Letter to the Editor: Yellow Jacket district responds

Dear Editor:
To the constituents of the Yellow Jacket Water Conservancy District: As previously reported, Judge Michael O’Hara of the Division 6 Water Court in Steamboat Springs granted certain upriver landowners and Western Resource Advocates (a Boulder-based environmental group) motion for summary judgment to dismiss several of the district’s historical conditional water rights. The water court was persuaded that procedural issues related to the timing of appointment of directors invalidated the timely filing of the district’s diligence cases. The district does not agree with this ruling and is evaluating its various legal options including an appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court. Despite the water court’s ruling, the district continues to engage in good faith negotiations regarding the scope and location of various aspects of the YJ project in response to landowner concerns.
The Yellow Jacket Water Conservancy District has worked diligently to preserve and maintain its water rights, including the conditional rights that upriver landowners and Western Resource Advocates would like to see canceled in their efforts to thwart oil shale and other natural resource development within the district. The district’s water rights are decreed for agricultural, municipal, wildlife and recreational uses as well as — yes — industrial uses. The district has long supported reasonable and responsible water storage management so that all of the historical water uses within this valley can be maintained well into the future. Water may indeed run uphill to money but the district will continue to comply with its fiduciary duty to responsibly address water storage and water use within the district for the benefit of all water users. In its efforts to fulfill its duties the district will continue with the Yellow Jacket Water Storage Feasibility Study. Phase 1 of the study has already narrowed the district’s focus going forward and the district remains optimistic that the YJ Study will be a positive step in shaping future water storage development within the district. The district appreciates the continued interest in water issues and the district’s activities. The district welcomes all public dialogue on water and related natural resource issues.
Trina Zagar-Brown
Secretary Counsel Yellow Jacket Water Conservancy District