Greeley awash in water projects

Greeley is awash in water projects — from a new pipeline to stormwater construction — designed to make sure the city has the water it needs for decades to come.

The reservoirs and treatment plants that serve the city are currently up to date, according to water authorities, but Greeley is working on developing long-range water supplies.

“We’re working on water supplies for 2050 and 2060 now. … We’re in an area that’s going to have increasing multiple demands on a finite resource,” said Harold Evans, chairman of the Greeley Water & Sewer Board.

“How we manage that is the challenge — not just for Greeley or Fort Collins, but the state.”

While Greeley isn’t participating in the $500 million Northern Irrigated Supply Project (NISP) water storage effort, the city supports the endeavor because of its importance to the Greeley area’s significant agricultural industry. The project is Northern Colorado’s largest water storage project since the Colorado-Big Thompson Project was finished in 1957.

“If we don’t have storage capacity to get us through drought, the most likely place that water comes from is irrigated agriculture,” Evans said. “The NISP will significantly minimize taking water from agriculture for municipal and industrial use.”

Weld County, including Greeley, has experienced some of the most significant population growth in the state in recent years, and is expected to keep growing, in part because it offers an attractive lifestyle, educational facilities such as the University of Northern Colorado (and close proximity to Colorado State University in Fort Collins), and established agricultural and energy industries. The county is an energy hot bed, of course, with traditional oil and gas companies such as Anadarko Petroleum Corp. as well as cutting-edge clean-tech businesses including Vestas Wind Systems A/S, with its Windsor operations.

Greeley’s population rose nearly 21 percent from 2000 to 2010, to 92,889 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Weld County’s population shot up nearly 40 percent to 252,825 during the same period.

“It goes without saying that Weld County is sitting in a sweet spot. … The City of Greeley has proved it’s open for business, and is doing what it can to maintain existing businesses and attract new ones,” said Sarah MacQuiddy, president of the Greeley Chamber of Commerce.

Major Greeley, and
Northern Colorado,
water projects include:

Bellvue Pipeline — The Greeley Water & Sewer Department has been building the pipeline since 2003, and it’s scheduled for completion in 2013. The 30-mile project, consisting of 60-inch pipe and estimated to cost $22 million, will give the city more high-quality drinking water.

The pipeline, which runs from the Bellvue Water Treatment plant northwest of Fort Collins to Greeley, is about three-quarters finished, and that part is already in service. It supplements the city’s three existing, 27-inch pipelines, and is being paid for by city water ratepayers.

Windy Gap Firming Project — This $270 million venture supplements the Windy Gap water-diversion project, located just west of Granby and completed in 1985. Built by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Northern Water), the original project diverts Colorado River water and pumps it to Lake Granby. Greeley and several other Northern Colorado cities launched the project in 1967, and benefit from its water.

The project, whose final environmental impact statement was released by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in late 2011, involves building the 90,000-acre-foot Chimney Hollow Reservoir southwest of Loveland to increase Windy Gap’s reliability by firming its existing water rights. The reclamation bureau is expected to decide sometime in 2012 if the project will go forward. The effort still needs approvals such as construction and water quality permits before design and construction can start.

Halligan-Seaman Water Management Project — Greeley and Fort Collins are collaborating on this regional water storage and management effort on the North Fork of the Cache la Poudre River, to boost water storage for the cities. The project will increase capacity at the Greeley-owned Milton Seaman Reservoir to 53,000 acre-feet from 5,000 acre-feet when it’s finished in 2030. The capacity of the Halligan Reservoir, owed by Fort Collins, would grow to 22,500 acre-feet from 6,400 acre-feet; the project is scheduled for completion in 2016.

As of 2011, the cities had spent more than $15 million on environmental impact statements, with a final EIS expected in 2014. Greeley also is working on a $1.6 million upgrade of Seaman reservoir hydraulic and mechanical systems at all five gates that control water levels, which were installed in the 1940s.

Stormwater Projects — Greeley has budgeted $4.2 million in 2012 for stormwater runoff control construction and replacement. That work includes the $1.5 million second phase of construction on the 35th Avenue/Best-Way Regional Detention Pond stormwater capture project. Replacement efforts range from upgrading the Belair Storm Drain to ditch repair.

Northern Irrigated Supply Project — The NISP is waiting for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approval of its EIS, which is expected to come this year or in 2013, before it can do anything else. But project developer Northern Water is optimistic the project will get a green light from the Corps. NISP components include the Galeton Reservoir near Greeley, the Glade Reservoir near Fort Collins, two pump plants, water-delivery pipelines and improvements to an existing canal to divert water from the Poudre River. Once the EIS is OK’d, design can continue; construction is estimated to take four to eight years.

“We feel pretty confident the Army will say the project is permitable. … If you don’t build this, we lose 100 square miles of Colorado farmland,” said Brian Werner, Northern Water spokesman.

The project will provide 40,000 acre-feet of new water supply a year. That water will be used for agricultural as well as municipal use by cities such as Evans, Windsor and Eaton; central Weld County; and the Fort Collins and Loveland water districts. Those participants have already spent roughly $11 million on analysis and planning.

The Greeley Chamber of Commerce supports the NISP because it will help the area agricultural economy, a major economic driver. “What happens to your next door neighbors can directly impact you,” said MacQuiddy.