Water district proposal avoids big dam projects
October 31, 2002
An organization that is seeking voter approval Nov. 5 to fund Western Slope water projects is assuring voters it isn’t trying to trick them into building big dams.
The Colorado River Water Conservation District is seeking a 0.25 mill levy increase in property taxes throughout its 15-county jurisdiction to fund what it labeled “drought preparedness and water efficiency/water quality improvements.”
“The drought of 2002 has taught us all that we must be prepared for the inevitable drought cycles if we are to live in the arid West,” reads campaign material by the district. “Whether the current drought continues into next year or visits us again in 10 years, we must plan ahead.”
If voters in the district ? which includes Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties ? approve the property tax increase, it would raise about $2.7 million the first year.
Approval of the ballot question “isn’t synonymous with building dams,” said Peter Roessmann, education specialist with the district.
He said the water conservation district would help fund “small reservoir storage projects” only in cases where they are locally supported. The funds would also help rehabilitate existing reservoirs in cases where they cannot store the full capacity of water due to dam safety restrictions.
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Local ownership of water held in federally controlled reservoirs could also be secured with the money, Roessmann said.
This is the first tax increase ever sought by the Glenwood Springs-based water conservation district, according to campaign literature. District officials are banking on success because the effect on individual households is so small.
Property taxes would increase by only $2.30 per $100,000 of residential market value under the proposal. The tax would end in 20 years unless renewed by voters.
The proposal hasn’t sparked any organized opposition, probably due to the small potential to undertake a massive dam and reservoir project. The local Trout Unlimited chapter endorsed the plan.
While the ballot question wording is vague enough that the funds could be used on a large dam, that isn’t feasible in a practical sense, said Roessmann.
A large water storage project on the Western Slope would require years of time- and money-consuming review, he said. Plus, the money raised by the proposed tax hike wouldn’t be enough for such a project, according to Roessmann.