From The Greeley Tribune (Catharine Sweeney):
Greeley leaders are leery of the county’s proposed water rules.
The Board of Weld County Commissioners is working to regulate water pipeline construction. The board discussed the proposed rules during a meeting Monday morning, and a handful of Greeley officials expressed their concerns.
As they are written now, the proposed rules would make many organizations get a special permit before they start building. This permit requires a lengthy application process and two public hearings.
There are exemptions, though. One of them says municipal users don’t have to go through the process.
That’s not specific enough for Greeley leaders, said Mayor Tom Norton.
“The fact of the matter is there’s a lot of legal language in there that allows for attorneys to argue and debate,” he told the board.
Future commissioners might take advantage of the vague wording to fight the city’s water development, he said. So could water project opponents, like the ones northern Colorado saw during the public hearings for the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP.
NISP aims to help cure the region’s water woes by diverting from the Cache la Poudre River via pipeline into two newly constructed reservoirs. Fifteen organizations, including towns and water districts in Weld, will benefit from the addition if it gets approved.
Most opponents are in Larimer, but the infrastructure would cut through both counties.
“I’d hate to see them use your own rules against you,” Norton said.
He proposes naming all organizations that are exempt by name.
“It seems to me it would be a lot more straightforward and simple to say, ‘city of Greeley is exempt,’ ” he said.
The county commissioners said they found the recommendation confusing. The current language excludes all Weld County municipalities, including Greeley, just not specifically by name.
“That’s exactly what this says,” said Commissioner Mike Freeman. “The way it’s currently written, you don’t have to get any kind of permit.”
Greeley leaders might be predisposed to getting nervous about water pipeline regulations after the snags they hit during the Bellvue project.
They’re working to build a 30-mile, 60-inch pipeline from the city’s water treatment plant in Bellvue, north of Fort Collins, down to Greeley. Residents near the pipe’s path have been fighting the project for years in various creative ways, including getting parts of the proposed site listed on historic registers.
Greeley got permission for the project before Larimer County adopted its water pipeline rules, and some say the rules were only adopted because of the Greeley project. Residents wanted Larimer to get Greeley to go through the new process, retrofitting the rules, in an attempt to block Greeley’s project.
“As commissioners are supposed to do, they responded to their constituents,” said Jon Monson, who was the water and sewer director at the time.
In the end, Greeley didn’t have to go through the process.
Situations with disgruntled residents like these have put the Bellvue pipeline project years behind. Originally, planners said it would be finished in 2013. It’s still under construction.
The Weld County commissioners didn’t seem on board with Mayor Norton’s idea.
They said the current exemption is already clear enough, and that exempting only Greeley by name wouldn’t be fair.
“I think the exemption he’s seeking is already there,” said Commissioner Sean Conway.
As for future county leaders, Commissioner Julie Cozad said they would have an arsenal of tools to interpret the law, not just the law’s language.
“If there’s ever a question on the intent, there’s always the public record to go back to,” she said.