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.
Summer 2018 Update
This spring I wrote to you providing an update on the CB Ranch water court case and asking for your help. We needed to raise an additional $3,000 for our lawyer fees. If we could raise $1500 amongst ourselves, San Isabel Land Protection Trust would match our donations $1-for-$1. I’m so excited to share that we did it! We raised over $2,200, and San Isabel has matched us $1500, bringing us to over $3700 total. All of the money will go toward paying our attorney fees. Thank you to everyone who donated! A special thanks to San Isabel Land Protection Trust staff and board for not only the financial support, but the hours of time, service and care you continue to put forth to all of us here in Coaldale.
The next status conference for the CB Ranch water court case is August 31. Security must respond to all objectors. Security is currently reviewing our proposed covenant agreement. We’ve gone through a couple of rounds of negotiations this spring/summer and we hope that we are close to a final agreement.
I will provide an update as soon as I know more. Fingers crossed.
This summer, those who live along Hayden Creek have experienced a significant reduction in water flow in the creek due to the drought– a lack of precipitation. Over in the Big Cottonwood Creek drainage, at times we are experiencing unprecedented volumes of water and resultant damage to homes and land because of the flash flooding which has been an ongoing reality since the 2016 Hayden Fire.
And when we look out on the CB Ranch we see a whole lot of brown compared to last summer when the ranch was looking much greener. Why is this? What has changed on the CB Ranch from this summer to last?
In 2017, we had much more precipitation compared to this year, allowing the seed that was planted by Security Water District to grow (and the weeds) – making it more green. While this year we’ve had very little precipitation, resulting in the brown that we see.
Did you know?
-The decreed water that Security purchased has not yet changed from an irrigation water right to a municipal water right. Once the water court process is completed as decided by the court, Security will then will be allowed to use their water for the needs in their community.
- To conduct the required engineering as required by the state of Colorado, Security has to stop irrigating the CB Ranch to prove the consumptive use on the ranch. Irrigation ceased in 2017. But where did the water go? Security's water right (the water they are entitled to this year from the CB Ranch) has primarily remained in Hayden Creek and flowed into the Arkansas River. One could even say, this has benefited the fishery and other water users, as the water didn't leave Hayden Creek to be diverted to the ranch, but rather remained in the creek.
-With your help, the Coaldale Alliance, in partnership with San Isabel Land Protection Trust, has been working on a covenant agreement (an enforceable agreement in court) to ensure that the ranch is properly revegetated, and weeds and erosion mitigated. But as we all know, even in a drought year, non-irrigated lands will go brown. I just look to my own very brown property to be reminded of that!
Our community continues to experience great change. And with each turn of the road, I continue to be in awe of the incredible resiliency of the people, land and wildlife who call Coaldale home.
Thank you again for all who have donated and who continue to give their time, dollars and hearts to the CB Ranch efforts and our other community needs.
If I may answer any questions with regards to the CB Ranch water court case, please do not hesitate to contact me.
With the greatest of appreciation.
for the Coaldale Alliance
PO Box 155
Coaldale, CO 81222
RETURN FLOWS AT ISSUE IN COALDALE WATER CASE
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED BY ARK VALLEY VOICE
An engineering review of the CB Ranch water rights court case indicates the calculations filed by the Security Water District could be off by as much as a factor of three.
“Our calculations show a few differences from Security’s numbers,” Manera said. “The biggest difference is on return flows. In winter, they’re showing 30-acre-foot returns. We’re showing double to triple that.”
Return flows are the water that returns to the stream system after being used by the water right owner. In this case the CB Ranch diverted water from Hayden Creek to irrigate its alfalfa fields. Water not consumed by the alfalfa either evaporated or ended up in the Arkansas River as return flows
Headed for the finish line
As you know, we’ve been working toward a successful outcome on the CB Ranch since July of 2014. What a journey! Along with San Isabel Land Protection Trust, we’re 100 community members strong (this is amazing!) advocating for the CB ranch through our financial contributions, time, care and ongoing legal efforts.
I’m pleased to share I do believe we are headed for the finish line. But we need your help to get there.
We’ve been busy!
We’ve been working on the details of a final covenant agreement with Security Water District (SWD). This legally binding agreement, which would be in the final water court decree and enforceable by the courts, would obligate SWD to the proper weed and erosion control management, as well as re-seeding of the CB Ranch. (This is the first of its kind for a dry-up in the Upper Arkansas River Basin!) San Isabel would hold the covenant and be responsible for the monitoring of the ranch to ensure the terms of the agreement are being upheld. (This saves our community a tremendous amount of time, money - and of course, they bring a very experienced staff and board members to the effort). San Isabel cannot terminate this agreement before 5-years. Thank you, San Isabel, for your time and the considerable resources you’ve put toward supporting our community and this beautiful land.
The convent is currently being reviewed by Security Water District and their attorneys. Our next status conference will be in April. We should have SWD’s comments on the convent as well as the draft decree by then. If you’d like to see a copy for the draft covenant agreement, do let me know and I can forward that to you.
A challenge - Your donation will be matched $1 for $1
To get us to the finish line, we estimate we need to raise our final $3000. San Isabel Land Protection Trust has graciously announced they will match your donation $1 for $1 up to $1500. Together, we could raise the $3000. What a win for our efforts! Would you please consider making your spring donation to the CB Ranch water court effort today? Our legal fees are incurring and we truly could use your support.
How to donate
Please send your donation to SILPT by April 15. You may donate online: www.SILPT.org or mail to PO Box 124, Westcliffe, CO 81252
PLEASE be sure to indicate your donation is for the CB Ranch otherwise we won’t receive credit for your generosity. Thank you! And thank you again San Isabel for matching our donations $1 for $1.
While I'm no expert on the history of dry-ups in Colorado, I do feel I can confidently say that what the Coaldale community has done and continues to do with coming together for the good stewardship of the CB Ranch now and into the future is unique. It's a powerful thing what a group of passionate, kind, and thoughtful people can do. I'm honored to call Coaldale home.
Another step in the right direction
As many of you know, San Isabel Land Protection Trust has been working since 2014 exploring every possible option to keep the CB ranch irrigated and in agricultural production following its sale to Security Water District. One of those options is connected to the Maverick Ranch in Wellsville (upstream about 12 miles) which also is for sale. It's a bit complex (aren't all things these days, sheesh?!) but the article by San Isabel linked below does a fine job explaining the vision, potential partnerships and possible outcomes that would result in a win-win for all.
While this may be a long shot, we must continue to exhaust every opportunity before us! And it seems that important funders such as the Gates Family Foundation believe the same and clearly understand the importance and urgency of developing and implementing creative water solutions to preserve important ranchlands and communities like ours.
Update from June 29 Status Conference
From our attorney's Peter Nichols & Megan Gutwein: Referee DiDomenico held a status conference in Security’s case. Security has received comments on its proposed decree and engineering from all opposers. The deadline for Security to provide a response to comments, revised proposed decree, additional engineering, and response to the Division Engineer’s Summary of Consultation is August 29, 2017.
The next status conference will be September 5, 2017. At that time, the parties will decide whether a settlement may be reached on Security’s application relatively soon. If so, the case will remain on the Referee’s docket and the deadline to reach a settlement extended an additional six months. The current deadline is October 31, 2017. If not, the case may be re-referred to the water court. Even if the case is re-referred, we will still work towards settlement with Security prior to trial.
June 27, 5:30 - 6:30 p.m.