Grand County partners close deal to buy Vail Ditch shares | SkyHiNews.com

Grand County partners close deal to buy Vail Ditch shares

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News

Six public partners pooled money to buy $2.6 million worth of water rights in a transaction that successfully closed Friday.

Grand County, The Colorado River Water Conservation District, the towns of Granby and Winter Park, Grand County Water and Sanitation District No. 1 and the Winter Park Water and Sanitation District are now the proud owners of 85.5 shares of the Vail Ditch, which directs water from the Meadow Creek Reservoir at about10,000 feet in elevation to irrigation systems on the Granby mesa near the Granby Airport, once the growing fields of the Great Divide Lettuce Co.

The shares were sold by Scott and Tina Holley of Granby.

A $1.5 million grant administered through the Colorado Water Conservation Board helped pay toward the purchase price; the remainder was equally split among the six entities.

“I’ve never made anybody a millionaire before,” said Bruce Hutchins, Manager of Grand County Water and Sanitation District No. 1, referring to the closing.

For some, the Vail Ditch shares were acquired as the means to another goal.

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The southernmost shareholders especially are hoping their shares might be used as bargaining chips with Denver Water.

The town of WInter Park, the Winter Park Water and Sanitation District (which services the ski area and Winter Park’s Old Town) and Grand County Water and Sanitation District No. 1 (which services the town of Winter Park) hope to trade Vail Ditch shares for some of Denver Water’s Vasquez Creek and Fraser River rights.

But negotiations lie ahead with both Denver Water and the Vail Ditch Co.

About 80 shareholders own some 240 shares of Vail Ditch water.

According to Hutchins, closing on the shares ” a project that has lasted a year ” was the easy part. Now the work begins, he said.

“It’s not to increase development; it’s to provide water for existing development,” he said.

Gaining more water for the Fraser River would enhance his district’s ability to divert and to help alleviate shortfalls during drought times.

“Denver has indicated that they’re open to the idea,” Hutchins said.

Even if the future deal does not come to fruition, Hutchins said the money is still well spent.

“Any water we can get into the stream is to benefit flows for the entire county,” he said.

” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@grandcountynews.com.

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