Grand County, towns look to buy more Vail Ditch water shares
Grand County, CO Colorado
Grand County and local towns and water districts are negotiating the purchase of more Vail Ditch shares in the interest of keeping West Slope water on the Western Slope.
The Grand County Mutual Ditch and Reservoir Company – made up primarily of partners Grand County, the towns of Winter Park and Granby, and the districts Winter Park West Water and Sanitation District and the Grand County Water and Sanitation No. 1 – are in dealings to purchase about 125 shares to bring Company holdings up to about 30 percent of shares, according to the Ditch and Reservoir Company’s president Bruce Hutchins.
The town of Granby and Grand County boards recently agreed to spend about $87,000 each for the shares, with equal expenditures from the other partners still pending. The Colorado River District is also part of the Company as a lesser shareholder.
The shares are being sold by private landowners and individuals within the Grand County Irrigated Land Company, which historically has had access to 850 acre-feet of senior Vail Ditch water from Meadow Creek and Strawberry Creek, stored in Meadow Creek Reservoir for irrigating ranchlands. The reservoir is located at the northernmost extension of the collection system used to convey water through Denver Water’s Moffat Tunnel.
The partners’ pending augmentation of Vail Ditch shares will rely on agreements with Denver Water for use of its system to deliver water to the upper Fraser River when needed, and agreements with the many Grand County Irrigated Land Company shareholders, such as Morales Farms and Legacy Ranch.
According to Hutchins, purchase of the shares preserves how the water is being used today, which is mainly for growing hay, vegetables and for irrigating pastures. The partners would likely lease the shares back to their original owners, he said.
“As they come up for sale, we feel it’s better to keep them than to let them possibly go to the East Slope,” he said.
The Vail Ditch was originally built to supply water to the Granby-area mesa for the Great Western Head Lettuce Co.
The Vail Ditch Company formed in 1911 when the water right was filed.
Partners with interest in benefiting streamflows for river health and human use from Winter Park on downstream formed The Grand County Mutual Ditch and Reservoir Company in 2005 as a means to purchase shares. In 2008, the Company purchased 85.5 shares using a $1.5 million state matching grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board through the Colorado River Basin Roundtable.
“There are not a lot of buckets in the Fraser Valley to hold the water when we need it,” said Grand County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran. “Our ability to have Vail Ditch shares could enhance the Fraser River in its most-needed times.”
– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603
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