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Joint water strategy proposed

Cliff Thompson
CVR Fly Fishing 3-8 CS Vail Daily/Coreen Sapp Terry Weverstad picks out a fly while fishing the Eagle River east of Wolcott Monday afternoon.
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Faced with huge future water demand and a finite supply, the thought of sticking together may be more appealing to Eagle County water users than going at it alone.

For the first time informal discussions were held between the local water districts, towns and Eagle County with an eye toward creating a countywide water master plan. The plan discussed Wednesday in Avon would outline what’s required to ensure there’s adequate water for the future and how the Vail Valley would cope with massive withdrawals of water by the Front Range.

“We wanted to get this dialogue started,” said Rick Sackbauer, chairman of the Eagle River Water and Sanitation Board.

In the normally contentious water world, cooperation has begun to replace litigation and confrontation. As the state’s population grows, so, too, does the need for water. Neighboring Summit County already has a water master plan.

The first step was highlighting some of the water dilemmas facing Eagle County. Among them:

n The cities of Colorado Springs and Aurora and water users in Eagle County have, after a decade-long legal battle over the cities’ plans to withdraw 2,1000 acre-feet of water in Homestake Creek, now created a partnership outlining how to jointly develop and share that same water. One-third of the water would be available for in-county use and the balance will flow to the cities. The agreement is known as the Eagle River Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU.

n Eagle County, Denver and other water districts are sharing the cost of a $100,000 study on the feasibility of building a 60,000 to 100,000 acre-foot reservoir at Wolcott. That would allow Denver to abandon more than 390,000 acre-feet in water rights it holds in the Eagle River and Piney River drainages surrounding Vail in return for the reservoir water it would exchange for water elsewhere.

“The MOU takes away the specter of massive water projects,” said Glenn Porzak, water attorney for several local water districts.

If Denver and Eagle County fail to reach an accord there could be prolonged litigation over removal of water from Eagle County to the metro area. Therefore, a concerted approach here would make sense, Porzak said.

Conservation of water needs to be part of the discussion too, said Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi.

The cost of building additional reservoirs was also discussed. Depending on their location, it can cost as much as $13,000 an acre-foot or as little as $6,000 per acre-foot. Farther afield, there are regional concerns such as water levels dropping in Lake Powell.

A second meeting will be scheduled during which an organizational outline for a master plan will be presented.

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


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