Milton Seaman Reservoir expansion plan creating a muddy mess

The city of Greeley is looking towards the future of their growing population’s water needs and is in early planning stages to expand the amount of water stored at Milton Seaman Reservoir.

Although this expansion at the reservoir isn’t planned to happen for another 16 years, the battle over water and land rights has already begun.

But opposition to expansion of the reservoir, via a formal Statement of Opposition submitted Jan. 30 to Greeley Water, Murry and Linda McMurry — Michigan residents who own McMurry Ranch and the land that would be essentially flooded by Greeley’s expansion of the Reservoir — have stated that they are upset with how this process is proceeding.

The McMurrys are not opposing the expansion, but they object to the idea that the city thinks it has a right to their property, the couple’s lawyer Wayne Schroeder said.

“Greeley hasn’t offered to buy the property,” Schroeder said.

Greeley Water and Sewer Department’s expansion, which would take place around 2030, would expand the reservoir, located about 5-miles west of Ted’s Place in Poudre Canyon, by about 38,000 acre-feet. An acre-foot of water is enough to flood one acre of land 1-foot deep. An acre-foot is roughly enough water to serve the needs of two families of four for a year.

Options for expanding the reservoir include building a taller dam structure or building a new dam farther downstream, where the North Fork meets the Cache la Poudre River.

Currently, Greeley has the rights to an absolute 5,008 acre-feet and a conditional 9,992 acre-feet for a total of 15,000 acre-feet at Milton Seaman Reservoir. The expansion would allow for 53,000 acre-feet of water to be stored at the reservoir. At this point, however, Greeley doesn’t have water rights to store so much.
“We don’t yet own the water that we are going to put into that. We are in the process of buying the water,” the city’s water and sewer director Jon Monson said.

“We have a 10-year water acquisition plan that we are in the middle of executing.”
Prior to October 2013, Greeley was telling the McMurrys their land was not needed for the expansion.

But that story changed.

“The new mapping that has been done recently, the new aerial photography, has demonstrated that we would be on McMurry’s land,” Monson said. “Up until this point, the existing database, or data that we had, did not show that we would be impinging on any private property. So this is news to all of us.”

Monson said that it would be premature for Greeley to buy land for a project that may not be built because the city has other alternatives.

“As part of the federal permitting process that Greeley has to go through to build a new reservoir, we look at alternatives — the (proposed) Glade Reservoir being one of the alternatives that is very much a potential for Greeley storage,” he said. “So consequently, we may not even expand Milton Seaman.”

The Glade Reservoir project is finishing up supplemental studies regarding the environmental impacts it would have, but when the studies are complete, Monson said that the approval to build a new reservoir north of Ted’s Place may be given.

In addition to Glade, Monson said there are various other options on the table, including a smaller expansion of Milton Seaman Reservoir.

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