The Planning Commission held a workshop
last Thursday to consider a proposed addition to the city's master plan.
A group representing the Springs Committee of the Parks
Commission presented information about preserving the city's historic
springs by protecting the "spring recharge areas."
Parks Director Bruce Levine gave a brief introduction
of some geological terms. He discussed the various rock strata below
He said dye tracing in 1981 identified more than 220
springs. Along with the well-known Basin Park, Grotto, or Magnetic
springs, the list includes other springs with names like Break-a-Leg,
Flat Tire Gulch, or Fido.
Large or small, the springs can be fed, or recharged,
by surface waters or by deeper aquifers. Those recharged by surface
waters present special problems, especially considering the geology of
Sinkholes, springs, losing streams, and caves are
features of the fractured limestone under this region. This type of land
area is referred to as karst. Surface water flows quickly through karst
and does not have much opportunity for filtering.
Springs are refilled by two water systems, separated
by a layer of relatively impermeable shale. The springs recharged by
surface waters have more problems with contamination, and many of those
springs have also experienced reduced flow, for a variety of reasons.
Levine yielded the floor to committee member Susan
Lourne, who showed maps of the city's springs. The maps showed where
springs emerge, but also showed which areas recharge each spring.
The springs committee is calling for protection of
critical spring recharge areas, with a view toward improving the quality
and quantity of water discharged from historic springs.
The committee report gave this definition: "Critical
Spring Recharge Areas are those land areas containing hydrologic and
other physical conditions that facilitate spring recharge and/or the
transmission of contaminants to historic spring outlets or public spring
The report further distinguished between
Category I and Category II recharge areas. Category I areas "recharge springs with historic outlets
in public parks and spring reservations." Other areas that might fall in
"form a part of the overall environment necessary for the survival of
identified botanical and other biological life forms."
The committee report suggested methods for protecting
Critical Spring Recharge Areas, starting with education. The report also
suggests regulation of development in these areas, conservation
easements, and the public or private financing of projects "aimed at
preserving and enhancing the volume and quality of water released at
Adding these provisions to the city's master plan may
help in future grant applications. Levine said the city has been turned
down on several applications, and this type of commitment by the city
might have made a difference.
He said if Planning approved these guidelines, City
Council would also have to approve them, since this would constitute a
change to the master plan.
Lourne explained that adopting this document would
"simply provide a policy statement upon which future decision-making can
be based. It would preclude adoption of ordinances or resolutions
contrary to those policies, but does not in and of itself constitute
land use regulation. Regulation can only be achieved through ordinances
actually implementing the plan."
The Planning Commission will place this topic on an
Lovely County Citizen, Page 4, April 18, 2007