The Dolores Water Conservancy District board of directors is asking voters to set a permanent mill levy for the district.
Ballot question 4A will appear on the November general election ballot, and would authorize DWCD to fix its operating mill levy at the current 0.483 mills and retain any additional income it receives. DWCD operates McPhee Reservoir and the Dolores Project.
"We think of this as purely a housekeeping measure, but it requires voter approval because it deals with our mill levy rate," said Bruce Smart, president of the Conservancy District Board.
"We're spending more of our resources, and tapping reserve funds, to protect our water rights and meet legal and regulatory challenges while dealing with the challenges created by drought."
The district is also responding to threats to McPhee Reservoir such as preventing an invasion of destructive mussels.
"The bottom line is we have a duty to protect the water, McPhee Reservoir and project facilities for our children and grandchildren," Smart said.
DWCD manages the water assets of the Dolores Project covering a 440-square-mile area of farms and towns, including the Ute Mountain Ute tribe. Water stored in McPhee Reservoir is relied on for drinking water by the communities of Cortez, Dove Creek, and Towaoc. And the Montezuma Valley Irrigation District stores water in McPhee that is delivered to 1,000 shareholders.
"Water from the Dolores Project is the lifeblood of our local economy - including agricultural and commercial businesses, and the residential growth of our communities," said District Manager Mike Preston. "In our 28 years of managing the Dolores Project, we've seen an increasing need to protect existing water rights and water supplies while making long term investments to keep Dolores Project facilities in good condition. Addressing these needs has become increasingly critical and costly."
Question 4A will be included in the general election ballot mailed to registered voters in Montezuma and Dolores counties by October 19, 2015.
The district has a long-term contract with the Bureau of Reclamation to operate and maintain the Dolores Project which moves an average of 240,000 acre feet of water per year through the reservoir. The Project facilities include McPhee Dam and Reservoir, the Dolores Tunnel, the Towaoc Highline Canal, the Dove Creek Canal, two hydropower plants, seven pumping plants and the control systems to run them all remotely. Directors on the seven-member board are appointed by the district judge.