Cordillera dollars converted to water |

Cordillera dollars converted to water

Cliff Thompson

Three million dollars changed hands last Thursday in Vail to ensure water will continue to flow perpetually uphill to Cordillera, an exclusive, gated community on a mountain top 16 miles west of Vail.

The drought of 2002 revealed the water supply for the community wasn’t adequate to support homes that will be added in future construction.

The money purchased additional water for the 510-residence subdivision which could have more than 900 homes when development is completed.

At the same time the water was acquired, the Cordillera Metro Board inked a deal to have the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority manage its water system and also dedicated its 94 acre-feet of existing water rights and water contracts to the Authority, which has been managing the system under contract.

“We have all the water rights in the form of ‘wet water’ that we will need for build out,” said Ron Brave, president of the Cordillera Metropolitan District. “It’s a huge deal. We now have the water system in the hands of professional water operators.”

The agreement ends more than a year of extended and sometimes rancorous three-way negotiations between the Cordillera Metropolitan District, developer Kensington Partners and the Water Authority, which supplies residents from Dowd Junction to Wolcott.

The agreement also removes the uncertainty over having adequate water for the future. Some of the water rights used were leased water rights that were virtually valueless during the drought of 2002.

Many of those water rights were short-term leased water rights in Summit County’s Green Mountain Reservoir, which could not be used when it was most needed during the summer of 2002. That’s when the reservoir both ran short of water and the emptying of the lake threatened to cause a landslide on an adjacent hillside near the community of Heeney, which overlooks the reservoir.

The agreement Thursday replaced those short-term “paper” water rights with “wet” water stored in reservoirs that provide a more reliable supply.

The shortage at Cordillera came to light after a water audit by the Authority determined the community needed an additional 360 acre-feet of water for future expansion.

Cobbling together additional water rights took more than money. It took plenty of time, said water attorney Glenn Porzak, who represented the Authority.

The rights consisted of 100 acre-feet of water purchased earlier this month by the Water Authority from Eagle-Vail Metropolitan District for $400,000 and 125 acre-feet of unallocated water stored in Homestake Reservoir south of Red Cliff.

The final piece of the watery puzzle is 135 acre-feet from the Flat Tops Ranch near Toponas, which will cost $880,000. That water is under contract for purchase and is being reviewed by the State Water Engineer.

Cordillera developer Kensington Partners supplied $2.1 million to the deal, under pressure from the Cordillera homeowners.

“This is the right thing for this community,” said Michael Gilliland, attorney for Kensington.

Cliff Thompson can be reached via e-mail at: or by calling 949-0555 ext. 450.

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