Happy New Year members and friends of the Coaldale Alliance,
I hope 2019 is off to a wonderful start for each of you. I write to you today with good news.
We have recently settled with Security Water and Sanitation District after a year of negotiations in water court on the CB Ranch water rights change case.
What was agreed upon was a five-year stewardship covenant that follows the land. That means, even if and when Security sells the land, the next landowner is obligated to the terms of the covenant until it expires. What makes this arrangement unique is that it is enforceable in court. San Isabel Land Protection Trust will hold the covenant and will be the enforcing entity. San Isabel is also in the midst of putting together a monitoring plan for ensuring compliance. Please note, the covenant does not prohibit selling or subdividing the land.
In 2017, Security Water District retained an environmental firm (ERO) who prepared the original analysis and proposed revegetation plan on the ranch. At that time, we had the opportunity to review and comment on their plan and approach for revegetation. Our comments were generally accepted and the stewardship covenant is based upon those findings. While 2018 was a drought year and many of the seeds did not germinate, it also has been determined that some of the noxious weeds didn’t thrive either. It is my understanding that Security is preparing an updated plan and we will have an opportunity to review it as well. We’ll see what 2019 brings! It appears to be moisture so far. Fingers crossed.
Security Water District is still in negotiations with other objectors in the case, but once negotiations have concluded and the court issues the final water decree, that is when San Isabel Land Protection Trust will officially sign the covenant agreement and it will go into effect for the next 5-years. We expect that to be sometime later this year.
We know that Security Water District is not interested in land ownership here in Coaldale. The next hope is that they will ultimately sell the land to an agricultural buyer at an agricultural price (this is key here), so that the land can be maintained as open space to preserve this special agricultural community. It is conceivable that one day, water could be brought back to the ranch from a different source. There are definitely ideas and visions about this floating around out there. Our hope is that San Isabel Land Protection Trust, or another conservation-minded organization or individual (you?!), maintains this vision and pursues it with fervor.
While the CB Ranch is changed forever, there are many things I am appreciative of, especially each of you. While I’m not an expert or historian on water rights change cases in Colorado, I feel fairly certain that we did something rather unique and special here in Coaldale. We are 100 + members strong who came together to give voice to the land and our community. I don't know of anywhere else this has happened here in the Arkansas River Basin.
Our first community meeting was held in July 2014 (standing room only!) and continued on for the next 4 years. Your commitment to a positive outcome never wavered. With the help of San Isabel, since 2015 you raised over $10,000 that all went toward legal and professional feels to advocate for our wishes. The CB Ranch and Coaldale story was published in local and regional newspapers and magazines and was aired on the radio, countless times, helping to raise awareness about this important issue facing all parts of rural Colorado. Heck, we even have a website! I can also only imagine that our efforts have helped to continue to shift the perspective on the drying up of ranches in Colorado. And the imperativeness of working together. We've set precedence and have created a path and a model for others to follow now should they choose.
The Coaldale Alliance was more than one person could do alone. There are MANY people who contributed to our effort. Below are a few special folks that I’d like to thank as well.
A special thank you to Janet Engel and Terry Andrews, founding board members and wonderful friends of the Coaldale Alliance and our community. They have given so much of their time, hearts and energy to ensure a hopeful outcome for the CB Ranch and our community. In October 2016, I came to them this wild idea to start a nonprofit to help give voice to our community as the Coaldale Alliance. They never hesitated once and were instrumental in our efforts. THANK YOU!
Tim Payne, Fremont County Commissioner who made himself available from day 1 to hear our concerns.
The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District (UAWCD), specifically Terry Scanga, General Manager, Tim Canterbury, board member and Howard-rancher and neighbor, and Greg Felt, board member and Chaffee County Commissioner. The UAWCD provided countless hours of time, education, as well as their engineering to assist in the case. They are also objectors in the case and have invested a considerable amount of financial, legal and engineering resources to protect water rights in our area. They are also helping out on the Hayden Fire and Flood Recovery efforts.
San Isabel Land Protection Trust, specifically board members Keith Hood, Bill Donley, Doug Cain and Chris Skagen. All volunteers who gave many, many hours of their time and interest to help our community. These folks will also continue on through the covenant agreement ensuring to the best of their ability that revegetation is successful. Please consider continuing to support San Isabel with your time and dollars. The cost of monitoring and enforcing the covenant will be considerable as well. www.sanisabel.org
David Bower, attorney and friend, took a keen interest (pro-bono) in helping to explore ways that we may come together for a positive outcome.
Thank you, Ben Lenth, formerly with San Isabel and now with Colorado Open Lands and Kate Spinelli (now the fire recovery coordinator here on the Hayden Pass Fire and Flood recovery efforts) for your passion for conservation and work here in Coaldale. They both are still advocating on our behalf!
And thank you Roy Heald of Security Water and Sanitation District. His community has been facing serious water contamination issues and has, out of necessity, urgently needed to find other sources of clean drinking water. Roy and I sat together many times discussing the CB Ranch over the years. He welcomed me to his community and always heard me out. In the end, Roy and his board of directors agreed to a covenant that legally, they didn't have to do.
Thank you all for your time, care and commitment to the land, people and wildlife in Coaldale. What a journey this has been. I’m personally excited to close this chapter (it’s been a long one!) and begin the next. I've learned SO much and I am changed forever too. Thank YOU.
As always, if you have any questions at all, please let me know.
All my best,
For the Coaldale Alliance
PO Box 155
Coaldale, CO 81222
About the Coaldale Alliance:
The Coaldale Alliance is a 509 a2 non-profit formed in September 2016 a to give voice to the residents of Coaldale regarding the sale of the CB Ranch to Security Water District. Our purpose is to work and educate to preserve the rural, agricultural, historic and scenic values that make Coaldale so special. We welcome and encourage participation by all community members.