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.

2012 Colorado November election: Rifle Council puts funding for new water treatment plant on the November ballot


From the Rifle Citizen Telegram (Niki Turner):

The city wants to get the money for the plant through a $25.5 million loan from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Authority.

City officials have said the existing Graham Mesa plant is aging, undersized to serve projected population growth and unable to meet possible tougher federal water quality standards in the future.

Under the water rate structure approved earlier this year by council to help repay the loan and cover operating costs of the new plant, the base rate charged to city water users will nearly double, as of Sept. 1.

City Finance Director Charles Kelty said Tuesday that if voters approve the three-quarter cent sales tax measure in November, the second phase of the rate hike, due to take affect April 1, could be lowered. That would require City Council action sometime after the first of the year, he added.

Kelty said the bonds for the loan were sold last week and he expected to receive the paperwork this week. After those documents are signed by city officials and returned to the water and power authority, the closing date will be Aug. 14. No further action by council is needed to finalize the loan, he added.

More 2012 Colorado November Election coverage here. More infrastructure coverage here.

Rifle: Council approves loan agreement with the Colorado Water Resources and Power Authority for new treatment plant


From the Rifle Citizen Telegram (Mike McKibbin):

Councilwoman Jennifer Sanborn, one of two council members to vote in the minority when the issue has arisen, criticized Mayor Jay Miller for what she felt was a “gross exaggeration” about a possible plant failure leaving the city without water for perhaps months.

“I think it’s wrong for an elected official to try to instill fear in people when it’s not warranted,” Sanborn said. “I just don’t think it’s morally right.”

Miller had earlier said he did not want to see the city step back and consider other plant alternatives, as Sanborn suggested.

“We’ve been diddling around with this for the last five years and I feel if we push this back and back, we’re going to have businesses leave town, then we will have a catastrophic failure of the city,” Miller said. “I’m not willing to take that chance.”

Miller added that if a core part of the current plant on Graham Mesa fails, it would take months to have a replacement part manufactured. The plant was designed to use a treatment process that is outdated and replacement parts are no longer manufactured on a regular basis…

The motion passed 4-2, with Sanborn and Councilman Randy Winkler opposed, as they have in several previous votes on the issue. Councilman Keith Lambert was absent from the meeting. City Attorney Jim Neu later noted council’s action meant city staff will move forward to close on the loan, but pointed out the city does not have to spend the entire $25.5 million on a new plant.

City Manager John Hier said he will schedule a work session with city council in the near future, to review various funding options for the new plant in an attempt to lessen the burden on rate payers. In his closing comments at the end of the meeting, Miller said his earlier statements were not intended to instill fear in residents, but felt the issue had to be discussed among councilmembers. He also asked the Citizen Telegram to not portray his comments in that light.

More Rifle coverage here and here.

‘Whenever there is a rate increase, our engineers tell us you can expect a 3 to 5 percent drop in demand’ — John Hier (Rifle City Manager)


From the Rifle Citizen Telegram (Nelson Harvey):

The project, which has been under discussion for more than six years, is motivated by the fact that the city’s Graham Mesa Water Treatment Plant is 32 years old and near the end of its useful life. The plant, city officials argue, can’t support Rifle’s growing population, or meet potential new federal water quality standards. Yet in opposing the project, [John Steele] has claimed the rate increases required to fund it would lead to a drastic drop in water demand, depriving the city of the revenue it needs to finance its loan.

Under the rate structure approved by City Council to fund the plant, water rates would rise by about 64 percent for those using up to 2,000 gallons a month, and roughly 99 percent for those using up to 4,000 gallons. Rate increases would be higher if voters do not approve a half cent sales tax increase to help fund the project. “No one has told me whether they can cover the loan with a 20 percent drop in water consumption,” said Steele, which he said could result from the rate hikes…

But City Manager John Hier, who helped design the new rate structure, said there is no way to tell how much demand would drop in response to higher water rates. His plan, he said, accounted for the fact that higher prices would prompt some consumers to use less water. “Whenever there is a rate increase, our engineers tell us you can expect a 3 to 5 percent drop in demand,” he said. “Of course, that depends on how large the increase is, but we were conservative in estimating the rates that would generate enough money to fund the new plant.” Hier said he didn’t know how much consumption would have to drop before the city would be unable to repay its loan.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Rifle: Council approval of a $25.5 million loan application for new water treatment plant is drawing a lot of attention


From the Rifle Citizen Telegram (Mike McKibbin):

The city has decided to pursue a $25.5 million loan from the Colorado Water and Power Authority to fund the proposed plant, and to ask city voters to approve a half-cent sales tax to help keep water rates from more than doubling. The issue has been appealed by Rifle resident and former Silt mayor John Steele, who turned in a petition signed by 300 people in support of his action. At the Tuesday meeting, City Manager John Hier and Louis Meyer, a professional engineer with Schmueser Gordon Meyer, the city’s design consultant on the project, detailed the history and problems with the Graham Mesa water treatment plant and the smaller Divide Creek plant.

The Graham Mesa plant was built in 1982 and uses technology from the 1970s, Meyer said. That has led to a lack of replacement parts and “fabricating” different solutions to keep the plant operating and meet water quality standards, Hier said. Meyer said the plant has a 4.5 million gallons per day treatment capacity, and the city’s peak demand in 2009 was 4.41 million gallons a day. “You don’t want to ever push a plant that close to the limit,” Meyer said. “You get all kinds of operating problems because it’s such an old plant.”

Meanwhile, some Rifle citizens want a say in the new plant at the polls so they’ve delivered enough petition signatures to force a vote. Here’s a report from Jenny Lavey writing for the Rifle Citizen Telegram. From the article:

John Steele, a 12-year Rifle resident and former mayor of Silt, submitted a petition to place a question on this November’s general election ballot regarding city council’s recent approval of a $25.5 million loan for construction of a new water treatment plant. The petition was submitted to City Clerk Lisa Cain on Monday, April 30, and requests council either rescind or review their decision authorizing the loan amount, which in turn would increase the rate of Rifle water users to repay the loan.

Additionally, the loan would require a public vote for a half-cent sales tax hike for the city to be able to keep up with operation costs of the new plant. “It was phenomenally hard work, but very enlightening,” Steele said of gathering the signatures.

Cain must now verify every signature on the petition is that of a Rifle resident and registered voter, then notify Steele of by mail if his petition was accepted or denied. As of press time, Cain said she was reviewing the petition in accordance with the city charter and state statutes.

Legally, Steele had to collect at least 265 signatures of registered voters living in Rifle city limits by April 30. The petition had to be received by Cain 10 days after publication of the ordinance, which was done on April 20, according to Steele.

More water treatment coverage here.

Rifle: City Council approves a shiny new $25 million water treatment plant


From the Rifle Citizen Telegram (John Gardner):

The Rifle City Council has agreed to move forward with construction of a new $25 million water treatment facility to be built along Highway 6 near the city’s raw water intake. The action came in a 5-2 vote in a special council meeting held Feb. 6.

Although the city government expects to finance the project with a low-interest loan from the state, the new plant will cause rates for city water customers to double. However, City Council is also considering asking voters to approve a 0.5 percent sales tax increase to help pay off the debt, which would lessen the burden on customers…

Dick Deussen, city utilities director, said the new plant will use advanced water treatment technologies, including a low-pressure membrane, granular activated carbon and reverse osmosis, and is expected to produce good-tasting water…

If all goes smoothly with the advance work, he said construction could begin this fall, and the plant could be complete by the end of 2014.

More water treatment coverage here.

The Rifle City Council is starting to plan for a new water treatment plant


From The Rifle Citizen Telegram (Jenny Lavey):

City of Rifle Director of Utilities Richard Deussen said although the project is years out, it’s clear the current water treatment plant needs to be replaced. “It’s getting to the point where it’s difficult to find parts when it needs to be fixed,” Deussen said.

Rifle City Council is currently holding budget workshops and reviewing how the city could fund a new plant. Development and construction of a brand new water plant could cost up to $30 million and would have to be funded through either an increase in city water rates or a sales tax increase, according to Deussen.

The new plant would be of high quality, utilizing the reverse osmosis process and granular activated carbon (GAC), a specialized filter medium that removes tastes and orders from city water. Deussen said the current water plant uses sand filters, which may contribute to the taste and odor of Rifle’s water — a common complaint among Rifle residents…

Rifle City Manager John Hier said finance matters and an application to the Colorado Water and Power Authority have to be completed before further details can be planned for building a new plant. “Design plans are scheduled to completed in February, and even then we’re a few years out from construction,” Hier said.

More water treatment coverage here.

The town of Rifle is keeping a close watch on oil and gas exploration in the Beaver Creek Watershed

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From the Grand Junction Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

The Rifle City Council on Wednesday agreed to let Laramie Energy II build two additional drilling pads in the Beaver Creek drainage, where the council last year issued a watershed permit for five Laramie pads, pipelines and associated facilities.

Beaver Creek, south of Rifle, is the city’s best and oldest water supply, said council member Alan Lambert. He said protecting it from Laramie’s operations has been a concern for council members, but Laramie has gone far to address those concerns.

Key steps have included putting in the monitoring system and relocating Beaver Creek Road away from the creek to provide a buffer from possible spills.

More Rifle coverage here and here.

U.S. Senate Interior appropriations bill includes $300,000 for Rifle waterline

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From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said in a news release that he successfully included the money in an Interior Appropriations bill that passed 77–21. A final version of the bill remains to be worked out with the House of Representatives. Mayor Keith Lambert said the city had been in contact with Colorado lawmakers about the project. “To have a partner like the federal government helping us promote our water systems here in Rifle is certainly a benefit,” he said. The money would come from the Environmental Protection Agency’s State and Tribal Grant Program. It would help pay for upgrades to the city’s main water line and construction of new lines. One line would improve service to customers on the south side of the Colorado River by building in redundancy to water delivery there. Lambert said a line also would be built to where the city is planning to construct a new water treatment facility. The water lines project, now in the preliminary engineering and design phase, requires a 45 percent cost share by the city.

More Rifle coverage here.

DOLA doles out $47 million

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From the Associated Press via the Aspen Daily News:

The Department of Local Affairs awarded the money Friday for 47 projects from 55 applications seeking nearly $49 million. The grants will allow communities to leverage more than $195 million in public-private and local matching funds, which will finance $218.5 million in construction work…

Garfield County projects include the sheriff annex expansion ($600,000), the county human services annex construction ($600,000), Donegan Road expansion in Glenwood Springs ($500,000) and the Rifle water treatment plant design ($600,000).

More coverage from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Projects in Mesa County received a total of $3.6 million, more than any other county. Coming in second was La Plata County, with nearly $3 million in grants. The state said the 47 projects will be funded by more than $195 million in public-private and local matching funds, resulting in a combined $218.5 million boost in construction activity. Projects that meet basic infrastructure needs received highest priority, while emphasis also was placed on those with renewable-energy or energy-conservation components…

Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert voiced a similar sentiment. “We’re happy for anything we receive in this area because our needs are so great,” he said. The city expects its new water plant will cost between $30 million and $40 million to build…

Rangely got $495,000 for water and wastewater infrastructure improvements and $100,000 for street and drainage upgrades.

More Coyote Gulch coveage here.