OURAY TOWN BRIEFS
Leases Water Rights to Satisfy Downstream Call
by Samantha Wright
Jun 07, 2012 | 1075 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<b>OURAY ASTRONOMERS</b> - Bob Risch (wearing hat at left) and Gary Hansen (not pictured) set up a telescope at the base of Lee's Ski Hill in Ouray on the afternoon of June 5 and invited the community to join them in observing the planet Venus passing between Earth and the sun in an event known as a transit. Many stopped by to observe the rare event. Here, they are looking at a projected image of the sun, just as the tiny dot that is Venus appears to enter its disk. The transit began at about 4:08 p.m. Colorado time, and took over seven hours to complete, although of course it was visible only until sunset in Ouray (shortly after 8 p.m.) The next transit won't happen until Dec. 11, 2117. (Photo by Samantha Wright)
OURAY ASTRONOMERS - Bob Risch (wearing hat at left) and Gary Hansen (not pictured) set up a telescope at the base of Lee's Ski Hill in Ouray on the afternoon of June 5 and invited the community to join them in observing the planet Venus passing between Earth and the sun in an event known as a transit. Many stopped by to observe the rare event. Here, they are looking at a projected image of the sun, just as the tiny dot that is Venus appears to enter its disk. The transit began at about 4:08 p.m. Colorado time, and took over seven hours to complete, although of course it was visible only until sunset in Ouray (shortly after 8 p.m.) The next transit won't happen until Dec. 11, 2117. (Photo by Samantha Wright)
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OURAY – The Ouray City Council has approved a water rights lease from an entity that owns senior downstream water rights, in order to satisfy a recent call on its municipal water supply. The lease is a temporary, short-term solution to augment the city’s water supply, as staff continue to work toward a more permanent solution.

The lease provides 1.1 cubic feet per second of water from the Oldcastle SW Group until Jan. 1, 2013, for $4,506.17. It is not enough to cover the city’s entire consumptive use, but will go a long way toward addressing the problem, said City Administrator Patrick Rondinelli.

The Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association (UVWUA) placed a call on the Upper Uncompahgre River with its Montrose & Delta Canal in early May, because sub-average snow pack and early run-off have resulted in low seasonal flows.

The city is not currently subject to the call, Rondinelli said, but it is only a matter of time until the call goes back into effect. “The lease is a preventive measure but we are 99 percent confident our water will get called again this summer,” he said. “This is a very generous opportunity. The owners are willing to lease it to city for this year; they have said they would possibly entertain options for future years but they don’t want to commit.”

The city’s long term water augmentation plan hinges on acquiring rights to the Red Mountain Ditch, a historic trans-basin diversion that starts in the Animas River watershed near the top of Red Mountain Pass and is piped into the Uncompahgre River watershed.

The ditch, after undergoing repairs, will add enough water into the Uncompahgre River basin to offset the city’s municipal consumptive use in the event of a call by senior downstream users.

“Work on the ditch will ultimately extend into next year but permits will be in place to allow water to flow in the ditch this summer to offset any water calls for the City,” noted Rondinelli.

Temporary RV Parking Would 'Open Floodgates'

Ouray’s city council reluctantly rejected a request from Calvary Assembly of God minister Randy Stanko to bend the rules regarding the city’s ordinance prohibiting occupied RVs from parking in undesignated camping areas.

Stanko appeared before council Monday night, June 4, requesting special consideration regarding the RV parking ordinance because his church has received an offer from volunteer electricians to rewire the church building and bring it up to code, something his small congregation cannot afford to do on its own.

However, the opportunity hinges on finding a place for the volunteers, who would be traveling to Ouray from out of state, to park their three RVs for a period of 60 days while they complete the project. Parking the RVs at one of the city’s commercial campgrounds for that amount of time would be prohibitively expensive, Stanko said.

City resident Craig Hinkson has offered to allow the RVs to park on his property on the north end of Oak Street, and would provide electrical hook-ups for free, Stanko said. But this would violate the city’s ordinance prohibiting occupied RVs within city limits except in designated campgrounds.

The city does not provide a specific permit process which could accommodate Stanko’s request. The only way to address the matter would be to amend the city code, a lengthy process which would entail going before the planning commission, said Rondinelli.

“The church is a quasi public building and wiring is something of a safety issue,” Mayor Bob Risch pointed out, clearly frustrated that the city could not grant such an apparently reasonable request. “I’m wondering if health, safety and welfare trumps code?”

“I understand this is for a good cause, but you will open the floodgates (to similar requests),” warned City Attorney Kathryn Sellars. “You just don’t have a process in place to create a temporary camping park.”

“It’s unfortunate our town can’t be hospitable enough to get a church rewired for free, and it is a public safety issue,” observed councilman John Ferguson. “I’m opposed to saying we can’t do it.”

Councilman Michael Underwood, who is a property manager, offered to work with Stanko to find a suitable camping area outside of city limits that would accommodate the volunteer electricians and their RVs.

Electric Vehicles Allowed

Council adopted on second reading an ordinance allowing the use of low-speed electric vehicles, and golf cars, within designated areas of the city including along Highway 550. This ordinance will align the city code with state statute.

Fire Restrictions Are Pending

Dry weather conditions have prompted the city and county to consider various fire restrictions for the summer. Ouray Volunteer Fire Department Chief Adam Kunz is discussing options with other officials and will be working with the city staff on possible recommendations to the city council in the near future.

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