The La Plata-Archuleta Water District soon will have money flowing into its coffers, even though it will be years
before the first water flows through a pipe to southeastern La Plata County.
Voters approved Issue A by a 734-616 vote Monday in a mail-in election. More than 31 percent of eligible voters cast
a vote, high for a special election, where turnout generally is in the 10 percent range, said Amy Kraft, a consulting
engineer with Harris Water Engineering, who was the designated election official.
Ballots were coming in heavier in the morning than the afternoon, but it was steady all afternoon," she said.
The issue includes a 5 mill levy, which would cost the owner of a $200,000 house about $7 a month, and allows the
district to lift the district's revenue limit, which now is held in check by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, or TABOR.
The district was approved by voters in November 2008, but it was not funded until this election.
This is the big one," said Dick Lunceford, president of the water district's board. Now we have the district formed
and the money in place. While we still have a lot of hurdles and challenges to face, with this step on the ladder, this whole phase is over."
Opponents say the tax passed because the people who have opposed the project already have opted their properties out
of the district, which stretches approximately from the Animas River to the Archuleta County border and from Lemon
and Vallecito reservoirs to the New Mexico border.
I'm not surprised it passed," opponent Caryl Helmin-Schmid said. So many people were already excluded, so the only
people left able to vote were in favor. I think this will be a big disappointment and debacle before it's all said
Challenges ahead for the water district are putting pipe in the ground and building treatment plants, one near Lake
Night-horse, the new reservoir southwest of Durango, and the other on the Pine River near Bayfield, and getting those
permits. The permits alone could take two years, Lunceford said.
The district also has not completely sourced the 2,750 acre-feet of water needed annually to supply the estimated
population of 4,000 to 5,000 people. The Pine River Irrigation District has approved leasing 200 to 250 acre-feet
annually to an independent water district, and the La Plata-Archuleta Water District also is looking into buying
water from the Animas-La Plata Project.
Another challenge is the revenue stream. Original projections showed 80 percent of the funding needed would come from
natural-gas production, with BP as the primary corporate source. Falling natural-gas prices and limited additional
drilling may make that estimate questionable.
The district's board is not currently planning to borrow against the levy, which would require an election approving
a bond issue, but that is a subject that may come up down the road, Lunceford said.
His quest to bring potable water to southeastern La Plata County has been going on for 15 years, Lunceford said.
Proponents of the district have cited the number of dry and contaminated wells and the many people who have to truck
in water to that part of the county as the reason the district is needed.
Lunceford said two firms, Harris Water Engineering and Collins, Cockeral and Cole, have made the project possible.
Without their belief that we could do this, it wouldn't have happened," he said. I can only credit myself with
The next board meeting will take place May 13 in Ignacio, and the agenda promises to be lengthy.
It will be interesting to see what the task force and board of directors do," Helmin-Schmid said. I'll still be
watching and paying attention."