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Grand Lake supports 4-meter clarity standard

Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi News file photo
Byron Hetzler | Sky-Hi Daily News

It was a busy evening for the Grand Lake Board of Trustees Monday night.

The Board addressed a litany of action items, approved the town budget for 2015 and continued ongoing discussions related to water clarity standards in Grand Lake. Monday was the last Grand Lake Board of Trustees’ meeting scheduled for this year.

An ongoing debate within the community focuses on water clarity in the lake and pumping conducted by Northern Water from Lake Granby into Shadow Mountain Reservoir. This debate follows the initiation of a process to develop clarity standards for Grand Lake set in motion by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission in 2008.

The Water Quality Control Commission within the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment established a 4-meter clarity standard in 2008, but implementation of the standard has been deferred until 2015.

“We are involved in the discussions and studies on this, but at this point in time I don’t think we are ready to say that 4 meters is the right standard.”
Brian Werner
Spokesman, Norther Water Conservancy District

The issue came before the Grand Lake Board Monday night at the request of Grand County. Grand County acts as the representative for Grand Lake regarding the water clarity issue. Grand Lake Town Manager David Hook explained saying, “Grand County is the local official designee looking out for and protecting all of us and Western Slope water.”

Grand Lake Mayor Judy Burke explained the county is requesting the town provide a letter stating its official position regarding the clarity issue. According to Burke the county has also requested the town support the previously established 4-meter standard.

A motion was passed by the Board instructing the town manager to craft a letter stating the town’s desire for a 4-meter clarity standard and protection of aquatic life. Town Manager Hook highlighted plans the town has for community outreach on the issue including a public hearing. A date has not been set yet for the hearing.

Certain individuals have voiced misgivings regarding the clarity standard, including Grand Lake Trustee Jim Gasner. Gasner works as a fishing guide on Grand Lake and has voiced concerns about how improving water clarity would affect the fisheries in the lake and the livelihoods of other fishing guides. Gasner was ill Monday night and was unable to attend the Board meeting. He responded to questions Tuesday.

“As long as we are protecting aquatic life I’m for it. It (the motion) is a compromise. If they can maintain a 4-meter standard and protect aquatic life, I’m for that. I think the Town Board really took a good stance.”

Northern Water Conservancy District, which pumps water through Shadow Mountain Reservoir, also raised doubts about the 4-meter clarity standard. Northern Water Public Information Officer Brian Werner said, “We are not convinced of a number at this point. We are not sure if 4 meters is the right point or not. We are involved in the discussions and studies on this, but at this point in time I don’t think we are ready to say that 4 meters is the right standard.”

At the heart of the water clarity issue is pumping conducted by Northern Water from Lake Granby into Shadow Mountain Reservoir. This pumping action causes natural flows of water out of Shadow Mountain Reservoir into Grand Lake. These flows of water contain cyanobacteria and other forms of nutrients that affect the clarity of Grand Lake.

A study by Brett Johnson of the Colorado State University Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology titled “Effects Of Water Clarity And Other Factors on Aquatic Life of Grand Lake, Colorado” states, “The data suggest that pumping from Shadow Mountain Reservoir has an enriching effect that should be beneficial to Grand Lake’s fish populations.”

The study by Johnson was prepared specifically for Northern Water.

Budget adoption

Along with discussions on water clarity, the Board approved the Town budget for 2015 Monday night. The 2015 budget has projected expenditures totaling $4,380,158 and projected revenues totaling $4,380,185. The Trustees also approved the mill levy for general property taxes for 2015, setting it at 6.049 mills, slightly higher than last year’s 5.828 mills.

Sign permit

The Board approved appeals on two previously denied sign permit applications, one for Wildwood Cabins and another for John Williams’ photography. Both sign applications were denied because they violate an existing Town code that states, “All signs shall have a wood-like appearance with natural flat wood tone background.”

Carey Barnes of Wildwood Cabins and John Williams of John Williams’ Photography, respectively, addressed the Board requesting approval for their signs. Both Barnes and Williams were supported at the meeting by community members who spoke in favor of their appeals.

The two appeals prompted a discussion regarding the existing Grand Lake sign code and the possible need to reexamine those codes, specifically the code requiring signs have a “wood-like appearance.”

New manager

The Board wrapped up its meeting with approval of the contract for Grand Lake’s new Town Manager Jim White. White will replace outgoing Town Manager David Hook. Hook’s last day as Grand Lake Town Manager will be Dec. 31. White is scheduled to being his new role with Grand Lake in mid-January.

Former long time Grand Lake Trustee Jim Peterson spoke to the Board about the decision to hire Jim White. “I have known Jim for 10 years. I think he is going to be a very good addition to the town. I was excited when I heard who you had offered the position to.”


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