by Larry Patrick
WALSENBURG- Local rancher and realtor John Stroh approached the Finance Committee of the city of Walsenburg on Monday night on behalf of one of his companies, Two Rivers Water, about purchasing the ranch property the city owns east of Walsenburg. The city purchased the property, often referred to as the Corsentino ranch, earlier this decade for the water rights.
Stroh emphasized that he and his partners are in the farming business and have no interest in the property other than expanding their operation. Stroh was involved in selling the property to the city and said he was prepared to offer much more than the city paid for it.
City councilwoman Erin Jerant wanted to know if the sale would include the water rights and Stroh said, “Yes.” Then Mayor Bruce Quintana wanted to know if Stroh would sell or lease the water rights to Petroglyph Corporation, which needs water sources for their coal-bed methane operation? Stroh said, “No.”
Stroh told the committee that the land would remain in agriculture for the foreseeable future. He has secured water rights from some property owners nearby and is leasing the water back to them. Jerant wondered if Stroh’s company would be interested in buying the land and leasing the water rights from the city? Stroh was open to the idea although he said he would also consider trading some water rights that might be more beneficial to the city of Walsenburg.
The committee asked Stroh to put a proposal together to present to them at a future finance meeting. Jerant wanted to see a profit and loss statement on the ranch and have any proposal go to their water attorney for consideration. Selling of water rights has not been something the city of Walsenburg has been anxious to do because of the importance of water to the city.
Stroh emphasized that his company is not interested in developing wind farms on the property and said that he lacks confidence that any wind farm developments will happen soon. He even offered to buy all of the city ranch property but allow the city the option to use some of the land for wind farm development, if it were to come about. If so, the city could keep the money. The city has been in negotiation with several wind farm companies which want to get an option on some of the land. The city is also interested in selling gravel that is in abundance on the property.
Walsenburg is having financial problems, and Stroh acknowledged that the proposal could help the city with needed sources of revenue. The city of Walsenburg sold the Kincaid Ranch near La Veta earlier this year and is using the funds to help pay for the new state-mandated waste water treatment plant. However, the city is still short $640,000 to pay off that project. They are going to the voters in November to ask approval to spend the remaining $500,000 in the Power Trust Fund to pay off that deficit. What the voters say to that proposal could determine the interest the city would have in selling their ranch property to Two Rivers Water.