Critical water supply may soon dry up for Basalt |

Critical water supply may soon dry up for Basalt

The Colorado Division of Wildlife sent a clear message Wednesday that it doesn’t want to renew a lease that supplies the town of Basalt with one of its most important sources of water.

The DOW disclosed that its staff is formally advising the state wildlife commission not to renew a 30-year contract that allows the town to lease water rights from the Lucksinger Spring on Basalt Mountain. That contract expires Dec. 31.

Basalt officials will get their chance today or Friday to convince wildlife commission members otherwise. The commission is meeting in Grand Junction and has scheduled debate about Basalt’s lease of water rights.

Basalt Mayor Rick Stevens has planned to make an appeal for renewal of the lease.

Basalt officials say Lucksinger Spring is vital to the town because it augments the summer water supply, when demand is highest. A Basalt staff report shows that Lucksinger Spring supplies up to 25 percent of the town supply. The spring water is also higher quality that what Basalt gets from its wells.

Without the spring, Basalt would immediately need to dig at least one additional well, at an estimated expense of $80,000, and install a pumping station to serve the town’s highest residences.

The DOW staff says it doesn’t want to renew the lease because the water is needed for wildlife enhancement.

The debate over the water rights started this spring. The DOW gave its strongest indication Wednesday that renewing a lease is unlikely.

“We have several concerns,” said DOW water rights coordinator in a prepared statement, “but the main one pertains to the fact the Lucksinger land and water rights were purchased with federal aid money, which requires the water be put to use for wildlife.”

If Basalt continues to lease water, it must come up with a proposal that benefits wildlife and satisfies the federal aid criteria, according to DOW’s statement. So far, Basalt’s proposals have failed to do that, the press release said.

“Basalt has other water sources available and should pursue them,” said Patty Mercer, DOW water rights coordinator. “If we work out an agreement that satisfies the federal aid requirements there will have to be direct benefits to wildlife.”

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