Minturn to consider water deal Wednesday | VailDaily.com

Minturn to consider water deal Wednesday

Developer says it needs 'interconnect' to build 712 homes near Maloit Park

The proposed "interconnect," shown at left with a blue dotted line, would connect the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District's water supply to Minturn's supply. It would cost about $5.6 million, to be paid by the developer of the Battle Mountain project.
Special to the Daily

If you go …

  • What: The Minturn Town Council will consider a proposed water deal to build the "interconnect" at its meeting this week.
  • When: Wednesday, Aug. 7. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. with a closed-door session. The open meeting is expected to begin at 6:30 p.m.
  • Where: Minturn Town Hall.

MINTURN — Minturn’s leaders plan to make a decision Wednesday on a proposed deal that would give the Battle Mountain developer enough water to build 712 homes near Maloit Park and Tigiwon Road.

But the proposal was met with opposition from residents at the July 17 Minturn Town Council meeting.

And the developer is questioning the community’s support and the town council’s resolve to get the deal done. It said that if the deal is not OK’d Wednesday, it will seek approval to de-annex from Minturn the 543 acres where the homes are proposed.

The three-way water agreement involves the developer, the town and the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.

In the deal, the developer is offering to fund a $5.6 million pipe, or “interconnect,” that would give the town a secondary water source and enough water for substantial future development. The developer would also fund other Minturn water projects, offering about $9 million in total toward Minturn’s infrastructure.

The pipe, which would stretch from Dowd Junction to the north end of Minturn, would connect Minturn’s water supply with the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District’s supply, giving Minturn the ability to buy water at $11.11 per thousand gallons.

Minturn now supplies its own water from Cross Creek, separate from the rest of the valley, but that source is limited.

The deal would be contingent upon Battle Mountain receiving the development approvals it needs to build the homes. It would also allow Eagle River Water and Sanitation to build a 1,200 acre-feet reservoir at Bolts Lake.

Residents skeptical

Dozens of residents spoke against the deal in a three-hour public comment session at the July 17 meeting.

Some felt resentment toward the water district, stemming from 1990s litigation that resulted in Minturn losing water rights. Others said Minturn shouldn’t give up water rights — it would have to subordinate its junior conditional water rights in the Eagle River and give up storage rights in the now-dry Bolts Lake in the deal. Others didn’t like the take-it-or-leave-it rhetoric of the Battle Mountain developer.

Other scenarios were presented, including Minturn continuing to use only its senior water rights on Cross Creek. Or developing wells using the town’s junior conditional water rights on the Eagle River — but that could be costly, and provide a limited amount of water.

The town council plans to decide on the proposed interconnect deal Wednesday.

“We could have continued to push it a little bit longer and tried to get some more consulting work done, but came to the conclusion that we heard a lot from the public and that we should make a decision,” said Minturn Mayor John Widerman.

Seeking to disconnect

Meanwhile, the developer has submitted a so-called “501 application” to “disconnect,” or de-annex, 543 acres near Bolts Lake — the area where it wants to build the 712 homes — from the town of Minturn. It would also deannex about 100 acres at Gilman, the abandoned mining town.

In 2008, residents voted overwhelmingly to annex 4,300 acres of the Battle Mountain property into town. Currently, up to 712 homes are being proposed for the Bolts Lake area, shown in green. But the developer is now threatening to request that the Bolts Lake area be disconnected, or de-annexed, from the town.
Special to the Daily

In 2008, residents voted overwhelmingly to annex 4,300 acres of the Battle Mountain property into town with about 87 percent of voters favoring the plan. Residents were promised $162 million in benefits. The original plan included 1,700 homes, 36 holes of golf, a private ski area and commercial space, but those plans were scaled back after the Great Recession of 2008.

In a letter to the town dated July 23, Munsey L. Ayers, an attorney for Battle Mountain, requested that the town move forward with the de-annexation if the water deal is not approved Wednesday.

“The Battle Mountain Entities have not arrived at this decision to request disconnection lightly,” Ayers wrote. “While implementation of the Bolts Lake Concept remains the objective, there appears to be insufficient community support or Town Council resolve to justify an expectation of progress occuring to that end.”

But Tim McGuire, vice president of development for Battle Mountain Resort, said the company still hopes to develop the 712 homes within the town.

“As we have stated in all of our communications, our intention and focus has been and remains to develop the Bolts Lake area in Minturn,” he wrote in an email to the Vail Daily. “The 501 application is an alternative if the town should decide not to move forward with the water agreements.”

It’s not clear what would happen to the proposed 712 homes if the land were de-annexed into unincorporated Eagle County.

“Any questions about disconnection or development within the county are premature as we continue to be focused on working with Minturn to approve the water agreement,” McGuire said.

The 3,500-acre mountaintop property, closer to Red Cliff, is not included in the de-annexation application.

‘Misleading’ statements?

McGuire questioned “inaccurate or misleading” statements at the July 17 meeting. He provided a memo from a consultant, Jeff Clark of Bishop-Brogden Associates Inc., that pointed to:

• A lack of availability of augmentation water, which would be needed if Minturn pulled water from the Eagle River. The consultant said the augmentation water, estimated at 200 to 300 acre feet per year, would not be available. Even if it were available, the costs are unclear, Clark said. Augmentation water would be needed to replace water in the river when junior rights are curtailed, or called out, by entities with more senior rights.

• Not accounting for how the Eagle River water would be sufficiently treated.

• A town consultant’s estimates for rate increases under the interconnect plan, saying the models did not account for full usage of Cross Creek senior and junior water rights, miscalculated leakage rates, and didn’t factor in savings in unneeded augmentation water purchases.

Minturn’s water system needs significant improvements, including new tanks and likely a new water plant. Consultants say as much as $15 million in improvements are needed. The town now has about $1.3 million in its water fund.