Residents of a rural Bayfield community are worried that a marijuana grow facility proposed for the neighborhood could drain their well water.
The applicants, Teresa and Sherri Dooley, are seeking a Class II land-use permit for a wholesale grow operation on their father Dean Dooley's Vista Lane property near County Road 503B.
The Dooley sisters have partnered with an investor, whose identity was not disclosed. They have not submitted their application to La Plata County.
Up to 200 plants would be cultivated from seed in a 2,400-square-foot greenhouse and watered from the property's private well, which was drilled in 1994. The proposed design is undetectable to passers-by, and no product would be sold on the property. But the neighbors' primary concerns lie underground.
The Dooleys have tested their well and secured a commercial well permit from the Colorado Division of Water Resources. The applicants estimate the facility would use about 5,000 to 6,000 gallons of water per crop, and would produce two crops annually. As required by the state, a flow meter would monitor their water usage, and the applicants pledge to reduce their crop if use calculations are underestimated.
If the Dooleys were to exceed their allotted water usage, which is one-quarter acre foot under the commercial well permit, the state would require another application to use more water.
But residents are skeptical, given the low production they experience with their own wells. They attended a county meeting at Bayfield town Hall on Aug. 24 to discuss their concerns.
Resident Gretchen Furlong said she hauls 500 gallons of water a week because her well supply has decreased through the years.
Now, she said, it produces a half gallon a minute.
Debbie Schmidt said she had a new well drilled on her property a few years ago after the original went dry.
"We all draw water from the same level, so if someone takes more than is available, it can affect us all."
In addition to water concerns, residents fear marijuana cultivation will alter their community's character and attract crime, they said at the meeting.
Teresa Dooley assured residents the operation will be organic, produce little runoff and be visible only from the air, and her family has no interest in expanding the facility or adding employees.
"Our goal is to be as energy and water efficient as possible," she told The Durango Herald.
The operation needs a well permit from the state. When the application is submitted, the county planning department will review hydrology reports and documentation related to the well, and consider residents' concerns about the proposal's compatibility with the community.
Six other permitted grow operations are in the county.