Minority stockholders present at the Larkspur Ditch Meeting held Wednesday at the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District’s McClave Project were not happy with the bylaws changes put across by majority stockholders LAVWCD.

Minority stockholders present at the Larkspur Ditch Meeting held Wednesday at the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District’s McClave Project were not happy with the bylaws changes put across by majority stockholders LAVWCD. LAVWCD began buying into the Larkspur Ditch several years ago and now controls 77 percent of the stock. Specifically, as put forth by LAVWCD Board Member Willard Behm, the minority stockholders questioned Article 4, Section 7, on the right of stockholders to obtain records of the company (no longer the case). He also questioned that minor stockholders (less than two percent of total stock) and major stockholders (more than two percent of total stock) would pay a different rate, and that LAVWCD did not pay delinquency fees (LAVWCD was delinquent in paying assessments recently but did not pay a late fee).

As the meeting progressed, the major stockholders not only changed the bylaws as desired but also eliminated the minor stockholders’ representatives, Dave Donnell and Willard Behm, from the Larkspur board. The Larkspur Board at the beginning of the meeting was Lynden Gill, Reeves Brown, Leroy Mauch, Dave Donnell and Willard Behm. After the break, the Larkspur Board consisted of Lynden Gill, Leroy Mauch, Reeves Brown, Jim Valliant and Anthony Nunez, all members of the LAVWCD board of directors. Nunez objected to informing minority stockholders on the grounds it would take too much clerical work on the part of the LAVWCD.

“They (LAVWCD) have done some good things,” said former Larkspur board member Dave Donnell, “but transparency is not there.” He also expressed he thinks the LAVWCD has far exceeded its intention as originally organized.

The LAVWCD pointed out its major accomplishments over the years:

1. Acquired and managed $5 million in grant funds for communities, ditch companies, and other groups within the district within the past eight years to protect and sustain the valley’s water resources.

2. Operated the Catlin Project (Super Ditch), which offers land fallowing as an alternative to buy and dry.

3. Developed and managed Rule 10 plans, which prevented farmers being bankrupted by the cost of water returns to the river.

4. Acquired and holds conservation easements to ensure irrigated farming for future generations.

5. Conducted several water quantity studies.

6. Worked with farmers on several water quality projects.

7. Now working to establish a new storage account in John Martin Reservoir for local agricultural and municipal use.

8. Carried and promoted legislation to sustain the valley’s water resources and oppose legislation with the potential to harm them.

9. Educated valley’s youth on water conservation through Children’s Water Festivals.

10. Served on major water boards, including the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, InterBasin Compact Committee, Colorado Water Congress, Fountain Creek District and numerous others.

Recent successes include the Pond Study, which reduced the water replacement obligation of valley farmers with sprinklers and drip irrigation systems. LAVWCD created the Super Ditch Company to provide a united group of farmers interested in participating in temporary leasing-fallowing to prevent buy and dry. LAVWCD worked to pass legislation that allows private water companies access to several new sources of grant funding previously only available to government organizations.

LAVWCD also provided funding and support for numerous endeavors to help sustain the valley’s water resources, including the North La Junta River Dredging Project which worked in connection with La Junta, Otero County and the North La Junta Water Conservancy District to spare North La Junta from flooding.

The LAVWCD has worked with former management of the Larkspur Ditch to bring the ditch up to usable standards. They have acquired a new Bobcat to help clean out the ditch. The caretaker’s cabin had a failing foundation which needs to be secured. Maintenance on the ditch had been neglected for several years when LAVWCD came on board, having two blowouts on the ditch, and needed to be brought up to better standards quickly. This is one of the few remaining ditches coming from the Western Slope, and the LAVWCD hoped to use some of it to guarantee water for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The ditch is located in the Ouray area, making it not easily accessible. It has an easement through Department of Wildlife land, which makes its upkeep essential.

The argument of the minority stockholders is that the majority stockholders, the LAVWCD, is a public company and bound by sunshine laws of the state to conduct its business in public.

The meeting concluded with an amicable tour of the McClave project, the aim of which is to establish a baseline with water quantity and quality on property pretty much irrigated by furrows and note the changes in water quantity and quality as farmers acquire sprinklers and other modern methods of irrigation over the years. Engineer Ryan Hemphill was the guide, assisted by intern T.J. Trujillo.