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Water Conservancy District will help in Gardner water crisis

by Carol Dunn

GARDNER- At a well-attended special meeting of the Huerfano County Water Conservancy District on February 4, HCWCD Vice-president Dawson Jordan read for the audience a resolution by the Board of Directors that stated the District would assist with the Gardner water crisis (see sidebar).   

    While representatives from four groups who need water augmentation plans on the upper reaches of the Huerfano River looked on, Jordan went over a plan for the way this could work.  The Water Conservancy District would initially file a substitute water supply plan on behalf of the four groups needing seven acre-feet of augmentation water.     According to the proposed plan, the District would then establish a business enterprise to purchase senior water rights equivalent to ten acre-feet of water.  The enterprise would then sell perpetual augmentation certificates to the four groups who need them.  A representative of Paradise Acres homeowners said the two acre-feet of water they currently require will increase as the subdivision is built out.  It is feasible, then, that the entire ten acre-feet planned for purchase by HCWCD are already spoken for.   

    When asked if he thought this plan would placate Judge Maes when he hears the case against Gardner Sanitation and Water District next week, Steve Witte, Division 2 Water Engineer, said, “It’s where you have to start.  We have to go to the court and tell it that there is a plan.  It may not be this full-blown plan, but it will be something.”  Witte, who wants to see something in place by the first day of irrigation season, said, “That’s somebody else’s water that is being taken.”  As he held the proposed plan in his hand, he said, “I appreciate you pulling together on this.”

    HCWCD voted to retain Felt, Monson & Culichia LLC as legal counsel.  Regarding the purchase of water rights, Jim Felt told the group, “Go to a local rancher.  He will spend the money here . . . Keep the money in this valley.”  

    HCWCD expects to obtain $20,000 in start-up funds from Huerfano County, in the form of a loan, and will loan $20,000 of its own savings for start-up funds.  The users will be expected to provide a share of the start-up costs over a three-year period as follows: Gardner Sanitation and Water District, $12,000 per year; Paradise Acres Homeowners, $8,000 per year; Redwing Spring $4,000 per year; and Huerfano County $4,000 per year.  An annual maintenance and administration fee will be billed to the four groups, based on $240 per acre-foot of water.

    HCWCD director Erin Jerant asked “Do you think the people in Gardner can handle this?”  Steve Wachterman replied, “We’ll do what we have to to make this work.”  Wachterman said the GSWD could not write a check right now, but they are willing to look for grants to fulfill their part of the bargain.

    The proposed plan states that a permanent augmentation plan would be filed in Water Court by December, 2009.  Beyond that, HCWCD would be looking for grants to develop water storage in future years.  Gardner resident Orlando Martinez offered, “There is a gravel pit across from the Post Office that would hold a lot of water” and could possibly be used as a storage pond.  John Galusha, County Administrator, told the audience that he feels a grant for managing Huerfano County’s water augmentation efforts would be well-received by the El Pomar Foundation.    

    Jerant told the group, “Personally, I did not have a positive feeling about this at first.  But I am in favor of it because this is the right thing to do.”

    Anyone with leads for water rights sales or leases is being asked to contact Jim Felt at (719) 471-1212 or Kent Mace at (719) 746-2413.

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