Minturn developer makes run at Pueblo water rights | VailDaily.com

Minturn developer makes run at Pueblo water rights

Dustin Racioppi
dracioppi@vaildaily.com
Minturn, CO Colorado

MINTURN, Colorado ” The Ginn Company has made a bid for water rights owned by the town of Pueblo, and the Minturn, Colorado developer know next week whether it can expect to assume the rights.

The Pueblo Board of Water Works will meet Feb. 17 to take direction on the two bids it has received for the Columbine Ditch, which it put out for bid last week. One bid came in from Aurora, for $30.5 million over a period of time, and the other came from Ginn, offering a lump cash sum of $30.48 million, the minimum bid.

“Their proposal met our minimum requirement, so it’s certainly a possibility we’ll discuss a possible agreement,” said Alan Ward, Pueblo’s water resources manager.

Ginn Senior Vice President Bill Weber said although Ginn ” which plans to build a resort and golf course on Battle Mountain ” has enough water for the project, the opportunity for Pueblo’s water may also prove to be a benefit.

“You can never have too much water,” Weber said. “That’s like saying you’re too rich. Water is a good thing.”

The Columbine Ditch, which is known as a transmountain ditch, gathers water from tributaries of the Eagle River and travels over Fremont Pass into the waters of the Arkansas River, Ward said. It yield about 1,300 acre-feet a year, he said.

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“It’s a small water right,” he said.

Yet, its location makes it an expensive water right.

“It’s in a unique location that makes it more valuable than other locations,” Ward said. “It’s easier to use.”

The Ginn Company, like many in the nation, has been impacted by the turbulent economy in recent months, deciding to pull its sponsorship of the LPGA Ginn Open and the Champions Tour Ginn Championship, as well as filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy for two of its Florida resorts. But what Weber and spokesman Ryan Julison emphasized Tuesday is that each project Ginn is connected to has different types of funding and is, essentially, its own entity.

“It’s not like there’s a pool of money and we decided not to sponsor the LPGA Tour and we’re going to spend money on this instead,” Julison said. “There’s no connection whatsoever.”

And to quell any rumors about the $11.6 million Ginn promised Minturn, which annexed the Ginn property last year, it too is an entirely different animal. The funds, which are in an escrow account, cannot be released due to litigation with a man who claims to own 7 acres of the Ginn property.

“This has no impact on the $11.6 million. The check is already written,” Weber said. “It’s not like we go spend $30 million and have to take from the $11.6 million. We couldn’t take that money.”

When the water board meets next week, it won’t necessarily make a final decision on which entity gets the water rights. Even if the board favors Ginn, an intergovernmental agreement between Pueblo and Aurora gives Aurora the opportunity to match Ginn’s offer, Ward said.

“It’s not a done deal in any measure, shape or form,” Weber said.

Ward doesn’t expect any concrete decisions to be made at next week’s meeting, or soon after.

“These kinds of deals don’t happen in a couple weeks,” he said. “It’ll take a couple months .”

Dustin Racioppi can be reached at 970-748-2936 or dracioppi@vaildaily.com.

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