TELLURIDE – Despite a few legal obstacles that remain, progress toward completion of the long envisioned Pandora Water Treatment Plant Project, which would dramatically augment Telluride’s municipal water supply, is being made.
With the region enduring drought conditions that have led to water and fire restrictions, this summer has served as a sobering reminder of how important the Pandora project is to Telluride’s infrastructure. For the town, completion of the project can’t come soon enough.
Telluride Town Attorney Kevin Geiger was happy to report last week that work on the raw water pipeline near the Bridal Veil Hydroelectric Power Plant has commenced, and once completed it will be the final piece of pipeline infrastructure needed to transport fresh water from Blue Lake, above Bridal Veil Falls, down to the two-acre site below the falls where the Pandora Water Treatment Facility will be located.
Crews will install a new horizontal water pipeline along with new trestles about 250 feet away from the Bridal Veil plant and then install vertical pipe that will transport the water to the bottom of a cliff. At that point, the line will be connected to a raw water pipeline that was installed last summer, just below Black Bear Pass Road, that runs to the water treatment facility site.
While the water pipeline infrastructure inches toward completion, Geiger said construction of the actual water treatment plant will start soon, as well.
“Most of the infrastructure is in from Blue Lake to the power house,” Geiger said. “A little segment, which will be difficult and challenging, needs to be completed and then actual construction of the water treatment plant needs to be completed. We think we will be breaking ground on that later this summer or fall.”
When will it all be completed and fully operational?
Geiger said that remains to be seen. While completion of the infrastructure of the water delivery system and the water treatment facility shouldn’t be an issue, he said the town continues to work out legal issues with the Idarado Mining Company.
“We have a junior water rights diligence case,” Geiger said, “and Idarado was one of the remaining parties objecting to the application. It was set for a trial to commence at the end of August but that was postponed until the end of January. We are still working through issues with Idarado and we will see how those things go forward.
“I remain hopeful that we can work through those issues,” he said.
The cost to complete the project is expected to reach $12 million. In 2005, voters approved a $10 million bond and a mill levy to construct the water delivery system. The genesis of legal disputes with Idarado dates back to the late 1980s when the Town of Telluride discovered that the Town Park water supply it sought to develop for municipal use had been contaminated by Idarado’s mining operations
The town’s claim was settled in 1992 when Idarado compensated the town with substantial water rights in Bridal Veil Basin, as well as reservoirs, pipelines, diversion and conveyance structures associated with those rights.
In this low water summer, Town Manager Greg Clifton said, the town’s current water sources are providing just 50 percent of Telluride’s current water treatment capacity.