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Water negotiations underway

S. Utes on track to have access to Lake Nighthorse
Representatives from the Southern Ute Native American Tribe and the Bureau of Reclamation have begun talks on the tribe’s use of water from Lake Nighthorse, a reservoir built to store potable water for three Native American tribes and nontribal agencies.

Negotiators from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the Western Colorado area office of the Bureau of Reclamation opened negotiations Monday on the tribe’s use of water from Lake Nighthorse.

The lake is a reservoir created two miles southwest of Durango as a settlement of Native American water-right claims. The reservoir holds 123,000 acre-feet of water for the Southern Utes, the Ute Mountain Utes, the Navajo Nation and nontribal entities, including the city of Durango.

The tribes paid nothing to build the $500 million reservoir, but they will pay operation and maintenance costs once they start to use the water.

The terms of storing and delivering water and the terms and conditions of operation and maintenance payments are being negotiated.

Ryan Christianson from the Bureau of Reclamation said the session Monday is likely the first of many. The pace of talks and attention to detail Monday seem to bear him out.

All negotiating sessions are open to the public and include 30 minutes for public comment at the end of each session.

The proposed contract and other documents are available at the negotiating sessions, in the Current Focus box at www.usbr.gov/uc/wcao/index.html or by contacting Christianson at 445 West Gunnison Ave., Suite 221, Grand Junction, CO 81501, 248-0652 or at rchristianson@usbr.gov.


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