At the third in a series of three hearings regarding the Thornton Pipeline, a project which would draw water from a reservoir at the end of Starlight Drive on the north side of Douglas Road and run a pipeline down Douglas Road to the east of I-25, was tabled. Three hearings presented both side of the issue from the needs of the City of Thornton on one side to the objections of the citizens living on and near Douglas Road on the other.
Both sides have their points of view. The City of Thornton purchased their water rights in the 1980’s after the failure of the Two Forks Dam that would have diverted water from the Platte River south of Denver near the town of Deckers. Mark Koleber is the Thornton Water Project director, and it is his passion as much as it is his job to obtain a high-quality source of water for Thornton. This is not an easy task. Though the water takeout is readily available and approved further east and south of Fort Collins, and a takeout near Windsor has been suggested, the quality of the water deteriorates considerably after passing through three water treatment plants. Koleber and his constituents have made it clear as to exactly what their needs are and how they intend to meet them. They have covered all the options for Douglas Road, including lane closures, access to emergency services, have held community meetings and are open to expediting construction and mitigating issues. And the water rights, are theirs, indeed.
However, the combined decision of the Larimer County commissioners is to ask, “What’s in it for Larimer County?”.
Concerned property owners along Douglas Road have campaigned tirelessly, citing every conceivable reason to not have the pipeline on the Douglas Road corridor. The pipeline would have to run down the under-developed Starlight Drive and the pump station would require appropriating a property belonging to a former tree farmer, Richard Brauch, without his consent. At a meeting on July 23, at least 70 local citizens presented their objections to the pipeline and the most pertinent question continued to rise to the surface; What does Larimer county stand to gain?
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Apparently, there are no big, local construction and excavating companies currently competing for the contracts. City planner, Mark Helmick, would say that the 1040 application is complete in his judgement. However, Commissioner Tom Donnelly states that the City of Thornton has failed to present reasonable alternatives to the Douglas Road corridor and that the project will push traffic to other inadequate roadways. He calls for more collaboration between Thornton and other large scale water projects. He also cites a lack of planning for twenty to thirty years in the future. Commissioner Gaitor agrees that the proposal is consistent with the requirements but has failed to produce alternatives. It lacks attention to public safety. He also mentioned that the truck traffic along Douglas Road has too much impact to accommodate such a project. Ultimately, Commissioner Gaitor has to ask, what are the benefits to Larimer County? Comissioner Gaitor states that “My job is to protect the citizens of Larimer County. Some of the requirements have been met but not others.” Commissioner Johnson agrees with Commissioner Gaitor that Mark Koleber did the very best he could for the City of Thornton but he has noted that all of the benefits go to the City of Thornton.
Johnson goes on to say that “We need other alternatives to better meet the criteria of Larimer County.”
The next meeting will happen at 6:30 pm on December 17th.