From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):
[Thornton] plans to start building uncontested portions of the water pipeline in Windsor and Johnstown to keep the project on schedule, spokesman Todd Barnes said.
Meanwhile, Thornton plans to file an opening brief [February 27, 2020] in its lawsuit contesting Larimer County commissioners’ rejection of the pipeline. Commissioners’ jurisdiction applies only to unincorporated areas of the county.
Once Thornton files the opening brief, Larimer County commissioners will have about five weeks to file reply briefs, unless they get an extension.
It’s been more than a year since commissioners unanimously denied a 1041 permit for the pipeline’s proposed path through unincorporated Larimer County. The pipeline is intended to transport Poudre River water from reservoirs northeast of Fort Collins to Thornton’s water treatment plant.
The water, eventually amounting to an average of 14,000 acre-feet annually, would support Thornton’s growing population. About 140,000 people call the Denver suburb home today, but city officials expect the population to grow to 250,000 during the coming decades…
Many Larimer County residents objected to the pipeline’s proposed path, arguing Thornton should run the water through a stretch of the Poudre River instead. Thornton’s water is already taken out of the river upstream of Fort Collins for agricultural use, but river advocates say Thornton should use its project as an opportunity to bolster stream flows and provide a benefit to Larimer County.
Larimer County commissioners rejected Thornton’s 1041 permit because they said it didn’t meet seven of the 12 criteria for the permit, including mitigation of environmental impacts, mitigation of adverse effects on land, and project benefits that outweigh the loss of any natural resources or agricultural productivity…
Thornton’s lawsuit argues commissioners were legally bound to base their decision solely on the pipeline’s siting and direct impacts. Commissioners’ decision illegally undermined Thornton’s rights by taking irrelevant factors into consideration, Thornton argues…
“… this Court should declare, or rule as a matter of law, that (the board) cannot consider, condition or deny the application based on any river or canal concepts that undermine Thornton’s property rights, constitutional rights and water rights in the diversion point, the delivery point, the quantity and quality of the water right or the right to remove water from Thornton-owned farms adjudicated in the Water Decree because doing so is prohibited by (state statute),” stated documents Thornton filed in Larimer County District Court this week.
Larimer County’s rejection of Thornton’s permit application applies only to its proposed path through unincorporated parts of the county. Thornton has intergovernmental agreements with Windsor and Timnath allowing pipeline construction and is crafting an agreement with Johnstown, Barnes said.
The Johnstown portions of the pipeline that could begin construction in March are on easements with private landowners.
Barnes said the project remains on schedule to begin water deliveries in 2025.