Snake River Water District to invest $38.5 million in infrastructure improvements over next 10 years |

Snake River Water District to invest $38.5 million in infrastructure improvements over next 10 years

The Snake River is pictured in Keystone on Thursday, Aug. 5. The Snake River Water District created a master plan outlining infrastructure improvements to be made in the next 10 years.
Photo from Scott Price / Snake River Water District

The Snake River Water District will undergo a variety of rehabilitation and improvements throughout the next 10 years based on its 2021 master plan.

The district, which provides drinking water to the Keystone valley, underwent a study with an engineering firm to look at its infrastructure’s strengths and weaknesses. The idea to look into infrastructure upgrades started about two years ago when the district was notified it had a slight lead exceedance based on two water samples.

Scott Price, executive director and district administrator, said this occurs not because there is an issue with the actual water, but because pipes in some older homes in the area were built with lead and are still in use. If the water sits in the pipes for too long, it can lead to concentrations of lead in the water samples. Price said the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has to use the water that first comes out when the faucet is turned on when it tests water samples, which will likely be affected by lead if the water sat unused in old pipes.

The district has three base plants, each with its own storage and water filtration system. The second base, which is also home to the district’s office, is likely to need an additional storage tank to serve the high-density area of Keystone Resort, as well as a pump station that can transport water uphill from the third to the second base.

An existing infrastructure issue to address is water pipe breakage, something Price said can cost around 10 times more to fix in the winter than it does in the summer. Engineers looked at which pipes were more likely to break, but also the severity of consequences that can occur from a breakage.

The study prioritized which pipes and fire hydrants in the district would need attention immediately, creating a map showing the different priorities based on each area. The district plans to chip away at these pipe and hydrant upgrades little by little during the 10-year plan.

Meanwhile, the third plant underwent $8.5 million in upgrades a couple years ago, including a new filtration system. Price said he expects this filtration system to be in compliance for decades to come as water quality regulations get tighter over time.

“Everybody’s starting to pay a lot more attention because we’ve taken water for granted for so long, not only the quality but the quantity,” Price said.

The Snake River Water District's new base three water plant is pictured in Keystone on Thursday, Aug. 5. The plant was designed to blend in like a house for surrounding neighborhoods.
Photo from Scott Price / Snake River Water District

Price also said that should the base two plant need upgrades — which he is expecting to get a decision from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment by the end of the year — the whole district will be able to temporarily operate on the new base three plant.

Lastly, the study showed that the district’s Pilot Lode storage tank by the Settlers Creek townhomes will need improvements to its interior lining, as it is around 25 years old and steel constructed.

The study estimates that over 10 years, the district will need about $38.5 million in work, estimated as follows:

  • Pump station from base three to base two: $1.5 million
  • Base two storage tank: $7.6 million
  • Base two groundwater under direct influence compliance: $11.8 million
  • Pilot Lode tank rehabilitation: $550,000
  • Pipeline replacements: $13.5 million
  • Fire hydrant replacements: $1.6 million

On top of these costs there are several smaller projects included in the master plan that account for the remaining $2 million of the budget. These estimates cover only the cost of construction, and the district will need to pay more in the coming months for architects and engineers to design the systems.

The district worked with another consulting firm, this one specializing in financing, to determine a 10-year financing plan to make the restorations possible.

The plan calls for a 12% rate increase at the start of 2022, and the Snake River Water District’s board is currently planning to do 12% increases over the next three years. The base quarterly fee will go from $65 in 2022 to $91 in 2024.

The Snake River Water District hasn’t increased its water rates in about eight years, which was then only a 3% increase. Prior to that, it hadn’t raised its quarterly rates since the 1990s.

“The board has done a good job trying to keep costs down and whatnot, but we probably could have started on some of this a little sooner.” Price said. “So now we’re looking at it and saying if we don’t do it, it’s going to just get worse and it’s going to cost more. We need to bite the bullet and do it now.”

Price said the board will look at its progress after those three years of increases to see if more rate increases will be necessary. The district will also look into federal loans and grants, as well.

“We’re in pretty good shape, but we have a lot of work to do, that’s really what it amounts to,” Price said. “We’re going to try to get as much done as quickly as we can.”

The Snake River is pictured in Keystone on Thursday, Aug. 5.
Photo from Scott Price / Snake River Water District

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