Basalt will appeal for water lease to state commission
Basalt officials hope to break an impasse in water-rights negotiations with the Colorado Division of Wildlife by making a direct appeal to the board that oversees the state agency.
Basalt Mayor Rick Stevens said he is seeking time on the agenda of the Colorado Wildlife Commission to explain the town’s desires to continue leasing water from the Lucksinger Springs on Basalt Mountain.
“I think we need to get everybody in the same room at the same time,” said Stevens.
Town officials have tried without luck since May to renew the lease. The town has leased water rights from Lucksinger Springs since 1969. It needs that water to augment its supply when summer demand peaks.
The lease is scheduled to expire in December. DOW officials say they want to use more of the water than they traditionally have to irrigate pastures to provide winter forage for mule deer.
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The springs are located within the Christine State Wildlife Area.
The town has made two offers to retain at least a portion of the historic amount of leased water rights. The DOW has turned down both offers because they didn’t do enough to “enhance wildlife habitat,” explained Craig Wescoatt, the division’s acting area manager.
He said the agency is willing to continue negotiations as long as the town offers land or a conservation easement on land adjacent to the wildlife area, or something else to improve habitat of the area.
Wescoatt said he was aware that town officials intend to take their case to the wildlife commission. He said his staff will do its best to supply the commissioners with the facts.
Marianna Raftopoulos, a Moffat County commissioner and wildlife commissioner for the district that includes Basalt, said she felt it could be productive to get the DOW and town officials together before the commission. She doesn’t view it as a effort by the town to go over the heads of the DOW.
Her desire, she said, it to find a solution that provides water to benefit wildlife but also allows the town to retain some rights. Maybe if it gets taken out of the hands of the attorneys, a deal can be arranged, Raftopoulos said. Then the attorneys can find a way to make the desired deal work.
At the least, the town hopes to secure a short-term extension of the water rights. Without the Lucksinger Springs water, the town would need to drill an additional well, and install a chlorination plant and pumping station to serve upper parts of Basalt.
That work would take between 12 and 18 months, according to Stevens.
Raftopoulos said she was uncertain if Basalt officials had been given time on the wildlife commission’s agenda for an August work session or September regular meeting.
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After 14 years, a lengthy lawsuit by area residents and nearly $4 million in construction costs, a half-mile trail to two school campuses in the Castle Creek Valley was finally completed this week.