~ by Rick Langenberg ~
A popular water well in Gillette Flats off Hwy 67 will remain open until next spring.
Last week, the Colorado Division of Natural Resources announced plans to stop the supply in April, instead of November, in order to give thousands of water users time to find alternatives.
That could provide a dose of good news for many rural residents, but not for long.
Even with this delay, the state officials still remain firm on their intentions to cap the spigot and remove the tank from Hwy. 67 South, located in a fairly flat area in Gillette, several miles north of Cripple Creek.
The division reportedly sent a letter to local government agencies, to inform them of their plans. Local government officials, however, have mostly taken a hands-off approach.
At a recent council meeting, City Administrator Ray White maintained that Cripple Creek had no links to the water source whatsoever, and denied rumors that the town was considering plans to develop a bulk water storage facility there. “It is not ours,” said White, in describing the water tank and spring in question.
The city administrator also expressed concerns about the city competing with local businesses that deliver water to area residents. There are approximately six districts and private companies that could service impacted residents, according to state officials.
In fact, state officials have maintained that residents, who use the free spring, may need more time to make arrangements with these companies and districts. that was one of the main reasons cited for the recent closure postponement.
The Teller County commissioners have also taken a hands-off approach. They have denied any rumors that they had anything to do with the closure and have indicated they favor the use of the free spring.
The announced closure, a byproduct of the lingering drought impacting parts of the state, has raised the ire of many residents. It sparked an online petition effort, signed by nearly 3,000 people, by early last week.
The spring is used by many residents and visitors, who pull of the highway to fill up their small and large containers for their own use and for their animals. The scene has also become a mini-tourist attraction. In fact, this water source has been used by rural residents for decades, according to historic accounts.
The pressure from the residents, though, is not swaying the opinion of state officials. “This spring and water tank are located within the Arkansas River drainage basin where there is not enough water to fulfill senior water rights,” said Tracy Kosloff, an assistant state engineer of the Colorado Division of Water Resources. “In the Arkansas River Basin, there is not enough water to fulfill all of the long-standing demands of water users and the use of water in the tank is presumed to cause injury to existing senior water rights.”
The only reprieve for area residents is if some party comes forth to present a plan for augmentation approved by the state water court. Such a development is highly unlikely at this late of a date.
For questions about the pending situation with the Gillette water well, call the Division of Water Resources at 719-542-3368.