Thornton pipeline plan going to court

City files suit hoping to over turn Larimer County denial

Posted 4/24/19

Thornton is taking their fight to bring water they purchased in 1980 down from Larimer County to the courts, filing a lawsuit against the Larimer County Commissioners. The city filed the lawsuit …

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Thornton pipeline plan going to court

City files suit hoping to over turn Larimer County denial

Posted

Thornton is taking their fight to bring water they purchased in 1980 down from Larimer County to the courts, filing a lawsuit against the Larimer County Commissioners.

The city filed the lawsuit April 16 in Larimer District Court in Fort Collins.

Thornton’s suit claims that the commissioners abused their discretion and exceeded their jurisdiction by turning down the city’s request to build a pipeline. The suit claims that commissioners turned down the pipeline, favoring instead having Thornton put their water back in the Cache La Poudre River and collect downstream from Fort Collins and the city’s own storm and sanitary sewer outflows.

It also claims that the county is denying the city access to water it owns and has rights to claim and then asks for a declaratory judgement, asking the court to either approve one of the top two pipeline plans or require the Board of County Commissioners to approve one of the pipeline plans.

Growing population

The pipeline is meant to bolster the city’s water supply through 2065.

Thornton’s current water supply is able to serve only 158,000 residents, according to estimates. A new water supply is needed to provide for predicted growth up to 242,0000 residents by 2065, according to the executive summary for the permit request submitted by the city of the Thornton.

Thornton began working on the plan in 2016, filing a request for a permit to allow the city to build a pipeline, bringing the water south from Larimer County to Thornton. The water in question has been diverted from the Cache La Poudre River to a reservoir since the 1800s. The city bought water right shares from Water Supply and Storage Company in the mid-1980s but has left the water in the reservoir.

Thornton is seeking a permit under the state’s 1041 process. The 1041 permit process recognizes that one municipal or county entity cannot stop another from gaining access to public utilities but can determine how that access happens within its boundaries. Cities have the right to run power lines, canals or pipelines through a neighboring city but the neighbors have the right to say where the power lines, canals or pipelines can or cannot be built.

The suit notes that Larimer County Planning staff have supported Thornton’s application the entire time.

“Larimer County staff concluded that Thornton `presented a thorough analysis of the proposal and the proposed alignment/corridor,’” the suit reads. “ Larimer County staff concluded that Thornton’s application met all 12 review criteria and recommended that the Board approve the application with 29 conditions.”

Two plans

Thornton’s original plan called for a 48-inch pipeline to run for 26 miles along Larimer County’s Douglas Road and 45 miles in Weld County and would transport 40 million gallons of water per day. The total cost was estimated at $435 million.

Larimer County Commissioners tabled Thornton’s plan in August after multiple meetings and strong backlash from Fort Collins residents and Cache La Poudre backers.

Residents balked at having the pipeline go under Douglas Road, a busy stretch bounded by homes. A second group objected, demanding Thornton put the water back in the river.

The city came back with an updated version last winter with a new route, the more rural County Road 56, that would have avoided residential neighborhoods and busy street.

County Commissioners hosted numerous meetings on the plan, but ultimately voted to deny the application at their Feb. 11 meeting, suggesting the city didn’t adequately consider putting the water back in the river.

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