Negotiations that would have allowed the city of Thornton to use Greeley’s water infrastructure to move water from a reservoir northwest of Fort Collins through Larimer County ended soon after they began in 2019, with a bilateral non-disclosure agreement between the two municipalities expiring in May 2021.
An NDA to discuss a possible deal was approved by both city councils in May 2019 but included a two-year expiration, which passed without renewal, according to officials with both cities.
Such a deal effectively would have enabled Thornton to bypass any regulatory approval needed from Larimer County for a proposed 12-mile stretch of pipeline that Thornton seeks to build. Instead, Thornton would have used Greeley’s existing pipeline infrastructure to move the water to Windsor, then use a new pipeline that would stretch from Windsor to Thornton.
Thornton obtained water rights in Northern Colorado decades ago and has proposed building a 74-mile water pipeline to carry the water from a Water Supply and Storage Co. reservoir northwest of Fort Collins all the way to Thornton. The pipeline would stretch through 12 miles of unincorporated Larimer County, 34 miles of unincorporated Weld County, and five miles of unincorporated Adams County, with the rest going through municipalities.
Weld County in May denied a special-use permit for its stretch of the pipeline, but that denial was overturned by the city of Thornton in June.
But the Larimer County portion remains problematic for Thornton. The Larimer County board of commissioners denied Thornton’s application in February 2019, arguing that the pipeline failed to meet several criteria for approval. Thornton sued Larimer County in Larimer District Court, with Judge Stephen Jouard upholding Larimer County’s denial of the permit in February 2021.
Thornton has since appealed that ruling.
Even before Larimer County’s rejection of the permit, Greeley and Thornton had begun discussing possible use of Greeley’s pipeline infrastructure to move the water through Larimer County, with both sides approving the NDA to further discussions.
“The city of Thornton seeks to engage the city of Greeley in preliminary discussions related to the conveyance options for the Thornton Water Project (“TWP”),” according to a summary provided to the Greeley City Council in May 2019. “… Recently, Thornton’s 1041 application to Larimer County was denied. Thornton has expressed interest in exploring use of capacity in Greeley’s existing transmission pipelines for the TWP. Greeley is open to such conversation provided that benefits to Greeley’s ratepayers and to the Poudre River can be ensured.”
Todd Barnes, a spokesman for the city of Thornton, said the city at the time was exploring options to get its water through Larimer County.
“We did this, in researching any way possible to get our water out of Larimer County, that’s how we engaged with Greeley,” Barnes said….