The letters that Larkspur-area residents Dwight Steyn and his wife, Suzanne Fecteau, and other Douglas County property ownersreceived in April from a company wanting easements on their properties for construction of a water pipeline has spawned a …
The letters that Larkspur-area residents Dwight Steyn and his wife, Suzanne Fecteau, and other Douglas County property owners received in April from a company wanting easements on their properties for construction of a water pipeline has spawned a confusing mystery for which even town and county officials have no answers.
But there are plenty of questions:
What is the water pipeline for?
Where will it be built and where will the water go?
Who is the company building it and asking for the easements?
“There have been several attempts at trying to contact them,” Larkspur Town Manager Matt Krimmer said of the companies involved with the pipeline. “They have been unresponsive or we have been told they can't give us any information because it is proprietary.”
On July 25, nearly 100 Douglas County residents gathered in Larkspur for a public meeting about the pipeline project. Many residents from Larkspur to Castle Rock to Louviers had been contacted through the letters with requests for quitclaims and easements,but no one seemed able to get precise answers on where the line would be built, where it would ship water and for what reason.
The letter was sent by a company called Kalstrom Energy Partners and stated residents could contact Pam Kalstrom, who is listed on the company website as CEO and a founding member of the company. But those who did said they got little explanation.
Residents began stopping into Larkspur town hall to see if they could find answers there, Krimmer said. As town staff began its own investigation, they met just as many dead-ends.
A search for answers
The letter Steyn and Fecteau received informed the couple that a water pipeline was planned in the county, their property had been identified as one with abutting land to the project and the couple needed to sign a quitclaim.
Steyn and Fecteau have five children and live and work on the Historic Allis Ranch, founded in 1887 and situated a few miles south of Larkspur, where they produce raw cow and goat milk and manage beef cattle, chickens and bees. Before signing over anything, they wanted more information. They didn't know exactly where the pipeline would be located, where it would send water or in what quantity. They didn't know whether it would serve a residential or commercial development. There also was no legal description in the quitclaim deed, Steyn said.
But they couldn't find answers for any of those questions. No one could. Town officials called the July meeting to share what little they knew.
The letter sent to residents said Kalstromwas working on behalf of Front Range Water Company to contact property owners with land abutting the Union Pacific right-of-way in Douglas County.
“Front Range Water Company, LLC has acquired the right from Union Pacific Railroad Company to construct an underground water pipeline within portions of the railroad right-of-way located in Douglas County, CO,” the letter read.
In a call to Kalstrom Energy Partners on Aug. 3, an employee told the News-Press that Pam Kalstrom was unavailable and was declining to comment, citing a confidentiality agreement with its client. Kalstrom's website says it is involved in the “acquisition of oil and gas leases, mineral rights, royalties and overriding royalty interests in the Rocky Mountain States.”
A spokesperson for Union Pacific confirmed the railway is working with Front Range Water Company, but referred any further inquiries to the company. A website for Front Range Water Company could not be found. Records with the Colorado Secretary of State's office show the company filed articles of organization in March. It lists Tyler Y. Harvey as the company's agent and Lorri E. Strizich as the person forming the "limited liability company."
Numerous calls and emails to Harvey, a partner with Hogan Lovells legal practice in Denver according to the firm's website, were not returned, and a number listed for Strizich was disconnected.
Attached to the Kalstrom letter was a quitclaim and instructions for residents to sign the deed. If they did, Kalstrom would send a payment of $100. If they didn't, the company said legal action could follow.
“The company intends to file a quiet title and/or condemnation action, if necessary, naming all adjacent landowners to confirm its right to construct and operate its water pipeline within portions of the existing railroad ROW(right of way). Your execution and return of the quitclaim will avoid the need for the company (Front Range Water Company) to name you as a defendant in such litigation, and the resulting costs you would incur,” the letter said.
The idea of possible legal action — in addition to little information about the pipeline — didn't sit well with residents.
“The letter was very aggressive and very threatening,” Steyn said. “They basically told us in the letter that either we sign the quitclaim deed and they give us $100 or they take us to court.”
Steyn and Fecteau said they did speak with representatives from Kalstrom Energy Partners and Front Range Water Company in May through contact information provided in the letter. They hoped to learn where the water would be going.
Although Steyn described the company employees as friendly and professional, he also said “they are very tight-lipped on and wouldn't say anything” in regard to the pipeline details.
The letter wasn't the only communication Steyn and Fecteau received. They also got a knock on the door from Brock Knutson, a land agent hired to acquire easements for the Front Range Water Company pipeline.
“I don't know anything about Front Range Water,” Knutson told the News-Press. “What makes me mad is there is no detail of this project at all that's being made public at this point.”
Knutson, who said he attended a meeting with Kalstom and project engineers, has worked as a land agent for approximately 10 years. When it comes to background on the projects for which he acquires easements, he said he is typically provided with much more information.
On Aug. 1 Knutson was contacting residents south of Castle Rock, but because of the secrecy around the pipeline, he said he was considering backing away from the project. Knutson estimated he was asked to contact 10 to 15 landowners.
He said he also didn't know where the pipeline would begin or end or where it would ship water.
“Nothing has slipped from Pam that indiciates any information is available to the employees or the public," Knutson said.
Douglas County officials say they know as much as their residents and have not received any land use applications or permit requests for the project.
“We became aware of the issue earlier this year when we began receiving citizen inquiries,” Douglas County Director of Public Affairs Wendy Holmes said. “We have since been copied on correspondence and continue to seek information, just as our citizens have. Until the business associated with this project takes the steps necessary to initiate a land use process with the county, we will not have any more information than we do today.”
'Paused as a community'
For now, residents wait — and worry.
Most who attended the July 25 meeting in Larkspur asked about the potential impact of a pipeline on their wells and groundwater supply.
“At this point, we're all just paused as a community trying to learn more information about what's going on,” Fecteau said.
Krimmer said the town consulted with the state engineer's office and was told it can do little but monitor the project. If well permits are eventually submitted, those may also contain more data on the pipeline.
“We want to ensure the residents that we are going to continue to monitor the situation and see what happens,” Krimmer said. “If and when they do pull well permits, we'll see how those wells are going to serve them.”