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Cucharas board holds workshop about ponds

CUCHARA — “We think it’s an asset to have the ponds here,” Cal Sandbeck told the Board of Directors of the Cucharas Sanitation & Water District during a workshop on July 24 about the substitute water supply plan for out of priority ponds. The district is currently in the fifth year of a five-year plan, and the board has been searching for a way to make the augmentation plan permanent, enlisting the expertise of a number of water specialists to help strategize. One key component of filing for a permanent solution revolves around setting the evaporation rate for the Cuchara-area ponds. The State Division of Water Resources originally set an evaporation rate based on the climate in Trinidad, which the district board and the pond owners felt was too high. The district hired a consultant, Jeris Danielson, to work on the evaporation data and come up with a more reasonable rate, based on climate conditions in the Cuchara valley. Danielson, who was also in attendance at the workshop, has been working on fine-tuning an evaporation rate since last fall. The higher the evaporation rate, the more water rights that must be set aside to fulfill an

augmentation plan. About those water rights, Stuart Corbridge, a water attorney with Vranesh & Raisch, told the workshop attendees, “I don’t think the district is in a position to commit permanently.” Sandbeck replied, “There’s a source for them to make money and aesthetics for the village. I have a problem if we’re not looking into the future of those ponds.” The workshop group also discussed the proposed reservoir on South Baker Creek. “We need to be good stewards of our water going forward,” Marshall Moore commented. Corbridge expressed his concern about how the district will build a reservoir on South Baker Creek when there are no decrees for diversion from the creek for a reservoir. “Is this something that’s going to be a problem?” he asked. Corbridge acknowledged that the district has fairly junior conditional rights for its reservoirs 1, 2 and 3 and presented some options to the board. The district owns water, referred to in terms of EQRs (Equivalent Residential Units – each representing a water tap producing 80,000 gallons of water per year), which is committed to future residential or commercial development. Corbridge said the district has close to 4,000 EQR commitments. Bruce Kroeker of TZA Water Engineers, which has also been working on the evaporation issue, said people who own EQRs thought they were “just as good as cash.” But he cautioned that EQRs can only be used with intent to develop property. Moore suggested buying back the EQRs, getting them donated back to the district, or trading for them. Regarding the water options, board chairman Art Pierce said, “I hope we can tie all of these things together and make a map for the future. I want to make sure the fights we’re fighting are worthwhile.”