January 26,2007

Will-O-Wisp water issues draw 150
Concerns voiced at Zoka’s on habitat

Lynda James
Correspondent, The Flume

Approximately 150 people attended an informational and organizational meeting on Jan. 17 at Zoka's restaurant in Pine Grove to discuss the Will-O-Wisp Metropolitan District's 1041 Special Development water permit application to Park County's Board of County Commissioners.

Later that week, the district postponed the hearing, which was scheduled for Jan. 24. The hearing originally began on Dec. 6, but was continued to January due to time restraints.

Will-O-Wisp Metropolitan District president Rick Angelica told The Flume that the district postponed the January meeting because the commissioners had asked for a more detailed aquatic life report, and it isn't complete. He said he anticipated the hearing to be rescheduled sometime within the next two months.

The Special Development Permit is required by Park County to address impacts associated with new water development projects.

The permit is needed before Will-O-Wisp Metro District can begin expansion of its water supply to serve the recently permitted Tanglewood Reserve Planned Unit Development just west of Pine Junction. Tanglewood lies within the metro district's service area.

Project designed for 570 new water taps

The project will provide water and wastewater for 570 new water tap equivalents for residential and commercial development. The metro district currently serves 119 homes from a groundwater well field.

The district has a water decree to divert up to seven-tenths of a cubic foot per second (cfs) from Elk Creek to serve the development. Water will be returned to Wisp Creek and the South Platte Water Basin from the district's water treatment plant.

450 Tanglewood houses

Angelica said at full build-out, the district would need three-tenths of a cfs to serve Tanglewood because the number of houses had been reduced from over 700 to around 450.

The organizer of the Pine Grove meeting, Michael Anderson, is vice president of the Glenelk Association, and Glenelk is a subdivision on Elk Creek in Jefferson County.

The 100-year-old association also has approximately 1.05 cfs decreed water rights on Elk Creek downstream from Will-O-Wisp's diversion point.

Other organizers included Tom Schuster, board member of Elk Falls Ranch Homeowners Association (HOA); Dick Hodges, vice president of Woodside Park HOA, Units 5 and 6; and Vera Dunwody, property owner in Elk Falls Ranch. The group has taken the name "Elk Creek Coalition."

One attendee said he personally knew of 80 other decreed water rights between the diversion point and where Elk Creek empties into the South Platte River near Pine Grove.

Schuster said an environmental impact study should be completed on the entire stretch of Elk Creek below Will-O-Wisp's diversion point, which would remove approximately one acre-foot of water per day from Elk Creek.

Citizen concerns included impacts from reduced flows in the creek to aquatic habitat, including cutthroat trout and blue heron; impacts to other decreed water rights; impacts to individual wells near the creek; and impacts to possible wildfire suppression efforts if another fire should occur in the area. Four large wildfires in the area have burned tens of thousands of acres in the past 10 years.

Condemnation filed on Woodside lot

Hodges informed the attendees that Will-O-Wisp has filed condemnation proceedings on Woodside Park, Unit 5, Lot 134 to obtain a fifteen-foot- wide easement for infrastructure to move the water from Elk Creek to Mt. Evans Boulevard. From there, pipe would be laid in the utility easement along Mt. Evans to the northeast corner of Tanglewood.

Hodges said the Woodside HOA was also named in the condemnation and, if successful, the action would also condemn the HOA's covenants that limit lot use to residential only.

Water ownership

Dunwody addressed Elk Creek water ownership issues. She said the water that Will-O-Wisp claims actually belongs to Elk Falls Ranch. That issue will need to be decided in court.

Tom Guffy, a former volunteer for the Colorado Department of Wildlife, said he had contacted the district ranger, and two members of DOW planned to attend the 1041 hearing.

Schuster said the group is pursuing legal counsel and asking other government agencies and environmental groups for any possible help. Attendees were encouraged to e-mail Jefferson County commissioners as well as Park County commissioners with their concerns.

Anderson told The Flume that postponing the hearing didn't change concerns about the effect of the project on Elk Creek's aquatic life and other wildlife downstream of the diversion. He also questioned if an adequate aquatic study could be completed in the middle of a winter with as much snow as this year.

Issues such as water ownership and placement of the diversion point are still concerns of the coalition, he said.

Will-O-Wisp's Angelica told The Flume that the district is encouraging concerned citizens to come to the district meetings with their questions. The Will-O-Wisp Metropolitan District meets the second Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the water treatment plant's meeting room at the end of Wisp Creek Drive in the Will-O-Wisp subdivision.

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