Eagle County inks water rights deal for workforce housing, river health projects
Eagle County and the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority both wanted the same thing — flexibility to offer water incentives to develop affordable housing and river enhancement projects.
An agreement inked this week will help both entities accomplish that goal in a more effective and efficient manner.
Eagle County announced Tuesday that it will convey its approximately 87 acre-feet of water rights in Eagle Park Reservoir to the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority to be allocated to affordable housing projects or to projects that promote river health in Eagle County.
The current value of the water is just over $3.45 million.
According to Eagle County Attorney Bryan Treu, it was always a bit odd for the county to own water rights in the Eagle Park Reservoir because the county is not a water provider. What’s more, holding reservoir shares cost the county between $15,000 and $20,000 annually.
What’s in it for the county?
By conveying its stock to the water authority, Treu noted the county hopes to further some of its strategic goals. Specifically, the authority will use the water rights to satisfy the water dedication requirements of developments within its service area that provide affordable, employee or workforce housing units as defined by the county. Additionally, the dedication can help ensure water conservation goals or be allocated to projects that enhance the health of streams and rivers in the Eagle River basin.
“We were already doing these things but we weren’t doing it at the level we would like to see,” Treu aid. And, he noted, the change will mean developers can plan projects to set criteria to qualify for water dedication assistance rather than engage in individual negotiations with the county.
The Eagle County Board of Commissioners has identified quality workforce housing and river health as strategic areas of focus. The authority provides water service to properties from EagleVail to Cordillera and also owns shares in Eagle Park Reservoir Company to allot water to new development within its service area. The newly conveyed shares from Eagle County will only be allocated to projects that meet the criteria outlined in the agreement between the county and the authority.
Officials say the county and the authority were natural fits for the partnership because both organizations have worked to bring workforce housing and water efficiency and conservation projects to fruition in Eagle County.
The Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, which manages the authority, has created 58 housing units since 1996, including the 21-unit Stillwater project completed last year in Edwards.
“We are excited to enter into this partnership and collaboration to support the expansion of new high-quality housing options for our local workforce and to improve river health in the Eagle River basin,” said Linn Brooks, the GM for the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District.
Eagle County has partnered to create and currently oversees over 700 workforce and senior housing units including Miller Ranch, Lake Creek Village, Seniors on Broadway, Golden Eagle Apartments and Riverview Apartments. Additionally, the county anticipates opening Two10 @ Castle Peak, a 22-unit apartment complex, to tenants in August.
“In these times of economic uncertainty, we believe the conveyance of the Reservoir Company stock is a creative solution to lowering the barrier to attainable housing, achieving water conservation goals, and promoting river health in Eagle County,” said Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry.
Eagle County Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney noted the need to make all investments go further. “We feel the dedication of the reservoir company stock is a way to do that. It encourages public/private partnerships to address community needs and some of our most critical strategic priorities.”
“We are hopeful and confident that this program will be a catalyst and incentive for developers to pursue affordable housing projects that achieve water conservation goals and improve stream health,” said Eagle County Commissioner Matt Scherr.
For more information, contact Brooks at 970-476-7480 or the Eagle County Commissioners at 970-328-8605.