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City opposes Petroglyph application for Coler Ditch water

by Bill Knowles

WALSENBURG- The city council voted 9-0 to oppose an application by Petroglyph filed at Division Two Water Court in September to purchase 1/60th water right in the Coler Ditch. 

    “We have senior water rights in the ditch and any change of water rights there could affect ours, so the city council voted to oppose the application by Petroglyph because of the concern we have for our decree,”  Interim City Administrator Donald Saling explained.  According to City Attorney Dan Hyatt, “It is standard practice to file a protest even if there is suspected impact to the water rights.  This will give the city access to the pleadings and filings that will be made on this case,” .

    The possible purchase of the water right by Petroglyph from David Wallerstein, a junior water right owner on the Coler Ditch, is for augmentation purposes as they continue development of Phase II of their plan to harvest coal bed methane (CBM)rom the Vermejo Formation.  In Phase II, Petroglyph is pumping around 42,000 gallons of water a day into reinjection wells and has to augment the depletion of water caused by the operation.

    Phase II of the plan is the methane mitigation aspect.  A water ring has been produced by reinjecting treated water into a ring of wells in the Poison Canyon Formation.  Water taken from the Vermejo Formation and reinjected into the Poison Canyon Formation is treated by reverse osmosis.  The plan hopes to trap migrating CBM within the water ring formed by the eight reinjection wells and force the gas into an extraction well located in the center of the water ring.   

    Tax assessments on the Wallerstein water have been sent out over the past week and council member Erin Jerant called for Wallerstein to pay his tab before he moves on the deal offered by Petroglyph.

    In other action the council voted 8-1 to reimburse Hugh Brown, the owner of the future market currently under construction on North Walsen at Pine and Maple, $11,140 as the city’s share for the design drawings and engineering of road work to create a left turn lane at Walsen and Pine.  The work will facilitate traffic flow onto Pine for both the grocery store and John Mall.

    Craig Lessar was the only council member to vote no saying, “It shouldn’t have been done like this.”  He was referring to deals made between former City Administrator Alan Hein,  Brown and the design engineers.  Brown paid the fees in advance with the understanding that the city of Walsenburg would reimburse him.  The money will come from the street improvement fund.

    Dr. William Beverly and Paul Rivera were appointed to the Housing Authority Board on a 9-0 vote.  Both Beverly and Rivera had stated interest for the open chairs on the board.  The Housing Authority Board sits a total of nine members:  seven citizens plus a city council member and the mayor.  One chair is still empty and the city will advertise to take letters from interested citizens.

    A perennial problem found  solution during the council meeting.  For several years it has been uncertain who could and who couldn’t sign checks for the city.  Some former city council members whose names were on the list as well as former city administrators, haven’t been active in city government or administration for several years.  City Treasurer Jaque Sikes asked the council for an update to the list several months ago.  A resolution was finally passed on a 9-0 vote and a new list was produced with old names removed and the new names inserted.  The resolution will allow the city council to update the list as necessary.

    The city council will be working on the proposed 2011 budget throughout November with three budget meetings scheduled during the month.  The dates are Nov. 9, Nov. 23 and Nov. 30.  The Nov. 23 meeting will be open for public input.  The budget will be adopted at the Dec. 7, city council meeting.  It has to be filed with the state by Dec. 15. 

    The council went into executive session to receive legal advice at 7:30.