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Grand County ‘partners’ hopeful water deal will augment Fraser River flows

By Tonya Bina

Sky-Hi Daily News

A year’s worth of tenacity may pay off for six partners buying a chunk of Vail Ditch shares.

The sale is set to close Feb. 8, when each will pay $133,333 for 85.5 shares put on sale by a private owner.

The total cost of the shares is $2.3 million; the other $1.5 million is covered through a state grant administered through the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

This may put the partners’ master plan in motion to work with the ditch company and Denver Water Board to possibly release some shares in exchange for Denver’s, allowing water to continue flowing into the Fraser River.

“We decided to pursue it because it’s some water that’s senior to Denver Water Board,” said Bruce Hutchins, Manager of Grand County Water and Sanitation District No. 1 who has been involved in the idea from day one. “It’s wet water that can be introduced to the upper reaches of the Fraser Valley.”

The Vail Ditch Company formed in 1911 when the water right was filed. Vail Ditch water originates from the Meadow Creek Reservoir above the Fraser Valley and has served agricultural endeavors until today.

The original architects’ intent was to provide water to the Great Divide Lettuce Co.

The partners are 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. They have already collectively spent $217,000 just “to get this far,” Hutchins said.

Studies analyzing the course of the water, dynamics of the irrigation system, legal work and engineering weighed in on the group’s decision to go through with the deal.

“We all had a shared vision of keeping that water in Grand County and to protect the water resources of the county,” said County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran.

It is not the intent of the group, she added, to in any way cause detriment to current users of the irrigation system facilitated by the ditch. “We don’t want to harm one part of the county to fix another,” she said.

But even with the sale, there is no guarantee the exchange with Denver Water can take place, which would enhance the ability of the partners to divert water without injuring the Fraser River.

The Vail Ditch Co. first must approve the sale.

Then negotiations with Denver Water must take place.

And that remains a long process ahead of the partners.

“It was worth the risk to keep the water here in the county,” Underbrink Curran said, who added that it is the first major water-rights purchase in which Grand County has taken part.

Hutchins agrees.

“There’s a chance we won’t be able to get the water up here, but that’s a chance we’re willing to take. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to purchase the water,” he said.

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


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