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Rural water plan on tap...again
7/13/2007 By: Carole McWilliams
The draft service plan has been filed with La Plata County for a renewed attempt to create a rural water system covering 400 square miles in the southeast part of the county.
The service area boundaries are the New Mexico state line on the south, Archuleta County line on the east, the Animas River on the west, northwest of Bayfield including County Roads 502 and 228, also northeast of Bayfield.
It includes several “potential” service areas – Bear Creek Canyon, Gem Village/ Homestead subdivision, areas just north and east of Bayfield, the west end of County Road 510, west of the Animas in the Bondad area, and a large area along County Roads 240, 245, and 501 up toward Vallecito dam.
The Arboles area in Archuleta County also is potential service area.
It excludes Bayfield, Ignacio, and the Grandview area.
District proponents held a press conference on July 5 to describe the new plan. Dick Lunceford said 5,200 households could potentially be served by the district. Exclusion requests approved by the county commissioners for 500 to 600 properties in the previous effort are honored in the new plan, he said. They will be listed as potential service areas.
The new plan proposes a property tax of 5 mills, which would be around $140 a year on a $350,000 house, Lunceford said. The plan lists taps at $4,000 and monthly rates of $20 to $30.
Organizers want to do a mail election on whether to form the district, and to elect a board of directors as soon as they can get through the process to have a District Court judge set an election. Lunceford said they are hoping for early 2008.
A separate election will be held in May or Nov. 2008 on whether to impose the mill levy, to authorize bond debt, and to exempt the district from TABOR limits on revenue and spending.
Lunceford said the bond authorization is so the district can start construction right away on a treatment plant and trunk lines instead of waiting until enough money is accumulated.
He said the treatment plant will be “somewhere in the proximity of the Pine (River).”
Water from Vallecito is still the primary source, Lunceford said. It will come from the voluntary pool committed by Pine River Irrigation District shareholders who support the district.
Projected annual use after 30 years is 2,000 acre feet, Lunceford said. He didn’t want to specify how much water has been committed by the voluntary pool participants. “It’s adequate,” he said.
Since the previous water district effort, Lunceford also has received decrees for the water district task force for water in the Pine, Animas, and Piedra Rivers.
One of the big concerns about a rural water system is that it would open the floodgates for rural growth. Development planner Brian Kimmel is a volunteer helping district proponents.
“Just because you have water doesn’t mean you have the automatic right to develop,” he said.
Lunceford said La Plata is the second fastest growing of five adjacent counties, even though it is the only one that doesn’t already have a rural water system. “So you can’t say a water district will create all this growth. We are growing anyway.”
He continued, “We want to be looked on as a public utility. The alternative is more and more people hauling water.”
Until a couple of months ago, Kimmel was on a county water advisory task force that is recommending tightened county standards for what qualifies as a subdivision water supply.
Kimmel said he expects the commissioners to approve the standards on July 24, and he expects that to increase interest in a rural water system. “The county will require more study of water supply, even for four-lot subdivisions,” he said.
Most developers would rather be connected to a municipal system than be dependent on wells, he said.
Lunceford said, “We need a rural water source as a planning tool. Unrestrained growth on water wells isn’t sustainable.”
Another issue with the previous effort and with PRID’s Vallecito Water Company before that was how water service would be handled in potential town growth areas, especially around Bayfield.
Amy Kraft, who has been involved since the VWC effort, said any landowners adjacent to town limits will have to sign a pre-annexation agreement to get water. Other properties within Bayfield’s claimed growth area are listed as district potential service area. They will have to petition the district board to join the district and can be voted in by that board.
The district formation process is dictated by state law, including voter approval by residents and property owners within the service area. Owners approved for exclusion aren’t eligible to vote.
The service plan is available on-line at www.laplawd.org.
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