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Sun still rises in east after a conservancy election

Brief by Central Staff

Water – August 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

Sun still rises in east after a water conservancy district election

If you phrase it just right, the July 10 special election in Buena Vista was a first in Colorado history: the first contested election for an open seat on the board of a water conservancy district. Directors are almost always appointed by judges.

In the two previous elections under the current law — Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District in 1999 and 2000 — there was an incumbent running, or else there was only one candidate. Under the old law, which was amended in 1996, there was a 1980 election in the Central Colorado WCD in Weld County.

The special election in Chaffee County was for a four-year term from Division Three (same boundaries as the Buena Vista school District) of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, which comprises Chaffee, Custer, and western Frémont counties.

Incumbent Gary Merrifield chose not to run again, and the contest was between Jeff Ollinger and Lloyd Johnson, with Ollinger winning 456 of the 791 votes that were cast.

Ollinger campaigned on improving communications between the district and its taxpayers, while Johnson said things were fine, and accused Ollinger of being a tool of special interests which had a no-growth agenda for Chaffee County.

One major activity of the UAWCD is the sale of water augmentation permits that allow people to drill wells at rural residences. The district has recently announced plans to buy more storage rights in Pueblo and Turquoise reservoirs.