Mt. Crested Butte ponders potential for two reservoirs

“We will work together”

There are currently two reservoirs proposed in Mt. Crested Butte, and officials are pondering how they’ll work together.

 

 
Over 20 years ago the Mt. Crested Butte Water and Sanitation District obtained a water right to build a reservoir for municipal needs and also potentially for snowmaking needs at Crested Butte Mountain Resort. But last spring CBMR came out with plans to build its own reservoir.
CBMR officials say they are concerned that the district may not move forward with its reservoir plans soon enough to accommodate proposed snowmaking on Snodgrass Mountain, as well as additional snowmaking plans that have been approved for the main mountain.
“The reality is until (the district) needs that water, it’s kind of foolish for them to come out and build the reservoir… We don’t believe we can wait as long as necessary,” says CBMR mountain planner Roark Kiklevich.
Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) is planning a 60-million-gallon reservoir called Crescent Lake that would be located near the center of North Village, a proposed 1,100-unit development. Crescent Lake would have a surface area of approximately 8.7 acres, roughly larger than the resort’s main parking lot.
The Mt. Crested Butte Water and Sanitation District is currently looking to build their reservoir in the same vicinity for municipal water needs, but the final location has not been determined.
During a June 10 Water District board meeting, chairman Bill Racek says the district learned there are a lot of “what ifs” in the planning of the two reservoirs. “It’s complicated. There are a lot of variables,” he says.
The Water and Sanitation District has been planning to build a reservoir in the North Valley since the early 1980s.
A conditional water rights decree was issued in 1984, granting the district the right to build a reservoir primarily for municipal needs, but also for fire suppression and snowmaking. The decree, granted by the Gunnison District 4 Water Court, allowed a total water storage capacity of 228 million gallons and a surface area of 35 acres.
The decree also approves the general location of the reservoir near the proposed North Village site. The district is calling the reservoir the North Village Reservoir. Last winter the district obtained an easement to conduct geological tests to determine if the site will be suitable for a reservoir, but only after settling out of court on a controversial temporary condemnation hearing. Curtis R. Allen and Sons Inc. owns the land, and the Allen family greeted the district’s proposal with skepticism.
Racek says when CBMR annexed the Prospect Subdivision in 2001, the district and CBMR formed an agreement “that basically said [CBMR] needs to plan the North Village around the North Village reservoir.”
The agreement also states that in the event the district does move forward with the reservoir, depending on its size and location, the district and CBMR may choose to share in the cost of the project and the rights to the water.
But that option in the agreement may not come to fruition, Racek says, because the district hasn’t completely settled on the location of its reservoir. Racek thinks that’s the reason CBMR unveiled plans for North Village last spring that included a separate reservoir.
CBMR officials came to the meeting to present their plans for the Snodgrass ski terrain expansion.
Kiklevich says the Crescent Lake reservoir is not just needed for proposed snowmaking on Snodgrass. Fifty acres of new snowmaking were approved on the main mountain as part of a Master Improvements Plan approved by the Forest Service earlier this spring, but Kiklevich says the ability to install that snowmaking is tied to the reservoir. “This reservoir really has some impact on how we operate, how efficient we are and the quality and timing of the product,” Kiklevich says.
Kiklevich says if the district does start making progress on their reservoir soon, CBMR would likely be able to amend its North Village plans to accommodate the district’s reservoir.
Racek says depending on the ultimate storage amount, the district’s North Village Reservoir would overlap a small portion of the North Village currently planned by CBMR.
CBMR’s reservoir plans may also have an impact on the district’s reservoir. “Some of the thoughts were whether or not our reservoir would have to be designed to withstand a failure of their reservoir—we don’t know,” Racek says. If so, he says the district would look to CBMR to pick up the additional cost for building an improved dam.
There’s also the question of need. Racek says if CBMR builds their own reservoir for snowmaking purposes, the district would not need to store as much water, and if CBMR continues to pursue a plan for North Village that is significantly down-zoned from one that was approved over 20 years ago, that also has an impact. “We need to decide as a district how much water is reasonable to store,” he says.
Racek says the district also hasn’t made a final decision on the site for the new reservoir, and is also eyeing a possible location near Meridian Lake.
District board member Bill Cavanaugh says they’re waiting for a geological study that will take place this fall to determine if the reservoir site currently being eyed by the district is suitable. Cavanaugh says the hope is to have a final report by the end of the year. “At that time it will be known if it’s a viable site or not,” he says.
Racek and Kiklevich both agree that discussions will continue between the two entities as planning for each reservoir begins to take more shape.
 “We will work together, I truly believe that,” Kiklevich says.

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