Letter to the Editor: Costilla County Conservancy District: Protecting a way of life, water

Water is a way of life in the San Luis Valley. Did you know the Costilla County Conservancy District has played a hand in protecting this way of life? The Costilla County Conservancy District has worked to ensure our water is safe and clean. The Conservancy District has a long history in the San Luis Valley community. A history filled with a desire to help our community and protect our water.

In 1976, the Costilla County Conservancy District was established through a petition from landowners. The district was organized for the purposes of preventing floods; regulating stream channels by changing widening and deepening the same; regulating the flow of streams; straightening, widening, deepening, changing, or diverting the course of any natural or artificial water course; to build reservoirs, canals, levees, walls, embankments, bridges, or dams; to reclaim or fill low lands and lands subject to overflow; to remove and to regulate and repair any of the construction herein named; and the conservation, development, utilization and disposal of water for agricultural, municipal and industrial uses thereof. The District has worked hard to fulfill its stated purpose.

When American Water Development, Inc. bought the Baca Grant Ranch and planned to ship millions of gallons of water from an aquifer below the valley floor to states across the West, the Conservancy District, joined several valley communities in the legal and political battle, a valiant fight to keep the water in the San Luis Valley, and the Valley succeeded when the American Water Development, Inc. gave up its fight. The Conservancy District has also been significantly involved in ensuring the water from Battle Mountain is treated and safe for the community. The Conservancy District has helped financially with the cleaning of multiple acequias within the district, including the San Luis People’s Ditch, the first significant water project in the state, which is still in use today. The Conservancy District has helped financially with the San Pedro Ditch, Acequia de cerro, San Francisco Ditch, and the Montez Ditch, to name only a few of the acequias the Conservancy District has helped, all in an effort to protect your water rights.

The law allows the Conservancy District to do so much more for the community. And the Costilla County Conservancy District wants to do so much more for its community and more to protect the water within the community. However, the Conservancy District is limited in its efforts due to TABOR. The Taxpayers Bill of Right (TABOR) is a revenue and expenditure limitation, which only affects Colorado, and limits how a government, including a special district such as the Costilla County Conservancy District, can increase revenue, and spend revenue. TABOR restricts the ability of the Costilla County Conservancy District from increasing its revenue, spending revenue, and from planning from long term projects. Thus, the Costilla County Conservancy District has a ballot initiative in an effort to de-bruce, or be relieved of the TABOR restrictions.

By de-brucing, the Costilla County Conservancy District can seek additional revenue through grants and spend the additional revenue to the benefit of the community. Recently, the Costilla County Conservancy District received a grant from SLVcci for $35,000.00 and a $2,500.00 grant from El Pomar to help pay for a watershed project. With these grants, the conservancy district has held 18 stakeholder and community meetings to work on the watershed within the district. The watershed planning is currently at the Request for Proposals stag and will begin advertising a call for proposals on November 1, 2018 with bids due by December 15, 2018.

The Costilla County Conservancy District wishes to apply for the Healthy Watersheds Consortium Grant, Grants for Colorado Nonprofits and Local Governments to Develop Outdoor Recreation Plans and many other grants in 2019. However, without debrucing, the Conservancy District will exceed the revenue limitations. In 2018, the Conservancy District has exceeded the TABOR limitations. Thus, if this initiative fails, the Conservancy District will have to determine how to return the grant money and the work on the watersheds will cease due to a lack of funding. Voting yes on this initiative will allow the Conservancy District to continue watershed assessment, projects and sustainability, ditch infrastructure, education programs to teach our youth the importance of our farming communities, educational programs for our farmers & ranchers. If this initiative fails, the Conservancy District will be limited in their ability to fund the annual Congresso, local Ditch/Acequia Companies and youth programs.

If you wish to get involved with the Costilla County Conservancy District meets on the last Friday of every month at 12:30 p.m. Remember, a yes vote, helps to protect, preserve, and sustain our land, water and way of life. The future of the San Luis Valley depends on our water.

Submitted by The Committee to Vote Yes on the Costilla County Conservancy District Referendum A


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