 2010 beginning balance will be roughly $86,000 less than last year’s, while the ending balance will fall short of last year’s by about $56,000.

More San Juan Basin coverage here.


Dry Gulch Reservoir: Trout unlimited files Petition for Rehearing with Colorado Supreme Court saying storage safety margin reserve constitutes speculation

November 21, 2009

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From the Pagosa Daily Post (Sheila Berger):

In its petition, Trout Unlimited requests the Supreme Court to remove from its November 2 opinion its endorsement of a one-year safety supply reserve, stating that, “the Districts would add a volume of water equivalent to a one-year’s demand to the amount of storage they would otherwise require, essentially doubling the size of the reservoir.” Trout Unlimited also alleges in its petition that planning for a one-year storage reserve constitutes speculation.

A one-year safety supply is, by definition, enough storage to supply one year of demand in the situation that a drought or another catastrophic event prevents PAWSD from diverting water from its stream sources. For example, in the summer and fall of 2002, even with sand bagging, a very minimal amount of river water was available for diversion. Because there had been no runoff in the spring of 2002, reservoirs were dangerously low. Even with severe drought restrictions, the District was very close to “running dry.” In 2002, the District had no storage safety margin. Currently, the safety margin is provided by the recently completed Stevens Reservoir Enlargement. For the first half of the 2002 drought year, sufficient river water was available for diversion. Reliance on storage became necessary in late June. The Trout Unlimited claim that a one-year safety supply doubles the size of the reservoir is an erroneous statement, as some of the first year demand would be served through river diversions and some of the storage reserve would be supplied by existing District reservoirs. Future drought patterns cannot be predicted with certainty, and the District has implemented its one-year safety supply margin to prudently plan for that uncertainty. The water districts feel that planning for severe drought is not speculative given the long historical record of, and recent occurrence of, severe droughts in the southwestern United States.

The response of the Supreme Court to the Petition is anticipated to be forthcoming in the next month. Meanwhile, the Districts will hold a special joint meeting at 6:00 p.m. November 30, at the PAWSD offices to discuss the case and the necessary next steps to preparing for another trial with the District 7 Water Court.

Here’s the release from the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District.

More Dry Gulch Reservoir coverage here and here.


More on last week’s Colorado Supreme Court ruling on Dry Gulch Reservoir planning horizon

November 13, 2009

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From the Summit Daily News (Bob Berwyn):

According to Drew Peternell, of Colorado Trout Unlimited’s Western Water Project, the Supreme Court laid out a new test for public utilities. In the Pagosa Springs case, the court ruled that the city’s claim for water based on a 100-year planning horizon was not reasonable. “They have to show that claim for water is based on realistic projections for population growth. They can’t just pull numbers out the air,” Peternell said.

Undeveloped (conditional is the legal term) water rights are subject to periodic hearings in water court. Every six years, the water providers have to show their claim on the water is still valid. When the time for those hearings comes, they will be held to the new standards spelled out by the court, Peternell said.

Denver Water, the biggest player in Summit County, joined in the court case on the side of Pagosa Springs, along with other water providers from around the state. “We wanted the court to maintain a degree of deference to governmental entities that have to plan for future growth,” said Denver Water attorney Casey Funk. Funk said the Supreme Court decision established some new factors that water courts have to consider before awarding water rights, but that water providers still do have some flexibility in planning for future needs. Essentially, the ruling partly clarified some of the conflicts between the “great and growing cities” doctrine, which provides flexibility to plan for future water needs, and the anti-speculation doctrine, which limits pie-in-the-sky water claims.

More water law coverage here.

More Dry Gulch Reservoir coverage here and here.


Colorado Supreme Court rules against Pagosa Water and Sanitation District conditional water rights while holding that a 2055 planning horizon is reasonable

November 7, 2009

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From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Chuck McGuire):

In this most recent ruling, the high court upheld the districts’ 50-year planning horizon decreed by Judge Gregory G. Lyman of District Court, Water Division 7 in a September 2008 ruling, and endorsed the districts’ planning approach to maintain a one-year water safety supply margin in its storage reservoirs. For a second time, however, the Supreme Court also remanded the case back to the District 7 Water Court for additional evidence regarding specified decree provisions and determination of “water amounts reasonably necessary to serve the districts’ reasonably anticipated needs in the 2055 period, above its current water supply.”[...]

In a press release issued Tuesday, a districts representative stated, “In its opinion, the Supreme Court endorsed statewide water rights planning efforts recently coordinated by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The Supreme Court opinion also linked land use planning requirements recently enacted by the Colorado General Assembly to water court determinations of conditional water rights. In doing so, the Court introduced unprecedented legal elements into future water court determinations. “Additional trial before the Water Court will enable the Districts to extend their evidence of long-term growth patterns within Archuleta County in support of their 50-year water rights planning horizon and to demonstrate the actual reliability of water rights upon which the Districts currently depend.”[...]

From TU’s point of view, however, the Supreme Court decision reinforced the principle that Colorado municipalities must base water projects on clearly demonstrated and credible projections of future need. “The Supreme Court reaffirmed today that it will not tolerate public utilities speculating in water,” said Drew Peternell, director of TU’s Colorado Water Project, who argued the case before the state’s highest court. “This is a victory for reality-based water planning.”[...]

In its most recent appeal, TU argued that the districts’ revised figures were still not in line with credible future water use projections and amounted to speculation. In Monday’s decision, the high court unanimously agreed, finding insufficient evidence to support the quantities of water Lyman awarded, either in direct flow rights or storage. In its decree, the Supreme Court ruled that the 23,500-acre-foot size approved by the water court is based on “speculative claims, at least in part.” In response, TU insists that, “Unless the Pagosa districts can now demonstrate a ‘substantial probability’ that a reservoir of that size is needed to meet future needs, the water court must reduce the amount of their claimed water.”

More water law coverage here.

Meanwhile, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District board approved a change in the diversion plan for Dry Gulch Reservoir recently. Here’s a report from Chuck McQuire writing for The Pagosa Springs Sun. From the article:

According to engineers, the modified plan will reduce water treatment costs while meeting current and short-term future demands, preserve senior West Fork water rights and allow incremental system development as needed…

As designed, Option 6A involves reconstruction of the Snowball pipeline from the West Fork diversion to a proposed treatment plant at Dry Gulch. Until development of the Dry Gulch plant is necessary, the Snowball treatment plant will be upgraded and expanded, while a segment of the Snowball pipeline (leading to the Snowball plant) is maintained. As the Dry Gulch plant is eventually built, workers will connect both plants with a new pipeline, and construct the pipeline from Dry Gulch to the cemetery tank. Meanwhile, as engineers further scrutinized the original options, they also realized that the quality of water coming from the West Fork was notably superior to that found in the main stem of the San Juan. By continuing to utilize West Fork water, PAWSD could reduce projected water purification costs, while maintaining stringent water quality requirements. Also, because the elevation of the West Fork diversion is hundreds of feet higher than the proposed Dry Gulch treatment plant, it will naturally pressurize the plant, thereby reducing the cost of building and operating expensive pumps. Too, building a new diversion at the Dry Gulch site would require transfer of the Snowball water rights from the West Fork to the main stem, through a Colorado Water Conservation Board in-stream flow water right. Based on discussions with the CWCB, doing so would likely result in subordinating the Snowball rights to the CWCB right, thus removing them from priority much of the year. The end result would be a less-than-firm water supply for District Two. According to PAWSD, Option 6A will allow system development in stages, as funding and demand dictates. An upgraded Snowball treatment plant and a newly-aligned Snowball pipeline segment around the Jackson Mountain slide area would come first, with an upgraded stretch between the slide area and the West Fork diversion next. Eventually, as the Dry Gulch treatment plant is built, an extended line would connect it and the Snowball treatment plant.

More Dry Gulch Reservoir coverage here and here.


Colorado Supreme Court rules against Pagosa Water and Sanitation District conditional water rights while holding that a 2055 planning horizon is reasonable

November 2, 2009

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Here’s the release from Colorado Trout Unlimited (Randy Scholfield):

Colorado Supreme Court hands down anti-speculation water ruling

Trout Unlimited hails decision as a “victory for reality-based water planning”

(Denver)—The Colorado Supreme Court today handed down a decision that reinforced the principle that Colorado municipalities must base water projects on clearly demonstrated and credible projections of future need.

In the case, Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District and San Juan Water Conservancy District v. Trout Unlimited, the Court ruled that Pagosa area water districts had not sufficiently demonstrated a need for the amount of water they claimed for the proposed Dry Gulch Reservoir, based on projected population growth and water availability over a 50-year planning period.

“The Supreme Court reaffirmed today that it will not tolerate public utilities speculating in water,” said Drew Peternell, director of TU’s Colorado Water Project, who argued the case before the state’s highest court. “This is a victory for reality-based water planning.”

The ruling is the second time Trout Unlimited has challenged the district water court’s decrees in the so-called Dry Gulch case—and the second time it has won.

In 2006, TU challenged a decision by Judge Gregory G. Lyman, the District Court judge who serves as the water judge in Division 7 in Colorado’s southwest. The decision would have allowed a reservoir of 35,300 acre feet two miles northeast of Pagosa Springs, using diversions from the San Juan River totaling 180 cubic feet per second.

Trout Unlimited appealed that decision to the Colorado Supreme Court, which in 2007 reversed Judge Lyman’s findings and remanded the case back to him for reevaluation of the districts’ future water needs.

Without examining new evidence, as the Court had suggested would be necessary, Judge Lyman issued another decree in 2008, awarding the Pagosa Springs districts enough water to build a Dry Gulch Reservoir of 25,300 acre feet in size, using diversions from the San Juan River totaling 150 cfs.

Trout Unlimited appealed again, arguing that the revised figures still weren’t in line with credible future water use projections and amounted to speculation.

Today, the Colorado Supreme Court unanimously agreed with TU. While the Court did allow a 50-year planning horizon (TU had argued that a 40-year timeframe was reasonable), the Court found that there wasn’t evidence to support the quantities of water the judge had awarded, either in terms of the direct flow rights or in terms of storage.

The 23,500 acre feet size approved by the water court for the Dry Gulch Reservoir is based on “speculative claims, at least in part,” said the Court. Unless the Pagosa districts can now demonstrate a “substantial probability” that a reservoir of that size is needed to meet future needs, the water court must reduce the amount of their claimed water.

“The ruling underscored that municipalities can’t justify a new water right without real evidence to support it,” said Melinda Kassen, director of TU’s Western Water Project. “This protects Coloradoans from irresponsible water grabs and speculative development.”

Colorado law already has rules preventing speculation in water rights. Although there is an exception in some situations for municipalities, the Supreme Court today made clear that the public exception should be interpreted narrowly.

Looking ahead, TU called this latest ruling an opportunity for all water stakeholders to sit down and craft comprehensive solutions for meeting the region’s real water needs.

“We’re ready to talk with the Pagosa Springs stakeholders and craft a solution that meets a range of valid needs, including municipal growth, agriculture and recreation and wildlife,” said Peternell. “But any solution has to be based on credible, substantiated numbers about future water supply and needs.”

Link to full Court ruling: http://www.courts.state.co.us/Courts/Supreme_Court/opinions/2008/08SA354.pdf.

More water law coverage here.


Dry Gulch Reservoir: Land acquisition and easement strategies

May 23, 2009

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From the Pagosa Sun (Chuck McGuire):

Effective May 12, a long-standing ranching family and two area water districts entered into an agreement with a local land trust to explore the feasibility of conservation easements on some or all of approximately 140 acres located nearly two miles northeast of Pagosa Springs. As Dry Gulch is now planned, a portion of the acreage will eventually lie beneath the waterline, while the remainder will become lakefront property.

The land in question is part of several hundred acres currently owned by the Laverty family, including Kitzel Farrah, Kurt Laverty and Steve Laverty. Entities hoping to acquire that portion of the Laverty property include the San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) and the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD), herein referred to as “the districts.”

Though the Lavertys have been reluctant to sell property to accommodate the reservoir, they are apparently willing to part with that which will ultimately be flooded, while preferably maintaining ownership of the rest. They are also reportedly inclined to donate certain property rights to the public (in the form of conservation easements), in order to preserve and protect the shoreline, view shed and water quality.

Of course, filling Dry Gulch may be possible without the Lavertys having to sell any land at all. According to Southwest Land Alliance (SLA) Executive Director Michael Whiting, many reservoirs exist over land permanently protected by more restrictive easements. Depending on the answers to a number of relative questions, the Lavertys might end up selling the districts all or a portion of the land, or simply holding on to it, while implementing multiple easements.

To answer questions and eliminate all doubt, the Lavertys, SLA and the districts agreed to investigate whether some combination of conservation easements and/or fee title acquisition would satisfy the districts needs, while also benefiting the Lavertys and the community overall.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.


Dry Gulch Reservoir update

March 3, 2009

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Here’s Part four and Part five of Bill Hudson’s series PAWSD Conjures $357 Million Project in Dry Gulch running in the Pagosa Daily Post.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.


Dry Gulch Reservoir update

February 28, 2009

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Here’s an update on the Pagosa Water and Sanitation District’s proposed Dry Gulch Reservoir, from Chuck McGuire writing for the Pagosa Sun. From the article:

New numbers are in, the reservoir is shrinking and a related, controversial fee will likely decrease. Nevertheless, revised cost estimates of the entire Dry Gulch project have risen dramatically. A crowd gathered at the Vista Clubhouse Monday evening, as engineering, financial and legal consultants joined two local water districts in presenting an updated public overview of area growth projections, water demand and storage needs. The two-hour program centered on the proposed Dry Gulch Reservoir, to be located two miles northeast of Pagosa Springs…

The latest estimate considers a smaller reservoir, of just 19,000 acre feet — plus all related infrastructure — as well as a new treatment plant and transmission pipelines that will provide potable water service to meet increased demand resulting from growth. Though the comparison is hardly apples to apples, the fully-developed cost through the life of the project now appears to be $356.5 million, or more than double the previous estimate. However, the cost of the raw water component and related infrastructure alone — as was estimated before — would now run $216.5 million, or $66.5 million more than originally thought. The difference is largely attributable to a vastly more detailed analysis and calculations in 2008 dollars. Of course, the price of the treatment plant and transmission pipelines must also be included in plan projections, and is now estimated at $140 million…

A few years ago, the districts and community taxpayers decided new growth should pay for additional raw water storage and all related infrastructure. Therefore, PAWSD created a Water Resource Fee (WRF) component as part of its Capital Investment Fee (CIF), to help offset the cost of Dry Gulch. The CIF, meanwhile, generates revenue to pay for added treatment and delivery of water to new users throughout the PAWSD district. Both fees are assessed against new development. The amount of money each fee will generate through the life of the Dry Gulch project depends on the actual rate of growth the community sees. But at Monday’s presentation, PAWSD staff and consultants predicted the increase in Equivalent Units (EUs) — a widely accepted measure of water demand — would average 3.9 percent through the year 2055. If so, a WRF of $5,617 per EU, at 36,413 new EUs, would bring in nearly $205 million, while a CIF of $3,579 for the same number of EUs would draw more than $130 million. The total, then, would cover all but approximately $21 million of the entire project.

Here are Part One and Part Three (I couldn’t find a link for Part Two) of Bill Hudson’s series PAWSD Conjures $357 Million Project in Dry Gulch running in the Pagosa Daily Post.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.


Dry Gulch Reservoir public meeting February 23rd

February 17, 2009

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From the Pagosa Daily Post (Sheila Berger): “The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District and San Juan Water Conservancy District will host a public presentation of the Dry Gulch Project on Monday, February 23 from 6 to 8 pm at the Pagosa Lakes Vista Clubhouse. The presentation will cover all aspects of the project, including revised future growth and water demand projections, project infrastructure, planned reservoir size, project financing and Capital Investment Fees and plans for reservoir public use. A question and answer session will follow the formal presentation.”


A dry look at Dry Gulch

February 16, 2009

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Here are the links to part one, part two and part three of Bill Hudson’s series about Dry Gulch Reservoir from the Pagosa Daily Post.


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