Buy and dry in Coaldale
By Ron Sering - originally published in Colorado Central Magazine
Leaving Bighorn Sheep Canyon and heading west toward Coaldale, the first thing you notice are the fields. In the spring, enormous center pivots distribute runoff from the Sangres, turning the fields green with alfalfa. These fields have been worked since homesteaders arrived in the Pleasant Valley in the 1800s. That could soon be changing.
Among the largest ranches is the 160-acre CB Ranch near Coaldale. Assembled from various smaller holdings by Kansas cattleman Clint Branch, after his passing the property was put on the block, along with the senior water rights. The property was eventually purchased by the city of Security. “It seemed like a good fit,” said Roy Heald, District Manager of the Security Water and Sanitation District.
This marks a growing trend among Front Range municipalities. Some estimates call for Colorado’s population to double by 2050, with the majority settling along the Front Range. The gap between water needs and available supply continues to widen, with a possible shortfall of 500,000 acre feet by 2050. To stay ahead of the growth curve, some municipalities are speculating on the purchase of water rights from mountain communities, along with the accompanying land.
“If you want water, you take the land, too,” said Kristie Nackord, Director of Development for the San Isabel Land Protection Trust. The SILPT attempted unsuccessfully to acquire the land under a conservation easement, which would have preserved the land in its current state.