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.

    City of Aspen reaches agreement with five parties on moving Maroon and Castle creek water rights — @AspenJournalism

    An illustration of the potential Maroon Creek Reservoir, prepared by Wilderness Workshop. Source: Wilderness Workshop

    From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

    The city of Aspen now has signed settlement agreements from five of the 10 parties opposing its efforts in water court to maintain conditional water storage rights tied to large potential dams on Maroon and Castle creeks, including Pitkin County, Wilderness Workshop, Western Resource Advocates, and two private-property owners in the Castle Creek valley.

    “Aspen agrees that it will forego the right to store water pursuant to these water rights at the original decreed locations,” a May 24 staff memo from the city states.

    The five parties that have yet to sign agreements include the U.S. Forest Service, American Rivers, Trout Unlimited, and two property owners in the Maroon Creek valley.

    According to a draft resolution that the city council is expected to approve at a regular meeting on Tuesday, city staffers and the city attorney “have diligently negotiated with the remaining opposers to seek settlement in regarding their opposition and staff and its attorney believe that stipulations substantially similar to the attached stipulations will be entered with the remaining opposers.”

    The city has said that none of the agreements are binding unless all 10 parties agree to the settlement terms.

    As the city works through settlement negotiations with the parties, the resulting agreements can become more restrictive, but not less so, which is a common approach to settling water court cases.

    For example, the agreement signed by an attorney for Pitkin County regarding Maroon Creek Reservoir does not include the county-owned Moore Open Space as one of the sites where the city may move its storage right, as did an earlier version of the agreement signed by Wilderness Workshop.

    Other potential water-storage sites include the current Woody Creek gravel pit site, a piece of vacant land next to the gravel pit recently purchased by the city for potential water storage, the city-owned Zoline open space between the Maroon Creek Club and the Burlingame housing project, the city-owned Cozy Point Open Space at the bottom of Brush Creek Road, and the city’s municipal golf course.

    Under the agreements, the city will seek to transfer its conditional water storage rights from the upper Castle and Maroon creek valleys to these other potential reservoir sites, with a maximum storage capacity of 8,500 acre-feet.

    A map prepared for the City of Aspen that shows the five potential water-storage sites in the Roaring Fork River valley.

    1971 decree

    The city has held the conditional water rights for the Castle and Maroon creek reservoirs since 1965 and they carry a 1971 decree date, which the city hopes to carry to the other potential locations.

    The potential Maroon Creek Reservoir would hold 4,567 acre-feet of water behind a 155-foot-tall dam on USFS property within view of the Maroon Bells. It would also flood a portion of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

    The potential Castle Creek Reservoir would hold 9,062 acre-feet behind a 170-foot-tall dam, mainly on private property, two miles below Ashcroft.

    Western Resource Advocates and Wilderness Workshop issued a press release about their agreements with the city on Thursday afternoon.

    The release was sent out after the city of Aspen posted the meeting packet for a scheduled May 29 Aspen City Council meeting.

    Aspen Public Radio posted a story on Thursday afternoon with the headline, “Aspen agrees to never build dams on Castle and Maroon.”

    The Aspen Times and the Aspen Daily News also wrote stories Thursday evening about the city’s progress in reaching settlements with opposing parties.

    As part of the deal with the five parties who have signed agreements, or stipulations as they are called in water court, the opposing parties have agreed not to oppose the city’s efforts to change the water rights to the new locations for 20 years.

    Six of the 10 parties who filed statements of opposition in December 2016, in response to the city’s due-diligence filing in October 2016, filed in both the Maroon and Castle creek cases.

    But the two pairs of private-property owners filed in only one case each.

    Double R Creek Limited, and ASP Properties, which control property in the Castle Creek valley where the potential dam would have been built, only filed in the Castle Creek case. They have both signed settlement agreements.

    However, Larsen Family LP and Roaring Fork Land and Cattle Co., which own land in the Maroon Creek valley, have yet to sign agreements with the city.

    The cases are being processed in Division 5 Water Court in Glenwood Springs. The next status conference in the case is scheduled for June 26, and the 18-month mark in the case is June 30.

    From The Aspen Times (Carolyn Sackariason):

    Two of the opposers, Wilderness Workshop and Western Resource Advocates, announced the settlement Thursday evening.

    Will Roush, conservation director at Wilderness Workshop, commended the city for finding another way to store its water other than in a designated wilderness area.

    “It’s a big deal. … Everybody came to a consensus that these were not the right places for dams,” he said.

    Roush’s organization, along with nine other parties, sued the city after it applied to the state to extend existing conditional water rights for the two potential reservoirs. The city first applied for those rights in 1965.

    Since 2016, city officials have maintained that adequate water storage is needed in anticipation of climate change impacts like drought, fire and changes in runoff.

    “City Councils over the decades have worked to preserve Aspen water customers’ water supply, including storage options now and into the future,” Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron said in a statement. “We are pleased that we could achieve a solution with Wilderness Workshop and Western Resource Advocates, and hopefully all the parties invested in a mutually successful outcome, that protects pristine areas of wilderness while still prioritizing Aspen’s water needs for the coming decades.”

    In 2017, the city announced its intention to move the conditional storage rights out of both valleys. It has been in negotiations with the opposing entities since then.

    Stipulations with the five parties — which Aspen City Council is set to approve Tuesday — would result in the government relocating its water storage rights to six other potential locations in the Roaring Fork Valley…

    Roush said he has spoken to representatives of some of those parties and there are no substantial differences in the stipulations. He said he expects those agreements to be signed off on, but in the meantime there is no time like the present to advance his organization’s goal to keep water storage out of the valleys…

    “It’s a great day for Castle and Maroon creek valleys, and that those streams will remain free-flowing,” Roush said.

    2018 #COleg: Eagle County folks welcome extension of #Colorado Lottery

    Floating the tiger, Yampa River, 2014. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From The Vail Daily (Pam Boyd):

    Last week, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed SB18-066 into law, extending the operation of the Lottery Division to July 1, 2049, 25 years past July 1, 2024, the date it was previously scheduled to terminate.

    “It’s great news and we’re pleased this avenue of funding has been extended to help ensure that everything we love about Colorado — its wildlife, natural resources, rivers and trails — will continue to benefit from the lottery proceeds for another 25 years,” said town of Vail Communications Director Suzanne Silverthorn.

    The Colorado Lottery is marking its 35th anniversary this year. After Colorado voters approved a state lottery in 1980, the General Assembly created a Lottery Division to administer the program as an enterprise fund, which means it receives no tax dollars. Since 1983, the Colorado Lottery has returned more than $3 billion in proceeds to the state to invest in outdoor recreation and land, water and wildlife conservation. Since 1992, this work been funded through three organizations: the Conservation Trust Fund, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Great Outdoors Colorado…

    Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg and Sen. Leroy Garcia in the Colorado Senate and Rep. Jeni James Arndt and Rep. Cole Wist in the Colorado House of Representatives sponsored SB18-066. The bill netted a vote of 30 in favor and five opposed in the Senate and 48 in favor and 16 opposed (with one representative excused) in the House…

    In 25 years, Great Outdoors Colorado, which annually receives up to half of lottery proceeds against a cap, has funded more than 5,000 projects in all 64 Colorado counties through its partners: local governments, nonprofit land trusts and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Projects include school yards, playgrounds and enriching outdoor education spaces for our state’s urban and rural youth; hundreds of miles of trails; and more than 1,600 parks and outdoor recreation areas. Great Outdoors Colorado funding has also supported the state park system, conserved critical wildlife habitat and protected farms and ranch land.

    Conservation Trust Fund, a program of Colorado’s Department of Local Affairs, receives 40 percent of lottery proceeds to fund conservation and recreation work across the state, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife receives 10 percent for state parks. In years when lottery profits exceed the Great Outdoors Colorado cap, which they typically do, spillover dollars go to the Colorado Department of Education’s Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund, called BEST.

    WISE water arrives in Castle Rock; join the celebration June 8 — @crgov

    WISE System Map via the South Metro Water Supply Authority

    Here’s the release from the Town of Castle Rock:

    For years, Castle Rock Water has made providing long term, renewable water a priority. Now, a major milestone has been reached and the first drops of WISE water are headed to Town. Join the celebration to help commemorate this accomplishment and take a look at what’s coming up next for water in Castle Rock.

    The fun-filled family celebration will be from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, June 8. Bring the kids, sunscreen and a great attitude to Gemstone Park, 6148 Sapphire Pointe Blvd., to join the festivities and celebrate the WISE water partnership.

    After stakeholders officially cut the ribbon, the community is invited for a festival full of games, food trucks, bump soccer, bounce houses, a foam party, giant bubbles, water colors and more. Plus, get a chance to meet the Most Hydrated Man in Castle Rock.

    Learn more about the celebration at http://CRgov.com/WISEWater.

    The celebration will help mark more than 9 years of planning and $50 million in infrastructure to help ensure the community’s strong water future. When the WISE partnership was created, many communities in Colorado were faced with a drought. With limited, non-renewable resources, communities knew they needed to come up with a plan. Regional water providers saw the opportunity to partner in a solution and share in the expense to buy, transport and treat renewable water.

    The WISE partnership is an arrangement between Denver Water, Aurora Water and 10 other south metro water providers to import renewable water. Castle Rock is the southernmost community partner.

    Castle Rock Water finished the last piece of infrastructure – connecting a pipeline from Outter Marker Road to Ray Waterman Treatment Plant – in late 2017. The first drops of imported WISE water came to Town in late April.

    Follow the entire journey for WISE water with the Most Hydrated Man at http://CRgov.com/WISEWater.

    Colorado Springs Utilities to raise rates

    The Crags are rock formations located south of Divide, facing the northwest slope of Pikes Peak. It’s a beautiful hike popular with families. Photo credit Colorado Springs Hikes.

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Conrad Swanson):

    Water rates are going up next year to pay for watering parks properties in Colorado Springs, the City Council decided Tuesday.

    The 6-3 vote – opposed by Councilmen Don Knight, Andy Pico and Bill Murray – will boost Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services’ foundering budget, still about $5 million shy of its 2008 level. The department’s current $3.3 million watering budget is about $1.2 million short of where it should be, Parks Director Karen Palus has said.

    Ratepayers of Colorado Springs Utilities can expect to pay a half percentage point more, on average, starting Jan. 1, and the money will be transferred to the city for parks watering. Rates then will increase another half percent a year later.

    Monthly bills for residential, commercial and industrial ratepayers will rise an average of 34 cents, $1.13 and $14.77, respectively, next year. Those increases will double in 2020.

    That boost is relatively minimal but will significantly help the parks, Council President Richard Skorman said during the Tuesday meeting.

    CDPHE fines Western Sugar $2 million

    Fort Morgan manufacturing facility. Photo credit: Wester Sugar Cooperative

    From KNOPNews2.com:

    The Western Sugar Cooperative has been fined $2 million as part of a settlement of air, water and solid waste violations and non-compliance found at the company’s Fort Morgan, Colo. plant.

    The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced a settlement between the department and Western Sugar in a release Friday.

    Violations of Colorado’s Colorado’s Air Pollution Prevention and Control Act included exceeding the state’s regulatory odor limits. Water quality violations include discharges of pollutants, including fecal coliform and sulfide, which significantly exceeded the company’s permit limits. The department also cited Western Sugar for unauthorized spills, and said water quality violations likely contributed to odor issues affecting Fort Morgan residents.

    In addition to air and water quality violations, CDPHE says Western Sugar operated two large waste stockpiles of coal ash and precipitated in violation of state solid waste regulations. The piles of the manufacturing by-products are visible from Interstate 76 and Route 52…

    Under the terms of the settlement, Western Sugar agreed to:
    – Identify and implement wastewater treatment.
    – Eliminate and/or properly dispose of waste stockpiles and any new waste generated through its processes.
    – Investigate groundwater and soil impacts, and implement corrective measures if necessary.
    – Implement and comply with an odor management plan.
    – Retrofit existing coal-fired boilers with natural gas burners.
    – Establish financial assurance.
    – Provide funding for a local water quality restoration project.
    – Accept suspension of its environmental permits or licenses if it fails to comply with certain terms of the settlement.

    New water tank for Palmer Lake

    Palmer Lake via Wikipedia Commons

    From KOAA.com (Rachael Wardwell):

    The tank will be able to hold 250,000 gallons of treated water, doubling the town’s water capacity.

    “We’ll have 500,000 gallons of water to fight a fire with to drink, to do whatever and if whatever and if we ever had a problem with this tank that’s also subterranean, than we’d have another tank to back us up,” said Palmer Lake Mayor John Cressman.

    The tank will cost an estimated $1.3 million, and will be paid for through a low interest loan from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority.