Stone still battling water board
This increasingly personal dustup centers on Stone’s perceived conflict in representing Eagle County on the Colorado River Water Conservation District Board and his unabashed advocacy of Referendum A. Referendum A proposed enabling up to to $4 billion in bonds to build additional reservoirs. It would not have raised taxes, but could have hurt Western Slope water supplies that could have been diverted to the Front Range.
Stone contends the Water and Sanitation District does not accurately represent the citizens of Eagle County because they have what he calls an “incestuous relationship” with Vail Resorts. The River Conservation District, meanwhile, seeks to protect water supplies in the Colorado River. The spat surfaced in a letter to Stone drafted by the board or directors of the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District last month. Stone, however, said he’s not going anywhere.
The most recent letter from the board, dated Nov. 13, requested Stone’s ouster and was addressed to Board of County Commissioners Chairman Mike Gallagher. The letter came from Water and Sanitation District board president Rick Sackbauer.
“One of the principal supporters of that referendum was Commissioner Stone. Over 83 percent of Eagle County voters rejected Referendum A. Statewide, two-thirds of the voters rejected this referendum. It is clear from these votes that Commissioner Stone does not represent the citizens or the interests of Eagle County on water supply issues.”
The letter requested Stone step down from his representative position in favor of Chuck Ogilby, a former Vail town councilman who has been involved with regional water issues.
Stone fired right back: “The normal person should know about the incestuous relationship between the water boards and Vail Resorts,” he said. “Glenn Porzak is the attorney for the water boards and for Vail Resorts. It’s wrong that Vail Resorts has undue influence on the water authority and Eagle River Water and Sanitation because whatis best for Vail Resorts is not necessarily best for Eagle County.
“It was Vail Resorts with Glenn Porzak in the lead who were the same gang who stole Minturn’s water in 1998,” Stone said.
A consortium of water users challenged the legitimacy of Minturn’s use of its water rights and won when Minturn exhausted its budget paying lawyers to defend its rights. That water in part, was used to fill Eagle Park Reservoir, a 3,000 acre-foot reservoir east of Camp Hale used by the ski company for snowmaking and by local water districts.
Gallagher was polite, but noncommittal in his response to the Water and Sanitation District.
“It’s appropriate for the Water and Sanitation District to want to have a voice in the appointment, weill sure listen to their input at the appropriate time,” he wrote.
Appointment of representatives to the various boards typically occurs during the county’s reorganizational meeting after the New Year, but Stone is in the second year of a three-year term.
“As far as Iim concerned, the county has stated its position very clearly,” Stone said. “The water authority and Rick Sackbauer do not deserve any more responses. They’re sore winners. Our water shortage still has not gone away. I’m going to work actively to be part of the solution.”
Stone said the county will work independently to develop additional water storage. One of the first projects he intends to investigate is refilling the now-empty Bolt’s Lake, a mile south of Minturn. That reservoir can hold between 200 and 300 acre-feet of water, but it lies on land of disputed ownership.
“It will be interesting to see how the (Upper Eagle Regional) Water Authority and the Water and Sanitation District and Vail Resorts react to Eagle County’s efforts to partner with the River District and Minturn to help develop Bolt’s Reservoir,” Stone said. “I wonder if they will support it or if they will be obstructionists because it doesn’t benefit them.”
Vail Resorts and the Upper Eagle River Water and Sanitation District are studying the feasibility and cost of building a small reservoir on Vail Mountain that would supply both snowmaking and golf course irrigation water.
The 365 acre-foot reservoir could be located just west of Rickyis Ridge, a run in Sun Down Bowl. Water for the new reservoir would be pumped from Gore Creek during high spring flows. An acre-foot will cover a football field approximately a foot deep.
Water board member Kent Rose said he thought the energy cost required to pump water 2,500 vertical feet would make it cost prohibitive, but he said he would await the results of a feasibility study.
Vail Resorts would get 265 acre feet for snowmaking and the Water and Sanitation District would use the remaining 100 for late summer irrigation of the Vail Golf Course. That course now uses expensive treated water as opposed to untreated water. Using the stored water would also have the additional benefit of keeping intact the Gore Creek aquifer from which the Water and Sanitation district pumps water in times of low flows.
ìThere are lots of questions to be answered here,î said board chairman Rick Sackbauer.
Sackbauer said the ski company is unlikely to pursue the project if it does not have a partner in the venture.
Cliff Thompson can be reached at 970-949-0555 x450 or firstname.lastname@example.org