Orchard City: Environmental assessment is delaying waterline replacement project

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From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

During a presentation at the town board’s June 9 regular meeting, the mayor and town administrator detailed their trials with being told to pay over $2,000 for protection of endangered fish in the Gunnison and Colorado rivers, and of being told that a local irrigation ditch is a protected historical artifact. The requirements are among dozens of stipulations that must be fulfilled as part of the Environmental Assessment (EA) process required on the project. Many of the stipulations have no bearing on the town’s water project but must be addressed anyway. The EA is a federal mandate. It is intended to be a simpler and quicker way of looking at possible impacts on government funded projects than a full Environmental Impact Statement would require. The regulations kick in because some wetlands may be disturbed during replacement of the town’s leaky water transmission line. That requires a federal Army Corps of Engineers permit which immediately triggers the EA process…

The Colorado State Historical Society came back with the comment that the project, which will replace an existing 40-year-old water line, threatens to disrupt a pair of “known” protected historical artifacts — the Green Valley Mine and the Childs Ditch. After the Historical Society’s letter arrived at town hall and all the guffawing it produced had subsided, town officials got busy dealing with the ridiculous regulatory regimen they were about to be saddled with…

For the mayor’s part, he got on the telephone to the State Historical Society. Explaining to the Society that neither the old mine works nor the irrigation ditch need historical surveys costing $5,500 to $7,500, he said he was able to get an agreement. With a promise from the Society for approval and “a quick turnaround,” the town was sending a letter last week asking for release from having to pay the thousands of dollars for a historical survey on the mine and the ditch.

Another regulatory snafu was handled by the trustees themselves. It was described by the mayor using serious language and dark terminology to say the town was being forced to pay under duress.

That problem involves yet more federal regulations that link Orchard City’s water line replacement project to endangered fish in the Gunnison and Colorado rivers – the razorback sucker, the Colorado pikeminnow (formerly known as the Colorado squawfish), the bonytail chub, and the humpback chub. The answer to solving the regulatory problem with the town’s pipeline project, to ensuring the town’s future domestic water supplies, and to protecting the fish, it turns out, can all be accomplished at once with a single check in the amount of $2,278 made out to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The mayor balked, describing the offer as a thinly-veiled, pay me now-or pay me later proposition. But, the town trustees relented, and voted 6-0 to pay the feds now instead of later.

More infrastructure coverage here.

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