Thornton warns of looming water shortage that could hamper long-term growth in the northern suburb

Thornton has a goal to one day be a city of 260,000 people, living in thousands of houses and apartment buildings across this sprawling suburb north of Denver.

It owns the water to meet that goal.

But city leaders say they are increasingly frustrated by Larimer County’s unwillingness to let them build a critical pipeline that would carry the water from the Cache La Poudre River near Fort Collins to Thornton — so much so that they have started alerting developers that the city may have to stop issuing building permits.

The new language warns that “the City does not guarantee capacity in its water or wastewater systems for proposed or future developments.”

Among the projects at stake for the state’s 6th largest city is dense multi-family housing planned around new N-Line rail stations that just went operational in September.

That’s frustrating to Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann, who points to the thousands of acre-feet of water the city owns free and clear in the Cache La Poudre River northwest of Fort Collins — water rights it purchased more than three decades ago.

“We have the water — it’s in our plan — and we should be able to get it,” the mayor told The Denver Post last week. “Why is it taking so long to get what’s rightfully ours?”

The answer goes back to February 2019, when the Larimer County commissioners unanimously voted to deny Thornton a permit for a 72-mile-long pipeline the city wants to install to carry that water to this suburb of 140,000. Jeff Coder, Thornton’s deputy city manager of city development, said the denial essentially holds Thornton’s growth plans “hostage.”

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The city has enough water in its portfolio to supply 5,000 additional housing units, he said, or approximately 160,000 residents. The city’s long-term vision is for a population of 240,000 by 2065.

While no builders have pulled out of the city, Coder said, that day may not be far away. Maybe as soon as 2024 or 2025, he said.

“It’s understandably creating a great deal of concern,” he said. “In fairness to those who are making significant investments in our community, we don’t want someone who has gone through the approvals process expecting to get a building permit to have us at the last minute tell them we can’t because of this water issue.”

We want to prepare people for a worst-case scenario.”

But Gary Wockner, who heads the non-profit Save the Poudre, said Thornton is doing nothing more than trying to “foment political chaos” as the pipeline dispute plays out in court.

Thornton’s desire to run a pipe through Larimer County not only does nothing to improve the Poudre River’s health but disrupts those living along the pipeline’s right-of-way.

And residents in Larimer County get none of the water being transported, he said.

“All the benefit would go to Thornton, and all the damage would go to Larimer County,” Wockner said. “What gives them the right to hold Larimer County hostage?”

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver PostEthan Beller fly fishes in the Cache La Poudre river as his dog …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Politics


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