July 18, 2008

Commissioners approve Will-O-Wisp permit
By Linda Bjorkland - Correspondent

Park County's Board of County Commissioners considered and approved the application for a 1041 water permit for the Will-O-Wisp Metropolitan District at a regular meeting on July 10.

The application had been considered at a public hearing on May 29, 2007, but approval was deferred until several issues could be resolved.

The permit is needed for the district to divert water from Elk Creek for the Tanglewood Reserve development near Pine Junction.

Richard Toussaint, general counsel for Will-O-Wisp, presented information that he felt answered the conditions imposed.

The point of diversion of water from Elk Creek was revised from a point at Glasman Ditch No. 1 to a point some 300 feet from that ditch to a point where a historic headgate is found. The new point of diversion has been approved by the State Water Engineer at Glasman Ditch No. 2. This point of diversion was found to require fewer easements, although the easements are slightly longer. Water rights for the proposed development were found to be adequate, as Will-O-Wisp owns a direct flow right of 0.7 cubic feet per second (cfs) from Elk Creek at the Glasman Ditch No. 2 diversion. This, along with their other water rights and plans for augmentation, were found to be adequate.

Another issue that was resolved to the satisfaction of the commissioners was the evidence that Will-O-Wisp had obtained all the necessary property rights for the project. Although one condemnation procedure is not quite complete, the owner is not likely to contest the final decision on the court's findings. The approval of the permit is conditional upon the conveyance of title of condemned easements on two lots at the Woodside Park subdivision.

The applicant was required to assess the impact to wildlife based on the new location. The previous location would have required construction of a new road, but the revised location of the point of diversion removed that requirement, as maintenance access will now be provided off Meadow Drive, an existing road. Wetland disturbance was found to be one-tenth of an acre less than the original estimate.

Toussaint addressed the issue of sound mitigation by voluntarily agreeing to reduce the guaranteed level of sound so that it would not exceed 12.5 decibels at 384 feet. The main source of noise, according to Toussaint, will be the sound of running water. Pump motors will be housed underground to minimize the noise level, and other equipment will be camouflaged by trees.

Several nearby property owners were present and their concerns were heard. Some questioned the adequacy of water rights in the event that calls from higher ranking water rights owners would be made during a dry season. Others asked if a proper survey had been done to identify the exact location of the Glasman ditches.

The commissioners voted to approve the application with one condition regarding the property rights to easements. The item will appear on a consent agenda on July 24 at 10 a.m.

Biomass grant awarded

Susan Jones, vice president of the South Park Economic Council, announced that a grant has been awarded to be used for a study of the feasibility of using biomass materials that would be processed locally. The amount of dead and dying beetle-killed trees in the area that would be used to create wood fuel products will be a part of the study. The grant is to be presented to the Council on Friday, July 18, at 10:30 a.m. at the Hartsel Springs Ranch main lodge.

A July 15 e-mail from Colorado Renewable Resource Cooperative and South Park Economic Council said the Rural Enterprise Business Grant goes to the Colorado Renewable Resource Cooperative.

CRRC will use the grant to conduct a comprehensive feasibility study and create a business plan. The Cooperative Development Center of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union is the fiscal agent for the grant and will provide support and expertise for CRRC's development.

"RMFU will continue to provide management, legal, and energy expertise for this group," said Ben Rainbolt in the e-mail. Additional funding for development of CRRC came in part from Park County commissioners and a USDA Rural Development grant to National Farmers Union for business opportunities in forestry.

Emergency grant

Lori Hodges, director of Park County Emergency Management, asked the commissioners for approval of a federal grant application to fund the construction of an emergency operations center. Hodges indicated that the grant would provide $131,250, which is 75 percent of the estimated costs. A 25 percent match of $43,750 would be required, but some of the match may be available from other sources. Hodges cited two recent emergency situations - in addition to the Nash Ranch fire that engulfed 1,115 acres near Guffey - during which emergency operations center personnel were activated. The federal grant application was approved.

Park County Budget and Finance Director Kathy Boyce presented the group health plan renewal that covers county employees. The only change to the existing plan is with eligibility periods, which will now be 90 days.

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