Eagle staff makes case for second water plant; conservation won’t be enough | VailDaily.com

Eagle staff makes case for second water plant; conservation won’t be enough

EAGLE — Your water bill could go up $7.50 per week if you live in Eagle and keep watering your lawn this summer.

Eagle's town staff made its case for a new water plant to a packed house at this week's town board meeting.

Among the data: If your water bill is $55 per month now, then it will increase to $85 per month if you keep watering your lawn this summer — $7.50 per week to feed your bluegrass habit.

That $85 monthly bill is still less than the $94.50 monthly bill that most Gypsum residents already pay, which includes Gypsum's irrigation fee and trash service.

"We have an irrigation problem, not a year-round usage problem. How much do we want to spend so people can irrigate their lawns?" said Kraige Kinney, Eagle resident and former town board member, during the public hearing.

Irrigation is approximately 25 percent of Eagle's annual water use, higher in the summer, according to the town's data, as residents try to grow lawns in their semi-arid environment.

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New plant needed

Kinney said Eagle needs to build a new water treatment plant. The questions become how big and how to pay for it.

"The board's between a rock and a hard place on this," Kinney said to the Town Board. "Previous boards have approved development that you need to take care of. If we used as much in the summer as we do in the winter, we could accommodate up to seven times the number of people."

Kinney said the town's conservation goal — 2.5 percent — is too low.

"That's like me going to Weight Watchers to lose 6 ounces per month," Kinney said.

He and others in the crowd said the 20 percent reduction in Phoenix and other arid cities should be Eagle's goal, as well.

Conservation is part of Eagle's equation, said Tom Boni, Eagle's interim town manager.

With current growth projections, without conservation, Eagle's current plant would be over capacity before the second plant would be finished in 2020, Boni said. As it stands now, Eagle will go through three summer seasons before the new plant is built.

Conservation is not enough

However, conservation will not solve Eagle's water problem, Boni said.

Here's why.

Eagle's water rights allow it to pull 4.3 million gallons per day out of Brush Creek.

If the current plant runs 22 hours per day, it'll turn out 3.7 million gallons of water.

Expanding the existing plant could add 400,000 gallons per day to the plant's capacity, but no more.

That capacity and more is already called for, Boni said.

Eagle Ranch has 270 homes approved, but not yet built. The Haymeadow is another 830 homes.

That's 463,925 gallons per day, Boni said.

The town is legally obligated to provide water to those homes, said Ed Sands, Eagle's town attorney. Refusing would certainly mean expensive legal trouble, Sands said.

Upgrading that current plant would buy Eagle only seven more years, but waiting that long would drive up the cost from $28 million now to $43 million in seven years, based on projected increases in construction costs.

Several in Tuesday's crowd asked the town board for a six-month postponement, ostensibly to build consensus. That would push the costs up by more than a half million, or about $100,000 a month, the town staff said.

Raising the money

The town has raised water rates for a decade and has stacked up $14 million. Of that, $10 million will be a down payment.

New developments would have to prepay 60 percent of their total tap fees before they break ground, money that would go to the water plant fund.

The Haymeadow, with its 830 homes on the drawing board, has already paid its water tap fees — $3.2 million so far. That money is part of the $14 million the town has stacked up for its second water treatment plant.

For now, Eagle pulls its water from upper Brush Creek. If wildfire or some other disaster sweeps through the area, the town has no other way to get water. The new plant would create a second source, Boni said.

The new plant would pull its water closer to the confluence of Brush Creek and the Eagle River.

In addition to the new plant, the entire water system could need as much as $40 million in maintenance and upgrades over the next several years. Some of the money from increased water fees would cover that.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Plan for Eagle’s second water plant

• $28 million pricetag

• $10 million to $11 million down payment

• $17 million loan with 2.5 percent interest for 22 years.

• $1.1 million annual payment

To pay for the plant, Eagle water users would pay $1.50 more each 1,000 gallons of water they use each month above their 6,000-gallon minimum. That surcharge would be added to the existing base fee of $35.29 for the next two years.

That surcharge would increase to $3 per 1,000 gallons in 2019. After that, the rates will go up around 3 percent per year, depending on inflation.

Water rates will pay the loan, not tap fees for new construction. Lenders will not loan money based on an unpredictable income source, such as tap fees.

To speak your mind

Eagle is hosting more public meetings for its water plant proposal.

Thursday, Jan. 18 — 5:30 p.m. Public Open House, Brush Creek Pavilion

Tuesday, Jan. 23 — 6 p.m. Board of Trustees meeting, Eagle Town Hall

For more information, “like” the town of Eagle on Facebook, sign up for the Eagle Today town news and events newsletter through the town’s website or visit townofeagle.org/waterplant.