Tuesday, February 17, 2004
Routt County, two municipalities and two water districts are considering forming a joint legal defense agreement as they evaluate the impacts of Steamboat Springs' filing for recreational water rights.
The legal defense agreement would allow the five parties to share information that typically would be considered confidential between legal counsel and the clients.
The agreement would be among the county, the towns of Yampa and Oak Creek, the Upper Yampa Water Conservation District and Morrison Creek Water and Sanitation District.
In December, the city filed for a recreational water right, which would preserve the Yampa River's flow through Steamboat for recreational activities. Even before the filing, the parties had expressed concerns and urged the city to hold off on filing for rights until the various entities could discuss the decision.
"We tried to have a discussion, but we didn't have that opportunity to have that discussion like we had hoped," Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said. "In the water world, that is how things happen. So, we are playing that game."
Attorney Bob Weiss, who represents the Upper Yampa Water District, Oak Creek and Yampa, said with all the parties being public entities, most of the discussion would be held in open meetings. But the parties could share confidential information that is discussed during executive sessions.
Those private discussions are typically held to seek legal strategy or legal advice, Weiss said.
County Attorney John Merrill said the legal agreement would give the county more expertise in water rights than he could provide. Working with the other parties means the county does not having to hire outside water attorneys, Merrill said.
Monger said it would be cost efficient for the parties, which have similar interests, to have a legal defense agreement.
"It is immensely beneficial for the county and extremely beneficial for Oak Creek and Yampa as well," Monger said.
The agreement does not mean all the parties have to take the same stance on the filing.
"They might decide to do something differently, ultimately, than what we would," Merrill said.
The city, town of Oak Creek and the Upper Yampa Water District have all directed their lawyers to file statements of opposition to the city's recreational water right filing. Statements of opposition do not necessarily mean the parties oppose the filing, rather they allow the party to participate in the court proceedings that would decree the water rights.
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