The Rueter-Hess Reservoir in Douglas County
Reuter-Hess Reservoir, which was completed in 2012, is owned and operated by Parker Water and Sanitation. It has a capacity of 75,000 acre-feet. Credit: Elliott Wenzler

Two leaders of a private company that proposed a controversial water project garnered some support to join a new arm of Douglas County’s government that is expected to help shape the future of water supply in a growing county.

The new government body, the Douglas County Water Commission, is expected to help create a plan regarding water supply and conservation, among other aspects of water in the county. It’ll consist of unpaid volunteers, according to George Teal, one of the county’s elected leaders.

The forming of the new body comes against the backdrop of a controversial proposal to pump about 22,000 acre-feet of water per year to Douglas County from the San Luis Valley, a region of Southern Colorado.

An acre-foot is the equivalent of a one-foot-deep pool about the size of a football field.

Renewable Water Resources, or RWR, is the private company that proposed the project.

Last year, county leaders Abe Laydon and Lora Thomas joined together in deciding not to move forward with that project, while Teal has continued to support it.

Sean Tonner, one of the principals of RWR, attracted news media attention for throwing his hat in the ring to serve on the water commission.

Laydon and Teal have expressed support for appointing Tonner.

Another RWR leader, John Kim, made it onto Teal’s list as someone whom he supports to be an “alternate” member of the water commission, who could serve if a regular member is unavailable.

“I’d like to put forward John Kim … because he’s an elected official from Roxborough,” Teal said during a Sept. 26 meeting of county officials.

“John Kim is a principal of RWR, so I am not interested in having him in my district,” Thomas said in response. The county’s elected leaders planned to appoint some members from each “district,” or area, of the county.

Teal said that alternates should attend every meeting of the water commission once it gets underway, but it is unclear whether one of his colleagues would back that policy.

Kim’s name did not appear on an updated typed-out list of those in the running, so it was unclear whether he has support going forward.

As for Sept. 26, county officials still had yet to conduct interviews with the applicants they have supported. The interviews could happen in early October.

Here’s a look at the applicants that still had support as the county leaders continued to whittle down the list.

Makeup of commission

A total of 52 people applied to serve on the water commission, according to county staff as of Sept. 27. Many are current or former public officials, including some who serve on local water providers like the Parker Water District.

The county asked for applications by Aug. 11 but later waived that deadline.

The three elected county leaders plan to appoint three members per each “district,” or area, of the county, along with two selected “at large,” meaning from the county as a whole.

They also plan to appoint “alternates” to serve in place of any regular members if needed.

On top of that, the county plans to appoint a “technical advisory committee” of those with water expertise to help the water commission do its job.

The applicants who have garnered support to potentially serve as the main members of the water commission include the following.

County leaders discussed a longer list of preferred applicants at a Sept. 19 meeting and narrowed down the list further on Sept. 26.

This list includes information about some applicants, generally based on how the county leaders described them.

Applicants in the running

From District I, or northeast Douglas County, based on Laydon’s recommendation:

• Merlin Klotz, who served as the county’s clerk and recorder, or top election official, and is a Parker Water and Sanitation District board member

• James Myers

• Donald Langley, who also serves on the Parker Water board

From District II, including central and south Douglas County, based on Teal’s recommendation:

• Clark Hammelman,a former Castle Rock town councilmember

• James Maras, a Perry Park Water and Sanitation District board member

• Roger Hudson, a Castle Pines city councilmember

From District III, or northwest Douglas County: 

• Frank Johns

• Evan Ela

• Kurt Walker

• Harold Smethills, a member of the Dominion Water and Sanitation District board

County leaders disagreed somewhat over the District III preferences. Thomas supported Johns, Ela and Walker, and Teal said there’s consensus on Johns but Smethills should get a spot. It appeared that Ela and Walker may compete for one seat.

At-large members could include:

• Sean Tonner

• Tricia Bernhard

Looking forward

The county’s water commission was expected to commence in the third quarter of this year and meet six to eight times during the first 12 months with the focus of developing a Douglas County Water Plan.

The county had envisioned that the water commission will integrate existing water provider plans into the Douglas County Water Plan.

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