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  • Dylan Anderson

Private ski development requires increased outflows into nutrient-rich Stagecoach Reservoir

Serving Stagecoach Mountain Ranch would require a permit for increased discharge capacity from state regulators when the water district says renewing that permit at its current capacity is already an issue.


The Morrison Creek Water and Sanitation District would need to “double or triple” the capacity of a water discharge permit from state regulators in order to serve the more than 700 homes planned at Stagecoach Mountain Ranch, a proposed exclusive ski and golf community targeting ultra-wealthy individuals.


But renewing that discharge permit at its current levels has become difficult in recent years because water is discharged into Stagecoach Reservoir, which is considered an “impaired water” by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.


At a district board meeting on Thursday, Morrison Creek General Manager Geovanny Romero recommended against offering any guarantees to provide water or sewer capacity to the developer until the capacity of that permit could be increased.


“[Stagecoach Reservoir] is saturated with nutrients and we have had an issue renewing our permit to the current capacity,” Romero said on Thursday. “My recommendation to the board is that no decisions and no commitments are made until the state can secure doubling or more of our discharge permit. … We cannot serve until we are sure we can serve.”


The board did not take action on Thursday, rather it was meant to be an informational meeting.


The current permit allows for the discharge of up to 350,000 gallons of water a day. While the district only discharges a third of that currently, Romero said it would utilize that full capacity if all lots currently platted in Stagecoach were to develop. This capacity needs to be extended to protect the commitment the district has already made to current customers, Romero said.


“The board is standing firm on no impact to the current customers,” Romero said in an interview on Friday.


Romero hesitated to speculate on whether the state would grant the increased capacity permit, but noted that it isn’t an uncommon request. He said the state will likely request data from the district showing that nutrient levels in Stagecoach are not coming from the district’s treatment plant, a process that may require additional study. Romero said nutrient issues in the reservoir are partially because it is flooded agricultural land.


“I know it has been done, I know it is possible,” Romero said. “It’s just expected that at some point you’re going to go over your permit.”


In addition to the water discharge permit, Romero spoke of significant infrastructure upgrades needed both on the site of Stagecoach Mountain Ranch and at the water treatment plant itself. The cost of these upgrades will be placed solely on the developer, Romero said.


Some on the board had concerns about water quality in Stagecoach as well.  Not only is the reservoir considered “impaired water,” but it has also seen toxic algae blooms, according to CDPHE data.


“The requirements are so strict that even right now we can’t meet them.” a board member said. (It was unclear on the virtual meeting which board member was speaking.) “One of the concerns is, of course, if we put a golf course next to Stagecoach Reservoir, any of the nutrients that are running off the golf course will exacerbate that nutrient level in the reservoir.”


Eric Gunderson, a civil engineer with Kimley Horn working on the project, said they have hired an environmental consultant to address those concerns, but didn’t share any details. He added that developer Discovery Land Company has some “best practices” that have been implemented on similar properties that have golf courses adjacent to drinking water reservoirs. Discovery Land Company is behind the Yellowstone Club near Big Sky Montana, among others.


“We’ve heard that as a concern from day one when we started working on this project and it’s something that is being analyzed and will be prepared and proposed in the application to the county,” Gunderson said.


Gunderson was joined by civil engineer Makenzie Chesak, who laid out where the various units would be disbursed around the development. She identified seven different areas in the project. Areas identified as the base mountain and top mountain have the most housing, with 316 units and 207 units planned in those areas, respectively. Another 47 homes would be around an area identified for the golf course and 37 in an area referred to as South Shore. There would also be 62 units in an area called Mid Mountain and another 22 on the backside of the mountain in an area called Cat Creek.


Six more homes would be on land known as the Stetson Ranch and wouldn’t be served by the water district.

Photo Caption: A screenshot of a slide from the meeting shows the various areas planned for housing at Stagecoach Mountain Ranch. (Screenshot)


In total, Chesak estimated that the development would need a maximum of 503 acre-feet of water per year for indoor and limited irrigation. The sewer demand would be equal to roughly 379 acre-feet per year.


“I think there could be a lot of public benefits of some of the infrastructure as they are getting ready to oversize my system,” Romero said. “Potentially there could be some benefits to it.”


Romero estimated that the district has access to enough raw water to serve Stagecoach Mountain Ranch, though it may require the district to drill additional wells. Water for snowmaking and irrigation of the planned golf course would not come from the district, rather Discover Land Company hopes to obtain a water contract with the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District for that. UYWCD owns and operates Stagecoach Reservoir and has acknowledged it has water capacity for snowmaking and golf course irrigation,


Romero mentioned other documents from the developer in the meeting that were not provided to the public. As the meeting broke after public comment, Romero was asked for copies of those documents by a member of the public, but he declined to provide them at the time.


Following the meeting, The Yampa Valley Bugle filed a Colorado Open Records Act request for any documents the district has received from the developer as well as any correspondence between the district and the developer about the project.


On Friday, Romero acknowledged receipt of The Bugle’s request and said he was working with the district’s counsel to share the documents requested.  


Top Photo Caption: Stagecoach Reservoir, as seen from a November 2023 flight to Denver International Airport. (Dylan Anderson/The Yampa Valley Bugle)



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