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Parties settling water lawsuit

Attorneys on both sides say an agreement appears near on Carbondale’s lawsuit against a Crystal Valley property owner, filed after last summer’s Nettle Creek treatment plant blowout.”The details are being worked on,” said Mark Hamilton, attorney for Carbondale.Hamilton said the main negotiating points include a resource management plan to restrict uses of pesticides and fertilizers on the property, which sits above the town’s Nettle Creek water treatment plant on the shoulder of Mount Sopris.Last June, construction at the 55-acre property, owned by GSS Properties according to court documents, caused muddy water to enter the treatment plant. The damage resulted in 60 families between the water plant and the town limits being without water for six to 15 hours.Joe Edwards, the attorney for GSS, said there were three incidents on the property over a period of three weeks to a month that caused the problems.-During barn construction at the property, formerly the Ferguson Ranch, an excavator accidentally dumped a bucket load of dirt into a tiny creek that feeds North Nettle Creek, which in turn feeds Carbondale’s water plant. “That clogged the filters,” Edwards said.-A half-acre pond, fed by the tiny creek that Mayor Randy Vanderhurst compares to the Second Street ditch, was built. During pond construction, water was diverted. Edwards said there was miscommunication between the town and GSS Properties on the diversion, which created problems with the plant’s intake system.-The final incident came when workers incorrectly installed the pond liner. The liner floated to the surface, which put more silt into North Nettle Creek.Edwards said construction, which included a house, is complete.During talks with GSS Properties, the town learned that pesticides and fertilizers were being used at the property. A tentative settlement calls for GSS Properties to develop a plan for the use of pesticides and fertilizer, and report to Carbondale on their application.When asked why chemicals will be allowed at all on property above the water plant, Vanderhurst said, “Because it’s a ranch … the Roaring Fork wells have ranches above them.”Vanderhurst said he and town manager John Hier have recently been negotiating directly with GSS principal partner Gary Snook in hopes of reaching a settlement. He said the draft resource management plan provisions include a chemical ban within 25 feet of the creek that feeds North Nettle Creek, and for applications to be by hand.”Hopefully, this agreement will work to keep us out of court, but also protect our water supply,” Vanderhurst said. “But the town is willing to go to court to protect the town’s water.”Hamilton said Carbondale is also asking for $8,389 in damages to pay for overtime and related repairs the Nettle Creek water plant blowout caused.Carbondale’s lawsuit, filed in Pitkin County, is allowed under terms of Colorado’s Watershed Protection Ordinance.”It gives them the right to say `Wait a minute,'” Hamilton said.Hamilton said another factor that has delayed a final settlement is related to water rights. Carbondale has senior rights, and GSS has junior water rights. Snook’s new pond in effect creates a dam, and Carbondale is asking for a bypass to divert water around the pond in dry years.The draft resource management plan also calls for erosion controls.


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