Eleven Thoughts about the July 27th Elbert BOCC Meeting
Over the past few years, I have purposefully
chosen to stay out of the Elbert "limelight."
From 2005 until early 2009, I was a permanent
fixture at most public events in Elbert County.
I was more than willing to try and bring about
public debates regarding the state of the
county, its financial demise, its lack of
fiduciary responsibility, its shady bookkeeping
and its lack of transparency. I wrote a
newspaper column about pertinent county
issues and fought side-by-side with my
neighbors to stop the Super Slab.
In 2008, I was encouraged by friends to run
for Elbert County Commissioner in District 3.
While I knew that a Democrat stood almost no
chance of winning a political race, I falsely
believed that the Democratic candidates could
bring important issues to light through
debating their Republican counterparts. Patty
Sward and I researched the future of water
resources in Elbert County. We both fervently
believed that a situation exactly like the one
that is occurring today around the Elbert and
Highway 86 Commercial Metropolitan District
(E&86CMD) was eminent. We even
interviewed Gary Atkin, the manager of
Arapahoe County Water & Wastewater
Authority (ACCWA) to try and ferret out
details of inappropriate meetings between
members of the Elbert County BOCC,
developers and ACWWA.
Unfortunately, the Republican candidates
refused to debate Patty or me. Republican
dominance exerted itself, and too few
residents seemed to care about water issues,
ill-conceived loans on the Justice Center, or
questionable bookkeeping practices on the
part of the Elbert BOCC. There is no joy in
prognosticating that the county you love is
going to the dogs and then watching it come
true. This is especially true when it is virtually
the same cast of characters heading us in
that direction who were instrumental in taking
us nearly to the brink of financial insolvency.
So in the same disgruntled spirit exemplified
by the members of our BOCC toward a
concerned public on Wednesday, let me share
with you a few details that chap my ample
behind about Elbert County government and
the way it deals with these types of issues.
And, along the way I will throw in a couple of
tidbits about our water district representatives.
John Shipper was once a regional
vice-president and lobbyist for The Tobacco
Institute, Inc. which was a United States
tobacco industry trade group, founded in 1958
by the American tobacco industry. The
Organization was dissolved in 1998 as part of
the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.
Arguably, Mr. Shipper was one of the most
powerful men influencing Congress back in the
day. The Tobacco Institute regularly paid
scientists to confuse the American public
about the hazards of smoking. So, pardon me
if I get a little sick to my stomach when
Commissioner Shipper accuses Elbert
citizens of passing along misinformation. EC
residents whom are doing their civic duty
should not be chastised for seeking answers
to legitimate questions.
Unfortunately, none of the emails that I or any
from the leadership group read said anything
about condemnation. Residents are concerned
about losing their water through over-pumping,
about the quality of their groundwater, and the
green light this gives the oil companies poised
to frack us. While Mr. Shipper and Ms. Miller
were correct in saying that a Metropolitan
can't condemn an established right, it was not
the point of any of the emails.
The Denver Bedrock Aquifers are a
non-renewable source of water. If the aquifers
were to be pumped dry tomorrow, it will take
thousands upon thousands of years to
recharge them. The more we encourage the
wholesale pumping of the aquifers, the sooner
we will become dependent on people who are
in the business of brokering renewable water
As a point of clarification, I checked with the
Colorado Division of Water Resources. Up
until 1985, it was possible for water entities
to claim un-adjudicated water rights. That is
no longer true. The Elbert and Highway 86
Commercial Metropolitan District cannot
make a claim on water beneath your property
without your permission, even if your rights
have not been adjudicated. That is really
good news and I have no problem
withdrawing my claim that the water
district could petition the court to lay
claim to the un-adjudicated water within
their boundaries. That said, the point still
remains that if a water rush occurs because
the proposed pipeline is built and there is a
way to move the water out of the county the
aquifer levels will begin a precipitous drop.
Remember that this aquifer system is a
non-renewable water source and once
depleted, it is gone for all intents and
purposes, forever. Nobody will be interested
in giving you money to drill your replacement
well when the water levels are no longer
sufficient enough to meet your needs.
Never let it be forgotten that the plan presented
by E&86CMD that sits before the BOCC was
outlined in the Denver Post in 2005 by reporter
Chuck Plunkett . The only difference is that, it
was then being proposed by Robert Lembke.
You remember who Lembke is: the guy with the
empty water reservoir; the guy that sits with
Commissioner Schlegel on the board of The
Elkhorn Ranch Metropolitan District? Of course
we are told that it is all just coincidence. Mr.
Schlegel still needs to recuse himself.
After years of criticizing J.H. Schroder, the
former head of the Republican Party in Elbert
County, I need to give him credit where credit
is due: His argument against the formation of
this project was compelling and to the point.
His Republican brethren on the BOCC would
do well to heed his advice. Well said, J.H.!
Recharging of an aquifer with treated sewage
effluent or excess water runoff may be the
wave of the future, but the practice is in its
infancy. I believe the community needs more
time to learn about the safety and practicality
of this process. I have included a couple of
links that explain the theory and practice of
Did anyone else notice the flies? I know the
county is broke, so I am suggesting the next
time we meet at the EC Fairgrounds that
everybody brings a fly swatter. Of course it
could have been predicted because the
common housefly is attracted to the smell of
manure and the proposal before the BOCC
was pretty odiferous... just saying.
If the proposal offered up by E&86CMD is
tossed over to the Elbert County Planning
Commission, I want to remind the public that
there are several large landowners on this
Board who own property in the area of the
proposed pipeline and who stand to make
millions from the sale of water. Those
members will need to disclose their land
holdings and recuse themselves in order to
maintain the public trust.
When former Elbert County Commissioner John
Metli shows up to defend a project, BE
CONCERNED. When John dusts off his
standard, "We are a nation of laws" speech to
defend a BOCC decision, BE VERY, VERY
CONCERNED. If you did not read it carefully
before, read Chuck Plunketts Denver Post article
to see who was in part responsible for
unleashing Robert Lembke and his water plans
on the folks of Elbert. Don't forget that Metli
owns huge amounts of land in the county and
would have a way to sell his water if the deal
Mr. Shipper and Dianne Miller, attorney for
E&86CMD, provided the audience with a
heavenly little slice of Kabuki Theater in their
exchange about intercepted emails. They
reported that the citizen emails were
promoting the idea that the Elbert and
Highway 86 Commercial Metropolitan District
was intending to condemn residents' water
It is the opinion of this author that Kurt
Schlegel is an officious politician who thinks
very highly of himself. At the July 27th BOCC
meeting, he never missed an opportunity to
make disparaging quips about the word "tax"
or "progressive." It was inappropriate in relation
to the topic at hand.
The State of Colorado's population rate has
grown by 16.9% since the 2000 census,
down from 30.9% in the previous census. The
increase that Elbert County experienced was
actually nearly a 10th of a percent less than
the state's growth. To use the 16% growth
figure as a reason why we should rush out
and build a water pipeline is disingenuous at
best. Our population growth has actually
subsided. This is the type of manipulation of
facts speaks volumes about the agenda of our
Verify my facts. Do your homework.
Protect your water.
Douglas County has gone through all of this
before us. Their wells are going down at an
astounding rate of 365 inches per year. As a
result of poor water management, the people in
that county are rapidly finding themselves held
hostage to water monopolies disguised as
metropolitan districts. It does not take a
high-priced lawyer to see where this is all
headed. The agricultural base of Elbert County
has enough water to sustain itself for a good
long while, but not if we continue to plan for a
phantom population that the developers who sit
on these boards hope to entice into the area.
Speculators' mantra has always been, "Build it
and they will come!
July 31, 2011