Thornton works to gather more details on water line plan

Larimer County Commissioners to vote on pipeline July 9

Posted 5/29/18

Thornton’s plans to bolster it’s water supply took a hit when the Larimer County Planning Commission turned it down — but the city’s not finished yet. Thornton Spokesman Todd Barnes said …

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Thornton works to gather more details on water line plan

Larimer County Commissioners to vote on pipeline July 9

Posted

Thornton’s plans to bolster it’s water supply took a hit when the Larimer County Planning Commission turned it down — but the city’s not finished yet.

Thornton Spokesman Todd Barnes said Thornton’s plan to bring water from a Larimer County reservoir to city via a 70 mile pipeline now goes to the Larimer County Commissioners for a July 9 vote.

“We are going to be going back and work on fleshing out more specificity regarding the concerns the planning commission raised — even though county staff seemed okay with the level of detail we provided before,” Barnes said.

Barnes said Planning Commission’s May 16 no vote was a surprise to Thornton officials — despite a groundswell of opposition from neighbors of the proposed pipeline and advocates for the Cache La Poudre River — since they have worked with Larimer county staff all along.

“I think we look at this as a setback, but I think we really look at it as a surprise,” Barnes said. “Staff recommended approval and we followed all the guidelines that staff had provided us.”

Beginning in 2016, city filed a request for a permit to allow the city to build a pipeline, bringing the water south from Larimer County to Thornton.

Thornton’s proposed 48-inch pipeline would run for 26 miles through Larimer County and 45 miles in Weld County and would transport 40 million gallons of water per day. Beginning near the intersection of State Road 1 and Larimer County’s Douglas Road, the pipeline would follow Douglas Road east to about Colorado Boulevard, Larimer County’s boundary with Weld County.

From there, it would continue South, leaving Larimer County near Johnstown and continuing south to Thornton.

The city also plans to build a pump station near the reservoir and water tank capable of holding one million gallons.

The total cost is estimated at $435 million.

The water in question has been diverted from the Cache La Poudre River since the 1800s. The city bought water right shares from Water Supply and Storage Company in the mid-1980s but has left the water there.

“We’ve planned since the mid-1980s to do this,” Barnes said. “It’s not like we are springing this on the folks up there.”

Thornton’s population is currently estimated at 136,574 and the city expects its current water supply able to serve only 158,000 residents. A new water supply is needed to provide for predicted growth up to 242,0000 residents by 2065, according to the executive summary for a permit request submitted by the city of the Thornton to Larimer County to build the water pipeline.

It’s been a long process, Barnes said, and the city developed several different alternatives for bringing the water south. They also hosted several meetings with neighbor groups attended forums hosted by groups opposing Thornton’s pipeline.

At the May 16 meeting, county staff supported Thornton’s plan.

Opposition

The plan is being opposed by two Larimer County groups. One, No Pipe Dream, is made up mostly of Douglas Road neighbors who don’t want Thornton’s project to dig up their streets. The second is Save the Poudre, who object to the water being diverted away from the river.

Both have argued that Thornton should put the water back in river, pulling it out after it’s passed through Fort Collins near Windsor.

But Barnes said that would expose the water to Fort Collins’ own sewage treatment and city storm water outflows.

“That is not a workable solution for us,” Barnes said. “As the Poudre goes through towns, it loses a water quality designation. Once you get past it, there is no relation as to what gets discharged into the Poudre River. There are water treatment plants, municipal discharges and a variety of things that go in and as the water quality is not what the city of Thornton seeks to have.”

At the May 16 Larimer County Planning Commission meeting, county staff said the commissioners should focus on where the pipeline goes, not where the water comes from.

“We are not allowed tonight to act on where the water comes frorm, where it goes or where it’s drawn from,” Larimer County Principal Planner Matt Lafferty told the board. “Those are decisions that have been made by the State of Colorado as the part of their responsibilites through the state water court and the division of Water Resources.”

Planning Commission members saw it differently, saying they needed more information about Thornton’s decision about where the water is drawn from.

“I think we have to land on the side of the people of Larimer County,” Commission Vice Chair Jeff Jensen said. “I think we tell Thornton to go back and give us more information. We just need more information.”

Barnes said Thornton is working to get that information.

“We have done so much preparation for this that it’s not ‘back to the drawing board,’“ Barnes said. “It’s refining and providing more of what we already have. The packets (the Planning Commission) had to go through were huge and we feel like we’ve provided what we were asked for, but now we’ll go back and try and to answer the questions they felt weren’t answered well enough.”

Weld County

Barnes said that the city will also need approval from Weld County, no matter what the Larimer officials decide. But that should be a different process.

“We will have to go through a permit process, but they do it differently,” Barnes said. “It’s just apples to oranges.”

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