#ColoradoRiver: Windy Gap Firming Project update #COriver

Site of Chimney Hollow Reservoir via Northern Water.
Site of Chimney Hollow Reservoir via Northern Water.

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

“Chimney Hollow dam will be the tallest one constructed in Colorado in the last 50 years,” said Don Mongomery, the principal engineer who will design the reservoir project, drawing on experience from dams around the globe.

“It will be in the order of 360 feet tall,” he said, with a crest estimated at 3,500 feet long.

Final design of Chimney Hollow will pare down the specific height and construction details for the dam, spillway, pipeline and inlets that will allow Northern Water to store as much as 90,000 acre-feet of Windy Gap Firming Project water.

Northern Water, the agency coordinating the project, recently hired the Broomfield-based MWH Global with an $11.9 million contract for engineering and design. Montgomery, who was raised and went to college in Boulder and Larimer counties, is leading that process.

He said he is excited to use the skills he has honed worldwide, working on projects on the Panama Canal and in Peru among other locations, in his home state to build a reservoir that will provide recreation that he, among many others, enjoys with his family.

“To be able to bring that home is pretty amazing,” said Montgomery. “To be able to help my community is pretty exciting. Once they’re done, they become these great resources to the community.”

Chimney Hollow Reservoir is expected to be completed by 2021 to begin storing water for 13 participants including Loveland, Longmont and the Little Thompson Water District. And it will become a new recreation area managed by the Larimer County Department of Natural Resources.

The reservoir and surrounding park will be located west of Loveland near Carter Lake, Flatiron Reservoir and Pinewood Reservoir, which are all managed by Northern Water for water storage and by Larimer County for recreation.

Specific recreation plans are still in the works, but Larimer County Department of Natural Resources officials are looking at a mix of camping, hiking and non-motorized boating, including paddle boats and sail boats. Campsites reachable only by boat also are in the initial plans.

The design of Chimney Hollow should take about two years and will include determining the best type of structure to be built, whether it will have a clay core made from materials on site, a concrete face or an asphalt core, noted Montgomery. This will be determined by drilling, sampling and studying the area.

The process will fine-tune the construction details and the costs as well as the exact height of the dam at Chimney Hollow. It will, however, be around 360 feet tall, which will make it the tallest in Larimer County,.

Construction of Chimney Hollow will be the biggest reservoir project in Larimer County in about six decades.

Northern Water began applying for permits in 2003, and the federal government approved the project in December 2014. Since then, the water district has been working on the rest of its needed permits. All that is left is a federal wetlands permit, which Werner expects to be approved this year.

“This is the very last piece in the puzzle,” said Werner. “At this point, there’s nothing else. No other permits, no other agreements that we have to do. We’ve done it all.”

Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.
Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.

#ColoradoRiver: The latest “e-Waternews” is hot off the presses from Northern Water #COriver

Graph showing historical total active storage for Sept. 1. The green line indicates average storage, which is 492,333 AF via Northern Water.
Graph showing historical total active storage for Sept. 1. The green line indicates average storage, which is 492,333 AF via Northern Water.

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

C-BT Project Update
Going into September, C-BT Project storage continued to be above average. On Sept. 1, 2016, total active storage was 619,418 acre-feet, which is approximately 128,000 AF above average for this time of year.

For the 2016 water year, 142,579 AF has been delivered with 42 percent of the deliveries 0 from Carter Lake and 49 percent from Horsetooth Reservoir. The remaining nine percent is delivered from the Big Thompson River and the Hansen Feeder Canal.

Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water
Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

Longmont councillors want rate payers to weigh in on paying for Windy Gap supply

Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.
Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.

From the Longmont Times-Call (Karen Antonucci):

The Longmont City Council has opted to participate in the Windy Gap Firming Project, which would construct a reservoir in order to hold some of the water produced by Longmont’s water rights.

There are three options to finance Longmont’s projected $47 million portion of the Windy Gap Firming Project — one using all cash and two using variations of debt.

If the council chooses to pay the $47 million in cash, it would mean initial water rate increases of 13 percent in 2017 and 12 percent in 2018, above the 9 percent increase in both of those years that has already been approved, for totals of 22 percent and 21 percent.

Or, the council could choose to use $41 million cash and $6 million in debt. This would mean initial rate increases of 8 percent in both 2017 and 2018 above the already approved 9 percent increase in those years. With this option, the city would spend $50.1 million total, including interest, on the project.

Finally, the council could choose to finance the project with $30.3 million in cash and $16.7 million of debt, it would mean initiative water rate increases of 5 percent in both 2018 and 2019 above the 9 percent increase in both those years. This option would ultimately cost the city $55.8 million.

For the cash option and the $6 million debt option, the rate increases over 10 years would be similar. The $16.7 million debt option would result in the highest total rate increase over a decade.

Longmont spokeswoman Holly Milne said that the council asked for the survey and the online comment form because they wanted resident feedback before they make a decision.

Residents can visit http://longmontcolorado.gov/departments/departments-n-z/water/water-resources-supply/windy-gap-firming-project and fill out an online form with their opinion of what the city should do.

The city is also surveying 3,000 randomly selected Longmont households with a postcard survey. The households chosen will be different than the households that will receive the city’s separate customer satisfaction survey.

Larimer pays $8.4 million for farm, water rights — Loveland Reporter-Herald

Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities
Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities

Here’s the release from Larimer County (Kerri Rollins):

Larimer County Department of Natural Resources purchased a 211-acre farm southwest of Berthoud, along with its valuable water rights. The deal closed Monday, August 8.

Using Help Preserve Open Spaces sales and use tax dollars, Larimer County Department of Natural Resources purchased the property, known previously as the Malchow Farm, to conserve its agricultural, historic, scenic, community buffer and educational values. General public access is not permitted at this time. Larimer County plans to continue leasing the property as an active agricultural farming operation.

The Town of Berthoud provided $100,000 to Larimer County to help purchase the farm, which will also help leverage a potential Great Outdoors Colorado funding request being submitted later this month.

“We’re excited to acquire this farm and its myriad of conservation values,” said Gary Buffington, director of Larimer County Department of Natural Resources. “The property helps us further our mission to conserve working lands and foster an appreciation for our agricultural heritage in Larimer County.”

This property is located one mile southwest of Berthoud, just north of the Little Thompson River and adjacent to U.S. 287 on the highway’s west side. It consists of high-quality agricultural soils, with approximately 188 irrigated, 18 pasture and 5 farmstead acres. Located just north of the Larimer-Boulder county line, the property serves as a gateway to Larimer County and a doorstep to the town of Berthoud, with sweeping views of Longs Peak and the Front Range. The property contains several historic features, including a pioneer gravesite, beet shack and a big red barn that can be seen for miles. The Overland Trail once crossed the property.

The property, infrastructure and minerals were purchased along with the valuable water rights, including 240 units of Colorado-Big Thompson, or C-BT, water, 16 shares of Handy Ditch native water rights and 20 shares in Dry Creek Lateral Ditch.

Larimer County is actively seeking partners to engage in a water sharing agreement on this property that will provide partnership funds toward the purchase of the water, keep the farm in active production and allow water partners to share some of the water in drought years. This water sharing agreement, known as an Alternative Transfer Mechanism, or ATM, is a cooperative solution encouraged by the Colorado Water Plan to share water across uses without permanently drying up high-quality working farms, such as this farm near Berthoud.

Larimer County has developed a stewardship plan for the property and will develop a full management plan with public input within the next several years. The property was purchased from the Malchow family, but an official name for the property, now that it’s a Larimer County open space, will be chosen at a later date. Public tours of the property are planned for later this year.

For additional information, contact Kerri Rollins, Open Lands Program manager, at (970) 619-4577.

From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

Larimer County now officially owns the 211-acre Malchow farm south of Berthoud and its associated water rights — a unique agreement that includes a water sharing component.

The $8.4 million sale from the Malchow family to the Department of Natural Resources closed Monday.

The county bought the property to conserve its agricultural, historic and scenic values and plans to continue leasing the fields as an active farm.

One unique aspect of the sale was that the county also bought the water rights, including 240 units of Colorado-Big Thompson water, with the intention of entering into a water sharing agreement.

Under such an agreement, the farm may vary its crops over several years, so in drought years, some of the irrigation water can be sold.

This allows the farm to stay in production for the long-term and is an arrangement encouraged by the Colorado Water Plan.

The farm is located along U.S. 287 one mile southwest of Berthoud, and along with rich farmland, it includes historic buildings and a pioneer grave site believed to be tied to the Overland Trail, which once crossed the property…

The farm will not immediately be open for public access. However, a management plan that will be developed within the next few years could include an educational component in which the farm may be used to teach the public about agriculture.

The town of Berthoud pitched in $100,000 toward the purchase of the property, and Larimer County will be applying for a Great Outdoors Colorado grant to help with the cost.

Longmont councillors weighing cash v. debt for Windy Gap participation

Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.
Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.

From the Longmont Times-Call (Karen Antonacci):

The Longmont City Council on Tuesday will make several high-level decisions on how to finance the Windy Gap Firming Project.

In March, the council opted for the costlier 10,000 acre-foot level of the $387.36 million project, which would bring the pricetag for Longmont up to about $47 million. In April, the council directed they would prefer to pay with cash rather than debt for the $47 million, which would save money in the long-term but mean steep rate hikes in the short-term.

Now, staff has come back with a third option — a mix of cash and debt financing.

The council has already approved and codified raises to rates of 9 percent in both 2017 and 2018. If the council chose to finance the complete $47 million through rate increases, rates would need to rise 21 percent in 2017 and 22 percent in 2018, staff wrote to council in a memo.

But, raising rates is a little unpredictable for staff, because people might use less water in order to save money. While that helps with the city’s water conservation goals, it could make financing a huge project like Windy Gap tough.

“What we do know is that if we have a rate increase, it dampens consumption because people do react to an increased cost. What we’ve seen over time is that initial reaction tends to go away over time,” said Dale Rademacher, general manager of Longmont public resources and natural works…

By contrast, if Longmont chose to finance the $47 million project with $16.7 million in bonds, rates would not increase beyond the planned 9 percent in 2017 and then by 14 percent in 2018 and another 14 percent in 2019. The downside to debt is that it costs more in the long-term.

At a projected 4.25 percent interest rate, bonding out $16.7 million would cost the city $55.75 million over 20 years.

In the middle, staff has proposed bonding out only $6 million of the cost and financing the rest through rate increases.

This option would mean rate increases of 17 percent each in 2017 and 2018, between the two extremes of 21 percent with all cash and 9 percent with the higher debt option.

Rademacher said council could choose to bond out $6 million of the cost without a vote of the public…

Council on Tuesday needs to decide which financing option they want, and by extension, how much rates should raise in 2017.

Rademacher said all the rate raises are projected to happen by January 1, 2017 and if a major bonding issue needed to go to the ballot, staff are projecting to put it in front of voters in November, 2017.

Council could also decide to wait on the financing decision and get more public feedback on the issue. While there were questions related to Windy Gap on the regular Longmont resident survey, staff decided to remove those questions and ask council about a more specific survey.

National Research Center submitted a bid in order to survey Longmont residents about whether they would prefer to pay cash or debt for Windy Gap. To do an online-only survey would cost $3,440. To mail out a survey to randomly selected households would cost between $5,130 and $11,850 depending if NRC targeted 800, 1,500 or 3,000 households.

Broomfield purchases 120 shares of water for $3.24 million — The Broomfield Enterprise

Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities
Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities

From The Broomfield enterprise (Danika Worthington):

The auction room was packed with bidders, but only 13 — including the City and County of Broomfield — emerged from the Larimer County Fairgrounds with a piece of the Reynolds portfolio. Municipalities, developers and farmers all grabbed some units of Colorado-Big Thompson water, while developers and growers signed deals for land.

The auction was of high interest, given the land’s location in the path of northern Front Range development and the large amount of water attached to it.

Although the numbers are still preliminary, Hall and Hall Auctions partner Scott Shuman said 276 CB-T units brought in the largest chunk of money, about $7.6 million or an average of $27,356 each. The CB-T units, already trading for high sums, were expected to be the most pricey given their scarcity and the ability to use the water for uses such as agriculture, development and industrial processes, including oil and gas extraction.

According to Pat Soderberg, finance director for Broomfield, the city and county placed a bid for 120 shares at $26,000 per share, plus a 4 percent processing fee.

That puts Broomfield’s purchase at $3.24 million, with a 10 percent down-payment of $324,480. The balance will be paid at closing, Soderberg said.

But on a per-share basis, the 15.75 Highland Ditch shares stole the show, averaging $148,900 each for an estimated total of $2.3 million. All the shares were sold to farmers or investors.

Although CB-T water got most of the attention prior to the auction, Shuman said the ditch shares provide more acre-feet of water than CB-T and are not limited to a specific geography. CB-T water, which is conveyed from the headwaters of the Colorado River near Grand Lake, can be used only within the boundaries of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

Loveland: City Council to consider buying more water Windy Gap storage, Tuesday, August 2

Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.
Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Saja Hindi):

City of Loveland staff members will ask for approval from the Loveland City Council Tuesday to buy up to an additional 3,000 acre-feet of storage space in the Windy Gap Firming Project.

The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. in the municipal building at 500 E. Third St…

The city of Loveland already has 7,000 acre-feet of storage committed in the project and has an immediate opportunity to buy 2,000 more, each 1,000 requiring an immediate payment of $159,851 to Northern Water, according to a council memo.

City staff members are bringing a resolution to council members to ask that they be allowed to purchase up to 3,000 acre-feet because council members previously expressed interest in bumping the city’s storage to 10,000 acre-feet, the memo stated.

“Modeling indicates that this storage acquisition would increase the City’s overall firm yield value, available during drought conditions, by 500 acre-feet,” the memo stated.

The city’s estimated costs for the 7,000 acre-feet is $32,866,434, $2,084,608 of which has already been paid, according to the memo. Adding the 2,000 acre-feet would make the city’s estimated payment costs $42,136,434. An additional 1,000 acre-feet would be another $4,635,000 in costs.

Staff members are seeking new resolutions to obtain the 10,000 acre-feet because the ones passed in 2008 were for lesser amounts.

The Loveland Utilities Commission unanimously approved the resolution being recommended to City Council.