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The article in the Los Alamos Monitor about the water wells proposed to be on White Rock Canyon did not include some issues, which should be an important part of the discussion.
Many of us support the Los Alamos County desire to get access to additional water. What we oppose is drilling wells in county open space land adjacent to residential areas. These proposed wells will permanently degrade the quality of life and therefore health of a good many residents of Los Alamos County.
The impact of these wells will be permanent. The impact during the time of construction is agreed by all to be severe — construction of the access roads, laying the utility lines, drilling the wells and constructing the well site. But there is a permanent impact.
The small open space areas will be effectively destroyed by the access road and the one acre walled site containing the pump and wellhead. In addition to this visual impact, the noise of the operating pump will impact will affect all the nearby residents 24 hours a day.
Constructing these wells as planned violates County Comprehensive Plan. A great deal of effort was put in by citizens and county councilors to identify the values of the County, and to write a comprehensive plan that captured these values. Two sections are quoted below that are specifically violated.
Section 8. Improve Recreation
8.C.1 The county should adopt and periodically update an Open Space Management Plan for the purpose of protecting relatively undisturbed open space, especially canyons, preserving unobstructed views …
Section 9. Protect the Environment
9.A.3 The county should protect canyons and minimize adverse impacts of development along canyon rims and other open space areas.
In addition to violating the comprehensive plan, the wells also violate the basic principles of zoning.
Residential and industrial uses are kept separate in order to preserve the character of the residential neighborhoods.
The proposed wells are an industrial use even though the DPU says that they are only a “public utility.” Anybody else drilling and operating a well would be considered to be an industrial use. In fact, the county would never approve drilling wells in open space areas located in residential areas for anybody else.
There are other viable options for drilling water wells — despite what DPU says.
First, the wells could be put on DOE land west or south of Pajarito Acres, far enough away so that the residential areas are not impacted. None of these sites are drastically different than the currently proposed sites, and there is every reason to believe that the DOE would be a willing partner.
The proposed well at site 3 in Pajarito Acres is already 3,600 feet from the river, and if this counts as taking river water, then taking the water a few thousand feet further from the river should be the same since it would be from exactly the same underground water table. This needs further study.
The other viable option is to take water from the City of Santa Fe’s Buckman site. The DPU report says that Santa Fe would be amenable to negotiating this.
One of the options that the DPU did not study was to use directional drilling to install the water pipe from the Rio Grande to Overlook Park.
All of the drilling could be done with well known drilling techniques, and the pipe is just a water pipe. This should get some serious study. The treatment plant could be dual used as part of the county’s sustainability efforts to conserve the aquifer that supplies our water.
I doubt that the DPU just wants a solution that is easier and more convenient for them, so let us halt this project and work together to find a means of getting the water that does not degrade the quality of life and health for all of us in the White Rock area.
Carolyn Linnebur, MD