Lake study sparks spirited discussion

By Tim Hibbs
Our Community News
Published April 2, 2005

Trustees for the Town of Palmer Lake, residents, and others engaged in a lively and sometimes contentious discussion of the results of the lake study conducted by CTL Thompson. The town commissioned the study to investigate the loss of water from the lake and to make recommendations for its remediation.

Bill Hoffman presented the results of the study for the engineering firm. He illustrated his points with a diagram showing the lake in cross-section. The bottom of the lake is lined with a relatively impermeable layer of muck, which lies directly on bedrock. Little water permeates through this layer. Water primarily flows into and out of the lake through a relatively porous sand and gravel layer that lines the sides of the lake. This layer mainly exists on the lake’s east and west banks, with a smaller section on its south end. Hoffman said that this layer averages about 5 feet in depth, although the study did not accurately measure depths at all points around the lake’s perimeter.

The firm concluded that placing a lining in the sand and gravel layer would reduce water flows from the lake. Hoffman noted that this lining would also reduce water inflows. Several of those in attendance offered opinions on this proposal.

Richard Allen a founding member of the former Lake Preservation committee, said that lining the lake at the end of a drought year could be a mistake. Allen noted that lining the sand and gravel layer would mean that the lake, would, from that point forward, require permanent augmentation.

Jeff Hulsmann, chairman of the Awake the Lake committee, agreed, stating that lining the lake “leaves us with no other option but augmentation.” He said that option would make the lake into “a swimming pool.” Hulsmann offered an option to fill the lake gradually without lining it, and then carefully monitoring its inflows and outflows to help determine the ultimate course of action. Allen and Trustee Max Parker supported Hulsmann’s suggestion.

Mayor Nikki McDonald stated that the town has historically supplemented the lake with water from the town’s reservoir. She said that the bigger question is whether to fill the lake now and monitor its inflows and outflows, or to wait and take no action.

Responding to a question about the logistics of sealing the lake, Hoffman said that he was against the use of artificial sealant materials. He recommends using some of the muck from the lake bottom as a natural sealant. Parker noted that with the lake’s level currently so low, access to that material would be much easier.

[missing] … permit with the state.

· Build a dechlorination station in county property for water discharged into the lake, as required by state regulation.

· Start filling the lake with water.

Hulsmann said that all points should be actively addressed while the discharge permit application was being processed.

Trustee Chuck Cornell said that the town’s Water Committee had met jointly with the Awake the Lake Committee to determine a cost for the water. Based on electrical cost estimates from Orcutt, plus chemical and administrative costs, Cornell said that the 31 acre-feet of water needed for the lake would cost $15,000 to $20,000. He felt confident that the final cost would not exceed $20,000. He said that the water would come from the D2 well.

Hulsmann requested an opinion from the council to allow the committee to pursue the plan he outlined. He noted that the committee would like to begin filling the lake April 1.