Water deals allow end of Ruedi debt
With the Ute Water Conservancy District leading the way, 17 entities have agreed to buy water from Ruedi Reservoir above Basalt, resulting in repayment to the federal government of what had been a ballooning debt.
The Colorado River District said Tuesday that its efforts over the last two years to solicit Western Slope interest in uncontracted water in the reservoir succeeded in allowing the $34 million obligation to be paid.
Ute Water, the Grand Valley’s largest water provider, was the biggest buyer of water, agreeing to pay $15.5 million for 12,000 acre-feet. An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons.
The river district itself committed to the second-largest amount—about 4,700 acre-feet, for $6 million.
Ruedi Reservoir was built as West Slope mitigation for the federal Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which diverts Fryingpan River and Hunter Creek water to the Arkansas River Basin.
The debt was originally $9.3 million when the Bureau of Reclamation finished building the 102,000-acre-foot reservoir in the early-1970s, and it grew due to unpaid interest and operating expenses.
The bureau owns and operates Ruedi. The deal struck in the 1960s to build the reservoir assumed an oil shale boom and other energy demands to pay the debt, the river district said.
“The debt was due in 2019 and uncertainty about paying it cast a shadow over how the uncontracted water in the reservoir—intended to benefit western Colorado—would be used,” the river district said in a news release.
The district had feared that the federal government might claim the remaining water or charge parties with existing Ruedi water contracts more to address the shortfall.
The district says the water that has been contracted will mostly be a backup supply for very dry years, and result in little change to Fryingpan and Roaring Fork river streamflows.
Buyers of the uncontracted water agreed to pay about $1,290 an acre-foot.
Other contracting entities include:
■ Snowmass Water and Sanitation District: 500 acre-feet
■ Garfield County: 400 acre-feet
■ City of Aspen: 400 acre-feet
■ Summit County: 330 acre-feet
■ Basalt Water Conservancy District: 300 acre-feet
■ Town of Carbondale: 250 acre-feet
■ Town of Palisade: 200 acre-feet
■ Wildcat Reservoir Co.: 140 acre-feet
■ Mid Valley Metro District: 100 acre-feet
■ W/J Metro District: 100 acre-feet
■ Crown Mountain Park Recreation District: 62 acre-feet
■ Wildcat Ranch Homeowners Association: 50 acre-feet
■ Elk Wallow Ranch LLC: 30 acre-feet
■Town of De Beque: 25 acre-feet
■ Owl Creek Ranch Homeowners Association: 15 acre-feet