Water supervisor says lake fill is a mistake

By Bryan Grossman
Tri-Lakes Tribune
Published April 27, 2005

The pump that will pull water from the Denver Aquifer to fill Palmer Lake’s namesake is now repaired, but according to the town’s water supervisor, Steve Orcutt, it is unclear when the pump will be turned on, and, even then, the well may run dry before the lake gets anywhere near filled.

“We don’t know what we’re going to get out of this well,” Orcutt said at an April 21 press conference at Palmer Lake’s town hall. “Wells are a non-renewable water source. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Orcutt said that, at the rate of 100 gallons per minute, the aquifer will most likely run dry before the lake is filled, and the aquifer may or may not replenish itself.

The town agreed in March to sell 30 acre feet of water to the Awake the Lake (ATL) restoration committee. ATL had hoped water would be flowing to the lake by April 16 to coincide with the Big Splash … [missing]

… the D-2 well’s pump required maintenance and the lake fill was delayed.

Water Commissioner and Palmer Lake Trustee Chuck Cornell explained the lake is larger than initially thought. A survey conducted by the town years ago claimed the lake to be around 30 acre feet, but Cornell said he believes the lake to be in the range of 80-90 feet.

According to Orcutt, 30 acre feet would take approximately 67.7 days to pump. Orcutt said the pump probably won’t make it past 30 days before the aquifer needs to recharge.

The town’s filling permit ends July 4, and the Department of Wildlife’s (DOW) stocking deadline is June 1. The water would need to be at an adequate level for the DOW to consider stocking, and any water placed into the lake after July 4 would require an updated permit.

Some people must think we are in a position where the well never runs out or never gets used,” Orcutt said. “It makes it sound like Palmer Lake is the only town in Colorado with tons of water. I don’t think this was a good idea … I just hope the whole thing goes away.”

Orcutt said it wasn’t his position to undermine the decisions of the town council, and town council members said they were working under a mandate of the people of Palmer Lake following a straw poll conducted in February. More than 25 percent of the 900 town water users surveyed responded, and 80 percent were in favor of filling the lake with well water.

Orcutt said he was doing as he was told and that the town water department really has nothing to do with the lake.

“(Orcutts) sole responsibility is getting drinking water to the community, “Cornell said.

“I didn’t want to do it. It was an order from the town,” Orcutt said.

Mayor Nikki McDonald reiterated the stance she first made when ATL Committee Chairperson Jeff Hulsmann approached the town last year.”

“I think we should be on water restrictions all of the time,” McDonald said.

McDonald was the only dissenting vote during the council’s March 3 meeting when the permission to use D-2 well water was granted.

Cornel said he felt the town was relatively comfortable with the straw poll being a fair representation of the community’s stance on the issue.

“We can’t predict the future, but we can weigh the risks,” Cornell said.

The flyer presented the risk of water restrictions in the event of a dry late winter and spring, but added that those risks were minimal.

Town Clerk Della Gray said there were members of the town staff who disagreed with “the wording on the ballot.”

Members of the town staff and council said they construed some of the dialogue coming from the ATL camp as being “hurtful” and a misrepresentation of what the town has done to assist the committee. The town-sanctioned ATL committee is not entirely grateful for the work the town has put in, Gray said.

Cornell said he felt a sense of competition rather than cooperation from the ATL committee, and town staff and council said they were left out of many of ATL’s plans and decisions.

“This should be an us-and-us thing, not an us-and-them thing,” Cornell said. “If this isn’t going to be cooperative, I would pull the plug on (ATL) right away. The committee wouldn’t have gotten this far without the town.”

Gray said the town and council were in no way trying to downplay what ATL had done for raising lake awareness and jump starting fundraising efforts. She added that the town deserves, at the very least, some recognition.

Attempts to contact Hulsmann were unsuccessful prior to press time.