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Water regulations and a new gravel pit looked at by Planning Commission

by Bill Knowles

WALSENBURG- The Huerfano County Planning Commission Tuesday heard from the public on the development of new HB 1041 regulations designating municipal and industrial water as a local and state concern.  What this will mean is that water will be dealt with in Huerfano County through regulation in the future.

    County Commissioner Roger Cain stressed the need to protect the water.  “Nearly 85 percent of produced water in the county is near-surface water. That’s in the sandstone strata where folks usually find their wells.”  And it’s that water that’s most vulnerable to exploitation.

    County Commission Chair Scott King was quick to emphasize that water rights in Colorado are property rights.  “People who own water rights can do with them what they would do with any other property right.  We can’t stop people from selling those rights to whomever they please.”

    However the proposed regulations would consider the resulting devaluation of property if water rights were purchased and the water moved out of the county.  It was suggested that a provision in the regulations should look at mitigation of lost property value when the land was dried up as water was moved out.  How that particular regulation would be worded was not discussed. 

    “In the regulations we could focus on the economic impact of drying up the county,” Kent Mace, a board member with the Huerfano County Water Conservancy District and a member of the Huerfano County Planning Commission said.

    Feedback from the public in attendance at the hearing focused on the activities of Petroglyph.  Jim White, the president of the newly formed property owner’s association at the Silver Spurs subdivision, voiced concern about wells drying up in the subdivision.  Nine property owners have lost their wells with some losing a second well.

    “I lost my second well in 2007.  Petroglyph has had water hauled out to us and I am thankful for that,” White said.  “We are very concerned with a decrease in property values due to dried up wells. We are encouraging everyone there to get their wells adjudicated.”

    County Administrator John Galusha told White that a United States Geological Survey of the Raton Basin has been requested by the county.  “Congressman Scott Tipton is aware of this request. If we can get one, then we will know what is there.  These USGS surveys start at the very center and look at everything up to the surface.”  Galusha also suggested that the county request that Petroglyph put in a water system to Silver Spurs.  “But you must realize that wells in the county have gone dry as subdivisions expand and more stress is put on the system by drilling additional wells,” Commissioner Cain said.

    The county then adjourned the public hearing and the Planning Commission meeting resumed with the commission scheduling a workshop for Tuesday, Feb. 18, to begin working on the proposed HB 1041 water regulations.

    Earlier in the day, the Planning Commission had looked at the preliminary plans for the Huerfano State Gravel Pit that will be built in Eastern Huerfano County on state land.  It is a project of the Huerfano County government and will be located east of I-25 and north on county road 120.

    The plan calls for development of the gravel mine to happen in two phases.  Phase one will run from 2011 to 2013 and will develop 14.93 acres. Phase two will run from 2013 to 2015 with 13.46 acres being developed.  And according to Joe Gagliano of LJ Development out of Pueblo West, the project will produce enough gravel to care for the county’s property.  “Folks have to understand this is not for public use, it is a county project.”

    The project plans also call for a road to be built from county road 120 to the mine site and for the road to be bonded. The project will involve 80 acres located on state property with operations located on 75.77 acres with the road taking up the other 4.23 acres.

    The Planning Commission also voted 7-0 to require Edward Magnus, owner of KQJY, to speak with the committee either during their last meeting in January or at one of the two Planning Committee meetings in February.

    The County Commission granted an extension on Magnus’s conditional use permit for the radio tower located in Eastern Huerfano County earlier this month to April 2011.  The radio station’s FCC license expires in April 2013.  The Planning Commission wants to know Magnus’s plans for the radio station.

    The meeting was adjourned at 3:55.