If Thornton officials thought they got pushed back on their initial plans to pipe water from the Poudre River out through the area, they didn’t get much more of a welcome from county commissioners in December when they presented their second plan on the matter.
The city’s plans to build a 48-inch water pipeline through Larimer County has been on the drawing board for more than a year due to issues residents and commissioners have had with the impacts to residential areas the line would traverse. The first plan, to pipe water down Douglas Road, drew the ire of residents as well as commissioners, who asked Thornton officials in August to explore more options. Thornton officials presented their second plan at a hearing on Dec. 17, an attempt at appeasing all involved, but their welcome didn’t get much warmer.
Thornton’s population growth has fueled the need for additional water; city officials project more water will be needed by 2025. The city has been buying water rights for 30 years in anticipation of the need. The need now is to build the infrastructure to pipe its water to its thirsty city. They plan to deliver 14,000 acre-feet a year via the 27-mile pipeline. Thornton needs to build a 40 million gallon pumping facility, and a storage tank in addition to the line, as well.
Thornton officials are now looking at building a pipeline route through Larimer County Road 56, which would traverse eight properties in the Eagle Lake neighborhood — the least amount of disturbance among the existing route options. The Douglas Road route would have impacted more than 200 properties. As an added carrot to this new route, Thornton officials laid out a benefits package worth $60 million to Larimer County, including working with the Colorado Water Conservation Board and others to enhance Poudre River flows. The city proposed delivering up to 3,000-acre-feet a year to the Poudre River, as well as contribute $750,000 toward improving the Poudre River. Thornton also proposed building a fiber optic conduit through the length of the water pipeline, and provide the county with 12 strands of fiber-optic cable for the county to use. The project would be valued at $12 million.
Thornton has five options for extracting its water supply from Larimer County:
» The Larimer Canal conveyance
» The Douglas Road Corridor
» Larimer County Road 56
» The Poudre River conveyance
» A Shields Street pipeline
An additional possibility being discussed is a co-location of both the Thornton Pipeline and the Northern Integrated Supply Project.
With the options comes concerns for impacts to the area, including adding more trucks and industrial equipment to the roadways during construction, damage to wetlands, utility shut-offs, private property rights, and river flow.
According to Emily Hunt, water resources manager for the city of Thornton, the Larimer Canal has been rejected as a means of conveyance due to the degradation of the water quality, which would require Thornton to invest in a $50 million to $100 million treatment plant that would cost the city an additional $10 million to operate.
Included in its proposal to fuel $60 million worth of improvements to Larimer, the city also proposed to contribute $1 million to water innovations, and fund acquisition and development of additional water sources for flow improvement.
Commissioner Tom Donnelly stated that the $1 million commitment was “inadequate and an insult.” He insisted that Thornton get an accurate evaluation of cost and the cost to the community, including road closures, transportation systems and other impacts on the welfare of Larimer County. He concluded the city of Thornton needed “to do some soul-searching” as to their impact on Larimer County.
Future hearings have a target date of Jan. 14 and Jan. 21 in which no public comment will be received. The commissioners will hold a public hearing on the plans on Jan. 28.