Basalt could lose one-third of water supply |

Basalt could lose one-third of water supply

The town of Basalt will be asked later this year to surrender one of its most important water sources to help create prime habitat for deer.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife has informed town officials it will not renew a lease that provides the town with water from the Lucksinger Spring.

That spring, named for a family that was among early settlers of the Basalt area, is located about three-quarters of a mile up Basalt Mountain from the town. It is within the Christine State Wildlife Area.

The town gets about one-third of its annual water supply from that spring, or about one acre foot, according to Town Manager Tom Baker. An acre foot is equal to 325,900 gallons.

DOW officials said Basalt has established some of its own water rights at the spring and leases others from the state agency. The town has used water from the spring since 1969.

The state doesn’t intend to renew the lease when the current agreement expires in December 1999, according to DOW technician Ron St. Pierre, who supervises Christine State Wildlife operations.

“We’re going to revert it back to wildlife enhancement,” St. Pierre said.

The water will be used to irrigate about 40 acres of meadows below the spring, he explained. Those meadows currently provide dry grasses that benefit elk. The plan is to irrigate the land for grasses that will attract deer.

The DOW has embarked on an aggressive plan statewide to promote recovery of deer herds. Their numbers have drastically declined in recent years for reasons that are not entirely understood.

The development of the Roaring Fork Valley floor has put increased pressure on deer and elk populations, St. Pierre said. Providing winter forage is exactly the type of use that was envisioned for the state wildlife area when it was acquired a couple of decades ago with the help of a federal grant.

The 2,400-acre Christine State Wildlife Area stretches along the hillside from Basalt to El Jebel. DOW officials have cracked down on rules in recent years to enhance wildlife habitat. They have prohibited mountain bikes on all but the main four-wheel-drive road, they require dogs to be leashed and they have banned all winter uses.

Baker said town officials hope to discuss a compromise later this week when they meet with representatives from the DOW and the Colorado Attorney General’s office.

“We want to talk to them so we can retain some of the water coming from Lucksinger Spring,” he said.

The town has specific proposals, but Baker wanted to wait to unveil them in the meeting with the state agencies.

Quantity isn’t the only issue. It’s also quality. Some of the older parts of town use the Lucksinger Spring water and people have said there’s a noticeable difference in the quality of water from there compared to other sources.

DOW’s St. Pierre agreed about the quality of the Lucksinger water. “This spring water is some of the best in the area,” he said.

It has few contaminants and, at least until recently, didn’t require treatment.

St. Pierre said the Lucksinger Spring water was the only source he was aware of to provide water for irrigating the meadow for winter forage.

The town of Basalt has identified replacing the Lucksinger Spring water as a top priority for its public works department, in case negotiations fail to produce a compromise.

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