Breckenridge could start construction on a new water plant along the Blue River in as soon as three years. But first, the town wants your input.
The public is invited to attend four forums to learn about the construction of the town’s second water plant and give comments. The forums will be April 23 and 28, at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. both days, at the Breckenridge Police Station.
“This is the master plan for the next 25 to 30 years,” said town manager Tim Gagen.
At the forums, town officials will explain the projected cost of the plant and upgrades to the water system.
The first phase of the project includes building the plant, pumps and plumbing to get the water integrated with the current system, he said, which should cost about $25 million to $30 million dollars. The plant itself should cost about $10 million, which Gagen called reasonable. The expensive part, he said, will be pumping water a couple miles into town, against gravity.
Phase two includes extending lines into areas outside the town limits not currently serviced, which Gagen said could cost more than $40 million but would only be built if and when people want that service.
Customers living outside the town limits use private wells that have a high likelihood of failure and need equipment replacements after 15 or 20 years. And before this project, he said, if those people wanted water service, the town had to annex their land.
People in those areas have called about extending service to their neighborhoods, Gagen said, not to feed their homes, but to feed water hydrants on the street. That would help with wildfire protection and lower their insurance rates.
“They would have to pay for it,” he said about the phase two extensions. “It wouldn’t be built by the current customers.”
Gagen said he expects questions at the forums about the plant’s locations and the impact on the Blue River.
As far as where the new plant will go, officials know the water will be drawn from the river just north of Swan Mountain Road.
The town hasn’t decided yet on the plant’s exact location, but it will be north of town for several reasons.
Putting it north of town, closer to Dillon Reservoir, means the plant would leave water in the Breckenridge part of the Blue River in town, which he said is better for the health of the river and doesn’t counteract the restoration work done there in the last few decades.
A site north of town also is better for water rights issues, as the Upper Blue Sanitation District has some rights in town.
And the water quantity and quality is better closer to the lake, Gagen said, with lower concentrations of heavy metals leftover from mining.
Gagen said the town looked at putting the plant closer to the original one, south of town, but that wouldn’t solve the problem of insecurity in the system in case of mechanical failure.
Unlike the water systems in Silverthorne and Dillon, which are interconnected in case one of the towns has an emergency, “We’re a standalone system,” Gagen said. “We don’t have a backup.”
“And” he added, “our biggest fear quite honestly is fire.”
Erosion from fire affects the cost to treat water. A second plant would give the utility time for repairs and cleanup.
So although the whole project will cost more because of the location farther north, he said, the town will “trade additional costs for other positives we think will be beneficial to the community in the long-run.”
The Water System Study
A task force established in 2011 to consider issues surrounding the town’s water system found that the supply to the existing Gary Roberts Water Treatment Plant would be very low in an extreme drought, leading to shortages. And though the town has made improvements in water conservation and management efficiency, the current water plant (which was constructed beginning in 1972) is nearing 80 percent capacity.
A study of the town’s water system by Sarah C. Clark, an engineer in Denver, was completed and presented to the town council in January.
The study strongly recommends the construction of a three-MGD (million gallons per day) plant to meet future population demands and provide more service to the homes and lots near the existing water system’s boundaries.
In the event of a wildfire or another environmental disaster or a mechanical malfunction of the current plant, a second water plant would provide a critical back-up system.
The study also noted that the current Breckenridge system supplies high-quality drinking water at a low cost to customers compared to other Colorado communities. The new plant will require increases in the user fees which will be shared by current and future customers.
Besides increasing water rates and fees, Gagen said the town is looking at a list of potential revenue streams, including about $8 million the utility has saved for improvements, grants and funding from partners like the county.
Debt will be the most important element of the financing, he said, helping to spread the cost over about 30 years “so no one generation of people is suffering the cost of paying for the whole thing.”
For now, the town is in the process of gathering public input and meeting with Summit County government and Upper Blue Sanitation District officials.
Then the town will start modifying water rates to fit the new plant, and after three or four years of the design and approval process, it will start construction.
The study is available online at www.townofbreckenridge.com, and the town council urges the public to review it before the public forums.