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Cucharas District finds major water leaks from freezes

by Carol Dunn
CUCHARA — At the regular meeting of the Cucharas Sanitation and Water District, General Manager Bob Northup told the board that about a million gallons of water leaked as a result of freeze breaks in the past month. The board issued another reminder to the public about shutting off the water and draining it when they are not in residence. Director Henry Harnly added, “If you leave the heat on, you should still turn your water off.” Northup pointed out that the district has a policy of one free turn off and turn on per year. “We can shut it off at the meter, but that will not drain the house,” he said.
Cuchara water customers can expect a new voice but the same friendly service at the district’s front desk. The board introduced the district’s new administrative assistant, Jennette Coe. Coe replaces Renee Albright, who served the district for about four years. Coe told the World Journal that she brings over 15 years of experience to the administrative assistant position. “I’m very excited to work with the staff and meet Cuchara residents,” she said. Albright will be training Coe as necessary, since “some things only happen once or a couple times a year.”
The district has decided to move its bank accounts from Wells Fargo because, as Chairman Gerald Van Nort put it, “We have had numerous problems. They’re giving us a lot of talk, but nothing happens.” Besides service issues, the problems include unexpected service fees that add up to more than the interest the accounts are earning. The district will utilize ColoTrust, a government-backed financial institution, and First National Bank in Trinidad, Walsenburg Branch. “They would be glad to have us,” Van Nort said, and added that the district would like to bring the accounts back locally. The district just moved the accounts in 2011 after both local Huerfano banks notified CSWD and many other publicly funded organizations that new federal regulations were making it impossible to service their interest-bearing savings accounts.
Northup reported that Bruce and Joan Cantrell still intend to develop the ski resort property, with work on the zip line anticipated to begin in May or June. Cantrell also plans to begin paying the water bill for the resort by summer, after money starts coming in.
The district has received full approval from the state to do the planned work at the Cucharas water plant. Northup is in the process of getting quotes on materials for the project.
The district is still looking for agencies and organizations interested in partnering on development of the White Creek Reservoir. According to Van Nort, this is one of only two remaining state-approved reservoirs that can be built in Colorado. After determining who is interested, Northup said a new feasibility study would be needed. Regarding a recreation district involving the reservoir, Van Nort said, “That is way, way down the road.” Even if a recreation district is organized, the water in the reservoir would still belong to the district and would be available to use for augmentation or to sell to downstream users. Northup described four options for the size of the reservoir: (1) 10,150 acre-feet with a dam height of 220 feet; (2) 2,475 acre-feet; (3) 1,775 acre-feet; (4) 571 acre-feet. As a comparison, North Lake is 2,000 to 3,000 acre-feet.
James Howard was named Designated Election Official for the upcoming 2012 election. The board positions for Gerald Van Nort and Bob White will be open since both directors are term limited and cannot be re-elected. “You will have two new faces on the board,” said Van Nort. The district will accept self-nomination forms from interested persons between February 8 and 23. Write-in candidate applications will be accepted from February 23 to March 4. Forms will be available at the district office.