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Why the Forest Service did not take all the water rights when it acquired Sweetwater Lake, Colorado’s newest state park

Gypsum resident John Evancho paddles onto Sweetwater Lake on May 13, 2022, in Garfield County.
Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun

SWEETWATER LAKE — When the U.S. Forest Service acquired Sweetwater Lake in 2021, the agency did not pick up all the water rights associated with the property that is slated for development as Colorado’s newest state park. 

The Conservation Fund, which acquired the property in 2020, retained water rights that did not transfer over when the conservation group sold the property to the Forest Service last year. 

That troubles Garfield County’s commissioners, who are demanding details of the complex deal that landed the private acres in federal hands and how the new state park will be managed. 

“The general concerns of Garfield County concern this entire transaction, both the money side of it as well as the planning and the agencies following their own procedures, rules and regulations,” commissioner Tom Jankovsky said earlier this week as the three-member board signed a letter sent to the Forest Service. 

The overlapping state and federal processes to develop the park have not gone smoothly. A longtime outfitter at the lake is struggling to bring old buildings up to federal standards, fearing her decades-old outfitting business could be lost. Locals wonder if the now state-managed federal lands will draw unsustainable crowds to the remote lake at the end of a dirt road in Garfield County. 

Read more at ColoradoSun.com.