South Platte Basin Roundtable approves groundwater pumping recommendations in Gilcrest, LaSalle area
Members of the South Platte Basin Roundtable have unanimously approved a recommendation to temporarily dewater the Gilcrest and LaSalle area, which gives a needed boost to House Bill 1178 to bring down the rising water table that has been flooding area homes and farmland.
The House agriculture committee had previously requested the roundtable’s input in order to move forward on the legislation.
Rep. Lori Saine, R-Firestone, and Rep. Steve Humphrey, R-Severance, introduced the bill.
Saine said the roundtable’s support establishes the framework necessary to accept dewatering recommendations and establish the estimated $450,000 to $500,000 in funding to dewater the zone for two years.
“The idea behind the bill is really to fix the problem that’s been generated by a change in water management,” Saine said, referring to wells that were shut off by the state in 2006. “This is a short-term solution that is desperately needed and is not being offered by any other venue.”
A potential well pumping site has been identified on a property managed by Harry Strohauer near Weld County Road 42, said Robert Longenbaugh, a water consultant engineer and member of the Groundwater Coalition.
The water pumped from this site will not be permitted for consumptive use. It will instead be directed to a drainage ditch that runs northeastward and eventually flows into the river.
To bring down the water table, Longenbaugh said the pump would run constantly throughout the year, generating an estimated electric bill of $25,000 a year.
While temporary funding has been established to dewater through the end of June, Saine said she hopes most funding will come from the state.
Saine hopes to begin dewatering by April 1, when groundwater levels traditionally begin to rise again due to spring runoff and activity in irrigation ditches.
The Colorado Legislature will likely not have approved a final version of HB1178 by that time, so Saine and other dewatering advocates plan to begin pumping using independently procured funding until the state steps in.
“Groups have come forward with funding but a majority should come from the state general fund because the state caused this problem due to a change in water management,” Saine said.
Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway said the vote was the first time in his six years on the roundtable that a unanimous decision was reached on a proposal.
“This is the quickest, fastest way to address issues affecting Gilcrest,” he said.
While the water table has been rising and causing damage for several years now, Conway said recent cases of flooded basements and compromised farmland have made addressing the situation unavoidable.
“You cannot deny it anymore. When someone has a basement flooded, that’s real. That’s not hypothetical,” he said.
Longenbaugh said meetings will take place next week with Colorado State University and the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District to further define which wells to pump and how to monitor them. The data taken from wells pumped this year could contribute to the creation of a long-term solution.
While dewatering will provide temporary relief, Saine emphasized that it is still necessary to identify the underlying causing of the high water table in order to develop a true solution. ❖