On Sept. 20, representatives from El Paso County hosted an informational meeting at Drake Lake in Falcon to discuss the status of temporary repairs as a result of heavy rains, and to garner ideas for future improvements. More than 20 people from the community attended and provided feedback.|
Tim Wolken, director of the EPC Community Services Department, presented a timeline of the history of Drake Lake (located off Mallard Drive) and the temporary repairs made to the northwest embankment, which was breached in July.
The temporary repairs consist of a tarp and sandbags and are not intended to completely close the breach, but to stabilize the bank until a more permanent solution can be determined, Wolken said. “We are investigating the water rights, which were put into place prior to the county taking possession of Drake Lake in 2005,” he said. “We want to make sure that if we are going to invest in Drake Lake, we do not have to just drain it (based on the water rights). We want to spend and invest our money wisely.”
Mark Waller, district 2 representative from the EPC Board of County Commissioners, said the water rights issue is not so much about access to the actual water but the legal right to stop it from flowing elsewhere.
Wolken said possible solutions to the breached bank include fortifying the breach to create a natural spillway; or repairing it completely and replacing the overflow drain adjacent to the southern dam. The drain currently bends at a 90-degree angle and regularly traps debris.
Community members were united in saying they would like the lake refilled to its previous level and held there. Wolken said the water rights issue will ultimately determine what the county will do and how much it will cost.
Other ideas for improvements to Drake Lake included the following: stocking it with fish and allowing fishing; adding a pavilion; adding a dock; adding signage to keep people from parking at the lake at night; and, if there is enough local interest, creating a trail from the lake to connect with the Rock Island Trail that runs adjacent to Highway 24.
Waller said the bottom line is the number of variables to consider before deciding on further work projects at Drake Lake. “We are trying to figure out what the right steps are moving forward.”
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On Aug. 26, the Falcon Highlands Metropolitan District’s board of directors held a town hall meeting at the Falcon Fire Protection District fire station No. 3 to present information on proposed upgrades to the district’s water system and the funding for those upgrades.|
Kevin Haas, FHMD treasurer since October 2016, said the district’s water system is lacking and will not be able to sustain the growth expected in the area. Challenger Homes owns 360 acres within the district and wants to build more homes, but the district currently cannot issue more taps to their water system, he said.
“The previous board put us in a position to be insufficient (in water) if we did allow additional water taps,” Haas said. After hiring Kennedy/Jenks Consultants, an engineering firm in Lakewood, Colorado, the district learned they needed more wells to supply the increasing demand for water, he said.
Based on information from Kennedy/Jenks, the cost is $1.5 million to drill each well, and FHMD needs two wells to support the expected growth, Haas said. With additional water rights already secured, the district might be able to request that an existing well be legally allowed to draw more water, which means they might only need to drill one well to retrieve more water, he said.
“If we only drill one well, we would only borrow the $1.5 million for it,” Haas said. “We only want to borrow what we need.”
The current water supply system also needs to be upgraded, Haas said. To fund all the necessary projects, the board has decided to put a measure on the Nov. 7 ballot, asking the residents for the authority to renegotiate the district’s existing bonds at lower interest rates to free up money, he said. Additionally, the ballot measure will ask residents to give the board authority to borrow additional money to pay for drilling a new well, Haas said.
“We are not explicit to drilling wells, although that is the easiest route,” he said. The district has already contacted Colorado Springs Utilities, among other entities, to see about purchasing water from them; but whatever direction the board chooses, a vote of the residents through a ballot measure is required, Haas said.
The passing of the ballot measure would not result in a change to the property tax rate because taxes are currently as high as they are legally allowed, he said. Improving the infrastructure and adding wells would ultimately spread out the taxes across a larger tax base and could result in lower fees down the road, Haas said.
“We need to keep up with our own standards,” he said. “The standards we have to keep in the back of our minds are things like how much water we have available in the event of a fire. We have to have water on hand in immediate storage in case one of the businesses in the district catches fire. That comes with infrastructure requirements.”
Haas said the board has been doing its best to mitigate the risks of having an infrastructure that has not been updated since it was built in 2002, but the current needs require funds, which calls for a ballot measure.
Another town hall meeting is planned for October to further educate the residents on the ballot measure. The date has not been determined.