Gypsum condemns rancher’s water |

Gypsum condemns rancher’s water

Kathy Heicher

GYPSUM – After 15 years of negotiations that culminated with a condemnation lawsuit, the town of Gypsum has settled its water rights fight with Gypsum Creek rancher Ned Goldsmith.The out-of-court settlement specifies that the town will pay Goldsmith and his companies, Agvest LLC and L.E.D.E. Limited Liability, $2 million over a four-year period. In exchange, the town gets water rights and water storage rights out of L.E.D.E. Reservoir, located on Forest Service land about 20 miles up Gypsum Creek. A limited portion of the water rights will remain available to Goldsmith for use on his ranch.Paul Noto, the town’s water attorney, described the out-of-court settlement as a “win-win for all involved.”Goldsmith sees the deal differently.”I felt like I was negotiating with a gun held to my head,” he said.The town has been seeking to bolster its water rights on Gypsum Creek for decades. Noto said that during the drought of 2002, town leaders saw a need to find another source of water to ensure residents would be supplied adequately in dry years. The town has been trying to buy water rights from Goldsmith for the past 15 years. The situation was often contentious, and two years ago negotiations fell apart completely. That’s when the Gypsum decided to use their power of eminent domain – the right of government to appropriate private property for public use usually with compensation to the owner. A condemnation lawsuit was filed. Noto said condemnation is typically a last resort for small town governments. “In this case, we had to use the last resort,” he said.”I got a real civics lesson,” Goldsmith added.Under the settlement, the town will eventually own the water rights and the storage rights to the 400 acre foot L.E.D.E. Reservoir, located high up in the Gypsum Creek Basin. Goldsmith, whose cattle ranch is about 950 acres, will hold a remainder interest, Noto said. “There will always be enough water in the reservoir for his use,” Noto said.The public will likely have access to the reservoir, Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll said.Goldsmith’s attorney, Jeff Houpt, said the out-of court settlement is a sort of sharing arrangement. The family will be compensated for a portion of the value that has been taken by the town, he said, and the value of the ranch remains largely intact.”Condemnation,” Goldsmith said, “has morphed into a monster that allows the power of a government entity to be a conduit of assets from one individual to another under intimidation of its eminent domain powers. “This undermines the normal free market interaction,” he added. “Only the public can reverse this trend.”This article first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.

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