Coaldale - water transfer prompts community action
By Joe Stone - originally printed in The Mountain Mail
Security Water District (SWD) purchased the 200-acre CB Ranch in Coaldale in December 2013, paying $1.25 million for the ranch and $480,000 for the ranch’s Hayden Creek water rights.
Currently, that water irrigates Pleasant Valley alfalfa fields along U.S. 50, creating an agricultural setting in sharp contrast to rugged Bighorn Sheep Canyon just downstream.
Prior to the sale, the San Isabel Land Protection Trust had attempted to acquire the land and establish a conservation easement that would have preserved the ranch in its current state. While a conservation easement remains a possibility, the sale of the ranch and its water rights means it’s only a matter of time before the water that sustains the alfalfa fields ends up on the Front Range.
Amid questions and concerns, the land trust organized a July 2014 community meeting in Coaldale. About 100 people attended, including neighbors whose wells and water rights could be affected by the dry-up of CB Ranch if Security Water District were not required to adequately replace return flows from historic irrigation.
As Chris Woodka reported in The Pueblo Chieftain, the meeting “drew plenty of comments about how past land transfers had gone bad and fueled fears that this, too, could be the fate of the CB Ranch.”
Coaldale resident Kristie Nackord pointed to the Hill Ranch near Nathrop, the Goodwin Ranch in Howard and the H2O Ranch in Westcliffe as examples of productive ranch lands that were dried up by Front Range cities. Those properties, once made verdant by irrigation water, now produce bumper crops of noxious weeds that create problems for neighboring properties.