January 9, 2009

Will-O-Wisp water diversion application decision delayed
Public notice period extended 30 days, project more complex than first thought

By Mike Potter
Staff Writer

The public comment period for Will-O-Wisp Metropolitan District’s water diversion permit has been extended to Jan. 18 after the Army Corps of Engineers determined more consideration was needed before a decision could be made.

The district is west and south of Pine Junction, in northeast Park County, and it proposes to eventually use the water for the Tanglewood Reserve planned unit development.

Margaret Langworthy, project manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said the decision was delayed so concerns raised during the initial public comment period could be addressed.

“That’s pretty routine [to delay a decision if an agency needs more time for a site visit or to gather up and put their thoughts on paper,” she said.
The Will-O-Wisp Metropolitan District submitted a proposal to draw 0.7 cubic feet of water per minute from the nearby Elk Creek.
The application also requested the disturbance of 1.3 acres of wetlands to construct a metering weir (dam placed across a river or canal to raise or diver the water), an infiltration gallery, an intake structure, a grit chamber, a diversion dam and a raw water line.
The water would supply the Tanglewood Reserve development when homes are built. Until then, the water would be used by Will-O-Wisp residents and would also give the subdivision’s wells a chance to replenish, said Will-O-Wisp Metropolitan District President Rick Angelica.

A number of concerns, outlined in a Jan. 5 letter to Angelica, included any potential downstream consequences of the diversion, the chance of permanent diversion from one watershed into a different watershed, the need for exploration of other potential alternatives to meet the needs of the applicant, requirements to ensure that benefits outweigh the project detriments, and whether the diversion would be sufficient to meet the stated purpose of the applicant.

Langworthy said she has questions about whether 0.7 cubic feet per second of water, which Will-O-Wisp is trying to access, would be enough to fulfill its needs.

She said it would be inappropriate to go into detail about each of the concerns raised in the letter before she’s had a chance to talk to Will-O-Wisp’s consultants.

“What I will say is that 0.7 cfm as a constant draw will not serve as many new taps as they indicate they intend to serve,” she said.
Angelica said he understands that it will take time for the decision to be made and he sees no problem with the delay.
“To me, it’s not a big deal,” he said.

He thinks those questions will be answered when the Army Corps of Engineers receives Will-O-Wisp’s 1041 water permit. He doesn’t think the permit has been sent yet.

He said he understood that the Army Corps of Engineers haven’t received the information from the 1041 yet.

“I think it’s just noise in the system,” he said. “Of course it (the 0.7 cfm) meets our needs.”

Langworthy said she has called a meeting for Jan. 9 to discuss the issues raised in the letter.

Representatives from the county, state and federal levels of government would attend, she said.

She said she is trying to get an official from Jefferson County to attend, and she has extended an invitation to the North Fork Volunteer Fire Department in Jefferson County after it raised concerns about the diversion.

Curt Rogers, fire chief of North Fork Fire, said his concern was having enough stream flow to supply a hydrant on Pine Valley Road.
“We just want to ensure there is enough stream flow in the case of an emergency situation,” he said.

Langworthy said the Federal Wildlife Service and the Environmental Protection Agency would also be in on the meeting.

Langworthy said those at the meeting will discuss alternative options to the proposed water diversion.

She said the extra attention the application is getting isn’t a special case.

“What it is is a very complicated one,” she said. “The corps is responsible for assessing the consequences of their permitting actions. In this particular instance, as outlined in the letter, there are some very important elements that are not yet fully explained.”

Angelica said he believes there will be more issues raised before ,any decision is made on the application.

“We’ve been doing this thing for five or six years,” he said. “Every time you turn a corner, something else comes up. That’s just the process we have to deal with.”

This diagram shows what the Will-O-Wisp Metropolitan District plans to build to divert water from Elk Creek. The plan was submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers and could be decided on Jan. 18. (Courtesy diagram)

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