If voters in southeastern La Plata County approve a funding plan for the La Plata Archuleta Water District, the
organization's governing board plans to move expeditiously but cautiously, board president Dick Lunceford told La Plata
County commissioners Tuesday.
We're going to be cautious in how we forecast revenue," he said. You'll see moderation."
The water district, created in 2004, wants to provide drinking water in a 400-square-mile area in southeastern La Plata
County and southwestern Archuleta County. La Plata County would be developed first. But before it can move ahead,residents must agree to tax themselves to pay for planning, capital improvements, construction, maintenance and
If they approve ballot Issue A, voters are authorizing a levy on the market value of their property of 5 mills (half a
penny), expected to raise $5.1 million in 2011. The levy could vary in future years but may never exceed 5 mills. The
5-mill levy would cost the owner of a $200,000 house $7 a month.
Approval of Issue A also will lift the district's revenue limit, now constrained by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (also
known as TABOR). Unfettered by TABOR, the water district can spend freely. A case in point is the $400,000 it received
last year from the Colorado Water Conservation Board but hasn't been able to draw upon.
Lunceford and Amy Kraft with Harris Water Engineering, the district's consulting engineer, told commissioners they'll
soon begin discussing technical issues with county planners and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe on whose reservation much
of the area to be serviced lies.
They'll also be evaluating the project's overall viability in light of possible drops in revenue, Kraft and Lunceford
said. BP is the largest gas producer and the largest source of property-tax revenue for the district. But as gas
production eventually falls off, so will revenue.
For now, however, a 5-mill property tax levy - applied to the $1.2 billion of assessed value in the district - will
produce the $5.1 million annually that the district anticipates, Lunceford said.
Among other points Lunceford and Kraft made:
An estimated 4,600 residents are eligible to vote May 4.
Property owners who asked to be excluded from the district may rejoin.
Provisional ballots are available to residents who think they're eligible to vote but who don't receive a
ballot. Eligibility will be determined later.
The project is an economic boost to the county, particularly in providing jobs.
A network of fire hydrants will be part of the water-distribution system.
No one who is not connected to the system will receive a water bill.
The $4,500 tap fee can be paid in monthly installments.
For starters, it owns a total of about 22 cubic feet a second from the Piedra, Pine, Animas and Florida rivers. It also
is interested in buying 500 to 1,000 acre-feet from the state if Colorado exercises its right to Animas-La Plata
Project water. The district has its eye on leasing 200 to 300 acre-feet from the Pine River Irrigation District.
The district will need an estimated 2,750 acre-feet to serve about 5,000 customers in the two counties over the next 20
Although it's in the realm of speculation now, the district could strike a deal with the town of Bayfield, which
currently has more potable water than its customers use, Lunceford said. As a temporary plan, the district could
provide a pipeline to carry Bayfield water to unincorporated Gem Village.
Lunceford noted the iffiness" of getting Bayfield water, even temporarily. The reopening of a brewery with high-flying
plans could throw cold water on district hopes, he said.
Eventually, a joint water-treatment plant with Bayfield is anticipated, Lunceford said. But whether it would be
constructed before a treatment plant at the base of Lake Nighthorse, the A-LP reservoir, depends on which water source
comes on line first, he said.
If the A-LP is developed first, distribution lines would be extended to Florida Mesa. If the joint project with
Bayfield comes about first, Gem Village and points south and west would be the first area to receive district