John R. Adams: Ruling was right

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— In an opinion issued on April 11, 2011, the Colorado Supreme Court held that a water rights application filed by the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District for a pipeline from Morrison Creek to Stagecoach Reservoir was speculative. The Court’s opinion highlights just one example of how the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District has wasted public funds in recent years by pursuing water projects for which there is no documented need or plan for water use.

The District has planned and is moving forward with several large water projects that are not based on actual or projected water demands. If these projects are allowed to continue, we as local residents and taxpayers will not only bear the financial burden but will also suffer the resulting degradation to some of the area’s most pristine natural environments.

The District already owns a large portfolio of direct flow and storage water rights that are more than sufficient to cover the current and reasonable future needs of the District’s constituents. The District’s largest water facility is Stagecoach Reservoir, which has a current capacity of 36,460 acre-feet. The District’s existing delivery contracts account for less than half of this capacity. And as the Supreme Court found, the 7,000 acre-feet of water under contract for delivery to Tri-State Generation is not associated with any existing or planned project and has never been released for use. Since it began storing water in Stagecoach Reservoir in 1991, the District has released only a small percentage of the water contracted for. In reality, the District’s actual delivery obligations out of Stagecoach Reservoir are at most only a few thousand acre-feet per year.

In spite of its enormous surplus capacity, however, the District just completed an enlargement of Stagecoach Reservoir, is planning to construct a new reservoir, and has filed applications to appropriate additional water rights. The new reservoir would be located on Morrison Creek and is estimated to cost about $20 million to construct. The reservoir would be 5,000 acre-feet in capacity and would inundate approximately 330 acres of land, including portions of Morrison and Silver creeks. Much of the area to be inundated by the reservoir is currently in an undisturbed native state and provides habitat to numerous wildlife including trout, elk, moose and bear. The project also would significantly impact the natural flows on Morrison Creek, causing additional ecological impacts downstream.

There is no reason for the District to spend public money on these types of projects at this time. Rather, the District should be focused on servicing its current contracts and meeting reasonable projections of future demands with its existing infrastructure and water rights. With planning, conservation and good sense, the District can meet its commitments without additional costs to property owners and damage to the local environment. The District should consider refunding the huge surplus of taxpayer dollars it has accumulated over the years by virtue of the mill levy that is imposed on its constituents. Since there is no need for water projects at this time, why is there a need to collect a tax?

John R. Adams,

Flying Diamond Resources

Steamboat Springs

Editor’s note: John R. Adams was part of a group that opposed the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District’s plans to divert water from Morrison Creek.

Comments

heboprotagonist 3 years, 5 months ago

Water rights are some of the most complicated issues communities face today, and as we move forward these "rights" will become more and more important as our waterways disappear.

I'm no expert, but empirical evidence suggests that environmental shifts (notice I didn't say "climate change" or "global warming") in the past 100 years have irrevocably damaged our fresh water supply. Check out: http://www.savethecolorado.org/river.php

I find it curious that anti-environmentalist and proponents of small gov't completely dismiss such evidence, yet as private land owners continue the lobby to protect themselves from the impact.

I do not know Mr. Adams and despite a cursory Google search cannot find out exactly what "Flying Diamond Resources" is or does. His letter doesn't necessarily suggest that he is an anti-environmentalist, but the bulk of his argument concentrates on misuse of funds/government over-reach. He presents an old-fashioned common sense perspective wrapped in a matter-of-fact style of rhetoric. The problem is that we don't know his motives and we don't know how this decision benefits him personally. Perhaps his actions are pure, but I'll remain skeptical until proven otherwise.

The bigger issue is that as a society, we need to realize that this earth and its resources are not ours to own or manipulate. We are simply stewards, maintaining it for future generations. Rather than claim ownership, or "rights", or even delineating districts we should be working together to provide fresh water for all. Remember, there is no such thing as a "God given rights" only "God given responsibilities."

I'm sure now that I've said my peace, a few of the regulars on this site will blast my thoughts as tree-huggin' nonsense, pro regulation, or worse (gasp!) socialism. I'm ok with that. I just hope they realize that this specific issue is bigger than partisan bickering. We might disagree on fundamental issues, but I would never deny you a glass of water.

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middleclass 3 years, 5 months ago

Regarding the comment from Mr Adams "The District should consider refunding the huge surplus of taxpayer dollars it has accumulated over the years by virtue of the mill levy that is imposed on its constituents. Since there is no need for water projects at this time, why is there a need to collect a tax?" I agree - the mill levy should be done away with for Upper Yampa. I would love to see my property taxes lowered a bit.

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Fred Duckels 3 years, 5 months ago

We can't have too much water, keep all options open.

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kathy foos 3 years, 5 months ago

YVBoy ,I didn't find any water mentioned in your bible verse.You are so worried about the surface water(its money in the bank) for Denver and the front range,I'm concerned about the rural areas ground water and the gas fracking,thats where our Routt County water is in jeopardy.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 5 months ago

The part of the issue that is not well explained is whether UYWCD had to use the additional water they wanted and were denied in order to be able to get access to that water in the future when it is needed.

If they can get the 7,000 acre feet contracted to Tri-State as soon as Tri-State proposes a project that needs that water then no big deal that they lost their appeal.

If they had to gain access to the 7,000 acre feet now or someone else gets the rights to that water and UYWCD will not be able to satisfy the contract when Tri-State proposes a project then being denied could be a big deal.

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heboprotagonist 3 years, 5 months ago

Attention folks, YVB has just proved that any jack-ass can pick up a Bible, read it cover to cover and still not have a clue what it says. Even his own quote, which I'm guessing was supposed to set me straight (or something) fails.

I was talking about water, yet YVB wants me to know that God has given him dominion over every living thing. Well, good for you, but the verses didn't mention water once.

As for the verse itself, most of the Christians I know read that as a call to responsibility, not profiteering. I guess YVB forgot about the "Love thy neighbor/feed the hungry/clothe the poor/nurse the sick" bit or the the whole section of the Beatitudes. But I'm not surprised, most people just pick and choose which parts of the Bible they want to abide by.

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