Flattops Water Company settles

Settlement with upper Yampa basin opposers possible

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Settlements have been reach--ed with some opponents of a return-flow water rights application in South Routt County.

The Flattops Water Company and Eagle River water districts applied for 1,250 acre-feet of return flow rights in August 2003, and since have settled with four opponents to the filing.

Another group of opponents with interest in upper Yampa basin water rights is working toward a settlement. If those parties remain in opposition, the case will go to trial before a Division 5 water judge between Aug. 22 and Sept. 7.

The return flow, which is water leftover from irrigation, comes from the Yampa River. The water ends up in the Colorado River because of the landscape near Toponas. With the return flow rights, the company has estimated that it could sell $5 million of Yampa River water to serve as many as 10,000 people in the Vail Valley and Eagle County.

Of the 17 opponents who filed against the return flow project, settlements have been reached with four, said attorney Kristin Moseley, who is representing the Flattops Water Company, the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District and the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority. Those are: the Colorado River Water Conservation District, Northern Colorado Water Con--servancy District, Smith Basin of Toponas LLC, and the town of Minturn.

Settlements are in the works with several others, she said.

Attorney Bob Weiss confirmed that a group of opponents with interest in Upper Yampa water rights is working on a proposed settlement. The groups include the Upper Yampa Water Con--servancy District and the town of Yampa, which Weiss represents, as well as Tri-State Gen--eration, Routt County, the Colorado attorney general, and some individual opponents who are not represented by attorneys.

Weiss would not give specifics about the settlement because it is in negotiation. The group's main concern, he said, is that the water leaving the Yampa River does not exceed the amount that has left in the past. That requires a method to account for how much water has left and details about how much water was used in the past.

"We're making specific suggestions that we think would help ensure that the historical diversions to the Colorado drainage are not exceeded," Weiss said.

The group hopes to submit a proposal in the next few weeks to avoid the trial, he said.

Already, the group has been in negotiations with the Flattops Water Company and Eagle River water districts.

Moseley said the applicants are "anxiously waiting" for the group's settlement proposal.

-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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