A deal was completed to pay off the outstanding $34 million construction debt on Ruedi Reservoir and keep the last of the uncontracted water secured for Western Slope users, the Colorado River District announced Tuesday.
The construction debt had ben due in 2019. The federal government permitted the construction of the dam in the 1960s on the assumption that oil-shale development would create demand for the reservoir’s water. However, 19,585 acre-feet of water remained available until this year.
It was uncertain how the federal government would react to the debt and water that wasn’t under contract for use.
The Colorado River District, which advocates for Western Slope interests in water issues, started soliciting potential buyers two years ago. It put together a package agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, owner and operator of the reservoir. The river district and 16 entities cumulatively committed to purchase all of the remaining, available water, assuring full repayment of the outstanding debt.
The debt started at $9.3 million but ballooned to $34 million as unpaid interest and operation expenses were added to the principal.
“Absent a deal, the debt would have gone up at an ever-escalating rate,”the Colorado River District said in a statement. The cost was about $1,290 per acre-foot. An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons of water. That’s considered enough to supply two to four households for one year, according to the river district.
The entity that purchased the most Ruedi water was the Ute Water Conservancy District, the largest water provider in the Grand Valley near Grand Junction. It secured 12,000 acre-feet at a cost of $15.5 million.
The Colorado River District contracted for 4,683.5 acre-feet at a cost of $6 million. The other buyers were: Wildcat Ranch Homeowners Association: 50 acre-feet; Mid Valley Metro District: 100 acre-feet; Crown Mountain Park Recreation District: 62 acre-feet; Owl Creek Ranch Homeowners Association: 15 acre-feet; town of Palisade: 200 acre-feet; Snowmass Water and Sanitation District: 500 acre-feet; town of De Beque: 25 acre-feet; Basalt Water Conservancy District: 300 acre-feet; Garfield County: 400 acre-feet; city of Aspen: 400 acre-feet; W/J Metro District: 100 acre-feet; Summit County: 330 acre-feet; Elk Wallow Ranch LLC: 30 acre-feet; Wildcat Reservoir Co.: 140 acre-feet; and town of Carbondale: 250 acre-feet.
The river district contends that the streamflows in the Roaring Fork River and Fryingpan River will “look much as they do today” despite the purchase of more water from Ruedi. The water purchased will serve primarily as a “backup supply for very dry years,” according to the district.
“This is an important milestone for water-supply challenges on the West Slope,” said Dan Birch, the Colorado River District deputy general manager who spearheaded the agreement. “Water planners who are expected to provide water at the tap every time it is turned on do not like uncertainty about the future. This removes the significant shadow of doubt over Ruedi. As Colorado’s population continues to grow, this helps 17 water suppliers know where their future supplies will come from.”