Heads butt over water at Berry Creek | VailDaily.com

Heads butt over water at Berry Creek

Cliff Thompson

At issue is who will control water stored there to boost winter flows of the Eagle River and a state laws concerning the conversion of agricultural water rights, such as Berry Creek’s, to a year-round domestic use.

The latter would take water from a two-mile stretch of the river between the new Edwards water plant and the wastewater treatment facility west of Lake Creek Village.

The Berry Creek Metropolitan District approved plans for the site, but the Edwards Metro District did not.

Meanwhile, the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority, which supplies treated water for customers from Dowd Junction to Wolcott, requires developers to provide it with water rights to meet water-use and streamflow augmentation requirements before issuing a service agreement.

The water authority’s policy requires streamflow augmentation water be stored in Eagle Park Reservoir, in the High Country east of Camp Hale. The developers of Berry Creek – Eagle County and the Eagle County School District – want an exemption from that policy to create a pond several acres in size that would hold 16.5 acre-feet of water.

The beef

“We think it’s bad water policy to require us to hold water in Eagle Park Reservoir, for augmentation of streamflows, for the reach of river between their drinking water facility and their wastewater facility,” says County Commissioner Tom Stone. “It’s a question of what is the better water policy. If we don’t own it, we can’t control it. It would be nice to have a seat at the table of that reservoir company.”

Eagle Park Reservoir is owned by five stockholders: Vail Resorts; the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority; the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District; the Colorado River Water Conservation District; and the Colorado River District. The 3,000 acre-foot reservoir, made operational three years ago, is being expanded this fall to capture 455 additional acre-feet from the East Fork of the Eagle River.

An acre-foot is 326,000 gallons, or enough water to cover a football field a foot deep.

The water authority, says its chairman, Bob Warner, is reviewing the request for a small reservoir at Berry Creek.

“They haven’t met their conditions to be served,” he says. “In the past, ponds have not worked well. We still have an open mind.”

Ponds have problems with sedimentation, Warner says, recalling efforts to remove silt from Avon’s Nottingham Lake eight years ago that cost $250,000.

Managing multiple storage facilities is more difficult than managing just one, he adds, and there also are safety issues stemming from draining ice-covered ponds in winter.

But Stone the issues of sedimentation could be controlled with a holding pond, and construction utilizing large boulders to reduce winter safety concerns.

Besides, Stone says, the county and the school district aren’t “typical” developers.

“All the money comes from the taxpayers,” he says.

Whose bucket?

The disagreement surfaced last week in Vail during a tense meeting between county officials and those of the water authority.

“It’s the county’s feeling the proposed location (for a pond) would be ideal for delivery of wastewater to meet all of the necessary requirements,” says Eagle County Attorney Diane Mauriello.

“Why use valuable high-basin storage and run it down the river to address that two-mile reach?” adds Jeff Houpt, a special counsel to the school district on water issues.

Stone says the pond would fulfill a number of uses, including stormwater retention and streamflow augmentation, as well as provide the community with an amenity.

Further, Stone says, the county could create a water trust to ensure streamflows.

“The county has the right to purchase 50 acre-feet,” he says. “A compromise solution would be to have the county form a water trust and hold that water in Eagle Park Reservoir. The county could then decide when to release it. It’s a question of where the water is stored – at Eagle Park or on-site.”

Houpt says that while there remains time to iron out the issues before it delays construction, “it’s getting close.”

Construction at the 31.5-acre Berry Creek site is the first phase of development on the 200 acre parcel that will include athletic fields, a new campus for Colorado Mountain College, affordable housing and open space.

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or cthompson@vaildaily.com.

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