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New water rates in store next year

Cliff Thompson

Added expense aside, the new rates are the first part of a multi-pronged rates revision for 22,000 users from Vail to Wolcott.

“We want to make growth is paying its way and that existing users pay the right amount,” says Beck Bultemeier, finance manager for the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. “Right now we feel the structure has some inequity.”

The new rates, expected to be implemented next year, represents a departure from past philosophy for the typically developer-dominated Eagle River Water and Sanitation District and the Upper Eagle River Regional Water Authority. The water district supplies water to Vail and wastewater treatment to the entire eastern half of Eagle county, while the water authority supplies drinking water to users from Dowd Junction to Wolcott, excluding Minturn, which has its own water system.



The new water rates for 2003 in Vail will be hiked 15 percent, from $2.10 per thousand gallons to $2.31, while the monthly minimum-use threshold remains 5,000 gallons. Sewer rates will increase 5 percent, from $3.77 per thousand gallons to $3.96; and wastewater tap fees will increase from $1.58 per square foot to $1.98, a 12.5 percent increase.

The rate issue isn’t as simple as flipping a valve. Authority board member Steve Friedman of Beaver Creek says he is worried the new dynamic may impact the operation of the utility because of the vagaries of how water use in summer – a significant source of income for the district- can be affected by the weather. He also expresses concern about the variability of the revenue stream for the utility if growth slows.



“There’s an uncertainty in billing for water use in wet years,” he says. “Revenue could be impacted.”

The new rates will both help fund ongoing operations, maintenance and upgrades, as well as take into account the need for additional water storage, says Dennis Gelvin, the district’s general manager. The plant investment fees, still being developed, will be assessed to pay for new water plants, such as the new $12 million , 5-million-gallon per-day Edwards water treatment plant now in shakedown mode.

Bultemeier says the capital costs of new water and sewer plants made necessary by past commercial developments has been borne unfairly by existing users because up-front tap fees were priced too low.



Spreading the capital cost for development of new multi-million dollar water and sewer plants over time is complex, however, as plants built as much as a decade apart often have to be over built to accommodate future growth..

The district wants to acquire the old town shops, adjacent to its Vail wastewater plant and offices, to build a $3 million water treatment plant by 2006. The new facility may rely on water released from Eagle Park Reservoir flowing down the Eagle River and pumped from Dowd Junction, three miles away.

Water would be treated there, distributed through the municipal grid and returned to the Gore Creek just downstream from the drinking water treatment plant and upstream from where it was diverted from the Eagle River.

Earlier this year, the district spent $2 million upgrading a microfiltration plant in East Vail.

Replacement of aging water and sewer pipes and systems in places like Vail requires significant financial and on-the-ground planning.

Last summer’s drought added more urgency to developing more reservoir storage. A $1 million pump-back diversion system from the east fork of the Eagle River into the Eagle Park Reservoir above Camp Hale will be built next spring, adding to the speed at which the 2,000-acre-foot reservoir can be refilled.

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


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