Basalt officials prepare pitch to renew water lease
Basalt officials have come up with a plan they hope entices the Colorado Division of Wildlife to renew a lease for a vital water supply for the town.
The Town Council voted 5-1 Tuesday night to improve water diversion in the Christine State Wildlife Area on Basalt Mountain in return for renewal of a lease that expires in December.
The town would also reduce the amount of water leased from the Lucksinger Springs from 1 cfs, which is about 640,000 gallons per day, to half that amount, according to the board direction.
The town has leased water rights from Lucksinger Springs since 1969. It needs that water during the summer to augment its supply when water demand is highest. It has enough water in the winter without the springs.
Lucksinger Springs are located within the state wildlife area on the hillside directly above Basalt. DOW officials have said they want to use more of the water from the spring than they traditionally have to irrigate pastures to provide winter forage for mule deer.
The DOW has senior rights for irrigation during summers, so the town needs a lease with the state agency for summer water use. The springs supply about 25 percent of the town’s supply during summer months.
Without that water, the town would have to dig at least one well and build a pumping station to service upper portions of town.
Basalt’s proposal aims to provide the town with the water it needs for human use while assisting the DOW’s goal of using water more effectively for wildlife, said Lee Leavenworth, the town’s water attorney.
The DOW currently diverts water 5,600 linear feet from Lucksinger Springs to pastures. It goes through 1,110 feet of pipe and 4,500 feet of ditch.
The town’s consulting engineer believes the ditch leaks a fair share of water because it travels through basalt rock, according to Leavenworth. By replacing the 4,500 feet of ditch with pipe, the town believes the DOW can move water efficiently and still afford to lease some to the town.
In addition, the town is willing to lease less of the Lucksinger Springs water. The town would decrease its use to 320,000 gallons per day, thus assuring DOW would have water available for irrigation.
Leavenworth said he was preparing a formal proposal and sending it to the state Attorney General’s office, which is representing the DOW.
State officials have vowed they would forward any proposal to their bosses for consideration. However, they said it could take months before the town receives an answer.
The proposal was supported by Mayor Rick Stevens and council members Steve Solomon, Tracy Bennett, Jacque Whitsitt and Anne Freedman.
Councilman Leroy Duroux had to leave the meeting for a personal matter before the vote was taken.
Councilman Chris Lane opposed the motion. He said he was concerned whether the proposed compromise would do enough to meet the wildlife’s needs.
“They need a break,” he said. “They need a chance. They need the benefits.”
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