Telluride’s water system upgrades $500,000 over budget this year

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From The Watch (Samantha Wright):

Council had originally budgeted $6.5 million for the 2013 portion of the ambitious project, which aims to provide a state-of-the-art water distribution and treatment system to ensure a reliable, high-quality water supply for the Town of Telluride. This number, however, did not incorporate the so-called Falls Crest Diversion outlined in the Comprehensive Settlement Agreement which the town and Idarado entered into late last year. The agreement brought a 20-year legal battle over water rights between the two entities to an end.

The elaborately engineered Falls Crest Diversion brings one source of water from Bridal Veil Basin via pipeline across the cliff face directly below Bridal Veil Power Station to tie into the tailrace (where another source of water comes out of the turbine). The water then flows into a collection system vertically down toward Black Bear Road, eventually reaching the Pandora Water Treatment Plant currently under construction. The CSA calls for Idarado to contribute about a quarter of the cost for the Falls Creek Diversion – roughly $125,000 – with the Town of Telluride picking up the rest of the tab.

Also not included in original cost projections for 2013 were the “zero-discharge” processes that are an essential part of this project as it has been negotiated in the CSA. Initially, Telluride Public Works Director Paul Ruud explained, the design for the water treatment plant included a discharge component that would release some untreated water into Marshall Creek. The CSA’s zero-discharge requirement scuttled that plan. “There won’t be anything coming out of the plant except clean water,” Ruud explained. “This did add considerably to the expense of the plant.”

Beyond the cost overruns for construction in the current year, council also discussed the fact that the overall construction cost for the project (including the small hydro component) is estimated to come in at around $15 million – significantly more than the $10 million bond approved by Telluride voters to pay for the project in 2005. This money, mobilized in 2010, has gone toward improvement of complicated diversion and conveyance infrastructure over the past two years that is intended to get the water from Bridal Veil Basin to the site of the new Pandora water treatment plant. Last fall, the Telluride Town Council approved an additional $2 million transfer of Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) funds from the Capital Improvement Fund to the Water Fund to cover additional costs for the project through 2013…

Despite of the Pandora Water System Project’s hefty and ever-mounting price tag, council generally agreed in the end that it was a price worth paying. “I am thankful that past council members made the decision to get us started,” said Councilor Ann Brady. “Imagine if we were just starting this project, with the climate change we are facing now. Thank goodness the people before us took the step (of securing the $10 million bond). Even though it was skimpy, at least it got us started.”

Clifton echoed Brady’s sentiment, adding, “This will bring the town well into the future in terms of our domestic water supply.”

More infrastructure coverage here.

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