After 18 years of permitting, decades of design and planning, and three years of federal litigation, construction work on Chimney Hollow Reservoir west of Loveland can begin.
A crowd of those involved in the litigation – from Northern Water and its urban subdivision to the water utilities that will benefit, including the City of Loveland – gathered on land Friday, which is four years from the construction of one of the only asphalt-core dams in the state, fill with water.
They praised how the reservoir will hold 90,000 acres of water and will provide 30,000 acres of water each year to the 12 attendees, which include Loveland, Longmont, Greeley, and Platte River Power Authority, and how it will power Windy Gap’s water supply from one, makes the drought a reliable source. One acre foot is enough to meet the annual needs of three to four urban households.
Numerous speakers spoke about the long, complicated and arduous process of bringing the reservoir from a vision to a reality.
They explained how patience and perseverance paid off, how collaboration and discussion resulted in a project that will secure the water supplies needed, actually benefit the Colorado River with negotiated improvements, and result in a new recreational reservoir in southern Larimer County.
Dennis Yanchunas, president of the Northern Water Municipal Subdistrict, compared the approval, planning, and negotiation process to a maze of twists and turns and unexpected roadblocks.
He spoke of “very many” people who were involved along the way to navigate the bumpy and sometimes unclear path through the labyrinth in order to reach the groundbreaking ceremony.
“It’s exciting,” he said when he got to that point. “For me it’s more than exciting, it’s intoxicating.”
While the concept for the reservoir dates back to the 1950s when the Colorado-Big Thompson Water project was new, the plans go back 25 years and the permits go back to 2003. Now that all permits are in place and the litigation is resolved start construction finished. The crews have started preparing the site for the actual construction of the dam in about a week and a half.
And Aaron Rietveld, vice president of Barnard Construction, the general contractor, promised it would be ready in the four years, adding, “not just in four years, but maybe even less.”
The construction includes one of the first asphalt core dams to be built in Colorado, rising about 100 meters above the valley floor, the tallest dam in Larimer County.
While this technology is common in Europe, it is less common in the United States and involves the use of asphalt to seal the core instead of the clay found in other dams in the region.
And the project team will be mining the rock used for the towering dam right on the reservoir, which Northern Water says will reduce both costs and pollution.
The on-site quarry will be the largest mining operation in Colorado – larger than any known operations in the state – producing 63,000 tons of rock per day for the dam project, said Joe Donnelly, project manager at Northern Water project management for the water utility.
Over the four years, the project will cost an average of $ 600,000 per working day at a cost of $ 500 million, Donnelly said. That doesn’t include an additional $ 150 million to improve the reservoirs and Colorado River on the western slope, from which the Windy Gap water will come via the C-BT infrastructure.
Project participants – Loveland, Longmont, Greeley, Platte River Power Authority, Erie, Little Thompson Water District, Superior, Louisville, Fort Lupton, Lafayette, and Central Weld County Water District – will bear the cost of the project.
For them it is the price to have a reliable source of water for the future of their communities.
And for the Colorado Water Conservation Board, it’s an example of how to ensure critical water supplies, especially in drought years, while improving the environment, conserving water, and creating recreation, said Becky Mitchell, director.
She described the start of construction, the reality of Chimney Hollow, as “more than just this project. Windy Gap created a path, not just for Windy Gap, but for how the state is working with projects to get them done. It set the standard. “
After years of hard work, construction and other work, around 100 people gathered on Friday at the future location of the Chimney Hollow Reservoir, shoveled ceremonial shovels and celebrated not only the road to construction, but also the future.
Jeff Dräger, Engineering Director, who has been working on Chimney Hollow for 25 years, summed it up with a few borrowed but at the right time appropriate words: “Gentleman, start your engine. Let’s get out of here. “