Eagle River Water & Sanitation District issues bonds for wastewater improvements

Vail Colorado via Colorado Department of Tourism
Vail Colorado via Colorado Department of Tourism

Here’s the release from the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District (James Wilkins):

The Eagle River Water & Sanitation District issued $23.3 million of new bonds to fund required improvements to its wastewater treatment system. The bond issuance was authorized in May 2014, when district voters passed a ballot measure (70 percent in favor) approving the new general obligation debt, to be paid back by property tax within the district boundaries.

The mill levy associated with the new debt will begin in 2017, after an existing mill levy expires. According to finance director James Wilkins, the district is paying off a 1998 bond this year. “The mill levy assessed for the ‘98 bonds for the 2015 property taxes, which are paid in 2016 by real property owners within the district’s boundaries, was 0.621 mills,” said Wilkins. “With the new bonds’ annual payment, that mill would drop just a bit – based on last year’s valuations – to 0.619 mills, so it’s a slight tax decrease.” Similar to the mill levy expiring this year, the new one is tied to an annual debt service payment, so the mill levy may fluctuate up or down to generate the exact amount needed each year.

Prior to the 2014 election, the district indicated to the public that the new bond issue’s repayments would be timed with the payoff of the 1998 bond, such that the impact to property taxes would be nominal. “With the payment on the new bonds almost matching the ones paid off this year, the taxes paid to the district for general obligation bonds will be almost identical,” stated Wilkins.

The 2014 ballot language restricted spending of the bond proceeds to capital expenses related to the district wastewater master plan, which was developed to meet newly enacted statewide regulations that limit the discharge of nutrients from wastewater treatment facilities to waterways. That plan is being implemented in phases, with the first large project at the Edwards wastewater treatment facility scheduled for completion this fall.

The current low interest rate environment allowed the district to finance the improvements at an average interest rate of 3 percent. Additionally, due to the current market appetite for high quality municipal bonds, Wilkins said the district received a coupon discount of nearly $2 million, which covered the issuing costs and allowed the district to realize a full $25 million in proceeds.

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services assigned its ‘AA-’ rating to the bonds, noting the district’s “favorable service area economy, extremely strong wealth and very strong income levels, and strong liquidity position” as well as “relatively stable utility operations, strong underlying economy, and favorable debt profile” in its ratings report.

The bond sale closed March 31; Wilkins noted its success was due in part to buyers wanting bonds from well-managed local governments. The proceeds will fund a substantial component of the next phase of the wastewater master plan, which is closely evaluated at each step, so the district meets the nutrient regulations goal of improved stream water quality in a fiscally responsible manner.

For more information, go to http://www.erwsd.org or contact Wilkins at 970-477-5442.

Steep sewer rate hikes clear hurdle at #Denver council but still face questions — The Denver Post

From The Denver Post (Jon Murray):

Double-digit increases in Denver’s storm drainage and sewer fees moved a step closer to reality after the proposal on Tuesday cleared its first vote 9-3 before the full Denver City Council.

But the measure, which would hike the storm drainage and sewer fees over five years, still faces pointed questions from council members before a final vote June 13. The council also has set an hour-long public hearing that night that is sure to draw pointed comments from critics who question the city’s approach, the largest project that would benefit from the fees and its link to the state’s Interstate 70 project through northeast Denver.

Under the proposal, the annual combined bills for an average single-family home would increase by $116 by 2020 to pay in part for six-year project plans and some operating costs. Storm drainage rates would increase 66 percent, while sanitary sewer rates would go up 24 percent. Otherwise, both are pegged to inflation.

“Don’t get me wrong. I’m 100 percent for a $383 million investment into our stormwater enterprise fund and our infrastructure,” Councilman Rafael Espinoza said, given the city’s extensive drainage needs.

But as he worked his way down a list of questions he still had for officials from Denver Public Works and the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District, Espinoza was among council members who focused on whether the controversial Platte to Park Hill project should take up the lion’s share.

Of the total storm drainage projects, $206 million raised through borrowing would go toward that project in northeast Denver, supplementing other sources to cover estimates that range between $267 million and $298 million.

The project, which drew the ire of attendees who wore signs on their shirts saying “NO To Storm Water Fee Increases,” is aimed at improving drainage in basins that lack natural waterways. But opponents have focused on the lack of benefit for some areas while the greatest protection would be closer to I-70, which the Colorado Department of Transportation plans to lower below grade in coming years.

Last year, the city and CDOT struck a cost-sharing agreement that includes state money for the city’s drainage projects, which would supplement the new I-70 drainage system.

Some council members said the connection troubled them. But Robin Kniech portrayed it as the city smartly responding to CDOT’s inevitable request for a contribution to the I-70 project by offering to undertake a needed project that would benefit neighborhoods as well as the highway.

“We have been chronically underfunding this infrastructure,” she said. Jolon Clark, also speaking in favor, noted that the fees proposal doesn’t specify any projects, and those planned by Public Works — including the bonds for the Platte to Park Hill project — will need future approval.

Joining them in voting yes were Kendra Black, Albus Brooks, Stacie Gilmore, Chris Herndon, Mary Beth Susman, Debbie Ortega and Wayne New — the final two characterizing their votes as tentative until after the public hearing. Espinoza, Kevin Flynn and Paul Kashmann voted no, and Paul Lopez was absent.

Storm drain and open channel improvements between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and the South Platte River (Globeville Landing Outfall), Stormwater detention/conveyance between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and Colorado Blvd, (Montclair Basin) Stormwater detention/ conveyance immediately east of Colorado Blvd. (Park Hill Basin).
Storm drain and open channel improvements between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and the South Platte River (Globeville Landing Outfall), Stormwater detention/conveyance between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and Colorado Blvd, (Montclair Basin)
Stormwater detention/ conveyance immediately east of Colorado Blvd. (Park Hill Basin).

EPA awards $1.9 million to #Colorado School of Mines for water infrastructure research

Photo via Greg Hobbs
Photo via Greg Hobbs

Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency (Lisa McClain-Vanderpool, Cathy Milbourn, Karen Gilbert):

[On May 4, 2016] the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $3.9 million in funding to two institutions to research innovative, cost-effective technologies to manage stormwater runoff and combined sewer overflows. Colorado School of Mines received $1.95M to develop a decision support tool to help communities evaluate alternative stormwater treatment technologies that consider diverse climates, regional practices and policies across the country. The tool will evaluate options and risks as well as life cycle costs associated with improving stormwater runoff management using green, gray and hybrid infrastructure. Colorado School of Mines will also create resources and hold workshops to conduct training sessions for these tools.

“EPA has done extensive research on green infrastructure to ensure the availability and quality of water in the United States,” said Thomas A. Burke, EPA Science Advisor and Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “These grants will take this work a step further by developing green infrastructure technologies and providing an understanding of the full costs of using these new technologies over time.”

As water flows through storm drains, it carries many pollutants that end up in streams, rivers, ponds, lakes and oceans. Additionally, combined sewers carry sewage and stormwater runoff in the same pipe and when these exceed capacity, untreated water can be released into nearby waterways. Using the funding provided through these grants, researchers will produce tools and models to help communities evaluate the optimal mix of technologies that will treat stormwater with less energy, less expense and less burden on the environment. They will also research the possibility of reusing the cleaner water to help meet communities’ needs.

“Our decision support tool will help advance urban water management across the U.S. through integration of new green infrastructure technologies and by allowing decision makers to have access to state-of-the art tools, data sources and life cycle information” said Professor Terri Hogue, lead investigator at Colorado School of Mines.

Due to aging water infrastructure systems and regulatory requirements, stormwater management is an expensive challenge for many communities. The awardees will focus on the most cost-effective options like green infrastructure, practices that enhance natural ecological functions, such as growing gardens on roofs or building artificial ponds, to help manage stormwater and combined sewer overflows. Green infrastructure can replenish groundwater, provide flood control, add green spaces and parks, and revitalize neighborhoods.

The Water Environment Research Foundation in Alexandria, Virginia Also received $1.9 million to develop a life cycle cost and analysis framework, a publically accessible tool and database and a guide for decision makers that includes case studies.

To learn more about these awards recipients, visit http://www.epa.gov/research-grants/water-research-grants.

CMC Edwards: May 16 State of the River Public Meeting

Eagle River
Eagle River

From the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District (Click through for the agenda):

Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, in partnership with the Colorado River District and the Eagle River Watershed Council, is hosting the Eagle River Valley State of the River community meeting, Monday, May 16, at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards.

All members of the public are invited to hear about issues that affect Gore Creek, the Eagle River, the Colorado River, Western Colorado’s changing climate, local water supply, and streamflow and runoff projections. A reception with food and soft drinks will be held at 5:15 p.m., with presentations scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

For more information, contact Diane Johnson, Communications and Public Affairs Manager, at 970-477-5457.

Snowmass approves tax increase for sewer plant overhaul — The Aspen Times

Wastewater Treatment Process
Wastewater Treatment Process

From The Aspen Times:

Snowmass Village water district residents approved a tax increase to pay for a new wastewater treatment plant Tuesday.

Four hundred twenty-eight residents voted in favor of the mill levy increase that will cover the almost $20 million cost of the project, according to unofficial results from Tuesday’s election.

The increase means property owners in the district will pay an additional $1.89 per $100,000 of assessed property value each month. The water district is required to overhaul its wastewater treatment facility in order to comply with new standards handed down by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Sixty-nine residents voted against ballot measure 5A. All residents of the district, including rental tenants, who are registered to vote could participate in the election as well as any property owners or their spouses who are registered to vote in the state of Colorado.

Snowmass Villagers also elected Shawn Gleason and David Spence to fill two vacancies on the district’s board.

Denver: Big bump in storm and sanitary sewer rates in the works

unionstationdenver04212016

From The Denver Post (Jon Murray):

Denver homeowners on average would pay $116 more in storm drainage and sewer fees over the next five years under a rate increase proposal that city officials will unveil this week.

The proposed rates, which would accelerate already scheduled automatic increases based on inflation, would bolster city plans for upgrades and projects through 2021 for the storm and sanitary sewer systems. Those aim to improve storm drainage, reduce flood risk and improve the quality of water discharged into the South Platte River. For the sanitary system that connects to homes and buildings, plans call for more maintenance and expansion of aging sewer pipes in several areas.

Storm drain and open channel improvements between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and the South Platte River (Globeville Landing Outfall), Stormwater detention/conveyance between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and Colorado Blvd, (Montclair Basin) Stormwater detention/ conveyance immediately east of Colorado Blvd. (Park Hill Basin).
Storm drain and open channel improvements between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and the South Platte River (Globeville Landing Outfall), Stormwater detention/conveyance between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and Colorado Blvd, (Montclair Basin)
Stormwater detention/ conveyance immediately east of Colorado Blvd. (Park Hill Basin).

A big controversial project also is in the mix. About a quarter of the rate increases would help cover costs for northeast Denver’s “Platte to Park Hill” stormwater drainage projects, which have drawn opposition in part because of links to the planned Interstate 70 expansion and plans to regrade City Park Golf Course for stormwater detention.

Overall, storm drainage rates, which are billed annually by the city, would increase nearly 66 percent through 2020 — or 45 percent after annual inflation adjustments are taken into account.

The sanitary sewer rates that Denver Water customers pay monthly would increase 24 percent in that period. On top of the inflation adjustments, the new increase would amount to 8.6 percent.

Though Denver Public Works’ increase proposal was expected, the details were revealed this week for the first time in advance of a planned Wednesday presentation to the City Council’s Infrastructure and Culture Committee.

The proposal could advance to a final vote by the full council as early as May 23.

With the city facing an estimated $1.5 billion backlog in upgrades to stormwater pipes and an aging sewer system, Denver city officials portray the increases as necessary to step up progress.

“Just like so many other things in our city, we have huge infrastructure needs that are incredibly expensive,” said Councilman Jolon Clark, who chairs the infrastructure committee. “And we don’t have a way to pay for them,” requiring balanced plans.

If the rate increases win council approval, the money available each year for storm drainage system improvement and water quality projects would grow from $20 million to $30 million. For sanitary sewers, the city says the rate increase would boost annual spending for maintenance and new projects from $2.5 million to $8 million.

Public Works spokeswoman Nancy Kuhn said the sanitary increase also would help the city “keep pace with increasing water treatment costs, update aging infrastructure and prepare the system for the city’s future expected population growth.”

Among the proposal’s major upshots:

• Sanitary sewer fee proceeds would grow from $86 million a year to $104 million in 2020.

• The total annual storm drainage fees generated would grow from $41 million before the increase to nearly $69 million by 2020.

• The fee increases would enable borrowing of up to $206 million for the Platte to Park Hill projects, completing a funding puzzle estimated at $267 million to $298 million in scope.

But the proposal would hit homeowners and businesses in the wallet as the city ratchets up both the storm drainage and sanitary sewer rates each year through 2020, starting in July. Subsequent increases would hit each January, starting in 2017.

The annual increase for an average single-family home, which paid $320.28 last year, would range from $21.56 this year to $25 in 2020, city estimates show.

A study provided by the city says that current average combined bill is about $100 less than the average for a selection of other Front Range systems and large cities around the state. Denver’s estimated combined bill in 2020 would rate slightly above today’s average.

Clark said he probed planned water-quality improvements during a briefing he received on the proposal. In 17 years of working for The Greenway Foundation, he focused heavily on the Platte, which at times has measured E. coli bacteria levels exceeding safety standards. Other contaminants, including trash, also have been a problem.

“I think this plan will have marked improvements on water quality in our streams and rivers,” Clark said. “And it’s a really good start, but this isn’t the end of the conversation on water quality.”

Besides the automatic inflation adjustments, the city most recently increased sanitary sewer rates a cumulative 83 percent from 2011 through 2013. The storm drainage rate was increased 20 percent in 2011.

A presentation prepared for the council committee says the city could aid ratepayers by asking Denver Water to add the storm drainage fee — now billed annually — to water customers’ bills, on a monthly or quarterly basis. The storm fee factors in a lot’s size and the amount of impermeable surface area.

Officials also are exploring “potential affordability program options” to aid low-income households.

Erie refinancing water, wastewater debt to save town funds — Broomfield Enterprise

Squeezing money
Squeezing money

From The Broomfield Enterprise (Anthony Hahn):

Anticipated growth has been largely responsible for Erie’s debt, the highest among the east Boulder County communities, which also include Lafayette, Louisville and Superior.

In a series of decisions made by former trustees in an effort to grow the population, the town accumulated roughly $100 million in bonded debt between 2004 and 2010.

The bulk of that debt is sunk into water and wastewater infrastructure and treatment facilities, taken on in installments over the past 11 years, a period that also has seen Erie leaders repeatedly commit to residential development.

Now, the town is trying to cut down on that margin.

During Tuesday’s Board of Trustees meeting, council members approved an ordinance authorizing the issuance and sale of the town’s wastewater enterprise revenue refunding bonds in the approximate amount of $17.8 million.

Erie is refunding certain Wastewater Revenue Bonds, issued to finance the construction of the North Water Reclamation Facility in order to reduce the interest costs of its revenue bonds.

The refinancing is projected to save the town roughly $1.9 million in interest costs over the life of the bonds, a savings of approximately 6 percent. Furthermore, annual debt service savings are projected to range from $119,000 to $226,000…

The majority of debt in the town of about 22,000 is related to water and wastewater projects needed to accommodate a projected build-out population of 65,526 by 2055, according to the town’s 2005 Comprehensive Plan.

“Town boards embarked on a program to plan for, then encourage, then accommodate all that growth,” Krieger said last year. “Our specific challenge now is to manage our resources and services and retire our debt, which we’re doing. Second, we need to diversify our revenue base.”

The town might be growing at a slower pace than anticipated by previous officials, but Erie’s population still jumped 79 percent from 2000 to 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In anticipation of the population boom, Erie acquired about $76.4 million in debt for water-related bonds — about 78 percent of the town’s total debt.

Despite concerns early on about Erie’s debt, officials have said the town’s finances were strong following the trustees’ review of the 2016 budget proposal…

“The fact is that the town is rather effectively servicing our debt and three times in the last year Moody’s and S&P increased our credit rating,” [Diehl] said. “They’ve done so in recognition of our efforts to manage our finances and as an indication that the town’s financial outlook is strong.”