by Reed White
HUERFANO — The November 6 election will include two water-related questions that should be of great interest to those who live in Huerfano County. According to local water experts, the outcome of the vote will have an impact on the economy in the county forever.
At an open presentation on September 20 at La Veta Public Library, three local water experts did their best to educate several dozen attendees about Huerfano County’s complex and troubling water issues.
Kent Mace spoke about the mission and the needs of the Huerfano County Water Conservancy District (HCWCD). Amos Mace commented about water-related engineering and legal procedures. Doug Brgoch, supervisor and State Water Commissioner for District 16, shared what he has learned about water rights over the years.
While the details of water rights are complex, the speakers’ message was simple. Water is becoming both short in supply and increasingly vital for prosperity. In the interest of profit, entities such as Two Rivers are buying water rights with the likely outcome of selling water to high bidders outside the county.
Acquisition of water rights has become prohibitively expensive and time-consuming for local individuals. For example, Colorado is second only to California for water-related legal expenses. Working on a larger scale, the HCWCD will be able to use techniques that are more expedient and less costly to residents.
Although the HCWCD is doing everything it can to keep water in the county and available to its residents, the conservancy’s yearly tax share of $15,750 is inadequate. Without practical resources, the HCWCD will cease operation at the end of 2013.
The first ballot measure stipulates an increase from 0.128 mill to 2.128 mills. This will enable the conservancy to provide matching funds for grants, to repay future loans, and to pay legal fees. The second ballot measure puts a ceiling of $3,000,000 on loans for water rights and development of vital water storage facilities. This tax increase will cost the average homeowner about $15 per year.
Much like a fire department, the HCWCD is associated with county government. Its mission is to serve the interests of county citizens, rather than to make a profit for stockholders who often reside outside the county. To date, the conservancy has had successes in Gardner by providing incremental solutions to Gardner’s water problems.
The evening presentation clearly favored the passing of the two ballot measures. The library’s director, Sandy Hackbarth, commented that she would like to have someone speak in favor of the other perspective, when and if she can find someone who is against the two ballot measures. A video of Thursday’s presentation is available to library patrons.