Mountain News: Western Slope water to continue eastward path 

MINTURN, Colo. - For a while, it looked like tradition might be bucked. That tradition in Colorado for the last century has been sloshing headwater streams on the Western Slope across the Continental Divide to cities along the Front Range and farms out to the Nebraska and Kansas borders.

From Grand Lake to Aspen, a distance of several hundred miles, there are dozens of such gravity-reversing canals, ditches, pipes and tunnels, among them the Columbine Ditch. The Ditch detains water in the upper Eagle River drainage, in the Vail area, and diverts it across the Continental Divide at Tennessee Pass. From there, it tumbles down the Arkansas River to near Buena Vista where, amid a popular kayaking segment, the water can be pumped across a mountain range. From there, the water can flow somewhat less artificially to metropolitan Denver, if still constrained by several dams along the way.

Then along came the Ginn Co. with its massive ambitions on old mining properties above Minturn and adjacent to the Vail ski area. The developer, although currently mired in real estate purgatory, including multiple projects in the American Southeast that took on water, has conceptual approval to build up to 1,700 homes, a golf course, and a small ski area on former mining properties.

But to make this happen, the project needs more secure water rights, and it had bid $30 million for the rights to the Columbine Ditch. That would have reversed the west-to-east pattern of the last decade.

But Aurora, a city adjacent to Denver, had the first right of refusal, and on Monday it exercised that right, agreeing to pay $30.48 million in conjunction with the Climax Mine, which has operations near the ditch.

Construction off 80%

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. -- Construction was down 80 per cent in the Steamboat Springs area for the first half of 2008 as measured by dollar volume of permitted projects. But Carl Dunham, an official in the Routt County Regional Building Department, told the Steamboat Pilot & Today that last year, 2008, was the busiest year ever. "So you're taking the worst year in a long time (2009) and comparing it to a record."

Aspen's bookings still dropping

ASPEN, Colo. - If bookings prevail, Aspen's tourism economy will continue to struggle through the summer. June was saved by last-minute bookings, but lodges in Aspen and Snowmass Village were still at only 48 per cent, compared to 58 per cent last year. Advance bookings were down 14 to 20 per cent for July and August, reports The Aspen Times . Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, a reservations service, says that Aspen still has higher rates and a higher occupancy rates than most other mountain resorts.

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