Dueling engineers contest Wolf Creek water supply

Brief by Allen Best

Water – June 2006 – Colorado Central Magazine

Disputes and disagreement continue at Wolf Creek Pass, where Texas billionaire Billy Joe “Red” McCombs proposes to build 2,172 residential units next to a ski area that has no overnight lodging and not even much base area development.

The disagreement reported by the Durango Herald is about whether there is sufficient water in late summer to sustain the city of part-time residents. The location is at 10,300 feet, near the Continental Divide.

“If you go up there in mid-summer and walk the drainages, there’s hardly any water, or just a trickle,” said Ralf Topper, a hydrologist with the Colorado Geological Survey.

The newspaper reports a case of dueling water engineers. Martin & Wood, the firm hired by the developer, said the resort village could survive with 64 acre-feet of water storage, if necessary, although plans call for double that amount. But a firm hired by the ski area operators that are fighting the project foresees too little water in late summer and fall in the very dry years.

Bob Honts, the development’s front man, said the lesson is that you can hire experts to say what you want them to say. Of course, he was just talking about opponents of the development.