Roaring Fork Conservancy warns that Nestlé Waters Chaffee County Project will include transmountain water

March 24, 2010

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Nestlé Waters North America announced last year that they had struck a deal for augmentation water from Aurora via Twin Lakes for the bottled water giant’s Chaffee County Project. Nestlé Waters’ plan is to truck 200 acre-feet or so out of basin to Denver for bottling. The Roaring Fork Conservancy is spreading the word in the valley, according to a report from Scott Condon writing for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. From the article:

A plan by a subsidiary of Nestlé to bottle water near Buena Vista could have implications for the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers, the Roaring Fork Conservancy warned this week. It also signals that the beverage industry is on the prowl for high mountain spring sites in Colorado’s mountains — another potential threat to limited water supply of the Roaring Fork watershed, said Tim O’Keefe, education director for the Roaring Fork Conservancy, a Basalt-based nonprofit focused on water quality and quantity issues. “We’re trying to use what’s happening in [Buena Vista] to sound the alarm,” O’Keefe said…

Aurora diverts water from Grizzly Reservoir, about 10 miles east of Aspen. That water is piped via the Independence Pass Transmountain Diversion Project to the east side of the Continental Divide, dumped into Lake Creek and stored in Twin Lakes Reservoir. Aurora also diverts water from the upper Fryingpan basin through the Busk-Ivanhoe Project to Turquoise Reservoir, which also feeds Twin Lakes. Numerous documents tied to the Nestlé plan indicate that Twin Lakes is among the sources Aurora can use to sell water to Nestlé to augment the Arkansas River, according to G. Moss Driscoll, an attorney who recently interned with the Roaring Fork Conservancy and helped with the position paper on bottled water. “There’s no doubt it will involve transbasin water,” Driscoll said.

[Aurora] intends to use water purchased from Lake County ranches and the Columbine Ditch to feed the Arkansas River directly and fulfill its augmentation contract. Water from Twin Lakes is listed as a possible source for augmentation, but is unlikely to be used, Baker said. Even if it is, very little comes from the upper Fryingpan and Roaring Fork drainages. The vast majority of Aurora’s water diverted from the mountains comes from Homestake Reservoir, another source that leads to Twin Lakes. In a strict accounting sense, some Roaring Fork water could be used to augment the Arkansas River, Baker said, but it would be a rare occasion and a small amount.

The Roaring Fork Conservancy counters that Nestlé’s bottling scheme is just another way, however small, that the Roaring Fork watershed is being tapped. “The two springs Nestlé is proposing to draw water from are fed directly by the Arkansas River, the flows of which are bolstered by transmountain diversions from the Roaring Fork Watershed,” the conservancy’s paper said. “On average each year, 37 percent of the runoff in the Upper Roaring Fork Subwatershed and 41 percent of the runoff in the Upper Fryingpan Subwatershed is diverted to the Arkansas River Basin.”

The conservancy is sponsoring the screening of a film called “Tapped” to educate people about the broader issues surrounding bottled water. The documentary is a “behind-the-scenes look into the unregulated and unseen world” of an industry that is trying to turn water into a commodity. It’s from the producers of “Who Killed the Electric Car” and “I.O.U.S.A.” The movie will be shown at 7 p.m. on March 31 at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen and at 7 p.m. on April 6 at the Church at Carbondale. Tickets are $9.

More Roaring Fork watershed coverage here.


Aurora: City files for change of use for Busk-Ivanhoe rights, teams with Climax Molybdenum to change Columbine Ditch rights

January 9, 2010

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Aurora bought half of the Busk-Ivanhoe water system from the High Line Canal Co. in 1987, following the purchase of the other half from the ditch company by the Pueblo Board of Water Works in 1971. Aurora filed for a change of use decree in Division 2 Water Court in December. Identical applications have been filed in Division 1 (South Platte) and Division 5 (Colorado River) water courts. The project brings water from Ivanhoe Lake, located at 11,500 feet elevation on a tributary of the Fryingpan River west of Hagerman Pass, through a former railroad and highway tunnel to Busk Creek, which empties into Turquoise Lake near Leadville…

{Aurora] has imported more than 3,000 acre-feet per year from Busk-Ivanhoe for the past few years. The Pueblo water board manages the system, which includes two live-in caretakers at Ivanhoe Lake, but Pueblo and Aurora share the water equally. In its application, Aurora states it intends to use the water for all purposes in two basins, rather than its existing decree for agriculture in the Arkansas River basin. Aurora would continue some of those uses, but would also apply water to its delivery and reuse systems in the South Platte basin. Aurora takes the water through the Homestake Project, which it shares with Colorado Springs. In the application, Aurora lists its Box Creek Reservoir, located between Turquoise and Twin Lakes, as a potential storage place, even though it has not been built. It also lists several recharge pits or reservoirs in the South Platte River basin that have not been built.

Meanwhile here’s the lowdown on the Columbine Ditch, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Fremont Pass Ditch Co., owned by Aurora and Climax, filed an application for change of water rights in Division 2 Water Court in Pueblo last month. Identical applications were filed in Division 5 (Colorado River) and Division 1 (South Platte) water courts. The Pueblo water board sold the Columbine Ditch to the Fremont Pass Co. last year for $30.48 million, as part of its financing for the purchase of about 27 percent of the water rights on the Bessemer Ditch in Pueblo County.

The Columbine Ditch, located at 11,500-foot-elevation Fremont Pass 13 miles north of Leadville, is about two miles long and was built to serve irrigators in 1931. It diverts water from three small streams in the Eagle River watershed over the pass near Climax mining operations. The water board purchased the ditch in 1953 to meet long-term needs and changed the decree to municipal and other uses appropriate to its needs in 1993. The average yield of the ditch was about 1,700 acre-feet annually, but because of long-term limits that was expected to drop to 1,300 acre-feet per year. Aurora and Climax are seeking further uses, including snowmaking, wetlands creation and direct reuse among others. They also are asking the court to approve new places of use, including at the Climax Mine, a gravel pit reservoir near Leadville and in the Arkansas or South Platte basins as part of Aurora’s extensive water system.

More transmountain/transbasin diversion coverage here.


Raw water systems winter operations

December 22, 2009

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Here’s a look at winter operations for Pueblo’s raw water system, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through and read the whole thing. Here are a couple of excerpts:

“When we plow the roads out, those banks of snow start to melt and freeze again until they turn hard as rocks. The trucks can get pretty banged up, so those guys have to be careful,” said Bud O’Hara, water resources division manager for the Pueblo Board of Water Works. Avalanches, broken bulldozer blades and survival in a dozen feet of snow are all part of the job for those who maintain and clear the systems that bring the water over. “Every one is different,” O’Hara said.

The Twin Lakes system, where a caretaker lives year-round, is in a bowl of mountains where avalanches are common. Those who live with them say you can hear them coming. In the winter, the caretakers at Grizzly Lake, located in the high country of the Roaring Fork valley near Independence Pass, have to drive to Leadville through the Twin Lakes Tunnel for supplies because the drifts are too high to make the trip to Aspen. Their lifestyle is isolated in the remote valley.

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here and here.


Transmountain diversions: Moving water from the rainy side of Colorado

December 21, 2009

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Here’s a look at some of the history behind transmountain diversions, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Be sure to click though and read the whole thing. Here are some excerpts from the article:

“I expect that these waters in the mountains, instead of being a menace to the people upon the plains, will be their source of strength and their source of wealth,” William Jennings Bryan told an international water conference in Pueblo in 1910. The problem then, as it is now, is that the water just wasn’t there.

A semi-arid region where the average annual rainfall is less than 20 inches was not readily recognized as an agricultural mecca. In most years as it does now, water came in a rush when snow melted in spring, during summer monsoons and in many years would stop late in the growing season, when many crops were ready for harvest. In the worst years, no water came at all. “Nature gave Colorado two valuable resources: an abundance of water and vast tracts of fertile and arable land,” said the late Harold Christy, a CF&I water engineer who helped form the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “She gave us these great assets but did not logically locate them practical use. She left the job of consolidation to the hand of man.” The solution was to move water from one side of the mountains to the other and store it for when it was needed. The state Legislature began looking at ways to do that as early as 1889. The 50-year span from 1920-70 would mark an era of projects designed to fulfill that vision in Eastern Colorado.

At first, moving water across mountains mostly involved digging ditches across mountain passes. The earliest effort still running is the Grand Ditch, completed in the 1890s, in what is now Rocky Mountain National Park. Many other ditches were dug by farmers looking for a way to make water available throughout the growing season. As the cities have grown, they have acquired many of those systems after irrigators found them expensive to maintain. Pueblo, for instance, acquired the Ewing, Wurtz and Columbine ditches in Lake County in the early 1950s to cope with water shortages at the time.

Engineers also were already toying with tunnels in the early 1900s. An early large tunnel project devoted solely to water was the Gunnison-Uncompahgre Tunnel completed in 1909, which was built by the Bureau of Reclamation to move water from one sub-basin of the Colorado River to another, and later transferred to a local district. Similarly, the Laramie-Poudre Tunnel, completed in 1911, brought water from the North Platte into the South Platte basin in Northern Colorado. Rail tunnels, like the Carlton Tunnel near Leadville that later became the diversion tunnel for the Busk-Ivanhoe system, or Denver’s Moffat Tunnel, were later used as ways to move water.

More transmountain/transbasin coverage here.


Moffat Collection System Project: Can the west and east slope find common ground?

December 20, 2009

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Drew Peternell, Director of Colorado Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project has penned a call to negotiation and common sense in today’s Denver Post. Click through and read the whole thing. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Trout Unlimited, a sportsmen’s group committed to preserving Colorado’s rivers and fisheries, can accept a Moffat project if Denver agrees to responsible measures to protect western Colorado. That means, at a minimum, guaranteeing healthy year-round stream flows in the Fraser, Williams Fork and upper Colorado Rivers. That also means improving Denver’s track record on water conservation. Denver has implemented some meaningful conservation measures, but there is much more it can do — such as offering incentives for households to replace water-thirsty turf with drought-tolerant landscaping…

What’s at issue in the Moffat plan is our willingness on the Front Range to accept a modest tradeoff to preserve Colorado’s magnificent outdoor resources. With smart resource management, we have enough water to sustain both our home places and our wild places — we don’t need to choose between the two. If it respects diverse needs, Denver Water can find pragmatic water supply solutions that work for everyone, on both sides of the Divide.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.

Meanwhile here’s a look at transmountain diversions from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The diversions vary in size from the very small, like the Larkspur Ditch that brings Upper Gunnison River water to the Arkansas River basin, to the very large – the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. Many were developed as primarily agricultural diversions that are turning into municipal projects. The C-BT Project, fed by the Alva B. Adams Tunnel, was four-fifths agricultural when it started more than 70 years ago. Today, about two-thirds of the project’s yield provides water for northern Colorado’s growing cities.

Here’s a look at the current state of planning for growth and consumption, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The ditches and tunnels that already cross the mountains have a long history of dispute. Water planners are starting to worry about what could happen if those systems fail. Those who live in the areas where the water is taken from on the West Slope want to make sure the water is used wisely on the Front Range. And the Front Range is looking to slake its thirst with even more pipelines from the West.

More transmountain/transbasin diversions coverage here.

Drought readiness is one of the reasons that Denver Water wants to move more water to their northern system, hence the enlargement of Gross Reservoir by raising the dam 125 feet or so. Colorado River Basin firm yield is expected to keep dropping as it has in recents years as a result of climate change. Here’s a look at statewide planning for climate change from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

You may not think climate change is real. As for water planners, they believe.

Climate change already had become a staple of water discussions by October 2008, when Gov. Bill Ritter convened a special meeting on the topic. “At no time has our water been threatened so much by drought, climate change and population growth,” Ritter said at the time. “As we assess the impact of climate change, water absolutely has to be a part of the discussion.”

More climate change coverage here.


Pueblo Board of Water Works to mull financing alternatives for Bessemer Ditch shares

September 22, 2009

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The resolutions Tuesday will set the terms under which the bonds will be sold and authorize the issuance of the bonds. The resolution on terms also sets forth how other debt, present or future, would fit into the structure of the bonds. Bonds would be issued Oct. 22. The bonds would be sold during October, paralleling the time frame for the board to finalize its contracts with 67 shareholders for 5,339 shares on the Bessemer Ditch Ñ a little more than one-quarter of the total. “We did two of the contracts on the Bessemer Ditch, as pilots, to make sure everything was worked out,” said Alan Hamel, executive director. “We wanted to make sure our process was going to work, and there weren’t any problems.” The water board wants to complete all of the contracts by Oct. 30. Closing on the contracts will be coordinated to the flow of money used to buy the shares.

More PBOWW coverage here.


Pueblo Board of Water Works board meeting recap

August 19, 2009

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The PBOWW finished up the sale of the Columbine Ditch and approved a 3.2 percent rate hike this week. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The 3.2-percent rate hike will raise a little more than $1 million to pay debt service on $23 million in bonds, said Seth Clayton, finance division manager. “We will be coming back in November for another increase to cover our normal operations,” Clayton told the board. Clayton estimated the total increase for 2010 would be about 8 to 9 percent, with another 6 to 8 percent in 2011. That’s lower than initial projections of 10 percent each year…

“Nobody in the community is in favor of a rate increase,” President Nick Gradisar said. “But the people I talk to are in favor of what we are doing on the Bessemer.” The bonds would be issued Oct. 22…

The Columbine sale would close Sept. 21. Columbine Ditch is on Fremont Pass 13 miles north of Leadville and brings water to the Arkansas River from the Eagle River basin. Climax needs the water because it lost a water court claim to Denver Water and plans to expand in the future, said Bud O’Hara, water resources division manager. The agreement also would keep Aurora from objecting in the eventual change of use case for the Bessemer Ditch shares, and would also take the Pueblo water board out of the change of diversion case associated with the Columbine. The Columbine water already is available for all uses under the water board’s decree, so it will not require a change of use decree…

The water board is now looking at 67 contracts for a total of 5,339 shares at $10,150 each, with another 10.5 shares pending on the Bessemer Ditch, Hamel said. There are about 20,000 shares on the ditch. The water board plans to spend about $60 million, and will begin closing contracts in September using funds already in the water development fund and from lease revenue.

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here and here.


Pueblo Board of Water Works approves Aurora’s purchase of Columbine Ditch

August 1, 2009

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Aurora will pay the Pueblo water board $30.48 million for the ditch, located on Fremont Pass 13 miles north of Leadville. The water board will use the money from the sale as part of a $60 million package to buy 5,200 Bessemer Ditch shares, about one-fourth of the total. “This action is critical,” said Tom Autobee, a member of the water board. “It allows us to buy a water right in our backyard in exchange for a transmountain right that’s not reliable.” Without the sale of the ditch, Pueblo water rates would have to increase 25 percent in two years beyond the rate increases currently being considered, said Executive Director Alan Hamel.

More Coyote Gulch Columbine Ditch coverage here and here.


Runoff (storage) news: Pueblo Board of Water Works has a record amount of storage for the year

July 29, 2009

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The water board has about 50,000 acre-feet of water in storage now, nearly a two-year supply of potable water for the city. The water board supplies about 28,000 acre-feet annually for potable use, or about 9 billion gallons. However, much of the water in storage is needed to fulfill contracts for outside water sales and would be needed for the future growth of the city, Ward said. “If we get below 16,500 acre-feet in storage, then we start thinking about water restrictions,” [Alan Ward, water resources administrator for the Pueblo Board of Water Works] said. “Right now, that would take several years of severe drought. Our target is twice the minimum, or about 33,000 acre-feet. We’re in a position where we can do that, but we wouldn’t have that luxury in the future because we don’t have the storage.”[...]

Right now, Pueblo has about 66,000 acre-feet capacity in storage accounts in four reservoirs. That number could increase by another 9,000 acre-feet by 2025 under a federal contract to use excess capacity at Lake Pueblo. The water board also has filed an application in Division 2 Water Court to triple the size of its Clear Creek Reservoir in northern Chaffee County and has been among those pushing for a study on the enlargement of Lake Pueblo. Pueblo supplies Comanche Power Plant with about 8,000 acre-feet of water annually, and the water board is obligated to provide another 5,000 acre-feet annually for the third unit under a 2005 contract. Pueblo also sells about 5,000 acre-feet of water annually to Aurora, under a lease agreement that can be suspended during a drought, as it was in 2002…

The water supply this year is swollen for several reasons, Ward said. The largest factor is boosting the amount in storage to supply Comanche. The water board also benefitted from a healthy spring runoff – Twin Lakes brought over 120 percent of average. The volume of the runoff surprised everyone and was bolstered by frequent storm systems during June. Finally, farmers who are leasing water from the Pueblo water board are delaying when they take the water, leaving it in storage longer.

Meanwhile the Pueblo City Council has approved the board’s sale of the Columbine Ditch to Aurora. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Columbine Ditch is located 13 miles north of Leadville on Fremont Pass and brings over water from the Eagle River basin. Council’s approval was the last piece needed for the sale, which already has been approved by the Aurora City Council and Climax. Money from the sale will help buy shares on the Bessemer Ditch. Mike Occhiato and Ray Aguilera voted against the sale at Monday’s City Council meeting, saying the water board should look for better alternatives in purchasing Bessemer shares. “Anytime I hear the word Aurora with the sale of water, it makes the back of my hair curl,” Aguilera said. “Anytime you sell water to Aurora from this basin, it doesn’t wash with me.”

The $30.48 million from the sale should be received in the near future, but details are still being worked out. The money from the sale will go toward $60 million the water board needs to complete its purchase of 5,200 shares of the Bessemer Ditch, about 25 percent of the total. The water board may not need the water for at least 20 years, and has agreed to lease water back to farmers for the cost of assessments during that time. It also has agreed to lease excess water from the sale to Pueblo County interests first and not to lease the water outside the Arkansas River basin. Other shareholders in the Bessemer Ditch would not be restricted from selling their shares to users outside the Arkansas Valley under changes in the Bessemer Ditch bylaws approved in May. However, Aurora – the only outside water provider that currently has the ability to move water out of the Arkansas Valley – is restricted from obtaining new water rights in the valley under several intergovernmental agreements. Last week, the water board entered financial contracts to issue $22 million in bonds to help finance the deal. The rest of the money would come from the water development fund and new long-term lease agreements for outside water sales. The water board is expected to discuss the amount of rate hike needed to finance the bonds at its Aug. 25 meeting and is looking for ways to minimize the increase in water rates.

More Coyote Gulch PBOWW coverage here and here.


Aurora (along with the Climax molybdenum mine) to buy Columbine Ditch

July 14, 2009

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Aurora City Council Monday gave the green light for the deal, which would match an offer of $30.48 million from Ginn Development for a private ski resort at Minturn. The council’s action was final because a waiver of reconsideration was included in the initial motion. Pueblo City Council Monday approved the sale on first reading, a requirement under the city charter any time an asset is sold. Council’s final approval will be on the July 27 agenda.

Aurora was able to match the offer because of a clause in a 1997 lease agreement with the Pueblo water board that gave it a right of first refusal if Pueblo sold any of its transmountain water rights. The contract specifies that only water brought into the Arkansas Valley from the Western Slope can be used in the Aurora leases. “Aurora’s concern was that if we sold any of our assets we would not have the ability to supply water for the lease,” said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo water board. “At the time we had no plans to sell any assets.”[...]

Aurora and Climax formed a partnership called the Fremont Pass Ditch Co., with Aurora controlling two-thirds of the company and holding an option to buy the entire Columbine Ditch in the future, said spokesman Greg Baker. Aurora earlier bid $30.5 million on the Columbine, but wanted to spread out payments over five years. The city reallocated its resources to offer the full amount this year, as Ginn Development had in its bid. “This is high-quality mountain water, and you don’t see that for sale too often,” Baker said. “The fact that it comes into the basin above Twin Lakes makes it perfect for us.” Since the Arkansas River does not flow directly into Twin Lakes – where Aurora removes water from the Arkansas Valley through the Otero Pipeline and Pumping Station – Aurora would have to exchange water from the Columbine Ditch into its accounts. But the exchange opportunities are greater near the headwaters and Aurora has other ways to use the water in the Arkansas Valley, Baker said.

Climax mine, owned by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., is located on Fremont Pass and could use the water directly. Last year, the company said it is still revamping the mine with the intention of reopening, but timing could be delayed by a weak economy.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.


Pueblo Board of Water Works is trying to work out the details to finance Bessemer Ditch water rights acquisitions

July 12, 2009

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Dennis Darrow):

Nick Gradisar [board chair], addressing the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon at the Pueblo Convention Center, said the utility is considering a combination of rate hikes, outside water leases and the sale of Pueblo’s interest in the Columbine Ditch on the Western Slope. The increase in local water rates could amount to 10 percent a year for two years, Gradisar said. The extra revenue would go toward repaying a $22 million bond issue the utility is considering as the last piece needed to finance the deal.

The water board recognizes the hardship an overall 20 percent rate hike could cause on low- and fixed-income homeowners in particular, Gradisar said. To further emphasize his point, he shared census statistics about Pueblo’s high poverty rates and low household income levels. Accordingly, the board welcomes public feedback on how to possibly limit the rate hikes, particularly for low-income people, Gradisar said. One idea he wants studied is a so-called “lifeline” discount rate that some utilities charge their poorest customers, Gradisar said…

Overall, though, the board views the rate hike is justified by the long-term value of the water the utility would acquire, Gradisar said. The deal would keep the Bessemer water at home, lessen the utility’s reliance on Western Slope water and aid the recruitment of businesses, Gradisar said. Also, local water rates are currently among the lowest in the state and other communities such as Colorado Springs are spending at even higher levels to strengthen their water resources for the next half-century, Gradisar said…

The rate hike would be in addition to the utility’s continued reliance on water leases and also the sale of the Columbine Ditch, Gradisar said. The ditch sale – either to the city of Aurora or, if that city declines, to a Minturn resort developer – is expected to generate about half of the needed money for the deal, or about $30 million cash, he said. On water leases, Gradisar said the lease program, including a lease deal with Aurora that is the target of criticism by some in Pueblo, currently makes up a significant portion – about 19 percent – of the utility’s current revenues. If not in place, local water rates would need to rise another 19 percent to keep the books balanced, he said. One Aurora lease that nets $550,000 a year is set to expire by 2011.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.


Pueblo Board of Water Works okays sale of Columbine Ditch

May 29, 2009

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The sale for $30.48 million would transfer ownership of the ditch 13 miles north of Leadville to Ginn Development for use in its Battle Mountain development near Minturn. The sale won’t be complete for more than two months, however, since Aurora has the opportunity to match terms of the contract within the next 60 days under a 1997 agreement with the Pueblo water board. “We haven’t seen the contract, so I don’t know what we’ll do,” said Mark Pifher, director of Aurora water.

There are still conditions that must be met, including the approval of the Pueblo City Council of the sale of a water right. The water board must also complete its contracts to buy 5,000 shares of the Bessemer Irrigating Ditch Co., or about one-quarter of the ditch that flows from Pueblo Dam through Pueblo and irrigates farms on the St. Charles Mesa. The Columbine contract also provides for continued, limited use of the Columbine Ditch during drought years during the next 25 years. The water board would be able to use up to 250 acre-feet in two of every 10 years. The ditch would otherwise yield 1,300 acre-feet per year. The Bessemer shares could yield as much as 7,500 acre-feet per year.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.


Pueblo Board of Water Works to meet Thursday to finalize contract for sale of Columbine Ditch

May 24, 2009

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Ginn Development, which plans to build Battle Mountain Ski Resort near Minturn, bid $30.48 million for the ditch in February. The bid was accepted by the water board. Ginn indicated in its bid that it would pay the full amount as soon as a contract is finalized. The city of Aurora bid less for the ditch, but will have 60 days to match the offer in the final contract under an earlier agreement signed with the Pueblo water board. Ginn and the water board have agreed on terms for the purchase and barring any unforeseen changes in the next week should be able to sign a contract, said Alan Hamel, executive director of the water board…

The Columbine Ditch was constructed 13 miles north of Leadville on Fremont Pass in 1931 to bring agricultural water into the Arkansas Valley from the Eagle River basin. The Pueblo water board purchased it in 1953. The ditch would yield about 1,300 acre-feet annually under limits in water court decrees, although its average yield to date has been 1,700 acre-feet per year. The amount of water that can be brought over is limited by 20- and 60-year caps. The water also comes mainly during the spring, and must be stored in order to be used by Pueblo. Ginn would be able to use the water rights within the Eagle River basin.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.


Pueblo Board of Water Works starts work to close on Bessemer Ditch shares

May 21, 2009

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The Bessemer Ditch shareholders approved bylaw changes last week that paved the way for the Pueblo Board of Water Works to purchase shares to convert to municipal use for the long-term supply for the city. Now Pueblo has to get the change of use through water court. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Pueblo Board of Water Works expects to close contracts for its purchase of Bessemer Ditch shares in the next few weeks, but its work on converting the agricultural ditch water to municipal use is just beginning. “With the change in the Bessemer Ditch bylaws and articles of incorporation, we made one milestone. It’s ano-ther chapter in the novel,” Executive Director Alan Hamel told the board Tuesday. “We have a ways to go, but we made ano- ther step forward.”[...]

The purchase is part of a long-range water resources plan that will reduce Pueblo’s dependence on water imported from the Western Slope. The board Tuesday postponed action on another key piece of the equation: the sale of the Columbine Ditch. The board received a bid of $30.48 million from Ginn Development, which is developing the Battle Mountain Ski Resort near Minturn. “We’re still working on a very complex contract,” Hamel said. “This is something new to us, selling one of our assets. But we’re close and we’re optimistic we’ll have an agreement soon.” The water board could call a special board meeting in the near future to approve the Columbine contract. Even then, it would not be final, because Aurora would have 60 days to match the offer, under terms of an earlier agreement with the Pueblo water board.

Aurora is undecided about what it will do. “We haven’t seen the contract, so we don’t know what’s involved,” said Gerry Knapp, Aurora’s Arkansas Valley manager. “We will consider it, but we have made no decision.”

The Bessemer shares could yield up to 7,500 acre-feet, depending on what happens in water court. That will be a big concern of the water board as it works to close the sale, Hamel said. Hamel said financial, legal and engineering decisions will be needed before the sales are finalized by the end of this year. For two years after that, there will be legal action as the shares are taken through water court. After that, the water board will have ongoing responsibility for revegetation on the ditch.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.


Bessemer Ditch shareholders approve bylaw changes paving way for sales to Pueblo Board of Water Works

May 12, 2009

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Shareholders in the Bessemer ditch approved changes to the their bylaws which will grease the gears of potential sales — primarily to the Pueblo Board of Water Works. Pueblo is hoping to scale back their reliance on out of basin water. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“Now we’ll start cleaning up and closing some contracts,” said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo water board. “We have some engineering to do, and we’ll be looking at the financing.”

The vote clears the way for the sale of the Columbine Ditch north of Leadville. Next week the water board will attempt to finalize the contract with Ginn Development, which has offered $30.48 million for the ditch for a new ski resort near Minturn. Aurora will have the opportunity to match the offer under a previous agreement.

The water board will spend more than $60 million on the purchase, including payments of $10,150 per share for 5,000 shares. More than 200 people showed up for Monday’s meeting at the Pueblo Convention Center, and about a dozen spoke passionately both in favor and against the bylaw changes.

“I didn’t think we’d get beaten this bad,” said Leonard DiTomaso, a Bessemer board member who organized a campaign to scuttle the rule changes. “I thought we’d win.” Other Bessemer board members at the meeting were also surprised at the wide margin of victory, although those who supported the sale were optimistic the rule changes would pass. The changes to the bylaws and articles of incorporation allow the shareholders of the Bessemer Ditch to use water outside the ditch boundaries for the first time since the ditch was incorporated in 1894. While the Pueblo water board intends to lease water back to farmers on Pueblo County’s largest ditch for at least 20 years, it is now assured it will be able to move water outside the ditch…

The purchase was undertaken partly as a defensive move against other water providers who have made offers on the ditch, and Pueblo may not need the water for 30 years, Hamel added. In response to one complaint, Hamel also said Pueblo water users have conserved water, reducing their per capita consumption by 15 percent since 2002.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.


Ginn Development Co high bidder for Columbine Ditch

February 18, 2009

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Ginn Development Co was the high bidder for the Columbine Ditch. The Pueblo Board of Water Works gets to bank $30.48 million, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain.

Aurora will get one more shot at the ditch. From the article:

The sale of the Columbine Ditch to a developer of a ski mountain at Minturn was approved by the Pueblo Board of Water Works on Tuesday, but Aurora still has one more chance to bid on the transmountain ditch.

Under its 1997 contract to lease water from Pueblo, Aurora has the first right of refusal until 2013 on the sale of any transmountain asset – a ditch or tunnel that brings water from the Western Slope into the Arkansas River basin. The Pueblo water board has several of those assets and wants to sell the Columbine Ditch to help pay for its purchase of Bessemer Ditch water shares.

Meanwhile the board is busy leasing water, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Long-term leases of 200 acre-feet for $350 an acre-foot per year for 40 years went to the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District and Evergreen Land Development of Dallas. The Upper Ark will use the water in its blanket augmentation plan for users in Chaffee, Custer and Fremont counties. Evergreen will use the water at the Mount Massive Golf Course and associated development.

Aurora bid $250 per acre-foot for 1,000 acre-feet the first year, and increased the amount and the price over a 20-year period. The water board followed Purchasing Agent Kathy Stommel’s recommendation to reject the bid because it failed to meet minimum requirements.

The water board had offered up to 5,000 acre-feet of water for long-term leases.

The short-term leases are for 10,690 acre-feet for one year only and range from $25-$75 per acre-foot. Ward said the timing of the leases – many want the water delivered before June 1 – would be good for the water board because it would not have to release water it already has stored in accounts.


Aurora’s bid for Columbine Ditch rejected

February 14, 2009

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Aurora will not be purchasing the Columbine Ditch, according to a report from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Aurora’s bids failed to meet the minimum price criteria outlined for both the sale and the lease according to staff recommendations that the board will see at its meeting Tuesday. Instead, staff is recommending approval of two other bids to lease water at the minimum price specified in the bids and selling the Columbine Ditch to Ginn Development Co., which is developing a world-class ski area near Minturn…

Ginn bid the minimum $30.48 million for the Columbine Ditch, which brings water across the Continental Divide about 15 miles north of Leadville. Minturn is located in the Eagle River basin and Ginn would, presumably, leave the water in the watershed. Aurora bid $30.5 million for the ditch, but its payment proposal of six years did not meet the time frame of the water board, according to the staff report. Alternatively, Aurora offered $25 million immediately. Ginn, on the other hand, offered immediate payment of the entire amount. Aurora also bid only $250 per acre-foot in a 20-year long-term lease of up to 3,000 acre-feet of water. By the end of 20 years, the price would escalate to $350 per acre-foot. The water board specified minimum bids of $350 per acre-foot for up to 5,000 acre-feet of water. Bidders who met the minimum requirements were the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District and Evergreen Land Development for use on the Mount Massive Golf Course near Leadville.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.


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