Poudre River: The High Park Fire has caused Fort Collins’ treatment costs to escalate by $1 million

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

After the summer’s fires incinerated large swathes of the Poudre River watershed, tons of ash and debris washed into the river during rainstorms, wreaking havoc with one of Fort Collins’ main sources of drinking water.

Standing on a layer of ash caked on the pebbly shore of the Poudre River, Lisa Voytko, city water production manager, said the High Park Fire could cost Fort Collins Utilities $1 million a year for the next two years just to keep the additional sediment out of the city’s tap water.

The city has a major water diversion operation in Poudre Canyon, the source of about half of the city’s water in most years.

At the Fort Collins-Loveland, North Weld County and East Larimer County water districts’ water intake and diversion dam a few miles upstream of Gateway Natural Area, it’s not hard to understand why the fire might cost the city so much.

A massive layer of ash and debris several feet thick has accumulated behind the dam since the fire. Once it reaches the river, the sediment becomes suspended in the water and ends up in the city’s water intake at Gateway Natural Area…

It’s unknown both how much water will be flowing down the Poudre next spring and, as the drought continues, how much water the city will be allowed to take from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, or C-BT, and Horsetooth Reservoir, Fort Collins water resources engineer Donnie Dustin told City Council on Tuesday.

The city, he said, is looking for ways to increase the amount of C-BT water it has access to, and that means the city may decide not to rent water to farmers, reducing Fort Collins Utilities’ revenue by $700,000 in 2013.

“Restrictions are likely to be implemented early in the spring as a precaution,” he said, adding that farmers that rely on Fort Collins for water are going to hurt next year.

“These conditions could persist for a few years,” he said.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Steven Meyers):

Like a farmer devoted to his crops, Robert Breckenridge is hoping and praying for precipitation. The owner of A1 Wildwater in Fort Collins for the past 31 years, Breckenridge prays for heavy snow to fall in the high country through April. Because, like the ski industry, rafting is a fickle business…

Combine a low snowpack year, a severe drought, and the worst fire Northern Colorado has ever seen, and you wind up with a disaster recipe for the Fort Collins rafting business.

More Poudre River Watershed coverage here.

One Response to Poudre River: The High Park Fire has caused Fort Collins’ treatment costs to escalate by $1 million

  1. […] The High Park Fire burned west of Fort Collins in 2012, and is likely to impact water quality in the Poudre River, the source of water for Fort Collins and several other cities in Northern Colorado, for several years. Indeed, the City of Fort Collins will apparently spend at least $1 million per year on additional treatment in an attempt to deal wit…. […]

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