To Support A Swelling Population, Thornton Sues Larimer County Over Water

April 18, 2019
Photo: Poudre River, Northern Colorado
The Poudre River would supply water to Glade Reservoir, one of two reservoirs proposed under the Northern Integrated Supply Project.

The city of Thornton filed a lawsuit this week against the Larimer County commissioners over a water pipeline proposal the commissioners rejected in February.

The city wants to build a pumping facility and a 75-mile pipeline from the Poudre River to the Denver suburb. Like much of the Front Range, its population has exploded during the last 20 years.

In 1998, when the city got preliminary approval for the plan from a state court, Thornton had about half the population it does now.

The suit says its now-about 139,000 residents will soon need more drinking water than the city can currently deliver.

City attorneys are asking the Larimer County District Court to overturn the Board of County Commissioners' decision and either approve the project outright or require that the commissioners approve an alternate pipeline route.

The county rejected the plan because of the $450 million project's potential impact on public health and safety as well as environmental concerns, according to the permit decision document, though the lawsuit claims Larimer County staff recommended approval.

The proposed pipeline would pump water from the Poudre River west of Fort Collins and move it through Fort Collins to the Larimer-Weld County line and then south to Thornton. The city has suggested three other route options for the commissioners to consider.

The decision cites concerns from residents adjacent to the route that the project could limit access to their neighborhoods and delay emergency services.

The proposed route also runs under wetlands. Commissioners determined the plan could negatively affect wildlife species of concern and disrupt nesting birds. They were not convinced the plan’s mitigation efforts were adequate.

Thornton said the county exceeded its jurisdiction and disregarded state law by rejecting their permit application. Thornton also calls the board’s denial as “arbitrary and capricious because its findings lack competent evidence.”

The county commissioners did not return calls for comment.

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