State shuts spigot of patience |

State shuts spigot of patience

Red Cliff is in trouble. With a broken water system and no money for repairs, the town is facing the very real prospect of large fines from the state – which brings to mind the image of squeezing blood from a rock. Town officials face potential prosecution and town property owners might be slapped with liens on their property to correct very real health and safety problems with the water supply. It’s the very definition of “municipal meltdown.” No one’s talking about disincorporating the town, at least not yet. But the discussion can’t be far off if a solution to the water crisis isn’t found.Red Cliff Trustee Jim Bradford has suggested selling some town-owned land to raise money to fix the water system, correctly noting that if the property was held as a sort of “rainy day” asset, now is the time to use it.

Would selling a couple of parcels of land do the job? Real estate brokers know a desperate client when they see one, which means the town could wait several months for a buyer, only to receive nothing but bargain basement offers.A better idea might be for the town to trade a liquid asset for immediate help. The town’s water rights are surely among the most senior on the Eagle River, which means they’re among the most valuable. Those rights are also available at a diversion point close to the river’s point of origin, making them even more valuable.The town needs to inventory those rights, then offer its entire portfolio to the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. In exchange, the district would agree to acquire, repair and operate the town’s water and sewer systems, while guaranteeing the town’s water supply in perpetuity.Red Cliff would get professionals to run its water system, and the local water district would get some of the most valuable “wet water” rights in the county.Folks in Minturn might dismiss any such deal as a bargain with the devil himself. But these are desperate times for Red Cliff, and every possible solution has to be explored if it is to remain a functioning town. S.M.

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