ARCHIVED  June 14, 2002

Raindance project ‘breaks rules’

Windsor water-storage plan equals Lake Loveland

WINDSOR — Economics of Northern Colorado water, and a reversal in the traditional thinking about water projects, are driving a water-storage proposal in Windsor that promises to be one of the largest — and most exotic — in the region’s history.

A barren, dry-land hilltop two miles east of the new Larimer County Fairgrounds site has the new name Raindance Ridge, and will feature a network of constructed reservoirs that will store 10,000 acre feet of water, ringed by residential estate lots.

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The $40 million project is the invention of Windsor developer Martin Lind, who turned a gravel-mining operation on the town’s south side into Water Valley — a project that land-use experts have called one of the region’s most-innovative mixed-use communities.

“This is one of the most nondescript, boring pieces of land in the state, and it’s also the most-exciting project in the state,” Lind said. “It represents a whole new way of thinking about preserving and conserving water. It breaks all the rules.”

The project’s immensity is staggering: Lind and financial partner Seth Ward will lead an effort to scoop out 3 million cubic yards of earth from the high ground of Raindance Ridge, making bowls to store a water volume equal to the size of Lake Loveland.

Greeley’s water department is a proposed partner in the project, and is in the midst of preliminary engineering studies that show the project can provide water at a cost that makes sense of the $40 million investment.

“Our preliminary numbers say we can do this for about $8,000 per acre foot,´ said Greeley Water Engineer Phil Carter, who has been consulting on the project since Lind approached city officials with the idea late last year. “What’s Colorado Big Thompson water going for now? $10,000? When you look at those numbers, you see that this can work.”

An acre-foot of water, the most-common measure of a water “share,” is equal to the amount of water that would cover an acre of land to a depth of one foot.

Pumping uphill

Water that Lind and the city of Greeley control rights to — from the Poudre River and Colorado Big Thompson supplies — would be pumped uphill to fill the new reservoirs.

The project would cover a vast land area, a 920-acre parcel that will house the two largest reservoirs and adjacent tracts that comprise another 480 acres.

“The ‘water fathers’ in this region have always said you can’t pump water and make money on it,” Lind said. “But with water share prices being what they are, and with what we’ve learned with Water Valley, this becomes possible.”

Gravity is the basic law of physics that guides any water-storage process, with the natural flow of streams filling reservoirs, the stored water then pumped or released to users.

Raindance Ridge turns that notion on its head. Pumping stations on the project’s northern fringe would send water to the hilltop, filling then replenishing the reservoirs. The project provides an alternative to storage projects that require damming of streams and the environmental consequences that result.

Lind, at his Trollco Development Co. headquarters in Windsor last week, spread two rough conceptual designs on a conference-room table, illustrating how the proposal would put the 1,400 acres that cover Raindance Ridge to best use.

Two land-use views

“Here’s what we could do,” he said, pointing to a diagram showing the largest parcel diced up into 350 residential lots, arranged on a maze of streets and cul-de-sacs. “This is what it’s zoned for, and what most developers would probably do with it.”

The second diagram, featuring two elongated reservoirs — one of them nearly a mile long — shows a residential pattern with 50 lots, each averaging about 5 acres.

“What we’re talking about is something that serves as a community separator, something that goes the extra mile to preserve agricultural history, and something that is dedicated to preserving and conserving water,” Lind said.

Water from the reservoirs is what city officials call “augmentation” water — nonpotable water used for recreation, parks, open space and to serve the dual water systems that are proliferating in newer residential and commercial developments.

One such prospective customer for Raindance Ridge water is the Tuscany development in Evans, a project jointly owned and managed by Greeley real estate broker Jim Martin and Fort Collins developer Bill Neal.

“This project is about as exotic as it gets,” Neal said of Lind’s proposal. “Nothing like this has ever been imagined. It’s way outside the box.”

Dual water systems

Tuscany, like Lind’s pioneering Water Valley development, provides two separate water systems for residences and businesses — one for drinking water, the other feeding untreated water for irrigation and recreational use. Carter said Greeley officials are pressing for rules that would make such systems mandatory in new developments.

Raindance Ridge’s biggest advantage is its low impact on the environment, Lind and Carter said. The proposal would reduce pressure for more traditional storage projects, including proposals to dam the Poudre River upstream from Fort Collins.

“The environmental costs that the alternatives would amount to would be more than offset with this project,” Carter said. “It really would help us maximize the water that we have available. Martin’s done a really nice job maximizing what he’s got at Water Valley. The reason I like working with him is that he thinks outside the box. That’s what this shows.”

Lack of storage means that each year thousands of acre-feet of water follow the Poudre River downstream through Greeley to the Platte River, and off to the plains states. Carter said Raindance and other such “off-drainage” storage projects would ensure supply for the region’s growing population.

“We’ve got water that’s available to us that is, instead, running off to Kansas,” he said. “We need to keep that here. We’ll need this project, and two or three others, to keep Northern Colorado viable.”

Windsor water-storage plan equals Lake Loveland

WINDSOR — Economics of Northern Colorado water, and a reversal in the traditional thinking about water projects, are driving a water-storage proposal in Windsor that promises to be one of the largest — and most exotic — in the region’s history.

A barren, dry-land hilltop two miles east of the new Larimer County Fairgrounds site has the new name Raindance Ridge, and will feature a network of constructed reservoirs that will store 10,000 acre feet of water, ringed by residential estate lots.

The $40 million project is the invention of Windsor developer Martin Lind, who turned a…

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