As attorney Gene Farish quoted Yogi Berra, “It’s déjà vu all over again,” when he learned of the latest water export proposal.
The latest export plan involves the same ranch, the same water and the same buyers as the last one did. It would involve the same person, except Gary Boyce died of cancer a few years ago.
His plan did not die, however, and probably never will as long as there is money in water and there are those willing to buy it.
Renewable Water Resources (there’s a problem with the name right off the bat, at least when it comes to the San Luis Valley, because our water resources aren’t as renewable as they used to be) proposes to export 22,000 acre feet of water from the former Boyce ranch property, via a pipeline that would take the water north. Most likely municipalities like Aurora and Castle Rock would be the buyers of the Valley water, should it ever make it through the court system, let alone the pipeline, which in itself will cost $550-600 million. Communities south of Denver continue to grow, and they are desperate for new water sources. Ours is a very attractive one.
The developers plan to spend about $60 million buying water rights around the Valley to make up for the water they are going to export, which would be required under our water rules.
They also propose a $50 million community fund that would assist the Valley. That’s a bit nebulous, but the developers threw out causes like law enforcement and schools. Who could fight that, right?
The thing that’s different with these folks as compared with those who wanted to export water from here in the past, as it appears to me and others who have commented on it publicly, is that these folks are going about this in a different way. They are smarter in that regard, because they are meeting upfront with groups that would normally (and will undoubtedly) fight them in court, like the Rio Grande Water Conservation District. They are saying they want to be “transparent,” a politically correct stance, and they want to work with these entities rather than fight them.
There are folks in our water organizations that would allow water exportation from this Valley over their dead bodies, no exceptions, and as long as they are alive they will fight such plans to export our water. Unfortunately, we have recently lost some of our great water leaders like Mac McFadden and Ralph Curtis, and less recently men like Doug Shriver and Ray Wright.
Fortunately, we still have many great water leaders still in play. They will take the battle back to the courts when the need arises, and they will do everything in their power to keep any water pipeline from being built.
Because, as several folks have said recently, once the water starts flowing out, more will follow.
And we have other places like California’s Owens Valley as living (or rather dying) testaments to what happens when the water is gone.