From The Greeley Tribune (Catharine Sweeney):
Officials are working to make one of Greeley’s supplemental water suppliers more reliable, and the city may sign off on another million dollars to do it soon.
The Windy Gap Firming Project has been ongoing for decades. The goal: add to an existing water system by building the Chimney Hollow reservoir near Loveland to store more water from the Colorado River.
The current phase of the project includes finalizing some permitting and finding a designer. Greeley is splitting the project cost with 12 other agencies, and its share of this phase is about $1.1 million.
The Greeley Water and Sewer Board authorized the expense during its meeting Wednesday, but it has to get permission from the city council. That should happen next month.
The money will come out of the water and sewer board’s budget, which is funded and handled separately from the rest of the city departments.
Each user foots the bill for the project, and it’s pro-rated based on who will get the most water from it. Greeley is slated to get the third most. Platte River Power Authority is first.
The Windy Gap water system has been giving water to Greeley and a dozen other providers for decades. It gets water out of the Colorado River, where water access is competitive. Different agencies and projects have water rights, which prioritize them above one another and dictate how much water they are allowed.
During dry spells, some water rights aren’t good enough.
“There are some years where Windy Gap can’t give a drop of water,” said Brian Werner, a spokesman for Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “Chimney Hollow guarantees they will have a yield.”
In the good years, when Windy Gap’s water rights allow it to take water, that water will travel through a pipeline into the reservoir. Windy Gap users can then use reservoir water during dry years.
In addition to coordinating the agencies participating in the project, Northern Water oversees the pipeline infrastructure used to move water from the Western Slope to the eastern half of the state.
The organization tends to head up multi-jurisdictional water projects, which can be grueling. Both Windy Gap and the region’s other predominant water storage effort, the Northern Integrated Supply Project, have been in permitting for more than a decade. But Windy Gap is making progress.
“We certainly see a light at the end of the tunnel for this project,” Werner said.
At the end of 2014, the Bureau of Reclamation, a federal agency that oversees natural resources such as water, signed off on the project. Now, they only need two more permits — one from Colorado that certifies water quality and one from the Army Corps of Engineers that guarantees wetland mitigation.
That brings the organizers into the next phase of planning: finding a firm to design the project. They’ll take the original plans from 12 years ago and refine them, Werner said.
Once that design is finished, the agencies will find a contractor to build the reservoir. Werner said, fingers crossed, that will happen in late 2018 or in 2019.
The Chimney Hollow reservoir will hold about 90,000 acre-feet of water.