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BoCC approves injection well facility

The Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners approved a conditional use permit for the Tierra Piedra produced water collection and injection well facility Tuesday afternoon, with conditions that must be met before the project can proceed.

The BoCC also took steps to move forward with replacing the bridge on West Cat Creek Road, west of Pagosa Springs.

The injection well facility will be located in the southwestern portion of the county, near Arboles, on the 495-acre Tierra Piedra Ranch.

The planning commission recommended approval for the water blending and disposal facility, with conditions, in a 4-0 vote on March 23.

Those conditions applied by the planning commission and agreed to by the BoCC include the standard conditions of dust abatement, artifact preservation, noxious weed control and Colorado Department of Transportation access requirements.

Additionally, the permit includes a condition brought about by the Colorado Division of Wildlife to research the feasibility of moving the injection well farther from the Piedra River to cooperate with concerns over proximity to the river.

The permit also prohibits surface discharge of the water and requires that a letter of commencement be issued by the planning department prior to the start of any disposal operations, with the exception of grading and site work.

At Tuesday’s hearing on the permit, Greg Shaner, a civil engineer out of Rifle-based Colorado River Engineering, offered little in the way of testimony in favor of the project, choosing to inform the commissioners that the applicant was, “for the most part, agreeable to all the different conditions of approval.”

Sandy Gladfelter, representing the water district for the Arboles area, was the first to speak against the project, stating that the water district was not specifically notified about the project to be able to comment, but that the district had concerns about water contamination should the well leak.

Randal Fox, an Arboles resident, said that, while he was sure the applicants would build to the best of their abilities, “accidents happen” and urged the BoCC to look into the possibility of moving the well more strongly than simply as a condition of the permit.

A third Arboles resident urged further research before a decision was made, noting that the commissioners needed to look generations ahead when examining effects of the well.

In the end, the well permit was approved with a 2-1 vote, with Commissioner Clifford Lucero voting against the permit, citing outstanding environmental concerns and questions.

Following the approval of the permit, the BoCC approved the signing of an intergovernmental agreement with CDOT for work on the West Cat Creek bridge, which is failing to the point that requires prohibiting large vehicles (county road equipment, for example) from crossing.

Under the agreement, which must still be approved by CDOT, the state agency will acquire the needed rights-of-way and environmental clearances (CDOT will be obtaining similar clearances for work on U.S. 160 at the West Cat Creek Road entrance).

The agreement also allows Archuleta County to obtain funding for the bridge project to the tune of $837,000. The county will provide a 20-percent match of $167,000, which is budgeted in the Road Capital Improvement portion of the Road and Bridge Fund.

Also dealing with the bridge, the BoCC approved using engineering firm Short Elliott Hendrickson, Inc. to engineer and manage the project at a cost of $179,991.

A contract with the firm, which engineered the Juanita and Harebell bridges, will not be signed until CDOT signs the agreement for the project.

Public Works Director Ken Feyen said he hopes construction will begin in September or October.

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