News coverage in recent days over a new deal in the works between the city and The Broadmoor boils down to who will fund repairs that could cost millions of dollars, according to Mayor John Suthers.
Suthers' explanation comes after the Colorado Springs Business Journal reported last week the Colorado Springs Utilities Board was engaging in talks to sell the Penrose-Rosemont water system to the resort. That was followed days later by a report in the Gazette about a pipeline from Rosemont Reservoir that serves The Broadmoor's Mountain Course golf course being in dire need of replacement.
So citizens have been left guessing what's going on, considering that city and Utilities officials won't say much.
City Councilor Andy Pico, who chairs the Utilities Board, tells the Indy, "I can't talk much about it, because most of it has been in executive session. Here's what I can say: There is no deal." Utilities water officer Dan Higgins told the Business Journal that negotiations are underway but he wouldn't give details.
Suthers says "negotiating" is too strong a word, but clearly an agreement of some kind is in the works regarding Rosemont Reservoir and the pipeline.
The mayor is a non-voting member of the Utilities Board, so Suthers claims via email that he's not been part of the discussions, though he understands that the Rosemont system is old and needs substantial and expensive repairs. Rosemont, Suthers notes, was built in 1932 by The Broadmoor and was later sold to the city, although it's still used largely to supply water to The Broadmoor.
The question, he surmises, "is whether Utilities should invest a great deal in the repairs given the limited use or whether it should be sold to the Broadmoor and let them do the repairs."
Rosemont Reservoir has an annual capacity of 2,541 acre feet of storage, according to Utilities. (An acre foot is 326,000 gallons, or the equivalent of water one foot deep covering one acre of land.)
A Gazette report last weekend cited The Broadmoor's claim that a pipeline from the reservoir has leaked significant amounts of water and caused major damage to its golf courses. The article cited a 2001 Utilities study that said the 12-mile line was in dire need of repair. A Broadmoor spokesman told the newspaper that replacing the line could cost up to $50 million. (The Broadmoor is owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz, who also owns the Gazette.)
As the Indy previously reported, The Broadmoor claimed in a Nov. 5, 2015, pre-lawsuit letter to the city that pipeline leaks caused damage and a forced closure of its Mountain Course. Missed "business opportunities" at the course have cost the resort $590,000, the letter said; repairs could cost millions. Moreover, the resort letter claimed, five home sites worth $13 million in profits were rendered "incapable of being developed and sold."
However, Utilities told the Indy in March that the amount of water lost via the leak was "not significant," and heavy rains are to blame.
It's not clear how a sale or transfer of Rosemont would impact Utilities' ability to deliver water to its customers. CSU owns water rights that provide a yield of 152,000 acre feet per year, so Rosemont's water, which comes from Gould and East Beaver creeks, comprises less than 2 percent of the city's available supply.
The city has never sold any of its water rights and purchased new rights in December by acquiring one share of the Chilcott Ditch Company. It paid $160,375 for the share, which is the equivalent of 24.61 acre feet of water per year, or $6,517 per acre foot.
By that measure, the Rosemont water rights would command a price of $16.6 million, significantly less than the $50 million pipe replacement price cited by a Broadmoor official to the Gazette. What's unclear: whether that figure has been independently verified, and how losing the resort as a customer would affect the city.
It's no secret the resort knows how to make a good deal, most recently demonstrating its finesse by winning City Council approval of a land swap in which it obtained 189 acres of prime open space, known as Strawberry Fields. That deal engendered strident opposition and still could lead to a lawsuit.
So when word leaked The Broadmoor and city were talking about trading a city water system, it was sure to set tongues wagging.
Utilities spokesman Steve Berry says the department is currently working on a water resources plan "to determine how many people our current water rights can serve and under what conditions." At present, Utilities' water system serves 465,000 people.
Berry also says no decision will happen "without a public discussion/process and vote by the Utilities Board/City Council."
Suthers concurred, saying, "If a sale is proposed, there will be plenty of opportunity for public discussion."
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