Selling water not in shareholders’ interest

Headlines from Ag Journal: “Officials worried about heat, drought, wildfires,” (June 29)

From Pine River Times: “Bayfield water restrictions start Sunday.”

Irrigation water from Lemon Reservoir was due to be shut off June 30; water from Vallecito Reservoir is due to be shut off end of August – far earlier than in the drought year of 2002.

So ... here’s an idea: Let’s sell our water.

Pine River Irrigation District has two pending cases in water court (2007CW37 and 2007CW89) filed in an effort to legalize selling water from Vallecito Reservoir for domestic, municipal and industrial uses. The judge has not heard or dismissed these cases despite numerous objections filed, and they have been in continuance for more than four years.

When more than 65 percent of shareholders voted in October 2003 not to sell water to a rural water system, they knew it was a bad idea. They knew there was not “surplus” water. They knew that without water, their land was worthless. They knew that once agricultural water is claimed for household or industrial use, that use takes precedence. They knew selling water outside PRID boundaries was a bad idea.

It is still a bad idea. Yet the PRID board of directors remains steadfast in its efforts to enable a few privileged and large shareholders to “pool” their surplus water and offer it for sale for a domestic water system. That is the ultimate intent behind both water court cases, filed after the “no” vote by shareholders. And while waiting to somehow acquire this water source, La Plata Archuleta Water District continues to collect taxes, borrow $25 million and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for planning, engineering, legal fees and administration while never breaking ground.

One has to ask why? Who stands to gain? Certainly not the majority of farmers and ranchers in our community; certainly not our rural community as a whole.

It is time for the PRID board to concede this scheme and instead focus on what best serves the shareholders – and that is not selling our water.

Caryl Helmin-Schmid