“The town had identified this possible scenario occurring, the most aggressive recall option that Idarado could pursue, and the town still retains all of its initial rights, which consist of about 500 acre feet of water,” said Geiger, “as well as all of our junior water rights, which are probably even more substantial than the senior rights, but which don’t have the same priority.”
Following the water rights recall, if it is successful, the town will retain its own and separate water rights above Bridal Veil Falls, as well as a share of the storage space and water system. According to Geiger, senior water rights at Blue Lake consist of about 1,225 acre feet out of about 3,900 acre feet, the active storage capacity of Blue Lake. The junior rights, therefore, make up about 2,600 acre-feet of water. “We have more than adequate water to do the water treatment plant,” said Fraser. “The only possible effect on the water plant is that it may take a little bit longer, because we have another potential legal situation facing us.” Geiger concurred, saying, “We still feel we have sufficient water to go ahead with either a one-million-gallon-per-day or two-million-gallon-per-day water treatment facility,” he said. Geiger went on to explain that the town might not experience any problems regarding Idarado’s use of the rights involved in the recall. If the water is used just at the power station, he explained, “once that water passes through the turbine and goes out the tail race, that beneficial use by Idarado is concluded and the town could pick up that water and still use it as our municipal water. Maybe that’s consistent with where they’re going. “I haven’t had discussions with Idarado on this issue yet,” he added. That seems consistent with the information so far available; as Idarado spokesman Omar Jabara pointed out, the company “just wanted to make sure that the [Bridal Veil] Power Plant had sufficient water to continue running, now and into the future.” While Idarado has no plans to increase power output from the station, Jabara said, the mining company does want to make sure the water “stays in the river” above the plant. Even so, with any possibility of legal action comes some frustration.
“I’ve been on this for ten years,” said Fraser, “and every step forward is another step sideways. “It has been ongoing, time-consuming and costly,“ he said, and “everything that you expect when you get into exercising your water rights. We knew there was a very good chance that this was going to come, and we just said, when it comes we’ll deal with it. “We just continue to move ahead. It’s frustrating beyond belief, but we’re further ahead than we were ten years ago and still doing the exact right thing.” What's next, Fraser said, is an executive-session discussion between Town Council and the town's water attorney. “There will be a next step,” Fraser said, and, “more than likely, more than one. “I’m so pleased that those folks sitting on council 18 years ago decided to start this process,” he added. “Water is of such tremendous value. I can’t imagine what it would be like if we were just starting now.”