Fruita: Public meeting regarding 3 reservoirs

Piñon Mesa Fall Colors photo credit

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Amy Hamilton):

Until the early 1980s, the city of Fruita piped its domestic water down from Piñon Mesa, south of Glade Park.

Fruita still maintains four lakes in the alpine area above Glade Park, but the area is used mostly for recreation as locals flock to the high country to escape summer’s grip.

The city now is seeking public input as it looks to the future, considering the high costs of maintaining its mountain water storage. A public meeting is scheduled tonight.

“The whole goal is to educate the public and residents and develop a long-term plan on disposing of them or selling them if someone has a use for them,” said Ken Haley, Fruita public works director. “We definitely want to get some public feedback before we go any further.”

Fruita spends about $90,000 a year maintaining three reservoirs and Enoch Lake. Reservoir No. 2 is failing and in need of a fix estimated at $1 million. Reservoir No. 1 was repaired in 2009 with the help of the Colorado National Guard. The city owns five parcels, a total of 263 acres, Haley said.

Historically the city wanted to keep its 240 water shares associated with the lakes — a buffer for Fruita residents in the event of water shortages. However, Fruita now receives domestic water from Ute Water and it currently has 2,400 shares of unused city-owned shares it can utilize. A wooden pipeline built in 1907 that traverses Colorado National Monument hasn’t been used since 1983, and is unusable today, Haley said.

“As the city grew, it wasn’t quite enough (water) to keep up with the city’s needs,” he said of the reservoirs. In the past few years, the city’s workload has increased by sending public works employees up the hill several times a week. This detracts from duties that need to be done in Fruita, Haley said. Starting this year, the city decided to only send crews up once a week for maintenance duties in an effort to curb labor costs.

In addition, last year Fruita cancelled its overnight camping option at Enoch Lake after the city fielded an increasing number of complaints and campers appeared to be using the area for extended stays. Garbage cans that previously had been emptied once a week by city crews would fill every day, the city said.

Haley said much of the problems associated with Enoch Lake have subsided since overnight camping was prohibited.

Fruita will rely on legal advice about whether it can sell the assets without a vote.

If the city decides not to divest its properties, it would have to figure out a way to invest more money into the area to fix the failing reservoir and continue to maintain the area, Haley said.

“It’s a great resource,” Haley said. “We need to figure out how to manage it or better utilize it.”

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