Current issues: Water in Minturn at top of mind for Rep. Joe Neguse |

Current issues: Water in Minturn at top of mind for Rep. Joe Neguse

Rep. Joe Neguse, right, and Minturn Mayor Earle Bidez discuss water issues in Minturn on Friday. Behind them is Minturn's new water tank, a 600,000-gallon structure which was built in 2022.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

One of the biggest issues in Minturn is also among the biggest issues in the American West right now: water use and infrastructure, and how it will affect human sustainability.

Congressman Joe Neguse, who represents Eagle County in the U.S. House of Representatives, visited Minturn on Friday to discuss water infrastructure with local leaders. Neguse helped secure $2 million in funding from the 2023 Omnibus Appropriations bill for the construction of a new water treatment plant in Minturn, something officials say is long overdue.

The town of Minturn has an ongoing moratorium on new water taps for construction projects involving more than three single-family homes due to the challenges the town is facing when it comes to increasing water service beyond current levels. The moratorium began in 2020 and was renewed again in February, with an ordinance saying the moratorium is necessary because Minturn’s water treatment plant, which was constructed in the 1960s, has “reached the end of its useful life.”

The treatment plant originally contained three slow-sand filter bays to clean and prepare water from Cross Creek, but the age of those facilities along with state regulations has required two of the three filter bays to be taken out of service. A temporary cartridge filtration plant has since been installed to help make up for the loss of the slow-sand filter bays.

In addition to Cross Creek surface water diversions, the town has water rights to draw from two wells, and the elimination of the two slow-sand filter bays has made the town more reliant on those wells. The well water has lower turbidity — small particles which create cloudy, hazy water — allowing the water to find easier treatment through the cartridge plant, but the cartridge plant is limited to about 50 gallons per minute. As a result, if Cross Creek is experiencing high turbidity, the town can struggle to meet its average daily water demands.

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Those issues have made the moratorium on new taps, along with the construction of more water storage and a new water treatment plant, a necessary remedy according to town leaders.

Rep. Joe Neguse, right, tours a slow-sand filter bay Friday with Minturn Public Works Supervisor Arnold Martinez. The town once used three slow-sand filter bays, but is now down to only one operational slow-sand filter system for treating water.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

Neguse, on Friday, toured the town’s last operational slow-sand filter bay and viewed the town’s newest water storage option, a 600,000-gallon water tank located on the hillside above the water treatment plant.

Neguse and Sen. Michael Bennet helped secure approximately $1 million in federal funding for the construction of the water tank, a $2,255,084 project. But because the town wasn’t able to apply for the funds until October, and the project needed to be completed no later than November in order to comply with Colorado Parks and Wildlife wintering elk habitat requirements, the town instead opted to move funds around and find another way to pay for the tank without the federal funding.

As a result, the $1 million promised in 2022 was rolled forward and doubled for 2023, and Minturn will now receive $2 million in funding from the fiscal year 2023 Omnibus government funding bill.

“We were able to successfully get that done back in December … thankfully the money came through,” Neguse said on Friday. “So we wanted to come by to visit with them and check in on status; they’re now working to ensure that that money is allocated appropriately.”

Minturn Mayor Earle Bidez said costs of the water treatment plant have increased dramatically since the plan was first contemplated in 2019, and as a result, the town has had to reassess its plans based on cost.

“We had them work on three options, and we should see some good cost information on each option … we should be receiving that data some time in the next month or so,” Bidez said.

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