On May 14, the Board of County Commissioners will consider developer Joe Miller’s proposal to create the 73 lot Tierra Bello subdivision. Mr. Miller’s proposal was approved last month by the Country Development and Review Committee (CDRC), following a recommendation by its in-house staff. The CDRC is authorized to consider only whether the proposed subdivision meets County code requirements, whether all applications and paperwork have been submitted properly, and so forth. Larger issues -- the impact on surrounding neighborhoods, community support or opposition, and whether the project serves the larger public good -- are the purview of the County Commissioners.
If you are concerned about this development, then I urge you to show up at the meeting to make your views known, either by commenting during the public hearings session, or by supporting those who do make comments. The Commissioners are elected officials, and listening to their constituents is an important part of their responsibilities. Here’s the info:
Date: Tuesday May 14
Time: public hearings will start no earlier than 5pm, Tierra Bello may not come up until 6pm or so.
Place: County Administration Building, 102 Grant Avenue
The Water Availability Issue
As many of you know, I have been collecting comments about Tierra Bello from the community of surrounding subdivisions for the past several months. Opposition to Tierra Bello appears to be unanimous among those who do not have a financial stake in it. Virtually every resident who has spoken to me has serious concerns about this development.The one concern which stands out, however, is over the future availability of water. Mr. Miller has a “will serve” permit from the Eldorado Area Water and Sanitation District (EAWSD), which is a contractual obligation of EAWSD to sell him water. Whether it was prudent for EAWSD to issue a permit to him (and other developers) is thus water over the dam, so to speak.
EAWSD offers assurances that the Eldorado water system has the capacity to serve Tierro Bello, as well as to meet other community water needs. However, in the opinion of experts, EAWSD has not demonstrated that ample water will be there in the future to meet those needs. EAWSD obtains nearly all of its water from ground water -- aquifers hundreds of feet underground -- and nobody really knows how reliable that source will be in the future. At a recent public meeting, I heard the County hydrologist, Ms. Karen Torres, caution that communities should use surface water (reservoirs, snowpack runoff, rivers) as their primary sources, if possible, and avoid using ground water. She mentioned that the Eldorado ground water probably dates from Paleozoic times, with a replenishment rate of thousands or even millions of years. In other words, in her opinion and that of other scientists, the deep ground water on which we now all depend is potentially a non-renewable resource, and once it is gone it is gone. Not everybody shares this view, however, and other assessments are more optimistic. From what I can tell, however, nobody really knows, because there just isn’t enough data about the status of the aquifers. What is known, however, is that the stakes are very high, and prudence suggests that caution and a conservative approach to water management is highly desirable.
I plan to make a brief presentation to the County Commissioners. In it, I will make the following recommendations:
1. The County should impose a temporary moratorium on large developments until the future availability of both ground and surface water, including the risks and uncertainties and the long term impact of the current drought, is better understood.
2. The County should recommend that EAWSD commission a scientific study of the aquifers upon which all Eldorado residents depend. Currently, the only legitimate scientific estimate of the aquifer capacity is a six-year-old consultant’s report, whose predictions of future water availability have been criticized as unduly optimistic.
President, Spur Ranch Road Association