Water conservancy district to forge ahead with Dry Gulch project


By Lindsey Bright

Staff Writer

Immediately following a joint work session last Thursday between the San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) and the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD), the SJWCD held a special board of directors meeting during which a motion was passed: SJWCD would move forward with Dry Gulch.

According to board secretary Carrie Weiss, for the past two years, nothing has been done on the Dry Gulch project, with the exception of PAWSD closing out its Colorado Water Conservation Board $11.2 million loan. PAWSD closed the CWCB loan out at $9.2 million.

“Why are we doing anything if we don’t have a lake site,” director Larry Ash said, adding, “There is nothing to market. We don’t have the property. If we don’t pursue getting the property, it’s not worth marketing.” (The Dry Gulch property is currently owned jointly by PAWSD and SJWCD — 90 percent by PAWSD, 10 percent by SJWCD.)

“I feel that this (reservoir) is important for the future of the community,” director Windsor Chacey said.

However, Ash noted, the move forward could happen only if SJWCD finds a business partner.

“If we move forward, we are going to need a partner, then the reservoir won’t benefit us … It (the water) becomes somebody else’s water,” Ash said. Currently, both PAWSD and SJWCD jointly own the 11,000 acre-feet water storage right.

“I don’t see Dry Gulch as that crucial to Pagosa people. Getting out from under the $10,000,000 hole is more important,” director Ray Finney said. “I don’t see Dry Gulch as a great solution for Archuleta County, but for someone who doesn’t want to see the water go downstream,” Finney continued.

Where partners could be found was discussed — whether on the Front Range or down south. No potential partners have been specified.

“This project is not dead,” Chacey stated. “These are the only off river water storage right that’s already adjudicated in Colorado,” Chacey said. “We have a site,” she later reiterated at the meeting.

“And rights,” Finney added, continuing, “but we don’t have money. We need to find a partner with deep pockets and figure out how to use them and how to build a dam. So, who are our likely partners?,” he asked.

The SJWCD budget for this year is approximately $70,000, far short of enough money to build a reservoir. However, out of these funds, for the past two years SJWCD has been voluntarily paying 10 percent of the PAWSD interest payment on its CWCB loan. The board came to a consensus to no longer pay this portion of PAWSD’s interest, but instead use the money to survey the Dry Gulch site. Among the first things to determine is how much of the Laverty property will be needed to build a 11,000 acre-feet reservoir. If any money is left over once the survey is complete, it would be put toward creating a marketing package.

At the end of the meeting, Director Rod Proffitt requested some type of monetary compensation for his work on the Dry Gulch project.

“If you get me doing a bunch of stuff, I need some compensation.” Proffitt said, and the directors agreed. The compensation amount was not settled at the meeting, but the tentative numbers discussed were approximately $50 per hour.