EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - UPDATED: WEDNESDAY, JUNE 5
Despite opposition from residents and county planners, the Cherokee Metropolitan District's board of directors voted unanimously to continue with a controversial water project.
After a Friday evening meeting that lasted more than two hours and included public comment, the board voted 5-0 to build a water tank in Black Forest, at the intersection of Frank and Swan roads.
The tank is part of Cherokee's plan to supplement its water needs by pumping water through a 15-mile pipeline from a well it owns in Black Forest.
Board members said they've invested too much time and effort in selecting a site for the tank, to give up on the plan. The El Paso County Planning Commission recently approved well pumps and the pipeline, but rejected the water tank.
No timetable was given for the start and completion of construction for the project.
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The Cherokee Metropolitan District will decide Friday whether to overrule a decision by the El Paso County Planning Commission to deny construction of a storage tank for a proposed water project.
Sean Chambers, the district's general manager, said the two-million-gallon tank is part of a plan to pump groundwater from a recently-acquired site in Black Forest, then send it to the nearby tank before it flows through a 15-mile pipeline to users in Cimarron Hills.
The commission, said Chambers, approved the plan except for the tank. He believed the commission based its decision on opposition from Black Forest residents who were unaware of the plan, and didn't attend two public meetings or return comment cards that were mailed out.
However, Chambers said because the issue can't be brought to the commission again and county commissioners have no authority in it, the district's board of directors can choose to build the tank anyway and continue with the plan -- provided it meets all local, state and federal requirements.
The board expects to decide on the matter Friday at the district office, 6250 Palmer Park Boulevard.
Chambers said the district paid $5 million for groundwater rights to the Denver Aquifer. A well is located at the intersection of Black Forest and Hodgen roads in Black Forest. The proposed location for the tank is at the intersection of Frank and Swan roads.
"You own what's under the private property," said Chambers. "It's based on an engineered calculation of what water is available there."
Chambers said the district has invested 18 months of planning and an additional $862,000 on acquiring easements and property, design work, and making the proposed tank aesthetically pleasing to neighbors. The latter, he said, is based on discussions with neighbors nearest the tank location.
"We think it's the best possible (plan), one that is the most efficient and is the least disruptive to Black Forest," said Chambers.
The district hopes the water will ease supply problems experienced in Cimarron Hills for the past 10 years. Residents adhere to water restrictions nearly every summer. Most of the community's water comes from nearby wells which vary in capacity.
Chambers said the district began buying 20 percent of its water from Colorado Springs Utilities several years ago, but pays a higher rate for it. He said the community also needs more water to meet the growing demands of commercial and residential development.
Ron Pedron, a resident of Black Forest for 25 years, is skeptical of the plan and said it doesn't make sense.
"It could affect 99 percent of the wells in Black Forest," he said. "The drought is bad enough as it is. And people didn't move here to look at a million-gallon-capacity water tank. We may have no choice but to consider legal action."
Chambers said the district mailed out 1,000 comment cards but only 105 were returned. However, all but eight of the returned cards opposed the plan.
"I see that as 900 no-comments," he said.
But Pedron said the high percentage of opposition in the cards returned should prove to the district that the plan doesn't have widespread support in Black Forest.
Chambers said around 18,000 people live in Cimarron Hills.