Bladder may not be the fix for Palmer Lake

By Bryan Grossman
Tri-Lakes Tribune
Published November 10, 2004

The dwindling water level in Palmer Lake has been a concern for months now, but according to resident and former Palmer Lake Restoration Committee member, Richard Allen, the disappearance of the lake is a decade-old problem, and the town is not being forthcoming with its citizens.

According to Allen, who served on the committee from 1995 to 2002, the spring-fed lake has lost much of its water because of area development and an increasing demand for subsurface water, as well as the town’s decision to stop augmenting the lake.

Allen explained that augmentation occurs when water is taken from reservoirs and sent to a pump house at the lake. The water can then be pumped into the lake and help supplement inactive feeder-springs on the lake’s floor.

Allen said town trustees are skirting the issue and telling citizens that the water loss is due to seepage from a previous dredging.

“(The town) is not very open in what they’re dealing with,” Allen said. “I’m not trying to sharp-shoot anyone or belittle anyone or get anyone in trouble. but I keep hearing these comments from the town saying the problem might be one thing and they know a lot better than that.”

Augmentation stopped in the early 90s, due, in part, to water rights and lack of moisture over the past several years, Allen said. The town, however, had agreed to augment the lake for more than 25 years, he said.

Palmer Lake Mayor Nikki McDonald said an augmentation contract signed during a previous administration was approved against the advice of counsel and that augmenting the lake is technically illegal.

“The contract that was signed about augmenting was never supposed to be signed,” McDonald said. “Our water attorney at that time told the mayor and (the town clerk) that you could not augment the lake, but they signed it anyway. You can’t store water unless you have storage rights. That would be using our drinking water to put into a lake that has no water rights at all.

During Palmer Lake’s board of trustees’ meeting in October, McDonald suggested that the purchase and installation of a bladder could help retain water levels, but would require more funds than the town currently had available. Allen said the bladder idea holds no water and the mayor knew it.

“If it was just one spring coming up in the middle of the lake,” Allen said. “But this is a series of springs and they are all activated at different levels of pressure. If you put a bladder in there, you could potentially cover up contributors to the water.”

According to McDonald, a chemical can be used to line the lake bed and still allow for spring water to seep through.

According to Allen, the town is creating only short-term solutions and not addressing what he claims to be the best way to restore the lake—augmentation.

“We’ve got a long-term problem and we need a long-range solution,” Allen said. “Band-Aids are nice for a one-time solution, but it won’t work over the long haul.”

Allen said water rights issues had not restrained the town from augmentation in the past, and added that the town should explain the problem as it is, so concerned citizens will understand the situation and begin coming up with ideas to deal with it.

McDonald said that any contract signed in the past is not worth the paper it is printed on and that she explained that to Allen.

Allen said his conversation with McDonald grew heated.

“We did have some pretty angry words. I’ve known (McDonald) for a long time and I support her,” Allen said. “My purpose is not to criticize—well, maybe it is, for not getting the word out.

“If (there is) a problem, let’s identify the problem. People can deal with that. It’s when they say, ‘We think this’ or ‘We think that’ and you know good and well that’s not it, it’s confusing to the people.”

“Never turn down the opportunity to get smarter. Maybe there is someone sitting out there with a solution. But first of all, you have to identify the problem, and that hasn’t been done.”

McDonald said she still believes a soil test should be done and did not dismiss the theory that the seepage may be due to inadequate seals within the lake.

“I hope to God it is a seal, because then it is something we know and we can fix it,” McDonald said.

So far, there is no indication when the lake issue will be addressed by the Palme Lake Board of Trustees.

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