Water power to change hands
EAGLE COUNTY ” In 2004, four candidates ran for three seats on the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District’s board of directors. This time around, 11 candidates have thrown their names in the hat for five open directorships.
“It was a combination of interest generated in the community through Waterwise Wednesdays, the media and just the fact that there are so many positions up,” said the district’s Leslie Isom.
The election to choose the new directors will be held Tuesday. The district provides water from East Vail to Dowd Junction and also Red Sky Ranch in Wolcott. It treats wastewater for the entire district, which spans from East Vail to Wolcott.
Minturn supplies its own water and the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority, a separate agency, provides water to Avon, Arrowhead, Beaver Creek, Berry Creek, Eagle-Vail, Edwards, Bachelor Gulch and Cordillera.
For more information about the upcoming election, contact Isom at 476-7480.
During his stint on the Vail Town Council, Kurz said his eyes were opened to water in the Vail Valley. He said he came to realize just how critical the commodity and now, a few years out of town council, Kurz, 69, said he wants to refocus his attention on the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.
“The board has a great record, but we must continue to protect ourselves,” said Kurz, who is director of community relations for the Beaver Creek Resort Company.
If elected, Kurz said he will work to secure recreational water rights ” the ones that ensure water for fun stuff like kayak parks.
“Recreation is, to a large degree, what makes the world go round in the Vail Valley,” Kurz said. “It benefits everybody.”
He also wants to protect local water from water-hungry Front Range governments, Kurz said.
Because he’s relatively well known in the community, people find him accessible and feel comfortable coming to him with ideas and suggestions, he said.
“In the past, I’ve brought a sense of commitment,” he said. “I’ve had a way of looking at issues from a number of different sides, and I’ve been pretty steady in my beliefs. I’ve developed a lot of respect for the water board, and I think I could contribute to that.”
Growing up on a potato farm, Mike Mathias remembered how, even as a boy, water was always a concern. “Water issues were big, so I’ve always been interested,” said Mathias, adding he’s no expert on water law or issues.
No longer a boy at 62, Mathias will attempt for the second time to secure a directorship on the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District’s board.
“I’m hardworking and I’ve got a positive demeanor,” said Mathias, who is also on the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo board of directors. “I’m not embedded with any commercial enterprise in town, so I’m more honest and more objective.”
In life and water, Mathias’ biggest concern is fairness, he said.
“Surprisingly, it’s always a finite supply with a demand that keeps increasing,” he said. “How do you do it fairly? How do you meet the needs? How do you keep it clean and palatable? They have to balance all those balls in the air.”
A career in the U.S. Army and a government policy degree from Harvard University will help him make the tough decisions the board has historically dealt with, Mathias said.
He also supports kayak parks, he said.
“I don’t have easy answers, but the goal is to be fair and straightforward,” he said.
Susan Pollack is vacationing in Europe and was unable to contact the Vail Daily.
Growing up in Pueblo, Susan Pollack said she always knew water was valuable, but it wasn’t until she began attending the WaterWise Wednesday lecture series, which explores pertinent water issues, that her eyes were truly opened.
“I learned really how important water is to Western Colorado, Colorado and really all of the West,” she said.
Pollack’s revelation led her to want to devote more time to water in the form of securing a directorship at the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.
With a background in finance and 20 years of working for Public Service of Colorado ” now Xcel ” under her belt, Pollack, 62, thinks she’s well suited to dealing with water issues, especially the economics that go with it.
“We need to make sure the (water) rates aren’t so cheap that people waste it, but not so much that people can’t afford to pay their water bills,” Pollack said.
To determine the ideal rate, Pollack recommended a financial analysis factoring how much everyone in the community is paying for water, the costs of providing clean drinking water and expected growth in the valley.
While the Vail Valley’s growth is inevitable, Pollack, who has a history of community involvement, said the Water and Sanitation district must carefully evaluate new projects to ensure development won’t adversely impact water quality or outrageously elevate water prices. There must also be enough left in streams to support aquatic life and the valley’s tourism industry, she said.
“I think we have good water, but we need to keep the standards up, or even be ahead of standards if possible,” she said.
Pollack said efforts also need to be made to compromise with the Front Range to give the area the water they need while still letting enough flow down the river to fulfill Colorado’s downstream obligations.
It’s a big problem with no easy answers, but Pollack feels if there’s cooperation and open dialogue, a solution will be found.
“Certainly we’re not at the end of agreement time,” she said. “This is going to go on for a long, long time, and the district is a key player in it. With my background in utilities, I have a good knowledge of water and water issues in Colorado. Together, we need to come to some compromises.”
The Gold Medal Trout Stream on Vail’s Gore Creek is renowned for growing big fish and luring fisherman, but what many don’t know is Vail’s wastewater plant is helping to cultivate the fat fish, Chuck Ogilby said.
Despite being treated, the water that leaves the plant is heavy in nutrients. “Right now it grows big fish, but if it continues it might kill the stream,” he said.
Ogilby, 62, said keeping the creek healthy is his “real motivation” for running for the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District’s board of directors. He previously served on the board for 22 years and is running unopposed this time around.
“I know the history here, and I know who has what and who wants what and how all the pieces fit together,” said Ogilby, a developer and former Vail councilman.
The current board is looking at moving the treatment plant downvalley and, Ogilby said, he’ll push for a state-of-the-art plant that’s more environmentally sound when he’s elected.
“I want to watchdog the rivers and make sure we do a good job environmentally speaking,” he said. “I will also watchdog the water supply and threats to it.”
The private ski resort that developer Ginn Company wants to build just south of Minturn on Battle Mountain ” and the water it will need ” is a hot item, Ogilby said.
Ogilby also said he opposes moving Vail Valley water to the Front Range and anything that will diminish water quality.
“I don’t have any ax to grind. I’m not developing anything right now,” he said. “I just want to see clean rivers that have free-flowing water in them.”
Ogilby also is on the Vail Valley Consolidated Board of Directors and has represented Eagle County on water issues, such as when new water laws have been proposed by the state legislature.
Arn Menconi, an Eagle County commissioner, is the only incumbent in the upcoming election.
“I deinitely feel as if I’ve done a very good job in the time period I’ve had the position,” said Menconi, who was appointed to the board after a director resigned. “I’ve worked hard for the environment, keeping water in the streams and looking towards ways to conserve water.”
He also supports securing water for recreational purposes, like kayaking and fishing, and planning for growth, he said.
He has worked on water issues at the state level and said his master’s of business administration degree helps make him an asset on the board because he’s able to make financial projections, he said.
“Water is a complicated issue. It takes years to understand,” he said. “I’m one of the most active people in the county in statewide issues.”
Between being an Eagle County commissioner and the executive director of the Snowboard Outreach Society, he said he is busy but has time for the district ” though he jokingly wondered how much will be left when his second child arrives in the summer.
With her time on the Avon Town Council winding down, Debbie Buckley is looking for a new office ” director on the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.
“I have a pretty good idea of what’s going on valleywide. I’ve just lived here long enough,” said Buckley, who has been in the Vail Valley since 1997 and works as a Web developer. Term limits will force her off the town council in November.
With three years on the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority under her belt, Buckley, 48, said if elected to the water and sanitation district, she’d support cleaning the Eagle River and a partnership with the Eagle River Watershed Council, an environmental watchdog group.
“It’s important to have partners,” she said. “I’d also like to see the close of the rift between the water board and Minturn so we can all cooperate.”
Minturn and the water board have been at odds over how much water Minturn can have.
While conservation is important to Buckley, she also said people need water in which to play. “Because we certainly all moved here play,” she said.
Because she’s not connected to a developer, she’s able to look at water issues from the citizens’ perspective, Buckley said.
“I can be fair to all parties involved,” she said. “I think I’ve proven that here on the Avon Town Council.”
With a mandatory mass exodus of board members from the Eagle River Water and Sanitaton District, Ken Sortland said he sees his candidacy as a chance to inject some expertise on the district’s board of directors.
As the former chairman of the Avon Water Board, Sortland, 60, said he’s got the experience and know-how to tackle water issues on a smaller learning curve than other candidates.
“I don’t have to be brought up to snuff or retrained to know what to do,” he said.
Sortland advocates maintaining the quality of the Vail Valley’s water and ensuring the valley’s water supply for future growth, he said.
“And we need to make sure we participate in water decisions that will effect all these things,” he said.
Despite the heavy snow year, Sortland, who works as a builder and contractor, also warned the draught isn’t over yet. And while Sortland said the board has done a good job, he said they’ve been “staying on a conservative bent.”
“We want to try to be efficient too,” he said
Sortland also said the water bills, levied by the district, are getting too high, and he want “to see if he can keep that from getting any higher.”
Bob Trueblood withdrew from the race.
Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14621, or firstname.lastname@example.org.