Panel feels it’s hollering down well – Refilling Palmer Lake debate on agenda today

By Jane Reuter
The Gazette
Published: Date Unknown ? est Middle of Jan 2005

Members of a committee dedicated to refilling Palmer Lake said they feel thwarted in their efforts by the mayor and town employees.

The panel members want to use water from one of the town’s wells to fill the drought-stricken lake before summer.

It’s a stopgap they propose using only until the town gains the legal right to store water in the lake, which could take up to three years.

Town employees and Mayor Nikki McDonald aren’t wild about the idea. Pumping water from the well could put the town’s annual water supply at risk, they said. They’d also need to build a pipeline and other infrastructure to link the town system to the lake.

Finally, the town wants the committee to pay for the water at a rate committee members say is outrageous.

Still, no one has advocated re-naming the town, “Palmer Mud Flats.”

Jeff Hulsmann, chairman of the Awake the Lake committee, says using well water is the best and quickest solution.

“The chances of (the well going dry) are astronomical,” he said.

McDonald wants town residents to weigh in on the idea. If they’re willing to take the chance, the board will be, too.

Hulsmann will discuss the proposal during the group’s meeting today.

Little is left of the lake that as recently as 2002 featured a spouting fountain and drew people to picnic, fish and bicycle along its shoreline.

The lake has been perilously low for two years—so much so that the Division of Wildlife didn’t stock it with fish in 2003 and 2004. Exposing the lake bottom to summer’s intense sun would kill vegetation though to be vital to the lake’s long-term health.

The bulk of Palmer Lake’s domestic water comes from reservoirs above the town, but most of that water belongs to downstream users as far away as Kansas. The town can use the reservoir water only as long as it pumps well water to satisfy downstream users’ rights.

McDonald worries about using well water frivolously.

“Once we know the drought is totally over, maybe we could do that,” she said. “I would say this year isn’t soon enough.”

McDonald thinks the committee should pay for the water. Committee members are to pay for the pipes, a dechlorination system and a backflow preventer the town said it needs to connect the system to the lake. Although the town hasn’t given the panel an estimate, Hulsmann thinks it would add up to more than $15,000.

But almost $50,000 would be needed to pay for the necessary 30 acre-feet (almost 9.7 million gallons), he said.

He thinks the rate can be negotiated.

“It sounds like the town is working against us,” committee member Mary Meyer said. “Don’t they want the lake filled?”

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