FARMINGTON — A small stream of water is draining out of a pipe near the base of Farmington Lake, so small it could be considered a trickle compared to the mass of water contained by the earthen embankment behind it.

But residents on Penny Lane, less than a mile south of the lake as the crow flies, say that trickle threatens to flood their homes. The city says their findings are inconclusive.

The situation is simple for Phillip Brewer, a Penny Lane resident — chip away at nearly three feet of accumulated ice in a drainage ditch or risk his basement flooding.

On Friday, Brewer did just that.

The water, it appears, is supposed to be draining out of the lake.

"All dams leak," said Michele Truby-Tillen, the county's floodplain manager. "That's how they maintain pressure."

The land in the Penny Lane neighborhood contains city addresses, but lies within San Juan County's jurisdiction, according to Truby-Tillen's records. Her office, however, does not maintain jurisdiction over water draining from Farmington Lake, or the drainage ditch that follows the street to the Animas River.

The issue is more complex for Farmington officials and public works staff.

"The problem is that this year, it's stayed so cold for so long that the ground is frozen," said Ezora Boognl, the city's claims manager.

Another pipe feeds water from a pump station at the Animas River into Farmington Lake, she said.

"We don't own the land," Boognl said. "We just have the right to maintain the pipe.


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The water draining out of Farmington Lake is continually measured by a city flow gauge, she said. The city's public works staff, including water and wastewater operations manager Ruben Salcido, checked on the situation in the neighborhood on Jan. 23. They found that drainage was at normal levels.

"We've never in 40 years had this problem," Boognl said. "We've had problems this year with natural springs popping up. Our groundwater (level) in this region is very high.

The city's position is we haven't changed anything (at the lake). We've been trying to help (the Brewers)."

The city is investigating whether there is another source of water such as snowmelt feeding into the ditch, she said.

"In the 20 some years I've lived here, there's never been a natural spring," said Jamie Brewer, Phillip Brewer's wife.

Some of the Brewers' neighbors have even gotten involved.

"This is just a natural arroyo," said Jo Gabehart, who lives across Old Aztec Highway from Penny Lane, "but there's more water than normal this winter.

"I've lived here for 40 years," Gabehart said. "I'm not upset for myself. This doesn't really affect me that much, but I'm upset for Jamie. I hate to see them (in that situation). I haven't had an issue with the city at all. I just want (the city) to make sure that they take responsibility if there's an issue with the lake."