District’s cash draining away
Swirling in financial and practical difficulties, the Grand Valley Drainage District is pressuring cities and towns to think again before approving new developments.
The district, which was founded in 1915 to serve a small agricultural industry in the Grand Valley, is pressuring cities and towns to slow down and take into account the problems the district faces as the land it serves transforms from alfalfa and corn fields to housing developments and industrial subdivisions.
The district also is looking at a budget that contemplates $1.8 million in spending and about $1.4 million in revenues.
Efforts to get the attention of other governments in the valley over the last 18 months, however, garnered no results, Drainage District Chairman Mark Harris said.
So drainage district officials called in officials from Mesa County, Fruita, Grand Junction, Palisade and a variety of other districts on Monday to plead their case.
Specifically, the district is considering rejecting what are termed “regulated waters” from its system.
Those waters include the runoff from storm sewers in neighborhoods and commercial areas into the district’s 600-mile system of conduits, including pipes and open ditches.
The system was built largely to carry untreated agricultural runoff water back to the Colorado River from fields and undeveloped areas.
By refusing to accept water from other sources, such as runoff from urban activities, it was proposing a moratorium on new development, Drainage District Manager Kevin Williams acknowledged.
Without drainage, no new projects could go forward.
That would amount to “a huge detriment to the city of Fruita,” City Manager Clint Kinney said at the summit of officials gathered in the drainage district’s garage at 722 23 Road. “We know you’re in a tough spot, but what you’re talking about would be in nobody’s best interest, including the district.”
Accepting water that would have to be treated under the requirements of the Clean Water Act, however, exceeds the district’s abilities and poses liability risks, Harris and Williams said.
Gone are the days “when everybody was concerned with quantity, not the quality of water,” Williams said.
The district has a property tax levy of 1.205 mills but officials have yet to discuss asking voters to increase taxes.
The Drainage District board is to meet this morning. Harris said he would entertain a motion to postpone any action on rejecting new projects so long as there was “sustained, serious attention” to the district’s issues.
The clock is ticking, district board member Dick Bowman said.
“We’re down to about a year,” Bowman said, “and there are some serious financial problems.”