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When will water flow to the far reaches of western La Plata County?

It may be a while until taps are running, but a water dock should be operational by spring
Workers install pipeline as part of the La Plata West Water Authority’s Phase I in 2019. Phase II has been on hold and its future remains uncertain. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

La Plata County residents who live west of Colorado Highway 140 have been waiting years for easy access to water. And while taps are not about to start flowing anytime soon, they should prepare to have their appetites whet.

La Plata West Water Authority broke ground in October 2018 on a project to bring central water to homes along the Highway 140 corridor from Lake Durango. Phase I of the project, now completed, runs pipeline down to about Marvel and services 154 taps.

But county residents who live to the west of Highway 140 are still waiting for Phase II of the project, which will pipe water west along County Road 120. Mardi Gebhardt, president of LPWWA, says she is unsure when that might happen.

The good news, however, is that a water dock should be operational by March or April thanks to a $100,000 grant that the county awarded to LPWWA in November using the money it received from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Gebhardt says she expects construction on the water dock to begin any day at the utility’s small piece of property located near the intersection of Highway 140 and county roads 119 and 122, north of Fort Lewis Mesa Elementary School.

La Plata County residents who live west of Colorado Highway 140 have been waiting more than a decade for easy access to water.

The dock will be serviced by the pipeline that LPWWA installed as a part of Phase I. At the time of its construction, the pipeline was lauded as a major step toward improving the quality of life for residents in the western third of the county. It’s completion brought flowing central water to 154 taps – a number that is not expected to grow anytime soon.

“There are people that want to hook up but I can't get any taps,” Gebhardt said. “The part that goes in the ground are all on back order from the people that make them. Even that is kind of stalled out.”

The 36 miles of pipe already installed run from Lake Durango, which is connected by a 4.6-mile pipe to Lake Nighthorse.

LPWWA accepted a proposal from an engineer for Phase 2 to run pipeline from the intersection of Highway 140 and County Road 141 west toward County Road 120, down County Road 122, across to Mormon Reservoir, and extend north and south on County Road 119.

Gebhardt said roughly 250 households put up $500 each as a down payment on a tap back when planning first began in 2010. She said those customers are free to reclaim their money, but many have not done so in order to help fund the project. Still, Gebhardt says LPWWA is $3 million shy in funding that cannot be made up by adding additional customers.

The utility is waiting on a grant from the Department of Agriculture, which has told her that it has the money but no word has come as to when LPWWA might have it in hand.

“It's hard to find $3 million to make up the deficit,” Gebhardt said.

She is optimistic the project will get done, although the timeline remains blurry.

LPWWA has shied away from raising rates on existing customers. In fact, Gebhardt says the standard rate of $175 per month for 3,000 gallons has not changed for users tapped into Phase I, but overage charges have gone down.

Until Phase 2 is completed, consumers west of Highway 140 must continue hauling water or rely on their private wells. But Gebhardt says the new water dock will be a boon to the community. Its location in Kline is 20 miles from the Durango Water Dock located at 550 South Camino del Rio, meaning users in the western part of the county will not have to drive nearly as far in search of hydration.

“We're very excited that we can bring in a water out here to the people that are hauling,” Gebhardt said.

rschafir@durangoherald.com



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