Ballots will be mailed Thursday to voters in southeast La Plata County asking if they're willing to pay for a
potable-water district they approved 20 months ago.
Votes must be cast by May 4. Voters may mail their Issue A ballot or hand-carry it to the office of Harris Engineering,the district's consulting engineer.
Voters are asked to approve a 5 mill (half a penny) property-tax increase to raise $5.1 million in 2011, and future
mill levy increases cannot exceed 5 mills annually. Approval of Issue A also would remove the La Plata Archuleta Water
District's revenue limit set by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights Amendment - allowing it to spend such proceeds and
any other revenue such as from grants.
The mill levy could be adjusted annually by the district's board of directors.
By lifting the revenue limit imposed by TABOR, the district will have more spending freedom. An example is the $400,000
grant the Colorado Water Conservation Board gave the district in September 2009.
If approved, the property-tax increase would fund capital improvements, construction and the maintenance and
administration that the La Plata Archuleta Water District would entail.
It's been a long haul.
Controversy has dogged the issue of bringing drinking water to southeastern La Plata County since 2004, when the Pine
River Irrigation District board approved leasing 2,000 acre-feet of water annually to an independent water district for
home use. The move was opposed by some district shareholders, who called themselves Opponents of the Gopher Hole
Project. They argued that providing drinking water would shortchange agricultural interests and unleash runaway
A few months later, La Plata County commissioners approved the creation of the La Plata Archuleta Water District. The
district subsequently was approved by a water-court judge, and in August 2008, district residents approved the district
by a 481-to-449 margin.
Now, the district wants to buy 500 to 1,000 acre-feet of water from the state if Colorado exercises an option to
acquire water from the Animas-La Plata Project. The district would have a treatment plant near Lake Nighthorse, the
A-LP water, and on the Pine River near Bayfield.
Ultimately, the district would need about 2,750 acre-feet of water to serve the area.
Potable water would get district residents off wells or relieve them from trucking in drinking water. The district
would cover 400 square miles, first in southeastern La Plata County and later in southwestern Archuleta County. In 20
years, the district could serve as many as 5,000 customers.
In pitching its proposal, the water district said in a notice to voters that a property owner could decide when to
connect to the system, would receive a credit toward their tap fee - estimated at $4,500 - if they have to wait
to connect, and that the tap fee could be paid in monthly installments. The flier also points to a possibility of wells
running dry or having elevated levels of arsenic, fluoride, nitrates, selenium and dissolved solids.
The district said a 5 mill levy will cost a homeowner about $3.50 a month per $100,000 of the home's market value.
Landowners were allowed to opt out of the district, and a number did, as did numerous gas producers.
Among the companies to drop out were Chevron-Texaco, Conoco Inc., Conoco Phillips Co., Samson Investment Co., Williams,Burlington Resources, Elm Ridge Resources, Maralex Resources, Energen Resources, Murchison Oil & Gas, Pablo
Operating, Petrogulf Corp., Thompson Engineering and Production, Chevron Midcontinent LP, Holcomb Oil & Gas,Enervest Operating, Merrion Oil & Gas, TH McElvain Oil & Gas, American Petroleum Energy Corp., Dugan Production
Co., Blackhills Exploration & Production, Coleman Oil & Gas, CDX Gas, and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe's Red
Willow Production Co. and Red Cedar Gathering Co.
The holdings of BP, the largest gas company and biggest source for the tax base, XTO Energy and nine smaller gas
companies remain in the district.