Town talks water sales, sealant for Palmer Lake

By Bryan Grossman
The Tribune
Published March 9, 2005

The Palmer Lake Town Council conducted what may be its last public forum March 3 before the mayor and trustees decide whether or not to sell non-tributary water to the Awake the Lake (ATL) committee for the purpose of filling Palmer Lake.

During the council’s monthly workshop session, the board entertained Bill Hoffman of CTL Thompson regarding soil tests that were conducted on the lake’s bottom in January. The soil test revealed that the lake retained the most water within patches of hard clay. The water, however, flowed freely through a sand and gravel bed that lines the upper rim of the lake.

Hoffman recommended that the board consider sealing the porous layer to retain any augmentation water purchased and placed in the lake.

The proposal sparked some discussion from the crowd. Former lake-rescue committee member Richard Allen said he thought sealing the sand and gravel layers would be a mistake.

“We’re in a period of drought,” Allen said. “Taking long-term steps on gravel beds for what could be a short-term problem … you may be doing a bad thing for the lake.”

Allen explained that sealing the bed may result in the blockage of natural springs that feed the lake, and that, once sealed, the work would be irreversible.

Jeff Hulsmann, ATL chairperson, agreed with Allen.

“My concern is, four, five, six years ago, that water wasn’t going anywhere, outside of evaporation,” Hulsmann said.

Hulsmann recommended that the board approve the sale of at least enough water to fill the lake partially, track the results, and make adjustments as needed.

Palmer Lake resident Bob Miner said he thought sealing the gravel may be acting irrationally.

“That lake has been there longer than any of us, Miner said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Playing with those springs may kill the lake.”

Hoffman said a partial fill might be the cheapest way for the town to assess progress. Additional tests can be run, but it would be at great expense to the town, he said.

Allen asked Hoffman if the lake would forever need to be augmented in the future if the sand and gravel were sealed, since the lake is normally fed by runoff, springs, snow and rain.

“That’s probably a correct statement,” Hoffman said.

Trustee Max Parker asked if development may have curbed flows to the lake.

“I know development can disturb ground water,” Hoffman said.

Following the discussion regarding sealing the lake, Hulsmann updated the board on the progress of the ATL committee.

Hulsmann explained to the council that of the more than 900 mailers sent to Palmer Lake water users gauging their opinion on using drinking water to fill the lake, nearly 26 percent responded and 80 percent of responses were positive.

“We followed council’s advice and put out a ballot,” Hulsmann said. “Four out of five dentists agree: Put water in the lake. Twenty–five percent response rate, that’s unbelievable for a mail-out survey on such short notice.”

He asked council to consider moving forward and approving the sale of water to fill the lake during their March 10 meeting.

Hulsmann said ATL and the town would still need to negotiate the cost of water to before work can really begin.

Water Commissioner Chuck Cornell said his previously dormant water review committee met and discussed how affordable they could make 30 acre feet of water.

According to Cornell, taking into consideration chemicals and the electricity needed to pump the water, the cost for water alone would range between $15,000 – $20,0oo.

A dechlorination shed and an additional section of pipeline would also need to be constructed, Hulsmann said.

Hulsmann asked that council approve, March 10, an additional mailer that would ask Palmer Lake residents and those in surrounding communities to donate $25 to the ATL fund. He also asked that council allow ATL to seek a minimal discharge permit that would allow the use on non-tributary water from the town’s D-2 well. Hulsmann said it would take three to four weeks to obtain the discharge permit, and with the town’s preliminary OK now, he would contact the county and inform them of the committee’s budget and goals.

The council gave Hulsmann their support and a final decision should be made by March 10.