By Sarah Pridgeon
During permitting discussions with Steve Kozel of the US Forest Service at this month’s regular meeting of the city council, Mayor Paul Brooks offered the latest information regarding the Cole Water Storage Tank. The tank was recently found to be sliding down the hill and will need to be removed or fixed before it tumbles over the edge.
Kozel attended the meeting to confirm that the Forest Service allows facilities to be located within the national forest and to provide the council with details of how to seek a permit if and when a new location for the water tank is chosen. He outlined the permitting procedure, which will begin when the city submits application forms describing where the proposed location will be and why.
Once the forms are received, they will be screened to ensure they are in the best interests of the environment and its inhabitants. The National Environmental Policy Act procedure will then evaluate the environmental effects of the proposed undertaking, after which public feedback and comment will be sought before a decision is made.
Kozel mentioned that the city may qualify for cost recovery for the analysis of the site and procedure, allowing the expense to be shared or reduced. He estimated that the process will take between six and 18 months in total, depending on the complexity, and therefore controversy and necessary work, of the proposal.
In response, Mayor Brooks explained that replacing the water tank is crucial because its dual purposes are to provide water for firefighting and to take pressure off the town’s water supply. He confirmed that, to fulfill these needs, the water tank will almost certainly need to be placed at a similar elevation to that of its current location.
Mayor Brooks will be visiting Cheyenne this week with Clerk-Treasurer Kathy Lenz and Public Works Director Larry Schommer to discuss the situation with Wyoming Water Development. He predicts that the city will be directed to perform a level one water survey to reconfirm the necessary elevation of the tank, at an approximate cost of $150,000.
Brooks went on to explain that the city does not currently have funding available to do this, and that, even if the survey were begun immediately, it could take 18 months to complete. If this proves to be the case, it will be 18 months before the city is able to begin the permit application process.
Water Development is, said Brooks, very interested in removing the tank from the hill before it falls and has offered to provide a temporary tank at a cost of $1 million. As the city “doesn’t have real deep pockets,” this solution is unlikely to be pursued.
In the meantime, Kozel agreed to provide the city with a copy of the permit application forms. This will enable the city to add information as it becomes available and be ready to apply for the permit as soon as is possible.