Alamosa leaves room for East Alamosa in water planning

ALAMOSA—With the possibility the East Alamosa Water and Sanitation District may want to participate in the City of Alamosa’s water augmentation plan, the Alamosa city council this week set a higher augmentation plan spending cap.

Like other large well users, the City of Alamosa and East Alamosa must comply with new groundwater rules filed by the State Engineer about a year and a half ago. The rules will go into effect when approved by the water court, which has scheduled a trial to hear objections to the rules next January.

The city council on Wednesday unanimously approved an ordinance setting the upper limit on how much the city will pay to finance its augmentation plan, which includes the purchase of water rights that will help the city offset its well pumping. The ordinance originally set the limit at $3.5 million, principal. However, with the possibility the East Alamosa district might join in the city’s augmentation plan, the city revised the upper limit in the final approval of the ordinance to $4.3 million.

Both Alamosa City Attorney Erich Schwiesow and City Manager Heather Brooks stressed that East Alamosa’s board has not made any decisions to go in with the City of Alamosa, and discussions are in the very preliminary stages.

“The discussions we have had with East Alamosa are extremely preliminary,” Brooks said. “I am not sure they have had official discussions at the board level. Increasing to $4.3 million allows those discussions to continue...No decision has been made by that board. These are very preliminary discussions.”

If East Alamosa does not participate with the city, there is no harm done, but if they decide to, the city will be better prepared to include the district, Brooks explained.

Schwiesow agreed it would be prudent to set a higher amount in the parameters ordinance up front in case East Alamosa decides to participate in the augmentation plan with the City of Alamosa.

“This allows that flexibility,” he said.

He added that the city provides water and wastewater treatment for East Alamosa now, so it would be a natural fit for the two water providers to work together on this plan as well.

He said East Alamosa’s portion of the water treatment is currently about 11 percent.

Schwiesow also explained that the $4.3 million is the limit set in the ordinance approved by the city council. That does not mean the city will spend that amount.

“It sets limits,” he said. “The actual number will be determined once we hone in on the numbers we can get when we put this out to bid to various banks.”

Schwiesow said East Alamosa’s board would have to decide if it was going to participate with the city before the City of Alamosa executed final documents.

The collateral the city will use in its lease-purchase agreement to finance the augmentation plan will be portions of the city’s ranch property and the water rights attached to that property, Schwiesow explained.

In addition to setting the financing cap, the ordinance approved by the city council this week also set the interest rate not to exceed 5 percent. Schwiesow said staff is estimating the rate will actually be 3-3.5 percent.