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Districts continue with Dry Gulch divorce

Staff Writer

Before their regular meeting Monday, the San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) held a work session to which SJWCD president Rod Proffitt invited the chairman and president of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) board, Alan Bunch.

During the work session, the parties discussed the Dry Gulch project the SJWCD plans to continue to pursue and that PAWSD is anxious to put behind it.

In a discussion of PAWSD water rates, Bunch described how current rates as well as the expected 4.4 percent rate increases predicted to take effect next year are predicated on PAWSD’s current debt burden to the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB). According to Bunch, “Four dollars of each community member’s monthly water bill goes to service Dry Gulch debt.” If PAWSD could get out from under the debt of Dry Gulch, Bunch said, rates could possibly be lowered.

Last month, PAWSD directors opted to officially cancel the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between their organization and SJWCD. The cancelation was carried out because the MOU states in so many words that PAWSD will work to make Dry Gulch happen. The MOU will no longer be valid on March 24 of next year, 180 days from the official notification of cancellation.

“Since we’re no longer doing that, and no longer think we need to, we decided to cancel the MOU,” said Bunch. “We’re not moving in that direction and we no longer feel we need Dry Gulch.”

In contrast to the PAWSD position, SJWCD board member Windsor Chacey asserted that the $4 per month PAWSD customers pay on their water bill is $4 a month citizens are paying for a future water source.

Despite differing opinions and positions on the Dry Gulch project, the SJWCD is working to help get PAWSD off the hook for Dry Gulch while searching for a new partner to take the organization’s place.

“I was hoping Alan would come in with a revelation,” said Proffitt during the session. Since this didn’t happen, Proffitt and Bunch plan to meet soon to discuss further options to be relayed back to their respective boards. If the two boards can come to an agreement, respective attorneys will draw up the agreement. If successful, this process will likely take almost six months, the amount of time left until the MOU expires anyway. In the meantime, PAWSD has engaged an attorney to help them better see where they stand legally in the Dry Gulch issue.

Dana.Hayward@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on October 17, 2013.