On Tuesday, May 4, at 9:30 am, the Albany County Commissioners will hold a hearing on proposed changes to the county’s aquifer protection regulations. While specific comments are helpful (see below), the most important message for the county commissioners to hear is: Keep our drinking water clean! There will be opposition.
Basics on What to Say & How to Say it
ACCWA will be offering detailed improvements to the current regulations, with specific deletions and additions. But since not everyone wants to nerd out on redline/strikeout texts, we offer the following suggestions:
What Most Needs to be Fixed
1. The Casper Aquifer is a nearly pristine groundwater resource. The regulations should clearly state that the aim of the regulations is to prevent degradation of our groundwater, rather than allow pollution of the resource to the maximum level permitted by federal drinking water standards.
2. The western boundary of the Aquifer Protection Overlay Zone (APOZ) is important because certain polluting activities are prohibited within the APOZ. Currently, the county’s western boundary is defined as a line on a map that is not clearly readable and is known to be wrong in several areas (that is, the line doesn’t accurately reflect where 75 feet of protective Satanka Shale overlies the Casper Aquifer).
The county and city plan to work together to update the Casper Aquifer Protection Plan that initially defined this line, but that’s going to be a long haul. There are a couple of quick fixes that could be suggested in comments: (1) add a 2000-foot buffer zone to the current line to be sure to cover the places now excluded from the APOZ that should be included; or (2) adopt the city’s boundary, which accomplishes the same thing and also has been endorsed by appropriately-credentialed geologists.
3. Previous studies have identified localized areas of contamination in the APOZ due to septic systems associated with subdivisions built long before anyone thought about aquifers. But even when the APOZ was established in 2003, the underlying zoning was not changed, and is no different than anywhere else in the county – which means small lot residential development relying on septic systems can still happen, and is even now being proposed. The county’s own Casper Aquifer Protection Plan recommends keeping land in an undeveloped state (e.g., Pilot Hill-type projects or conservation easements) and large-lot zoning. Again, a quick fix that could be suggested: Allow only agricultural and large-lot zoning within the APOZ. A related suggestion: Only enhanced septic systems should be allowed within the APOZ.
4. The Tumbleweed gas station located within the APOZ is a prohibited use that, in ACCWA’s view, should not have been allowed to reactivate (the county initially agreed with this position, then dropped its enforcement action). In zoning lingo, Tumbleweed is considered a “non-conforming use.”
Elsewhere in the county, non-conforming uses are not allowed to expand or extend their operations – but in the APOZ, they can! A logical suggestion could be: No expansion or extension of non-conforming uses within the APOZ.
Making Your Comments
First of all: THANK YOU!!
Click here to go to the new comment form for the county commissioners.
If you use this form, you can ignore the “Agenda Item” box, and click “I do not support proposed regulations from the Planning and Zoning Commission” (they aren’t good enough!).
Although the form requests comments by topic, feel free to make general comments, or comments that overlap more than one area.
If you prefer to send an email, the commissioners’ address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can write to them at the Albany County Courthouse, 525 East Grand Avenue, Laramie, 82070 (mailed or hand-delivered comments need to get there by noon Monday, May 3).
Click here for Zoom meeting info and look for the link in the calendar closer to the date of the hearing.
ACCWA’s Proposed Changes to the Current Aquifer Protection Regulations
If you want to delve into the details, read ACCWA’s proposed changes to the current aquifer protection regulations (we chose not to make comments on the proposed changes from P&Z, since making comments on comments is too confusing).