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home : opinions : opinions June 25, 2016

5/21/2013 10:17:00 AM
Letter: Why so little water in Santa Fe Lake?

To the editor:

We need a Dam discussion. First of all, why is Santa Fe Lake being drained so precipitously? The lake is a recreation area close to the historic part of Williams. It provides for one of the better fishing areas. It is scenic... with water in it. It provides for a good walking/jogging/dog-walking path. It is a nice place to view sunsets over Williams. It can be a fun place to go canoeing and kayaking right close to town. The lake also helps provide fire protection by supplying raw water to the purple fire hydrants. In 2009, it was used extensively by helicopters to dip water to fight the forest fire threatening the west side of town. That was in October and the lake, fortunately, was still almost full at the time.

Near the end of March of this year, Santa Fe Lake was full from spring runoff from Bill Williams Mountain. By the first week of May the water level was down four feet. It is hard to believe that the city needs were that great during that period of time. The lake continues to be drawn down and is now over five feet lower than the spillway. Fishing, city fire protection and scenic views are all threatened.

The new signs on the dam are also a bone of contention. After more than one hundred years of use as a passage way from one side of the dam to the other, the city has designated it for no trespassing. I live on the east side of the dam. For thirty years I worked for Kaibab National Forest on the west side of the dam. I walked across that dam almost every working day, often four times a day going to and from work and lunch. I walked in every season of the year in all kinds of weather. I walked in daylight and darkness. I never found the four-foot wide, flat, level path across the dam to be unsafe. I never slipped, I never fell, and I never got injured in any way.

A few times, during very heavy spring runoff, the spillway stopped me. Sometimes on spring mornings I crossed on the rocks below the spillway. That was the most hazardous way to go, as the rocks could be icy and slick.

One time coming home from work, I found two boys on the dam. One was about six years old, the other about eight. They had no adult supervision. The older boy had caught a fish, got excited, and reared over backward and fell down to the cement base of the dam injuring his head. He lay lying there moaning. The younger boy was on the top of the dam admiring the fish. With encouragement, I got the younger boy down to where his brother was and had him stay with him while I went to call an ambulance. I then went back to the dam. The police and ambulance arrived and we carried the injured boy to the ambulance.

When the Williams News reported the story, Danny Lugo got all the credit for finding him. Had I not been walking across the dam, he may have lain out there for the some time. The boy recovered from his injuries. In the meantime, several people died on the south road from vehicle accidents occurring while exceeding the speed limit.

Tom Hooker

Williams, Ariz.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, August 23, 2013
Article comment by: Laura Duncan

Hi "2nd Old Timer",
I was going to drop the subject of water-pumping, because I was mostly interested in the signs at Santa Fe Dam. However, I happened to meet the Superintendent of the water department yesterday. He said "head pressure" does not get the water any higher than the surface of the lake, so that would not work to get the water UP to the treatment plant

He also said the water from Santa Fe Dam goes by gravity down to the "Cataract Pumphouse", and then gets pumped up to the treatment plant. He said the same for Kaibab Lake.

I looked at the pumphouse, It is a small, block building on Railroad Avenue, east of 7th Street, right next to Cataract Creek.

The treatment plant is at 6,900 feet on my map. City Dam is above that, so it is gravity feed, as previously stated by the City.

Dogtown Lake is also slightly above the plant, but water would still have to go uphill over some intervening obstacles to get to the plant. So, apparently it still goes to the pumphouse, since I see an "aquaduct" on my map going from Dogtown to downtown.

All the other lakes are below the plant, so they would need pumping, too, at some point to get to the plant, as the City folks previously said.

Posted: Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Article comment by: Ron Pauly

Good info, thanks.

Posted: Friday, July 12, 2013
Article comment by: 2nd old timer

I used to work for the city water department. Santa Fe does not need to be pumped until it gets below a certain level. It has a lot of HEAD PRESSURE. Also, Kiabab lake, Cataract, and Dogtown don't have to be pumped either. Gravity flow. You might want to ask whoever sent you that e-mail, where all the electrical pumps are that you and them claim are in use, are located. Is there a pump house at Santa Fe? There is a well that is enclosed on the side of the hill, but I don't recall ever seeing a pump house.

Posted: Friday, July 12, 2013
Article comment by: not old timer, but old enough to know

Hm , wonder how the water is going to last with a Loves truck stop. They waste the amount of water in a day that a small business would in a month.... sounds intriguing. Yee-haw for Loves... NOT! I sure hope it doesn't come through.

Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Article comment by: Laura Duncan

Hi Old Timer,
I asked the City about the water-pumping at the dam, and this is what I got in an emailed reply: "City Dam is our only gravity feeding lake, the others (including Santa Fe) must be pumped to the treatment plant."

I don't know who's right, but that seems reasonable to me. Just trying to get the facts....

Posted: Monday, June 17, 2013
Article comment by: Laura Duncan

Thanks for the water-pumping info, "Old Timer". Still, I don't understand how water could go uphill without being pumped. Maybe I'll ask the City folks.

Meanwhile, there was a comment here by "@Laura Get A Life" for more than a week. The Williams News properly decided to remove it because it violated parts of their "Terms of Use Agreement" which does not allow comments that are libelous, defamatory, or personal attacks.

The comment accused me of doing something cowardly (and illegal?). It's very brave to make false accusations anonymously. However, it does not make sense that I would do something cowardly (or illegal) when I don't even hide behind a pseudonym here.

I appreciate the Williams News deleting the unpleasant comment and allowing me to respond to it, since it was out there for everyone to see for more than a week. I wish I noticed the comment earlier, but I actually do have a life. :-)

The Terms of Use Agreement says, "Debate, but don't attack." Sounds good to me.........

Posted: Monday, June 10, 2013
Article comment by: old timer

. Topo map or no topo map the majority of the water in Santa Fe does NOT have to be pumped to the treatment plant. Only when the water level reaches a very low depth does it need to be pumped. When it reaches this depth, they usually switch to a different supply so that they don't have to pump it.

Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Article comment by: Laura Duncan

Looks like some clarification is needed for "LAW SUITS" comment. The signs that were installed "a year or two ago" were related to fires and littering. The young man fell off the dam quite awhile after those signs were installed.

The signs Tom Hooker is referring to were installed this spring, and they are regarding "no trespassing" on the dam itself.

I was involved in getting the earlier signs to prevent wildfires, but I am not a fan of the newer "no trespassing" signs directly on the dam. However, "LAW SUITS" is probably correct that this is a liability issue. Alas.

Seems like I remember a comment about this from a City Council meeting a few years ago, and something about federal regulations?

I wish they could cover their risk by changing the "no trespassing" signs to something like "No handrails -- walk at your own risk" sort of like signs that say "No lifeguard -- swim at your own risk."

It does not seem like a very dangerous path except for children and other people who need guardians. The same could be said for many places where people recreate.

As for "old timer's" comment: On my topo map, Santa Fe Dam is BELOW the water treatment plant, so water would need to be pumped up there, as opposed to City Dam (aka Third Dam) which is near Buckskinner Park and (barely?) above the treatment plant. Am I right? Either way, the rapidly-declining water is quite a concern.

Posted: Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Article comment by: Ron Pauly

Sorry, I voice my opinion and care about the future of Williams and our country. I even vote!
To bad more people don't read or show an interest beyond video games.
And I appreciate your enlightening post.

Posted: Thursday, May 23, 2013
Article comment by: it would be great

If the power went out for two weeks, then we wouldn't have to read any moronic posts from Ron Pauly for two weeks!!!

Posted: Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Article comment by: LAW SUITS.. duh! .

A year or two back (when the signs went up) a young disabled man fell off the dam and died. His family threatened law suits, do you think that might have been it? I have always believed that the use of the dam has been at your own risk and the gentleman who died was uanble to make that call for himself, his family took him there, maybe if they were held responsible for having him out there, we wouldn't need to worry about lawyers.The city has paid out on many frivolous law suits, so why not protect themselves? They are after all protecting our tax dollars. I dislike government control but we do it to ourselves.

Posted: Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Article comment by: Ron Pauly

I wonder what would happen if the electric went out for an extended amount of time. Like a week or two.
With being able to pump water.

Posted: Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Article comment by: old timer

It is used first because it doesn't cost any money to pump the water to the plant. It also fills the fastest, and more water is lost because it can't hold as much water as the other resorvoirs. So the lower it is come spring time, the better.

The no trespassing is comical. Newbies must be responsible for that.

Mad about not getting credit for helping the kid? Really???

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