Tuesday, October 17, 2000
Oak Creek The Twentymile Coal Co. has decided not to lease water from Oak Creek-owned Sheriff's Reservoir because of improved water levels in Trout Creek.
The mining company was interested in the water because the dry summer conditions threatened flow levels on Trout Creek and other smaller creeks Twentymile has water rights on.
"We won't be entering into a purchasing agreement," said Rick Mills, environmental manager for Twentymile.
"The volume of water going down the stream is OK for what we need for the business end."
Mills was concerned the alluvium soils in the area would not be replenished.
The alluvium soils are sand and gravel deposits on creeks and rivers.
During the spring, these areas fill with water, naturally storing it. When the dry season comes, the water is discharged into the stream, improving the flow.
"We (were) looking at supplementing the flows a little bit," Mills said.
Mills was concerned with the water levels in the areas because of Twentymile's non-mining activities in the area.
"We use it to irrigate our fields," he said.
The company has agricultural lands from reclamation that it maintains.
Thanks to the recent snow in the High Country, the soils have a good chance of being replenished without the help of Sheriff's Reservoir.
"This is a normal thing for us to do," Twentymile spokesman Ron Spangler said of seeking out water rights.
He emphasized that the needed water had nothing to do with diluting discharge from the mine.
Bill Chase, who is restoring the riparian areas on parts of the Trout Creek at the Creek Ranch downstream from the mine, said the dry summer had a big impact on Trout Creek and Twentymile was wise to look into the water deal.
"There hasn't been any steady water in the wetlands for quite a while," he said.
However, Chase said conditions have improved since the recent moisture.
Oak Creek Public Works Director Chuck Wisecup said the preliminary deal was a one-year lease, from November 2000 through April 2001.
Initially, Twentymile was interested in 360-acre feet of the water at $43.50 for each acre foot. That would have made Oak Creek $15,660 if all of the water was used.
Sheriff's Reservoir was built about 40 years ago by the town of Oak Creek. It is located west of Yampa in the Routt National Forest and has 965-acre feet of water in it.
Though the mining company is opted out of the deal, which they originally proposed to Oak Creek in August, Twentymile may be interested in the water in the future.
"We have the ability to continue to look at it. If conditions change, it may be beneficial to have more water coming down the stream," Mills said.