Town closes in on whitewater park
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
SILVERTHORNE – The Town of Silverthorne is one step away from securing the necessary water rights to support a new kayak park in the Blue River, nearly three years after the town first filed an application for the rights.
The last of 11 objectors to the town’s application has stipulated to a consent decree meaning a five-day trial in water court scheduled to start Monday in Glenwood Springs will likely be canceled.
The only remaining step is for a water court judge to sign-off on the consent decree, which is expected to occur any day.
“The general rule is that the court will sign a proposed decree that’s been agreed to by all the parties,” said Silverthorne’s water attorney Mark Wagner.
Wagner said there may be some exceptions to that rule, but that he doesn’t foresee any problems with Silverthorne’s application.
Silverthorne filed for a recreation in-channel diversion (RICD) in December 2004 that would allow 600 cubic feet per second of water to be released from the Dillon Dam during the Labor Day, Fourth of July and Memorial Day holidays, and 100 cubic feet per second to flow from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. from May through September.
Those flows would facilitate commercial rafting trips on the Blue during busy holiday weekends and the new kayak park during the summer months.
Denver Water owns the Dillon Reservoir and controls the annual release of water to Green Mountain Reservoir via the Lower Blue River.
At least 90 percent of the water has to be available for Silverthorne to make a call on its recreational water right, town manager Kevin Batchelder said.
After Silverthorne filed its application, 11 entities objected. Wagner was able to work out stipulations with three or four of those groups, including the Town of Dillon and the City of Colorado Springs, before a July 2005 Colorado Water Conservation Board hearing.
In the last three months, the final few stipulations were worked out with the Denver Water Board and the state entities, such as the Department of Wildlife and the Office of the State Engineer and, lastly, the Colorado River Conservation District.
“Those were the final pennies to drop,” Wagner said.
The last sticking points with the Colorado River Conservation District included language on how future exchanges and substitutions into Old Dillon Reservoir would be treated, how the use of water or exchanges related to an agreement between the City of Colorado Springs, the River District and Summit County would be treated and making sure that the language in the decree indicated it wouldn’t be used as precedent in any other case, Wagner said.
Assuming the judge signs the decree, the Town will begin budgeting for the 1,000-foot whitewater course, which is expected to cost about $500,000 and will be built in the Blue River between the I-70 overpass and the Outlets at Silverthorne pedestrian bridge.
The earliest the project could be budgeted is next year or 2009, Batchelder said.
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No official vote has taken place, but the Dillon Town Council has decided to push forward with an ordinance at a future meeting despite a contentious debate that clearly divided council members on the issue.