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Sewer plant looking for a home

Cliff Thompson

MINTURN – Federal legislation enabling the sale of 10 acres of U.S. Forest Service land at Dowd Junction and 37 additional acres in disparate parcels near Minturn is waiting for Minturn and Eagle County to agree on how best to use the land.The land lies partly in Eagle County and partly in Minturn. Lawmakers rely on local comments to guide crafting the legislation. Minturn had eyed the land for a new sewer plant while Eagle County recommended to lawmakers that it be left open space.The land houses several Forest Service buildings, including the Holy Cross Ranger District office, and its sale requires an act of Congress.The Forest Service wants to consolidate its Minturn and Eagle offices and will be selling several parcels of land to help build a single new office in Eagle.Minturn needs a new sewer plant to serve the expected growth from 1,400 residences proposed on Battle Mountain south of town. It’s also examining other parcels of land near the railroad track north of town, said Ann Capela, town manager. If one of those sites are used the federal legislation, being drafted by Eagle County’s congressman, Rep. Mark Udall, could move ahead.It’s the second go-round for the legislation that died last year without a hearing when the U.S. House of Representatives adjourned its 108th session. Udall is drafting new legislation to allow the sale to proceed – once Minturn and Eagle County agree on what needs to happen to the 10 acres at Dowd Junction. “We’re waiting for them to reach a consensus,” said Udall spokesman Lawrence Pacheco.PoliticsThe legislation hinges on what the town and county decide – and partly on a demonstration of the old adage that politics can create strange bedfellows. For Minturn a new sewer plant upstream of the confluence of the Eagle River and Gore Creek would allow the town to recapture water lost in bitter 1998 court battle with Vail Resorts, the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. That consortium of water users successfully contended that because Minturn was piping its wastewater to Avon, it had depleted the river above Dowd Junction, where it removed the water. The consortium’s water intake is downstream at Dowd Junction.After the ruling Minturn was forced to allow more water from Cross Creek to flow past its intakes to boost the flow of the river. By building an in-town plant, that river deficit would be erased, Capela said. Now for the strange bedfellow part: Minturn and once bitter adversary, the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, now want to work together to find land in Minturn suitable for a new sewer plant. There are advantages to the water and sanitation district because it could use the plant to take some of the pressure off the Avon plant, which is approaching its maximum capacity, the agency’s general manager, Dennis Gelvin, said in an earlier interview.Pacheco said if there is no consensus, the land at Dowd Junction could be axed from the bill. If it is, the Forest Service could find it more difficult to raise enough money from the sale to pay for modern facilities.Developer Bobby Ginn, who wants to build a ski resort, golf course and 1,400 homes on Battle Mountain, has said in public meetings he understands his company will help to pay for a new sewer plant. Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or cthompson@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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