Erie population growth is driving wastewater plant expansion

Erie Town Hall. By Bahooka – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32826717

From The Longmont Times-Call (Anthony Hahn):

Trustees earlier this month approved the foundation for such change, an expansion master plan for the site that could run the town nearly $25 million in construction costs over the next few years, and an additional $2 million for consultants to steer the early stages.

Several factors — ranging from the predictable to the esoteric — are driving the need for the facility’s expansion, according to Adam Parmenter of HDR, Inc., the firm charged with shepherding the town through the project.

According to Colorado Department of Health regulations, towns must begin to make expansion plans when their facilities reach 80% capacity; at 95%, construction must begin. Delays could get state regulators to slap communities with growth restrictions.

In 2017, Erie’s North Water site hit about 81% capacity, processing roughly 1.58 million gallons of wastewater per day. By 2020, that number is expected to hit 95% of the facility’s processing capacity, equivalent to 4 ½ Olympic swimming pools…

If Erie’s projected growth keeps pace (and with current trends, there’s no reason to expect otherwise), Parmenter said the facility’s liquid capacity would be exceeded by 2021.

Consultants are recommending a plan out to 2028, expanding the plant into a 3.03 million gallons per day system, a 50% capacity increase from what the existing facility does now.

The expansion will take place in steps, however, over the next decade, according to Erie Public Works Director Todd Fessenden.

“We will be in design over the course of the next year for the expansion of the plant” he said, “then we’ll be in construction late next year or early 2021.

“The master plan is really just laying out the next 20 years so we can have a schedule to look at,” he added, “whether that be regulatory milestones or looking at certain capacity stages, a lot of those things you have to be planning ahead for before those things hit.”

Another of the drivers, and perhaps a more pressing matter, is the plant’s solid operations. Whereas the plant’s liquid-stream processing is more of a straightforward capacity issue, dealing with the deluge of solids on a daily basis is often rooted in the quality of the science.

In order to get the solids that come through the plant to the designation of “Class A Biosolids” — a standard that meets EPA guidelines “for land application with no restrictions,” meaning reclaiming it to a point where it can legally be used as fertilizer or compost — the plant’s technology needs to perform a specific set of tasks.

As it stands now, the North Water site is essentially at capacity for processing solid waste, Parmenter said, and the “system isn’t running the way it was originally designed to create Class A Biosolids.”

Without changes, the system’s current process — which includes trucks having to move solids off-site — would cost the town roughly $1 million per year in hauling costs.

According to officials, the costs of the expansion project will be footed by the town’s growth through its existing tap fees.

Down on the Ground in the Anthropocene City-State — Colorado Central Magazine

George Sibley

Full disclosure, I have written articles for the magazine in the past.

Here’s a look at Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project and the Boulder County Commissioner’s hearing on 1041 jurisdiction from George Sibley that’s running in Colorado Central Magazine. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

An interesting thing happened mid-March in Boulder which the media seem to have mostly missed. Commissioners from Grand County showed up at a noisy Boulder County commissioners’ hearing on a West Slope-to-East Slope transmountain water diversion project – to testify on behalf of the project. It is probably the first time ever, in the generally contentious history of Colorado water development, that the people in a basin of origin have supported a transmountain diversion project that people in the basin of destination oppose.

Although this is a story from just beyond our Central Colorado boundaries, it is a story of interest to anyone in the West who is wondering how, or even if, we are going to finally leave the 20th century and venture into the 21st and the Anthropocene Epoch we keep trying to pretend we haven’t brought on ourselves.

The report on the Boulder County hearing sounded like your usual 20th century public hearing on the kind of issue that seems almost structured to pit environmentalists against the developers of something or other – a hearing in which no one has to listen because everyone already knows what everyone else is going to say.

The issue in this case pits the usual Front Range environmental organizations against a public utility that everyone loved to hate through the 20th century, Denver Water (DW). DW wants to enlarge the Gross Dam and Reservoir it built in the 1950s in the foothills near Boulder, to hold some additional water it wants to import from the West Slope – its “Moffat Firming Project” which would bring a third more water on average through its Moffat Tunnel Project from the Fraser and Williams Fork Rivers in the Upper Colorado River watersheds…

For the West Slope and Grand County, DW is both funding and actively participating in planning and executing a Learning by Doing process – essentially, an adaptive management process of active experimentation in learning how to live with less water. Some of it is more conventional work providing funding and expertise to water treatment districts and irrigation districts needing to use less water more efficiently.

But some of it will actually be what strikes me as “creative environmentalism”: Actually reconstructing some streams to function ecologically with a permanent reduction of water – call it “downsizing” the stream to fit the unignorable realities of the future. Channels are narrowed and deepened to cool the waters, helping both the aquatic ecosystem and the human economy of floaters and fishermen; riparian vegetation is planted to shade the stream and stabilize banks; meanders are induced to give a healthy stability and resilience for the foreseeable diminished future. Half a mile of the Fraser near U.S. 40 has been so ‘remodeled’ and is open to public inspection (and fishing). DW has committed millions to this work. (The CRCA can be found online by browsing for the name in full.)

@BoulderCounty commissioners affirm right to review Gross Reservoir expansion plans

Gross Dam enlargement concept graphic via Denver Water

From The Boulder Daily Camera (Charlie Brennan):

After more than four hours of impassioned pleas from members of the public Thursday night, Boulder County commissioners voted unanimously that Denver Water’s planned expansion of Gross Reservoir must go through the county’s review process.

That vote, affirming an earlier finding by Boulder County Land Use Director Dale Case, now poses a significant challenge for the utility, which serves 1.4 million water users in the Denver metro area — none of them in Boulder County — and claims the project is needed to meet the needs of metro population that’s just going to keep growing.

“I think it’s just critical that local people have their say on this project that affects them the most,” said Boulder County Commissioner Matt Jones, just before the vote was taken…

Denver Water’s plan had been to start construction this year on a project to raise the Gross Reservoir Dam in southwestern Boulder County by 131 feet to a height of 471 feet and to expand the reservoir’s capacity by 77,000 acre-feet.

The cost of the endeavor, said to be the biggest construction project ever contemplated in Boulder County, is now estimated at $464 million (in 2025 dollars) and could take at least six years to complete.

Boulder County Land Use Director Dale Case issued a finding on Oct. 22 that Denver Water’s plans, formally known as the Moffat Collection System Project,were subject to the county’s so-called “1041” review process — that number references the state House bill passed in 1974 allowing local governments to regulate matters of statewide interest through a local permitting process.

Denver Water however, has argued to the contrary.

“We contend that state law exempts the expansion from the 1041 process because it was permitted under local land use codes at the time that the state enacted the law authorizing the 1041 review process,” said Denver Water spokesman Travis Thompson.

Boulder County commissioners set March 14 public hearing on Gross Reservoir expansion appeal

The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Boulder Daily Camera (Amy Bounds):

Community members wanting to comment next month at a Boulder County commissioners hearing on whether Denver Water can move forward with an expansion of Gross Reservoir can start signing up next week…

Online sign-ups for the March 14 hearing start Feb. 14, while in-person sign-ups will start an hour before the hearing.

Commissioners plan to continue to take public testimony until all speakers have had an opportunity to comment, according to a news release.

After the public hearing, commissioners will hear Denver Water’s appeal of a decision by the county’s Land Use Department that Denver Water must run the project through what is known as a “1041” review process before construction can begin.

Named for the bill number by which it was enacted in 1974, the 1041 legislation gives local governments the right to control development by agencies beyond their boundaries through a local permitting process.

Denver Water argues the Gross Reservoir expansion is exempt from 1041 requirements. Boulder County claims it is not.

The public hearing will focus on the limited scope of the determination and is not a hearing or decision on the perceived impacts or merits of the reservoir expansion project, according to a news release…

Written comments can be submitted through an online comment form available at bit.ly/GrossDamExpansion. Comments also can be mailed to the Boulder County Commissioners’ Office, P.O. Box 471, Boulder, 80306. Comments need to be received by noon March 12.

Boulder County Land Use Director issues determination in response to @DenverWater (Gross Reservoir Dam Expansion Proposal) request

Here’s the release from Boulder County:

Determination states that Denver Water must obtain a permit under Article 8 – Location & Extent Areas & Activities of State Interest (1041)

Denver Water requested that Boulder County Land Use Director Dale Case determine the applicability of the Boulder County Land Use Code to Denver Water’s proposed expansion of Gross Reservoir.

Denver Water has argued that it is exempt from having to submit its project for Location & Extent Areas & Activities of State Interest (1041) review under Article 8 of the Land Use Code.

Director Case responded to Denver Water on Oct. 22. His determination is that Denver Water’s proposed reservoir expansion project is subject to review under Land Use Code. Before undertaking the project, Denver Water must obtain a permit under Article 8 of the Code.

Documents:

  • Gross Reservoir Dam expansion proposal determination letter to Denver Water, October 22, 2018
  • Determination request letter from Denver Water, October 12, 2018
  • Denver Water may appeal the decision to the Boulder County Board of Commissioners as provided for under 8-406(B).

    Land Use Code Section 8-406 Determination of Whether a Proposed Activity or Development Must go Through the Permit Process states that “The Director shall determine the applicability of Section 8-400 to the conduct of any proposed activity or development. The Director shall make this determination within 10 calendar days after the Director receives a written request from the applicant stating the reasons why the proposed activity or development is not subject to Section 8-400.

    Background

    The Board of Water Commissioners for the City and County of Denver, aka “Denver Water,” is in the process of applying for a planned expansion of the Gross Reservoir Dam in southwest Boulder County. While this is not a Boulder County project, the reservoir resides entirely in unincorporated Boulder County.

    The Army Corp of Engineers issued its Record of Decision granting Denver Water a federal permit for the project in July 2017. However, before it can commence the project, Denver Water must still receive approval of its hydropower license amendment application from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

    Boulder County has intervened in the FERC application noting many reasons why the county finds the application to be deficient. In its motion to intervene, the county outlined nearly 20 points of contention with the project.

    Boulder County has intervened in the FERC application noting many reasons why the county finds the application to be deficient. In its motion to intervene, the county outlined nearly 20 points of contention with the project.

    On March 20, 2018, the county responded to FERC’s Supplemental Environmental Assessment, once again pointing out the deficiencies that Boulder County finds in Denver Water’s FERC application and FERC’s environmental assessment of the project.

    The county plans to further address impacts and concerns during a county (local) land use review process and has explained to FERC that Denver Water must obtain required county permits before it undertakes the project. Denver Water has not yet applied for a permit under Article 8 of the Boulder County Land Use Code (also known as a 1041 permit).

    A 1041 review would allow the Boulder County Planning Commission and the County Commissioners to conduct public hearings and review the application according to the criteria in the Code.

    More Information

    More information can be viewed on the county’s Gross Reservoir Dam Expansion Proposal information webpage. Also, individuals can sign-up to receive Boulder County-related hearing and meeting announcements concerning the proposed Denver Water Gross Reservoir Expansion Project. You can unsubscribe at any time.

    To receive notices about the Gross Reservoir project from Denver Water, look for the “Sign Up for Email Updates” option at the bottom of the page on the Gross Reservoir project website. All notices of meetings, minutes, and updates on the proposed project (also known as the “Moffat Collection System Project”) can be found on Denver Water’s website at https://grossreservoir.org/.

    The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Lawsuit filed to set aside CWCB and Boulder County floodway expansion

    Boulder. By Gtj82 at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Patriot8790., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11297782

    From The Longmont Times-Call (Anthony Hahn):

    According to the complaint filed this week, commissioners approved the floodway expansion over the resistance of local residents, who said the re-mapping would limit development on their private properties — some of which are functioning farms — and cause their flood insurance rates to skyrocket…

    The re-drawing was performed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, with assistance from Boulder County staff, and was approved last month 2-0 by commissioners. Commissioner Cindy Domenico was absent. When the change officially takes effect Oct. 1, it will substantially widen the floodway along portions of Lower Boulder Creek northwest of Erie.

    A floodway is a narrow channel where, in the event of a flood, water will be flowing. A floodplain is where shallow water is likely to be during the event of a flood, though shallower and flowing at a lower volume, if at all, than water in a floodway.

    The former, by definition of Boulder County’s standards, is more heavily regulated than a floodplain. Land regulated under floodway status is often limited to very specific redevelopment.

    According to the complaint, plaintiffs’ efforts to have the hearing delayed to learn more about proposed expansion went unheeded…

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board in 2015 changed the definition of a floodway, triggering a review of flood-hazard areas across the state. Wheeler Open Space, however, was not reassessed, given the lack of residential buildings on the land, Boulder County Senior Assistant Attorney Kate Burke said earlier this year.

    In light of the planned oil and gas development on the site, a modeling with the new standards was performed. Under the new guidelines, the entirety of well site Section 1, which is in the open space, is within a floodway, according to documents Boulder County submitted in mid-April with its formal comments to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

    Boulder inks deal to sell hydroelectric power to Tri-State

    Small hydroelectric via City of Boulder.

    From BizWest (Jensen Werley):

    The city of Boulder signed a contract with the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association for the sale of hydroelectric power generated at five of the city’s eight hydroelectric plants.

    The deal is a 10-year agreement with an option to renew for another five years. It’s expected to generate about $500,000 per year in revenue, which will offset water utility capital improvements and operating costs that would otherwise be paid through higher water rates for customers.

    The city had previously sold hydroelectric power to Tri-State from the Boulder Canyon Hydroelectric plant. This agreement renews the contract for Boulder Canyon and adds four facilities: the Kohler, Maxwell, Orodell and Sunshine plants…

    Hydroelectric generation harnesses the energy generated during the downhill trip from water sources to the water distribution system. Boulder’s hydro program consists of eight plants that generate about 37 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, enough to power 4,600 households and displace 20,400 tons of coal.