Rifle limits water use due to intake pipe break — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

Rifle Gap
Rifle Gap

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

The city of Rifle on Wednesday barred outdoor water use after discovering a break in the pipe delivering water from the Colorado River to its treatment plant.

Crews found the leak around 4 p.m. and the city imposed the mandatory water restriction until further notice, to maintain flows for in-house use and in the case of fire. The city said in a news release that there is no estimate of when the pipe will be repaired, but it is working diligently on the problem.

It plans to notify residents once repairs have been made via means including the city’s website, the local Channel 10 community television station and on reader boards on Railroad Avenue.

Rifle: “Many different eyes are on each [drill] pad each day” — Michael Gardner #ColoradoRiver

Rifle Gap
Rifle Gap

From the Rifle Citizen Telegram (Mike McKibbin):

Rifle City Council unanimously approved an amendment to the company’s original 2009 watershed district permit to allow the activity, subject to conditions. The 12-square-mile, 8,000-acre watershed, approximately 5 to 6 miles southwest of Rifle, is the source of 9 percent of Rifle’s drinking water. The vast majority of the city’s water comes from the Colorado River. Several years ago, the city established the district and considers permits for certain industrial activities to help protect the water source. The company would also need drilling permits from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Michael Gardner, WPX environmental manager, outlined the drilling plans and noted various companies had been active in and near the Beaver Creek watershed since 1999. WPX is currently the only active company in the district. A total of 44 producing wells have been drilled from 11 pads in the district since 1999, with 27 of those wells located on a pad outside the district boundaries, Gardner said.

“What we’re proposing is to drill up to 253 wells from 15 pads between now and 2018,” he told the council last week.

WPX plans to drill up to 23 wells on the existing pad outside of the watershed and up to 112 wells on four new pads outside the watershed, but accessed through the watershed, Gardner noted. Up to 80 wells could be drilled on seven existing pads within the watershed and up to 65 wells on four new pads within the watershed.

“A lot of this depends on the market price for gas, obviously,” Gardner added. “So this is a maximum-case scenario.”

WPX would build access roads, install gathering and water lines and other associated facilities in the area, Gardner said.

WPX spokesman Jeff Kirtland said in an interview Tuesday that the permit amendment was sought to keep the permit active, as it was due to expire soon.

“It’s more to make sure we’re keeping up with what we need to do with the permit,” he stated. “So we would have this permit in hand if prices improved.”[…]

Michael Erion, a water resources engineer with Resource Engineering of Glenwood Springs and a city consultant, said the amendment was acceptable and noted the target area is actually a tributary to Beaver Creek, which itself is often dry in the summer, so most direct activity in the district will be road crossings. The permit was amended last year to allow a water pipeline across the watershed and a temporary 1.5 million gallon water storage tank, Erion noted.

Among the nine conditions already part of the permit and included with the latest amendment is a requirement for WPX to submit detailed drawings to the city at least 30 days before construction. New wells can be drilled on approved pads, provided WPX sends written notice to the city 15 days before that activity. WPX is also required to submit an annual activity plan for the entire district by March 1 of each year, and the project shall be subject to biannual inspections, or more frequently if needed, by the city and/or its consultants.

WPX will also continue to participate in the city’s water quality monitoring program on Beaver Creek. This includes a periodic stream monitoring program with sampling at various locations along the creek and the operation and maintenance costs associated with a 24/7 monitoring system at the city intake structure on the Colorado River.

“We understand how critical this area is to Rifle,” Gardner said. “We have all kinds of plans and procedures for spills, to protect groundwater and storm water control. Many different eyes are on each pad each day.”

He also noted that no reportable spills, as defined by state regulations, had occurred in the district since 2008.

More oil and gas coverage here.

Rifle: Bids for new water treatment plant blow budget

The water treatment process
The water treatment process

From the Rifle Citizen Telegram (Mike McKibbin):

Rather than wait up to another year and risk even higher costs, Rifle City Council unanimously rejected two bids on a new $25 million water treatment plant and decided to proceed under a “sole source” approach.

At a special June 25 meeting, the council also approved nearly $150,000 in project expenses, an application for a $2 million state grant to help purchase filters and equipment for the plant and the return of a $600,000 grant that was to help build a new main waterline connection to South Rifle.

The action came after two bids for the project came in $8 million to $11 million higher than the city engineer’s estimate and the funds available to build the plant. Alder Construction, located in Salt Lake City, Utah, submitted a base bid of $33.1 million and PCL Construction, located in Phoenix, Ariz., with an office in Glenwood Springs, submitted a base bid of approximately $36.5 million.

The city received a $25 million low-interest loan from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority, to help pay for the plant. Two years ago, Rifle voters approved a 3/4 cent sales tax increase to help repay the loan.

Mayor Randy Winkler said the city had underestimated the cost of the new plant.

“All building costs seem to have gone up greatly just in the last year,” he said. “So we were forced to really take a hard look at this project.”

The project was originally designed to include improvements to the city’s raw water pump station, a new 24-inch raw water pipeline to the new 40,000-square-foot plant, a radio tower at the existing Graham Mesa water plant for remote data transmission of information about the city’s water system to the pump station and then by cable to the new plant, and connections to water transmission and main lines.

City officials have said the Graham Mesa plant is aging, undersized to serve projected population growth and unable to meet possible tougher federal water quality standards in the future. Construction work was expected to last up to two years.

More Rifle coverage here.

Source water protection plan for I-70 corridor from Newcastle and Parachute indentifies pollution sources


From the The Rifle Citizen Telegram (Nelson Harvey):

The Source Water Protection Plan, an inventory of drinking water resources for several towns along the Interstate 70 corridor, also identifies other activities that could contaminate drinking water, including natural gas drilling, fires, pesticide use, landfills and others, but it does not highlight existing water pollution problems.

“We just want to make people aware that they have the potential to contaminate our source water,” said Mark King, public works director for the town of Parachute. “The whole point is just to educate people of the hazards. The oil field, the railroad, they carry all kinds of [pollutants].”

King worked on the report, along with a coalition of public works officials from Rifle, Silt and New Castle. The effort was funded by a grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to meet a federal Clean Water Act requirement of every state to have plans in place to protect water sources.

In Rifle, according to the report, the largest potential water pollution threats, aside from road runoff, are gas operations, gas pipelines, and spills or runoff from train travel through the area.

In Silt, issues of concern include gas drilling and railroads. Those threats are also present in Parachute, according to the report, where other potential threats include leaking septic tanks at private homes and uncertainty about how water migrates into Revelle Springs, a drinking water source.

The report authors recommend that Parachute fund a formal study to pinpoint the sources of groundwater seeping into the springs, to ensure those areas are protected…

To better protect water quality, the report contains only recommendations, rather than new regulations or policy suggestions.

Those include distributing copies of the report and cards with emergency contact information to gas companies for use in the event of a spill, and researching the long-term effect of magnesium chloride, a compound used to melt ice on roadways, on local water supplies.

And since fire poses a major contamination risk to water supplies by increasing erosion and destroying features that absorb water, the authors also recommend that local officials collaborate with firefighters to include water supplies on maps of high risk fire areas.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Rifle water rates are going down after approval of a three quarter of a cent sales tax hike


From The Rifle Citizen Telegram (Mike McKibbin):

Water rates will be substantially lower, after City Council approved an emergency ordinance on Dec. 19 that modifies the water rates that were implemented in September. Those rates were more than double the previous rates in some cases, and were increased to help repay a $25.5 million loan to build a new water treatment plant.

City Manager John Hier said the reduction follows voter passage of a 3/4 of a cent sales and use tax hike at the Nov. 6 general election. That tax hike was proposed by the city to help ease the financial burden on water users.

Hier noted the ordinance also eliminates a second round of water rate increases planned for April 1.

“I think these are very reasonable rates and represent a significant reduction in water bills,” Hier said.

However, he noted the new rates are still higher overall than the rates that were in effect for the first half of 2012. But, he added, tiers one and two ($3.20 and $3.40 per 1,000 gallons) are less than the old rate of $3.54 per 1,000 gallons.

“I believe these new rates will give water customers the relief they are seeking,” Hier wrote in a memo to the council.

Meanwhile, the city council has started awarding contracts for the construction of the new water treatment plant. Here’s a report from Mike McKibbin writing for The Rifle Citizen Telegram. Here’s an excerpt:

At its Dec. 19 meeting, Rifle City Council unanimously approved a construction management contract with ARCADIS and Malcolm Pirnie for up to $690,000, and agreed to hire Phil Vaughan Construction Management of Rifle as the owners advisor for up to $203,750. The city recently hired Jim Miller as the resident engineer for the project, officially the Rifle Regional Water Purification Facility.

The total cost of the contract, agreement and hiring of Miller is $1.1 million, Utilities Director Dick Deussen explained to the council in a written report. Funds will come from the $25.5 million loan the city received from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Authority to pay for the project.

The total cost compares to $1.4 million for these purposes in the loan agreement, Deussen said, and added the city spent about $1.2 million at the wastewater plant for these services.

Deussen said the average daily cost of the contract with ARCADIS and Malcolm Pirnie is estimated to range from $52,000 to $78,000 a day.

With offices in Highlands Ranch, ARCADIS has water management, engineering, and environmental restoration expertise, according to their website. Malcolm Pirnie focuses on water quality, process, planning and delivery and has expertise in water science and engineering.

The city has had a contract with the two companies since April 30, 2009, for design and construction engineering services, including resident engineering. Action by the council on Dec. 19 amended that contract.

More infrastructure coverage here.

2012 Colorado November election: Rifle city officials pitch sales tax hike as relief for water rate payers


From the Rifle Citizen Telegram (Mike McKibbin) via the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

Question 2A on the Nov. 6 general election ballot asks Rifle city voters if a 0.75 percent sales and use tax hike should be approved. It would take effect in January and increase the city’s sales and use tax rate from 3.5 percent to 4.25 percent. The added tax would raise an estimated $1.65 million a year. The issue has not led to any organized opposition…

In a memo to City Council, City Manager John Hier recommended that if the sales tax is approved, the city should eliminate a second water rate increase planned for April 2013, and lower the recent increase, “so the combined revenue from the sales tax and new rates will generate only that revenue needed to pay the debt service and increased operation and maintenance cost on the new plant.”

Due to the rock-bottom loan rate received from the state agency, Hier wrote in the memo, “it may be possible to lower … monthly base rates to $23 per month and significantly reduce the … tier rates.”

When the debt on the water plant is paid off, the 0.75 percent sales and use tax will end.

More Rifle coverage here and here.

Rifle City Council approves ballot question to raise sales tax for new water treatment plant


From the Rifle Citizen Telegram (Mike McKibbin):

If approved by city voters, the increase will help the city repay a $25.5 million loan from the Colorado Water and Power Development Authority. The loan, on which the city closed on Aug. 14, will fund the construction of a new water treatment plant to replace the current Graham Mesa plant, which is old and in danger of failure, according to city officials.

The sales and use tax hike, if approved in November, would take effect in January and would end once the loan is repaid. It would increase the city’s sales tax rate from 3.5 cents to 4.25 cents and would raise an estimated $1.65 million a year.

More Rifle coverage here and here.