Sewer summit meant to heal legal wounds |

Sewer summit meant to heal legal wounds

Cliff Thompson

MINTURN ” When Minturn’s town council and the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District board got together to discuss building a new sewer plant, it was a watershed meeting between the two groups.

The two boards were bitter rivals in a 1998 dispute that left Minturn with less water and nearly broke the town’s budget. Some hard feelings remain, both boards admit.

While the potential joint sewer plant, which could cost as much as $10 million, would help flush away a lot of political detritus, it faces some significant challenges.

From a plumbing and water rights standpoint, it would be best built north of Minturn and south of Dowd Junction. But there is little non-public land there that could be acquired for a plant, officials said.

One of the sites they examined as a site for a plant belongs to the U.S. Forest Service, and getting the agency to part with land takes a lot of time and sometimes it even requires an act of Congress.

If a cooperative sewer plant is built, the critical element for both Minturn and the water board will be where the plant is located. Both favor a point above Dowd Junction which is north of town.

That location will allow Minturn to reclaim the water lost in the 1998 court battle with a consortium that included the water and sanitation district, Vail Resorts and the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority. The consortium won that water when it contended Minturn had “injured” their water supply by removing water from the river above town for municipal uses and hadn’t returned its treated wastewater until the outflow of the Avon sewer plant, where Minturn’s effluent is piped and treated.

For the water board, which wants to treat some of Vail’s effluent at a new plant, the location is important, too. If it is closer to Minturn it will require more expensive uphill pumping from the pipeline that runs through Dowd Junction.

A third party in the equation is developer Bobby Ginn, who wants to build a 1,400 home private ski hill and golf course on 5,400 acres between Minturn and Red Cliff. Ginn said he will help pay for a new sewer plant for his $1 billion -plus development.

He’s developed numerous resort communities in the Southeast and nearly all needed new sewer plants. “We’ll pay our share and Minturn’s share and then some,” he said.

Ginn cut to the chase about the lack of land and what needs to be done. “We’re about out of other options,” he said. “The one (idea) your working with isn’t going to work. Somebody needs to get creative and answer the question of limited land.

“The task ought to be how to pump it to wherever you’ve got to discharge (it),” he said.

Elected officials of both boards decided to pursue the one thing governments are famous for: They decided to do a study, after first deciding where to find the money to do so.

Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or

Vail Colorado

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