Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park
 

EAB Meeting Minutes

June 8, 2004

 

 

EAB                                                                             Commissioners

Ramon Ajero                                                                None

John Bartholow                                                            

Lilias Jarding                                                                 Speakers

Jim Skarbek                                                                  Mary Warring & Margie Joy,                

Marcia Van Eden                                                          North Front Range Metropolitan        

Brett Bruyere                                                                Planning Organization           

Ray Herrmann                                                              Ed Schemm,     

Dale Lockwood                                                             Larimer County Health Dept.  

Jack Coleman

Bill Zawacki

 

Staff                                                                            

Cheryl Kolus, staff liaison                                                                                                                                 

I.          Citizen Comments

None.

 

II.         Chair's Comments

Ray Herrmann mentioned a county-sponsored forum on agriculture that he attended. The forum was run in a similar manner as last year’s Recycling Summit. It discussed ways to keep agriculture alive and well in Larimer County. For more information, contact Ray.

 

Ray also thanked Dale Lockwood for his work on the chronic wasting disease and West Nile virus issue reports.

 

III.       Commissioner's Comments

None.

 

IV.       Approval of May Minutes

The minutes were approved with one change to the attendance list: Jim Skarbek was not present at the May meeting.

 

V.   Amendments to the Agenda

None.

 

VI.   Discussion Items

Regional Transportation Plan of the North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization (NFRMPO), Mary Warring and Margie Joy

There are five Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) in Colorado. When an urbanized area hits a population of 50,000 people or more, then the state designates it as a MPO. The North Front Range MPO includes 13 governments. Most, but not all, of Larimer County is included in the NFRMPO. Glenn Gibson is the elected official on the NFRMPO council. Responsibilities of an MPO include long-range transportation planning, transportation improvement programs, conformity determinations and soliciting grassroots input. In this region, residents tend to travel far to their jobs and together drive 10 million miles per day, with a tremendous increase projected by 2030.

 

The purpose of a Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) is to create an inclusive and comprehensive transportation plan for the region, ensure that local voices are heard (especially from small towns in the region), and to educate the public on regional transportation issues.

 

The NFRMPO has developed a preferred RTP (basically a list of projects), and from that has come up with a fiscally constrained plan (prioritizing projects and deleting some) that goes to the state. The state takes this plan and develops its own fiscally constrained plan from it. The 2025 plan lists over 400 projects costing more than $4 billion.

 

Examples of RTP-funded projects include the SH 14 and I-25 interchange (partially completed), the SH 287 and 1st Street intersection (completed), and the Sheep Draw multi-use trail (in progress).

 

The MPO is responsible for facilitating a process to allow more local input. It also coordinates the planning process and gives the Colorado Transportation Commission the priorities for the North Front Range region, providing updates every 3 years.

 

Currently, the NFRMPO has drafted the preferred plan and project list. The plan’s key strategies are that it benefits regionally significant corridors, provides a land use-transportation connection, and offers corridor visioning based on regionally significant corridors.

 

Lilias Jarding asked if there will be a gap between the NFR rail plan and the southern rail plan. Margie Joy stated that there is no rail plan in the North Front Range. She said that there is a gap due to the planning not being complete yet. They need more data, environmental impact studies and public support. Also, they would need funding for implementation.

 

Bill Zawacki asked if freight rails would need to be replaced for passenger rail service. Ms. Joy said they would need to be upgraded to handle faster speeds and for safety reasons. Twenty-six miles of new track would be needed, plus the upgrades. Then passenger and freight trains could use the same tracks.

 

A question was asked about rail service to DIA. Some studies are being done on that.

 

The NFR planning region connects with the Denver MPO’s planning region. The NFRMPO also helps the Upper Front Range with its plan. All the MPOs work closely with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), and all will feed into the state’s draft plan.

 

Ray Herrmann asked if the lack of funding for light rail planning had anything to do with Loveland’s opposition. Ms. Joy said the lack of money is mainly due to having little “flexible” money left for distribution, as well as the federal/state political environment, but not because of the local political environment.

 

John Coleman asked who’s involved in the project prioritization process. Ms. Joy answered that transportation directors and public works directors are involved. From Larimer County, Marc Engemoen and Mark Peterson are involved. The process includes initial screening, prioritizing by project category, the application of allocated funds, and prioritizing across categories.

 

MPOs are funded by federal and state governments, along with some funding from local governments. MPOs do lots of research to define problems, evaluate the current situation and eventually reach a solution. They also facilitate the process to begin getting the money flowing. Once funding is dedicated, then design work begins and construction work starts. MPOs are not involved in these final two stages; design and construction are left to local governments. The National Environmental Policy Act comes into play after funds are dedicated.

 

Ray asked if an Environmental Impact Statement was completed on the transportation plan. Ms. Joy does not believe so. Environmental assessments may be listed as projects and prioritized, but they won’t happen until they reach the top of the priority list.

 

To be eligible, projects must benefit a “regionally significant corridor,” impact fees must

be allocated toward the project, and it must be consistent with the corridor vision. The six

criteria used to evaluate projects are: (1) system continuity, (2) congestion mitigation,

(3) safety enhancement, (4) multi-modal enhancement, (5) timely implementation and (6) land use compatibility.

 

Funding comes from a variety of sources, but is usually dedicated to specific projects. The funds go through the MPO to CDOT. If an entity wants state or federal money for a project, it must go through the MPO process.

 

The priority list is not set in stone; safety issues may re-rank projects.

 

The draft 2030 preferred plan will require $4.6 billion. This plan differs from the 2025 plan in its resource allocation, and a Regional Transportation Authority is not included in it. The current draft plan has lowered the fiscally constrained amount to about $1 billion.

 

Currently, the NFRMPO is seeking public input. More information is available at

www.nfrmpo.org. In August the plan will be finalized and open to a 30-day public comment period, and in September the final plan will be presented to CDOT.

 

Septic System Issues, Ed Schemm

Ed Schemm, Larimer County’s assistant director of environmental health, described a septic system as having two main components: a septic tank and a leach field. The septic tank collects solids and grease; a typical residential septic tank is 1,000 to 1,500 gallons. Every four years, the tank must be pumped and the waste hauled to a wastewater treatment plant. Leach fields used to be about 1 foot of gravel through which liquid effluent percolates underground. Now many leach fields use chambers formed with PVC.

 

The state health department has the authority to write guidelines for septic systems. Local health departments also have some authority to write regulations. County regulations must be at least as stringent as the state’s; in Larimer County, they’re more stringent. The county’s Board of Health has had septic system regulations since 1968. Regulations address administration, enforcement, types of systems and technical information. Septic systems can be of three types: percolation, evaporation, or a combination of both.

 

The county health department has full authority to enforce state and local regulations. The department strives to reduce and control the pollution of air, land and water. The main goal with water is to protect ground and surface water for the good of public health.

 

County regulations require a permit for the installation of a septic system. They also require a percolation test, a site plan and a deep-boring profile. The latter consists of boring an 8-foot hole to locate the bedrock and groundwater. Four feet of separation must exist between a septic site and the groundwater.

 

Before issuing a permit for a septic system, the county health department conducts an on-site inspection. After the system is installed, a final inspection is also done. Contractors must be licensed through the health department to install or pump a septic system. Technical requirements include having suitable soil at the site (nitrates are a big concern).

 

Ray Herrmann asked if any studies exist that show how far to expect movement from leach fields. Mr. Schemm said there are no good data on that issue.

 

Ramon Ajero asked how problem systems are detected. Mr. Schemm replied that when houses are sold, mortgage companies require a health department inspection, including septic tank pumping. Building permits for remodeling a home also go through the health department, at which time an inspection or pumping may be done.

 

An estimated 15,000 to 18,000 septic tanks exist in Larimer County. Jack Coleman expressed concern about the probability of groundwater damage. He noted that even though the probability of an individual septic tank leak to the aquifer is quite low, considering the thousands of septic tanks in Larimer County, the probability is quite high for at least one instance of tank leakage into groundwater.

 

Ray asked if the county has found any wells contaminated by septic tanks. Mr. Schemm said some old houses have a pipe that goes directly to a stream, and that there are probably some other instances of contamination. The homeowner is responsible for remedying such situations, but the cleanup of aquifers is not enforced. Ray noted that usually contamination would be limited to one homeowner’s well and would not be a public health threat. He said that contamination generally reaches only a few hundred feet.

 

There are some advanced treatments, where technology is available to reduce nitrates in an environmentally sensitive area.

 

John Bartholow asked whether a pumping company that finds a problem must inform the homeowner and the health department. Mr. Schemm said yes.

 

Ray asked if there are areas or issues of particular concern in the county. Mr. Schemm noted that some areas around LaPorte are not part of a sanitation district. He said some subdivisions there need public sewer. Also, some areas south of Loveland near Carter Lake may have some issues, because what were once summer cabins are now permanent residences with the same septic systems in place. Mr. Schemm noted that it’s often the poorer people who can’t afford to deal with septic system problems who live in areas with problems. Larimer County has collaborated with other government agencies to work on sewer projects.

 

Ray mentioned that the state regulates well construction. He asked if there are any problems with people installing wells and conflicting with the county’s leach field requirements. Mr. Schemm said there are few problems today. Both state and county regulations require that wells be 100 feet from leach fields.

 

Other areas of concern according to Mr. Schemm include the subdivision on the back side of Horsetooth, where the bedrock is solid and shallow. Although now there are only three or four houses there, lots are owned individually and have just not been built on yet. If this area is developed further, the county hopes to get a sewer system in place. He said that if a residence is located within 400 feet of public sewer, the homeowner must connect to it if his/her septic system fails or a new house is being built.

 

When asked about septic systems and their relation to the quality of the Big Thompson watershed, Mr. Schemm noted that when he worked years ago in the Loveland/Estes Park area, only downtown Estes Park had sewer. He said that the Upper Thompson Sanitation District really improved the quality of the Upper Thompson River. Today, some of the stables in Estes Park are a problem; the county health department is working with the state on that.

 

Bill Zawacki asked about the septic issues relating to the proposed Serenade Park in Loveland. Mr. Schemm said that any system with a capacity of 2,000 gallons or more per day must be reviewed by the county and state health departments and the North Front Range Water Quality Planning Organization. The review process is stringent. Serenade Park’s proposal is to treat the effluent and apply it to land. Those involved are still in the process of trying to make it work. Mr. Schemm said it’s harder to treat liquid, which is what they expect to have, because helpful insects are attracted to solids.

 

John Bartholow said that, looking at data from the Big Thompson Watershed Forum (BTWF; www.btwatershed.org), septic systems are a source of water contamination and may cause algae problems. Mr. Schemm said that the health department took this problem and Ben Alexander’s (BTWF) information to the state. But until the EPA issues regulations dealing with algae, the county has nothing to enforce. The EPA is studying the cyanobacter issue, but has not developed any regulations yet. Surface water supplies (where the algae problems are) are regulated by the state. The county regulates groundwater supplies.

 

Action log review, EAB members.

The board reviewed the EAB’s action log (www.larimer.org/boards/eab/action.htm). Lilias Jarding will research the county’s involvement in air quality and ozone issues to help determine whether air quality should be an item added to the action log. The North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization’s regional transportation plan will be added as an item under transportation projects. Brett Bruyere will develop an issue report. Also, some items were moved to the “watch” list and one item was moved to the “inactive” list.

 

VII.    Updates

An Environmental Stewardship Awards subcommittee was formed with Marcia Van Eden, Bill Zawacki and Ray Herrmann as members. Cheryl Kolus will get the announcement out that the county is accepting nominations for the 2004 awards (www.larimer.org/boards/eab/Awards/awards.htm). The subcommittee will review the nominations once they’re all in and make a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) in the fall.

 

The board unanimously voted to send a memo to the BCC encouraging the development of a policy to purchase recycled paper for use in county offices  (www.larimer.org/boards/eab/Letters/2004/CtyRecyc.htm).

 

The meeting adjourned at 9:00 p.m.

 

 

Background Image: Rocky Mountain National Park by Sue Burke. All rights reserved.