Groundwater flooding prompts finger pointing at Grand Lake Lodge expansion
Parties dispute causes of allegedly unprecedented groundwater flooding on Woodpecker Hill
For well over a year, a California-based development company has been moving forward with plans to expand the historic Grand Lake Lodge. However, several property owners have been raising concerns by alleging sewer work related to the development has resulted in groundwater flooding properties in the area.
In late 2017, the Grand Lake Lodge, north of downtown Grand Lake near the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, switched hands when Red Tail Acquisitions, based in Irvine, California, purchased the property. Over the last year-and-a-half, representatives from Red Tail Acquisitions have been working on a lodge expansion that contemplates the construction of 86 new lodging units over four phases.
The expansion has generated significant controversy within the Grand Lake community, but over the past year representatives from Red Tail Acquisitions have worked through the town’s regulatory framework to secure approval for the expansion. The scope of the project included significant earthwork related to sewer lines that service the property.
Last fall crews completed a sewer line replacement project in the area of Woodpecker Hill, north of Mountain Avenue. Starting this spring, several property owners on Mountain Avenue began experiencing drastic changes in the way groundwater impacts their homes.
They contend the sewer line replacement project changed the dynamics of groundwater flow on Woodpecker Hill, resulting in groundwater flooding into their properties.
Gary Casalo, who owns a cabin on Mountain Avenue below the construction site, has brought his concerns to the Grand Lake Town Board on multiple occasions this summer, including his most recent appearance Monday night.
“My neighbors and I believe we are the victims of a possible faulty sewer design or faulty installation,” Casalo told the board.
Casalo has asked that the town help mediate the dispute, as he says the town has a part to play in the process because it approved the construction permits. According to Casalo, his cabin on Mountain Avenue was completed in 1999, and it has never experienced groundwater flooding prior to this spring.
“I am saying, because you were part of the decision making process, you should be part of the resolution,” Casalo said.
Casalo is not the only property owner on Mountain Avenue to experience changes either. During Grand Lake’s July 8 board meeting, the town heard from two other property owners, one adjacent the Casalo property and one separated by a lot, who both reported flooding issues that started this spring.
Casalo read a statement on Monday that he received from Grand Lake’s town attorney explaining the town’s position on the issue. It asserts that any issues between two property owners are to be resolved among the property owners themselves, unless the town took some action that would cause the problem to occur.
Grand Lake Mayor Jim Peterson noted he was not an expert on subjects related to groundwater and excavation, but he stressed he intends to follow the advice of the town attorney.
“I believe something happened up there; it is obvious,” Peterson said. “There is some correlation. There was activity up there, but what it is we don’t know. We want to help you solve it, but it is a fool who doesn’t take his attorney’s suggestions.”
For their part, representatives from Red Tail Acquisitions acknowledged the issues Casalo was experiencing, but they said they could not attribute it to anything specific, as they noted that Grand Lake experienced an unusually wet spring and early summer this year.
Chris Purdue, project engineer for Red Tail Acquisitions, said he did not believe that any potential grade changes that resulted from the sewer line work would have impacted the groundwater.
Francis Corso, Vice President of Red Tail Acquisitions, said in follow-up statements to Sky-Hi News that his company has been working with Casalo since the issue was first broached.
“We have been working with him since day one,” Corso said. “We are in the process of figuring out what is going on for both of us. We are working to find solutions.”
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