Don’t be alarmed. It appears all is calm — with no more ripples — for a year-old City of Cortez water rights request to resolve an issue with generational roots dating back to an oversight early in the 1950s.
Last year, a Colorado Water Division engineer discovered the City of Cortez never filed an application to officially change its point of diversion from the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Canal to the Dolores Tunnel. In June of last year, the city filed the change application, but the proposal was met with opposition.
According to court documents, the city’s water rights date back to 1892, when the Sheek Ditch, Illinois Ditch, Giogetta Ditch and Dunham & Johnson Ditch were decreed for the town’s irrigation needs. In 1952 and 1953, the city’s point of diversion was changed to the Dolores River through the Dolores Tunnel, now via McPhee Reservoir, but water court officials never approved the change.
Court records show the application filed by the city last summer sought to officially change municipal water rights from the headgate of the Main No. 1 Canal of the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company to the Dolores Tunnel via McPhee Reservoir.
The application met opposition from both Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company and Dolores Water Conservancy District, but an agreement has since been reached, said City Manager Shane Hale.
“The stipulation agreement is basically a clarification of how we’re using the water,” Hale said. “We expect resolution within the next three to four weeks.”
At last week’s council meeting, city leaders met behind closed doors in executive session to discuss legal issues surrounding the 60-year-old municipal water rights issue. No official action was taken in executive session, Hale confirmed.
In public forum, council members voted to retain water rights attorney Scotty Krob of Greenwood Village to sign off on the legal formalities in District Court, Colorado Water Division No. 7. The agreement was filed with court officials last Thursday, Krob said, two days after he was hired at the city council meeting on July 9.
“The purpose of this application was to formally recognize that the point of diversion has been changed to the Dolores Tunnel and to approve that change,” Krob said.
According to the agreement, the city will continue receiving water diverted via McPhee Reservoir through the Dolores Tunnel. The application and the proposed decree do not change the ability of the City of Cortez to continue to use the full 4.2 cubic feet per second it has historically had access to, Krob added.