Members of the board of the La Plata-Archuleta Water District looked to see if residents were willing to pay for rural water needs in the face of countywide growth Thursday night at a public meeting put on by the newly formed water district.
The meeting was the first in a series of public meetings intended to gauge support for a project board members feel has been needed for some time.
Amy Kraft, a consulting engineer with Harris Water Engineering in Durango, discussed the district's options with attendees. She said growth in the county is contributing to an increasing shortage of domestic water.
Isolated agricultural consumers not currently part of other local water grids make up a large part of the district's constituents. Attendees at the meeting were mainly rural county residents who currently truck water from pumping locations across the county or operate private wells.
They raised questions regarding tap fees and monthly costs. Board president Dick Lunceford estimated a setup tap fee would cost approximately $4,500 and monthly fees for users would run about $40.
Voters approved the creation of the district in November 2008 after years on the drawing board. Though the board still has a way to go before it can provide water to actual consumers - three years is the minimum estimate - board members presented nine options for service to about 20 area residents.
The options included drawing water from several points along the Animas, Los Pinos and Piedra rivers and the as-yet-unfilled Lake Nighthorse, of the Animas-La Plata Project.
Ignacio rancher Tom Givon thought drawing water from any source other than the highest point was a waste of resources.
"Newton already told us which direction the water should flow - down," he said. "We should go with the flow."
Givon, who has drilled four wells on his land, three of which turned out to be dry and the fourth containing dangerously high alkaline levels, supports pulling water from the Los Pinos north of Bayfield and said calls to draw from the south Animas River a bad idea.
With energy companies like BP picking up the rest of the tab, the district will require about 20 percent of its funding to come from taxpayers. Board member Dan Lynn said a mill levy would be needed to gather the remainder.
But support for a levy is far from assured, and Lynn and the board will hold similar public meetings to address public concerns and allay doubts. Lynn estimated the campaign to win a mill levy measure would cost the district $80,000. With only half that in the district's coffers and a recession fostering newfound fiscal restraint across the country, Lynn said his group isn't ready to take chances.
"It'll be a one-time-only thing," he said.
If the district feels the time is right, the mill levy measure could be on the next November ballot, or it might have to wait a year. If the measure passes, the district awaits an estimated two years of permitting and setup before a drop of water can be pumped. Only district residents and businesses that did not opt out at the creation of the district will be allowed to vote on the levy.
As for the reaction Thursday night, Lynn said he was relieved to see no serious objections raised at the meeting. One attendee who has trucked water down County Road 11 for 29 years wanted to start the project "tomorrow."
Another put forth a comment when questions were requested: "Let's get going."