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Throughout the history of the American West, water issues have shown their ability to both unite and divide communities. As an imbalance between water supplies and demands grows in the region, KUNC is committed to covering the stories that emerge. Reporter Luke Runyon heads up our water beat, covering the Colorado River, snowpack and areas dependent on scarce water resources. We also partner with news organizations throughout the southwest to fully cover water issues in the sprawling Colorado River basin.

Greeley City Council Passes Terry Ranch Project

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Luke Runyon, KUNC
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A capped well at Terry Ranch on the Colorado-Wyoming border. The 1.2 million acre-foot aquifer under the ranch is on a path to being tapped to supply Greeley's future growth.

Greeley city council has voted in favor of acquiring a large aquifer on the Colorado-Wyoming border to supply future growth in times of drought.

The Terry Ranch project earned unanimous support from council members during a meeting Tuesday evening. The project emerged as an alternative to expanding the city’s existing Seaman Reservoir along the North Fork of the Poudre River.

Greeley mayor John Gates said the aquifer project is the cheaper, more environmentally friendly option.

“In the final analysis I found the due diligence to be extremely thorough, which lacked any fatal flaws. If there had been any fatal flaws, I can’t speak for council, but I would’ve punted this project right down the road,” Gates said.

Wingfoot Water Resources, a private investment group, is trading the aquifer for water credits it can sell to developers interested in building within Greeley’s city limits. The company is also providing Greeley with $125 million in financing to build the infrastructure needed to tap into the aquifer.

The total build-out is estimated to cost upwards of $318 million, and could take 15 years or more to fully construct. Pipelines, pump stations and an onsite treatment facility are all in planning stages.

Concerns about uranium in the groundwater were raised by Save Greeley’s Water, a citizens group opposed to the project. The group also pointed to the proximity of Fort Collins’ biosolids disposal site, Spring Meadow Ranch, as a concern. City water officials say uranium, and any other potential contaminants, will be treated before the water is delivered to customers.

City council members voted on two measures to make the deal possible. They approved a resolution directing city staff to close the deal. The deadline to finish the deal is April 5, per an agreement between Greeley and Wingfoot. They also voted to approve an ordinance that makes changes to the city’s existing raw water dedication rules.

City staff pledged to exit the federal permitting process to expand Seaman Reservoir if the Terry Ranch project moved forward. That will likely take the form of a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers after the deal is closed, said Adam Jokerst with the Greeley water department.

This story is part of ongoing coverage of water in the West, produced by KUNC, and supported by the Walton Family Foundation. KUNC is solely responsible for its editorial content.

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