Thornton Water Project update

Map via ThorntonWaterProject.com.

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

The [Larimer County Planning Commission] voted 4-2 [May 16, 2018] to recommend that county commissioners turn down the project at their July 9 meeting. The Board of County Commissioners doesn’t have to listen to the planning commission’s guidance, but it holds special weight.

At the end of a packed five-hour hearing, several planning commissioners said Thornton’s application for the Larimer County portion of its proposed 75-mile pipeline lacked detail, especially when it came to potential alternatives and a proposed pump house that would sit adjacent to the Douglas Road section of the pipeline…

Now county staff will convene with the planning commission to determine where Thornton’s proposal needs more detail. Thornton leaders will provide that information to county commissioners before their July meeting, Thornton Water project spokesman Mark Koleber said.

Thornton hopes to begin construction of its pipeline in 2019 and use it for water deliveries by 2025. The pipeline would eventually funnel an average of 14,000 acre-feet of water annually along Douglas Road, then south…

Thornton’s pipeline wouldn’t draw additional water from the Poudre because the city purchased the water rights in the ’80s from farms that have continued to use it. Still, opponents argued that adding additional water to the beleaguered Poudre through Fort Collins would offset other diversions and make the river healthier…

[Mark] Koleber told the board running the water through the Poudre would present several issues for the city and its residents:

  • The water would run past three wastewater treatment plants and sections of urban runoff, degrading its quality and making it expensive and complicated to treat. Fort Collins and other municipal users divert their water upstream for the same reason.
  • Running the water down a roughly 18-mile section of the Poudre would result in a 9 percent loss of water.
  • Thornton’s water court decree requires diversion from the Larimer County canal upstream, and the city’s water rights could be reduced if it asked water court for a modification.
  • The city wouldn’t be able to use reservoirs north of Fort Collins for storage of its water, and building new reservoirs elsewhere “is no easy prospect,” Koleber said.
  • But some of the commissioners were unconvinced that Thornton did enough to fully evaluate all alternatives and declare the Douglas Road route the best option…

    Commissioners spent little time discussing Thornton’s larger plans during deliberation. Commissioner Gary Gerrard, who joined commissioner Curtis Miller in dissenting votes for the recommendation for denial, said he doesn’t have the right to “stand in the way” of another community’s access to water it legally purchased.

    “It’s not like they’re Russians,” he said. “They are our neighbors. …They’re people just like us; they need water. Clean, potable water is important to all of us.”

    Chairman Sean Dougherty, commissioner Mina Cox, Caraway and Jensen voted to recommend denial of the Thornton pipeline permit.

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    Although it’s true that long-term plans could include more pipelines, the city is currently proposing just one, Thornton Water Project director Mark Koleber said.

    This much is clear: Thornton is moving through the permitting process for a single pipeline, not three, to convey water from reservoirs north of Fort Collins to the growing Denver metro city. The 70-mile pipeline, if approved, will eventually funnel an average of 14,000 acre-feet of Poudre River water annually along Douglas Road, then south to Thornton…

    The city has rights to more water that it could one day seek to transport through additional pipelines. Its long-term water plan could look a lot like what’s described in the decades-old documents, but nothing is for sure at this point.

    The operative word here is “could.” Thornton will only pursue additional pipelines if they prove necessary, Koleber said, and any additional infrastructure must be permitted through a lengthy review process similar to what’s going on now. The city would also need to go through water court proceedings to use its additional water rights.

    Thornton projects the single pipeline will meet its water needs through 2065, so additional pipelines wouldn’t be necessary for half a century, Koleber said…

    Construction along the pipeline route could begin in 2019. The project, currently estimated to cost $430 million, needs to be operational by 2025 to meet Thornton’s water supply needs, Koleber said…

    Dick Brauch, who owns the farm where Thornton plans to place its pump house, is worried the city will hurt his operations.

    “The farm’s been in my family for 60 years, and I have no desire to sell,” he said, but he’s negotiating with the city to avoid eminent domain.

    The planned location for the 2.8-acre pump house would “take a big chunk out of the middle” of Brauch’s land and be difficult to farm around, he said. Koleber said Thornton is working with Brauch and can probably accommodate his concerns.

    From The North Forty News (Theresa Rose):

    The plan would pull the water from the Poudre River from a location close to Ted’s Place where the river crosses U.S. 287, to be stored in a network of reservoirs north and west of Douglas Road. A pump station would be built near the intersection of Douglas Road and Starlight Drive just east of North Shields Street. The permit was filed in January 2018…

    In the 1990s, the case went to the Colorado Supreme Court to determine if Thornton could use the water rights to convert the water from agriculture to municipal use. At this time, Thornton leased some of the farms back to farmers along with the water. Many of these farmers were the same people from whom Thornton bought the land. Some of the farmers use the dryland grass cover as forage for their animals. In addition, Thornton has been making voluntary tax payments to Larimer and Weld counties, $45,000 to Larimer and $257,000 to Weld in 2017.Koebler estimated Thornton has paid close to $6 million in voluntary tax payments since 1985.

    Four years ago, Thornton attempted to address the concerns of their water program and pipeline. Open houses were held in Firestone, Johnstown, Windsor and Fort Collins. HOAs were consulted. The locals were asked for advice on the routing of the pipeline.

    Construction would begin in Windsor and proceed in Weld County. The pipeline is expected to be completed by 2025.

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