Guest Author - Tony Corrado
2017 is becoming the year of change throughout the world, and, it is coming to Elbert County also. We now have two major housing developments in the planning stage, both of which will be moving to the execution stage in the near future. These changes will bring substantial, and lasting, change to our county in that the traffic, business and rural nature of the north western corner will be forever altered. There is one report that predicts Elbert County will undergo the largest rate of growth, over the next decade, of all counties in the front range.
Many are committed to resisting this change and want to protest the planning and execution of the necessary BOCC actions required to enable these changes to take place. While I understand the intentions and the enthusiasm of those folks who resent this change, it is inevitable. Not only is it inevitable, it is the right of those developers to reap the benefits of their investments. It is also the right of Elbert County tax payers to insist that the process be fair to all parties, that it be above corruption and most of all, that the water, which is essential to our way of life be preserved.
Water, like minerals, is a right the owners have for exploitation as well as surface land development. If done properly, the BOCC can minimize the impact of these developments and do the least harm to future Elbert County dwellers. It is necessary to understand the value of water rights in order to understand how simple it is for the BOCC to minimize the affected water supplies in question.
First, it is necessary to understand that developers make money building homes and selling them to any and every buyer they can. The BOCC, with the advice of the planning commission and the CDS staff, can act to ensure that the physical developments are well planned with sewage treatment plants, improved roads, open spaces etc. etc. What each developer will also seek, however, is a resolution by the BOCC establishing a water district for each development. Water districts are very powerful instruments in that, once approved by the BOCC, they are then independent of oversight and control from both the county and the state. In essence, if they don’t screw up and violate the rules by which they were established, they are forever in charge of their destinies. Most of them, if not all, will ask the BOCC for the right of imminent domain (the right to seize your property), the right to buy and sell water, and the right to raise monies for their project through the issuance of public bonds. They,likely, will also request authority to construct a pipeline from, likely Douglas and Arapahoe Counties in order to “ensure an adequate supply of renewable water for the future”.
They will, likely, already have purchased the rights to water from the aquifers beneath the county. It will, likely, be a right to access water in multiple aquifers. They will assign a certain number of acre-feet of water to the homes they are building. This assignment will be the minimalist amount of water designated by the State of Colorado. But they will retain ownership of far more water than they designate for the development itself. Why would they do all this?
A pipeline that carries water into Elbert County can be used to carry water from Elbert County as well. The water will never know which direction it is heading. (trust me)
If the aquifer the developer has assigned water from, for his development, ever goes dry, the homeowners will have no choice but to rely on the water district to supply them water. If you believe the aquifer(s) will never go dry, just check the dropping water levels caused by Douglas County development. The developer, having plenty of water they still own, can then allow the water district to purchase the water from the owners of the water rights and sell it to the homeowners. Now that the surface land profit is exhausted, because the development is complete, the owners of the water can now grant themselves an annuity for life because the price of water will now be exorbitant. Look to the Wild Pointe subdivision to see the costs of maintaining a modicum of living style by purchasing controlled sources of water.
By the way, if you think water is not already a global and USA issue, I suggest you read the article posted here: https://www.fastcoexist.com/3067513/a-third-of-the-us-population-wont-be-able-to-afford-water-bills-in-just-5-years
In addition to the water supply for the homes they built, the water rights owners can now use that “necessary pipeline” that the BOCC approved, to transport their water to customers in areas of Colorado where the aquifer water can command a higher price.
If this sounds like another Trump administration play, it is. But unlike that fiasco, you, the taxpayers of Elbert County can prevent this from happening. I bet the word you are thinking of right now is “how”?
Imagine if the BOCC, in approving a resolution for these developers and their water districts, simply requires them to not transport water out of the county. Pipelines can bring it in, but pipelines cannot transport it out. They require them to sell water they own, restricted for use within the borders of the county. Further, they insert a clause that all changes to the water supply contracts, enabling a cost increase, must be approved by the BOCC whenever a price increase is sought.
Sources of renewable water, brought into the county through pipelines are fine and may prove to be necessary for our sustained growth. Aquifer water leaving the county is not acceptable. To those who will suggest that water rights are inalienable rights that cannot be infringed, you are wrong. You may own the water rights and you may sell them or the water they represent. You can fill tanker trucks and have the water transported out of the county. However, the county does not have to enable you to sell it by sanctioning its sale and by enabling it to be pumped out through pipelines they approve.
The indivisible movement has awakened a sleeping giant unlike any this country has ever seen. All it takes is to focus a small of that energy on the three commissioners of the BOCC.