Where we stand with Stone | VailDaily.com

Where we stand with Stone

Rick Sackbauer and Robert Warner/Special to the Daily

Rather than dealing with the substance of honest disagreements over water issues, Tom Stone’s response is to simply engage in personal attacks and distortions.The Eagle River Water and Sanitation District and the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority, which collectively provide water service to over 60,000 customers in the county, have asked for Commissioner Stone to resign as Eagle County’s representative on various regional water policy boards because he refuses to meet to try and develop a consensus on water issues.As a result, his positions are often at odds with the water providers, as well as the mainstream of Eagle County residents. One need only look to his support of Referendum A and the Statewide Water Supply Initiative as two of many examples.In response, Commissioner Stone has attacked our organizations and representatives with the claim they are controlled by Vail Resorts. Even more bizarre is his claim that we stole Minturn’s water to fill Eagle Park Reservoir. Neither is true.First, none of the six directors of the Water Authority have any connection with Vail Resorts. Two of the seven directors of the Water and Sanitation District work for the county’s largest employer, but only one of those two individuals is in an executive capacity with VR. That individual strictly abstains from any issue that might involve Vail Resorts.While we share common water counsel, we do so because we have common water objectives. Those objectives are to develop cost-effective water supply projects that have the least environmental impact (such as Eagle Park Reservoir), while at the same time limiting the amount of transmountain diversions to the east slope.Second, Eagle Park Reservoir is not filled with Minturn’s water. It is filled by water rights acquired from the Climax Mine and various senior water rights and snowmaking return flows owned by the Water Authority, the Water and Sanitation District and Vail Resorts.While Minturn sought to sell the unused portion of its water right to us, we declined as a water right that has no historic use has no value and cannot be changed to a new use. Commissioner Stone should be aware of this fact as the county is a participant in the yield of Eagle Park Reservoir, and its Miller Ranch development obtains its principal water supply from this reservoir.Finally, Commissioner Stone has asked where our organizations stand on the proposed development of Bolts Lake near Minturn. We have consistently indicated that we support the development of Bolts Lake by Minturn should that community desire to proceed with such a project.The Water Authority and the Water & Sanitation District have not pursued the development of this project for two reasons. First, the ownership of the underlying land has been tied up in litigation for a number of years, and that litigation is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.The second reason for not pursuing this project is that Bolts Lake lies in the center of property that has the significant potential for residential development. Experience has demonstrated that it is unwise to locate a water storage facility in the middle of such property. Once developed, surrounding residents tend to rely on the lake as an aesthetic and recreational amenity and object to the fluctuations in lake levels inherent in the use of a water supply facility.While Commissioner Stone seems intent on driving a wedge between Minturn and our organizations, the fact is that we have helped Minturn accomplish many needed improvements over the past few years. These have included the metering of their water usage, and the funding of the town’s river restoration study, which allowed Minturn to obtain a grant of over $1 million for its Eagle River restoration project. Moreover, the development of and releases of water from Eagle Park Reservoir have increased flows of the river through Minturn by over one-third during the winter months.We hope the foregoing sets the record straight on the incorrect statements made by Commissioner Stone. However, it still leaves unresolved the principal issue that Eagle County has a representative on various water policy organizations who promotes an agenda that we firmly and honestly believe is not in the best interests of those who use and enjoy the Eagle River and its tributaries.Rick Sackbauer is the president of the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, and Robert Warner is the president of the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority.

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