Community members of the Black Forest and Falcon areas were invited to an open house at the end of January at Pine Creek High School to learn more about a water pipeline that will run from Sundance Ranch to the Cherokee Metropolitan District. The pipeline is called the Sundance Water Supply Project.
The pipeline will originate at the existing water well on the north side of Sundance Ranch and run south and east to a tank that will be built at Frank Road in Black Forest, said Sean Chambers, CMD general manager.
In a separate interview, Chambers said the pipeline will run near Hodgen and Black Forest roads down to the existing CMD tank at Tamlin Road.
Chambers said the CMD bought the rights to the water underneath Sundance Ranch, which is located in the Denver Basin aquifer, in October 2011 and further water rights in December 2012.
Emily Skalsky, senior engineer with Nolte Vertical 5, said the 17-total-mile pipeline will be able to provide 850-acre-feet of water per year. “The waterline is being sized to handle additional water, which would help other people (in the Black Forest area) in the future,” she said.
“The benefit for them (residents in Black Forest) is that there will be a hydrant at the tank and several more in the vicinity of the tank,” Chambers said. “That should affect their insurance rates.”
Chambers said the plans for the upper portion of the pipeline have already been submitted to the El Paso County planning commission. The second submittal for the lower portion of the line will come later and include a second set of public meetings, he said.
“We’re hoping to start construction on the (Frank Road) tank by July,” Chambers said. “Part of it is built on-site and with the elevation there at about 7,600 feet, the non-frost season is relatively short and the construction is about a four-month process; we think the (upper) line will start under construction concurrently with the tank.” Construction on the lower portion of the pipeline isn’t likely to start until 2014, he said.
The decision to construct the pipeline was motivated by a need to find an alternative water source, Chambers said. “The whole driver behind the reason for the project is that through adverse court rulings in 2006 and 2009, Cherokee lost the use of about 1,000-acre-feet of water,” he said. “We’ve been leasing water from Colorado Springs and Pueblo since about 2007; and, as of recent, the price of the water from Colorado Springs amounts to about $5,000 per-acre-foot per year as a lease. Ten years ago, you could buy and own water for that price. This project really seeks to resolve that and stabilize our rates for our customers, who have seen rates triple in the last decade.”
At the open house, Scott Mefford, hydrokinetics geologist, said the water will have to be pumped from the existing well to the tank at Frank Road; however, because of the difference in elevation, the water will flow freely down to the Tamlin Road tank without being pumped.
Black Forest resident Ken Asp said his concern is that the Frank Road tank will cause the property values of houses in the vicinity to plummet. Other residents voiced concern that the tank would be a visible eye-sore, and said they didn’t like the idea of looking out their front window and seeing the tank across the street.
Chambers said the district is working on minimizing the amount of trees that will be cut to mitigate the visual impact. Another possible solution would be to create berms and bury the tank an additional 6 to 10 feet, he said.
Other residents have been concerned about the district using water it didn’t have a right to use, potentially creating a water shortage in their private wells, he said. “Denver Basin water is a little bit different than the water you find in the Black Squirrel area, which is really porous,” Chambers said. “There, the water can move through the stone at a really rapid rate. The Denver Basin aquifer is in sandstone so the ability to move is significantly reduced. It’s that basic science of how the water moves in the sandstone that leads to Denver Basin water being a true private property right. The rate has been studied by the United States Geological Survey. Both the law and the aquifer prevent us from injuring our neighbor’s water rights.
“We’ve acquired every private property easement through good faith negotiations. This is really just the start of the process, which is why we held these public meetings, to engage people and seek their input.”