“A water right is a property right… and that is a dilemma, but we don’t want to impact people’s property rights. So I’m really interested in looking a [what laws] exist, and how these potential changes would, or could, impact existing property rights…”
— Joe Frank, general manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, quoted in the Pagosa Daily Post, October 2020
My Toyota van finally gave up the ghost after 200,000 miles of loyal service to humanity. So I went to Durango to shop for a used car. (I have never yet, in my life, purchased a “new” car.) The used car I ended up buying cost much more than I had planned to spend, and looked nothing like what I thought I was looking for, but it came with a 100,000-mile warranty — something I’ve never had before, on any of my previous used cars and trucks.
In other words, I let go of my expectations, and either did something foolish, or something brilliant. Time will tell.
We note that I spent only “my own money” on the car, and it has become my “private property”. I was not subsidized by Archuleta County property tax revenues or government fees. If I’ve made a mistake, there’s no one but myself to blame, and no one but myself to deal with the maintenance costs.
But serving as a volunteer on a government board, like the San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) board, presents a different situation. All the money the District spends comes from the pockets of our local property owners, and our decisions must, in my opinion, reflect the wishes and desires of our customers — that is to say, the District taxpayers.
Note: This editorial series expresses my own research and opinions, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other SJWCD Board members, nor the decisions and policies of the SJWCD Board as a whole.
As the SJWCD considers the question of the West Fork Water Rights, which it currently holds on behalf of local taxpayers, it’s possible that not a single ordinary taxpayer knew about these particular West Fork water rights, nor formed an opinion about what to do with them in 2021 — the year when they must be moved to a brand new location, or abandoned, or sold. Speaking for myself, I have been paying taxes to the San Juan Water Conservancy District for 28 years, and have been writing Daily Post editorials about local water issues for 17 years… and did not learn about the “West Fork water rights” until I was appointed to the SJWCD board two years ago.
When the people paying the taxes have no idea how their taxes are being used, or how they might be used in the future, it poses a problem for a board of directors — if the board truly wants to make decisions that reflect the wishes and desires of our customers. Without knowing how the taxpayers feel, a board might be prone to follow a plan of action devised long ago by a different board of directors, or by an out-of-town attorney, or even a plan…