Agribusiness  July 28, 2011

Boxelder looking at Thornton property for storage

WELLINGTON – The Boxelder Basin Regional Stormwater Authority is looking at a 300-acre property east of Interstate 25 and a few miles north of Fort Collins as a possible site for temporary water storage for its planned flood control system.

The property, now in irrigated agricultural operations, was among thousands of acres of farm land in Northern Colorado purchased by the city of Thornton in the mid-1980s to gain water rights for future growth.

The Boxelder Authority was formed in 2008 by the town of Wellington, city of Fort Collins and Larimer County to fund and construct improvements to reduce property damage along Boxelder Creek in the event of a 100-year flood.

Rex Burns, authority manager, said he planned meet with a representative from the city of Thornton on July 27 – after the Business Report went to press – to discuss buying the property for a flood storage facility that could temporarily hold up to 1,700 acre-feet of flood water.

Burns said the authority hasn’t yet established a budget for how much it would pay for the property and publishing any amount would not be helpful in negotiations with Thornton.

Jack Etheredge, Thornton city manager, said he was not familiar with any of the details of the meeting with Burns except that it would involve the city’s water resource manager and an aide to the deputy city manager.

Etheredge said it wouldn’t be the first time the city has been asked to sell one of its Northern Colorado properties, most of which are still in some form of agricultural operations.

“Ultimately, the plan is to sell all the properties,” he said. “We made a commitment many years ago to have good relationships with all the entities in the region. We will make the strongest possible attempt that, as land goes back into private hands, it meets the objectives of the communities there.”

Etheredge said Thornton has pledged to transfer its land holdings in the region in a way that helps the local economy.

“Part of what we want to do is make sure it goes back in the best possible way to support the economy,” he said.

In addition to reducing flood damage to homes and businesses, part of Boxelder Authority’s mission is to help take land out of the flood zone to facilitate development.

ARDEC site previously eyed

For more than half a year, the authority has been focusing on establishing its 200-plus-acre Eastside Storage facility at the 1,000-acre Colorado State University-owned Agricultural Research, Development and Education Center on the east side of I-25 at 4616 N.E. Frontage Road.

Jennifer Borloft, ARDEC manager, said the center has studied Boxelder’s proposal and determined that constructing an earthen dam along County Road 50 to build a storage facility that would catch water and release it slowly after a major flood event would be disruptive to the center’s operations.

Borloft said the flood control site would be in the middle of cattle grazing and crop operations at the 20-year-old center, where more than 100 researchers conduct ag experiments.

“It would affect about 200 acres roughly just off our center pivot,” Borloft said of the impact on crops. And displacing cattle operations could even be more disruptive, she said.

“We’re so short on grazing land as it is. For us to move them off site to another location we’d have our herd health jeopardized.”

Borloft said CSU has not yet ruled out allowing an Eastside Storage facility to be located at ARDEC but wants the authority to explore other possible land options.

“Our board will ask that other options be presented before they make a decision,” she said. “We’ve not said no but we’d like for them to explore other options.”

Burns said that’s a fair position for CSU to take and why a meeting with Thornton was set up. “It’s better for us to investigate and get answers and if it doesn’t work out for one reason or another, we can say we have looked elsewhere,” he said.

But Burns said a site needs to be finalized within the next year. “The dilemma is we don’t want to invest money in studies until we have secured a site,” he said. “We’re fearful that if we don’t secure right-of-way soon, it will make it much more difficult later. The ink needs to be on paper in the first half of ’12.”

Timnath role still sought

The authority is still hoping the town of Timnath will come aboard as a partner in the Boxelder project. The town, which also lies in the path of a Boxelder Creek flood, has been studying the possibility for several months.

Sizing of the project’s improvements and their ultimate cost depends on whether Timnath becomes a financial partner, with an estimated participation level of about $4 million.

The entire Boxelder project has been estimated to cost about $10.5 million.

Don Taranto of TST Engineering in Fort Collins is the contract engineer for Timnath on the project. He said Timnath’s share in the project still needs to be determined.

“As we look at it right now, we haven’t talked about a number that I’m confident with,” he said, but dismissed a $4 million contribution.

Taranto said he is updating the town board on the project as it develops, adding, “My goal is to have the whole Boxelder situation understood and a decision made by the board before the end of the year.”

Taranto said he would recommend that Timnath not be a full participant but instead have a contractual relationship with the Authority.

Taranto said Timnath could choose to not make a financial contribution to the project and still reap some benefits of upstream flood control. But he said he doubted that would happen.

“If you wanted to simply be a bystander and get some benefit there is an opportunity for that,” he said. “But there is a significantly larger benefit to being involved.”

WELLINGTON – The Boxelder Basin Regional Stormwater Authority is looking at a 300-acre property east of Interstate 25 and a few miles north of Fort Collins as a possible site for temporary water storage for its planned flood control system.

The property, now in irrigated agricultural operations, was among thousands of acres of farm land in Northern Colorado purchased by the city of Thornton in the mid-1980s to gain water rights for future growth.

The Boxelder Authority was formed in 2008 by the town of Wellington, city of Fort Collins and Larimer County to fund and construct improvements to…

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