On August 19, 1986 the Greeley City Council Voted Down the Sale of Greeley’s Five High Mountain Reservoirs


This is Part 3 in our history lesson on how the City Council handled the public in 1986 when the public disagreed with the City’s water policy.

On August 19, 1986, the Greeley City Council bowed to the will of the citizens of Greeley and voted down the sale of Greeley’s five high mountain reservoirs to Thornton.  The vote was not unanimous.  It was a close 4 to 3 vote against the sale of the City’s water assets.  The reservoirs were rehabilitated, and we still enjoy drinking that Poudre River mountain water today.  Water rates did not go up the predicted 20%.  Greeley still had some of the lowest water rates on the front range.

Many of the Councilmen who voted against the sale said that they agreed with the Water Board’s proposal to sell the reservoirs to Thornton but, as one Councilman put it, “I believe the experts and I’m willing to accept the proposal.  What I can’t handle is the 9 out of 10 people outside city hall who are against this….We simply can’t afford to do any more deals that don’t have the basic backing of the citizens of Greeley”.

At the Council meeting the Greeley City Council was presented with an initiative petition signed by 2,669 citizens asking for a vote to amend the city charter to require a vote of the people before Greeley’s water rights could be sold.  This initiative petition should have been brought to a vote of the people, but it was not.  The then City Attorney said that the petition  required an ordinance which was not presented.  This turned out to be incorrect and the people thought that they would have to start their petition drive over and decided not to do that.  The Council had voted down the sale of Greeley’s water and the people were satisfied. 

Even our city officials can make mistakes, like the one just made by the City Council in signing the Terry Ranch/Wingfoot contract.  Who would have thought that the City of Greeley would buy uranium containing groundwater for our future, in a public-private partnership with an investment firm who will profit from the sale of that water, and call it “momentous” and “serendipitous”? This Terry Ranch/Wingfoot deal should have never been signed and the City should find a way to extricate us from this one sided deal.

In 1986 City Council Delayed the Vote on the Sale of the High Mountain Reservoirs Contrast That With 2021 When the City Council Moved Up the Vote by Two Weeks on the Acquisition of Terry Ranch


This is Part 2 in our history lesson on how the City Council handled the public in 1986 when the public disagreed with the City’s water policy.

In 1986, when Greeley’s Water Board and City Council wanted to sell Greeley’s High Mountain Reservoirs, the public objected and started a Charter Change Amendment Petition Drive to require a vote of the public before Greeley’s water assets could be sold. The City Council actually delayed their vote on the sale by two weeks to give the public and the Council more time to study the issue. The public was able to obtain the required number of signatures to bring the Charter Change Amendment to a vote. However, on August 19, the City Council turned down the proposal by Thornton to buy our reservoirs by a 4-3 vote, with Mayor Markley breaking the tie. With that vote the public was satisfied and never did get a vote on the Charter Change.

The main reason that the Charter Change Amendment was not presented to the public for a vote was that the then City Attorney incorrectly declared the petition not legally binding because there was no ordinance attached to it. Looking back and knowing what we know today, it is clear that there did not need to be an ordinance attached. There was a ballot question presented on the petition and it should have been put to a vote of the public.

In the above Greeley Tribune article there are many statements by the City and the Water Board that turned out to be in error. For instance, it was stated that in order to use the water from the high mountain reservoirs, Greeley would have to build another pipeline. In fact, Greeley was, at that very time, using water from these reservoirs and has continued to use that water over the past decades. It took another 30 years before Greeley started building that additional 60″ Bellvue pipeline, that just recently started carrying water to Greeley.

It was also stated that if we retained and did the maintenance on those five high mountain reservoirs, that Greeley would have to raise water rates by 20%. In fact, the water rates, due to the long term financing of the reservoir maintenance, rose by about 2%.

So the point is that, the public can be emotional about their drinking water, and that doesn’t make them wrong in their views. The City can skew the truth for the public’s consumption so that they can do what they want to do, and that doesn’t make them right. The City of Greeley did that in 1986 and they did that in 2021.

However, in 2021, the City Council was more ruthless and actually moved their vote up by two weeks to give the public less time to study the issue. In confidential meetings staff expressed the need to “control the narrative” since they expected a “strong public reaction” to the purchase of the Terry Ranch aquifer. This showed a blatant disrespect of the public’s views. The City did not provide an extension on the public’s referendum effort to overturn the ordinance allowing the City to accept water credits from Terry Ranch, even though we were under the veil of Covid and a large an unusual snowstorm occurred during the approximately three week period we had to collect signatures. The citizens were not accorded the same allowance that the City gave to a bunch of developers of the Double Tree Hotel, when they were exempted from paying their assessment of over $200,000 to the City because of Covid. In the end, the citizens collected over 2,000 signatures but were not able to collect enough signatures to bring the referendum to a vote. The City closed on the Terry Ranch deal on April 6, 2021.

We Still have Our Poudre River Water Supply…For Now


Thirty five years ago, Greeley attempted to sell its 5 high mountain reservoirs to Thornton. The City of Thornton offered $5.2 million paid out over 30 years at a low rate of interest. The value of these water rights today at the nominal rate of $34,000 per acre-foot is approximately $280 million. A more realistic value for these mountain water rights is $50,000 – $80,000 per acre foot or $412 million – $659 million.

In 1986 we had a real local newspaper that covered all of the City Council and Water & Sewer Board meetings and the public could actually attend them in person and take the floor and have input.

On March 2, 2021, the public hearing on Terry Ranch allowed about 15-20 speakers 2 minutes each at a zoom meeting to make their point. This is not a proper way to conduct public business.

The water from these reservoirs has kept Greeley in good stead water-wise all of these years. Maybe, sometimes, the citizens do know better than the Water Board, City Council and Staff!

Our Future Drinking Water at Risk

Save Greeley’s Water continues its efforts to protect the future quality of Greeley’s drinking water supply.  Save Greeley’s Water has revived its Charter Change Amendment Petition drive.  These Charter Change Amendments are the same as those circulated earlier in the year.  Even though the City of Greeley closed on the Terry Ranch deal, these amendments, if approved at the November election, would give the citizens some say in their water future.  For instance, If Amendment 17-9 passed, the City could not sell our water rights or water infrastructure without a vote of the people. 

And don’t for a minute think the City would not do this.  Over past years, the City sold half of its Windy Gap water to various front range cities.  This is wholly consumable water that could have gone into the newly permitted Chimney Hollow Reservoir that will soon be built near Carter Lake.  

In 1986, the City of Greeley tried to sell its five high mountain reservoirs;  Barnes Meadow, Comanche, Twin Lake, Hourglass, and Peterson to Thornton.  The Director of W & S at the time had read a popular book called “Zero Inventories” by Robert Hall and decided that the City should not keep excess inventory of anything…. including water.  An effort by citizens to stop the sale was successful and the City Council voted 4-3 against it.  Mayor Markley wisely respected and honored the citizens wishes by breaking  the tie vote.  We hold him in high regard. 

This time, in regard to Terry Ranch, the City Council was downright hostile to the citizens wishes and actions and they purchased uranium tainted water in the Cheyenne Basin, a known uranium district, for our drinking water.  City officials will be celebrating their purchase with a victory party at Terry Ranch on May 17.  Did you get your invitation?

The City has stated that it plans to abandon the  permitting process with US Army Corps of Engineers to enlarge Milton Seaman Reservoir (MSR).  When the City finally admits to the public that it has nowhere to put its additional 15,000 acre feet of conditional water right decrees for MSR without enlarging it, the City will find a buyer.  This process could be in the works right now.  It is highly likely that the City of Fort Collins is interested in acquiring Greeley’s high quality Poudre River assets which are senior to Fort Collins conditional decrees for Halligan Reservoir.  Or Greeley City Officials may choose to sell its water assets to a thirsty city in the Denver Metro Area, such as Thornton.  If this occurs, that hard to treat Terry Ranch water will not be a drought supply, it will be our everyday supply.

This is why these Charter Change Amendments need to be on the November ballot.  Amendment 17-10 will prohibit the City from buying recycled wastewater and groundwater and putting it into our water system.  We realize that the City has already purchased groundwater.  But these Charter Change Amendments could keep that groundwater out of our water system for a long time since we have such a good supply of surface water. If a vote of the public is required by Charter, then the decision would be up to you if and when you want to consume water that has some uranium and possibly other contaminants in it.

We need people to help us circulate the petitions for signatures.  We need to acquire 3,101 verified signatures of registered Greeley voters by July 9 to get the petitions on the November ballot.  If you think you could obtain 50 signatures by July 9, please contact me to get a petition.  There are a lot of community events that take place before July 9, such as Friday Fest and all of the Stampede events.  With Covid on the wane it is possible that people will want to congregate and do something good for their community at the same time.

Please consider becoming a petition circulator.  We need all the help we can get to keep Greeley’s drinking water clean and safe for our families.

A Call to Citizen Action Once Again

On Tuesday May 4, Save Greeley’s Water (SGW) filed a statement of intent with the City Clerk’s office to circulate two Charter Change Amendment Petitions.  On Thursday May 6 we received approval to circulate them.  These are the same petitions that we circulated earlier this year, requiring the City to get a vote of the public before they can sell Greeley’s water rights and other water assets, or buy and put groundwater or recycled wastewater into Greeley’s water system.  

Because of a timing issue, the petitions circulated earlier this year required a special election and signatures equaling 10% of the registered Greeley voters (about 6,500).  Because of Covid, the winter weather and the lack of knowledge of the public regarding the Terry Ranch deal, we were not able to collect the required number of signatures.  And in the midst of our Charter Change Amendment Petition campaign, the City Council passed an ordinance allowing water credits (from Terry Ranch) to be accepted by the City of Greeley for development.  This ordinance was necessary for the City to be able to close on the Terry Ranch deal.  This provided SGW the opportunity to try to pass a referendum to have the public vote to repeal the ordinance and disallow the Terry Ranch water credits.  Despite a large and unusual snowstorm, we collected over 2,000 signatures in the 3 week collection period but fell 164 signatures short of the required number to bring the ordinance to a vote of the public.  On April 6, the City Council closed on the Terry Ranch deal.

With the Charter Change Amendment Petition Drive that has just been started, the timing will allow the petitions to be voted on at the next general election in November 2021 and require signatures totaling just 5% of the registered Greeley electors (a minimum of 3,101) and at no extra cost to the City for a special election.  This appears to be a much more attainable goal.  We have about 9 weeks starting today to obtain the needed signatures.

Why do we still need these Amendments to the Home Rule Charter since the City has closed on the Terry Ranch deal?  There has been talk at past Water Board meetings that the permitting process for Milton Seaman Reservoir (MSR) would be abandoned if the City closed on the Terry Ranch deal.  If the City in fact abandons that process, it is possible that they will find a buyer for the 15,000 acre feet of conditional water decrees that could be stored in MSR and possibly for MSR itself.  Or the City could rent Greeley’s water infrastructure to another City.  If either of those scenarios (or another scenario, not yet identified by the public) were to play out, we would likely be getting that Terry Ranch water sooner rather than later in our faucets. 

If our Charter Change Amendments are approved by vote of the public, it could give the citizens of Greeley some say in their water future.  All the power would not rest with the Water Board and City Council.  The City would not be able to sell Greeley’s water assets and may have to find another use for that Terry Ranch water rather than putting it in our faucets.  The Citizens need a say in their water future and these Charter Change Amendment Petitions will go a long way toward providing just that.

We believe that the Water Board and City Council have been some combination of foolish, arrogant, and I’m sorry to say, willfully ignorant, in the way that they handled this Terry Ranch issue.  They were also dismissive of the public’s concerns and did not provide proper “Informed Public Consent”.  At the so called “public hearing” on March 2, public participants (via zoom) were allotted two minutes each to give their comments.  One of the citizen participants was told by a Council-member, who is a real estate attorney, that the citizen was committing “slander of title” and could be sued by verbalizing some of the possible contamination risks to the Terry Ranch aquifer.  Does this Council-member attorney not know that the State of Colorado recently passed House Bill 19-1324 modeled after California’s anti-SLAPP statute against such a lawsuit against a citizen, called a SLAPP or Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation? 

The City Council adjourned that “public hearing” before 8:30 PM.  In years past, a meeting on such a vital issue as Terry Ranch would have had in-person participation and would have gone on past midnight. 

So goes public participation with the lack of a credible local newspaper and the inability of citizens to gather and share ideas and attend public meetings.  As Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.  We, the Citizens of Greeley, can’t just do nothing! This is totally unacceptable for a great city such as Greeley.  Please help SGW fight to give the Citizens some control over Greeley’s water future.

If all of you Greeley registered voters who are reading this and agree with the principals stated will commit to obtaining 50 signatures of Greeley registered voters by July 9, we can get these Charter Change Amendments on the November ballot.  And, if they are successful in the November election, the people could have more say in their water future.  After all, we are the ones who pay for the water and have to fund the decisions made by our leaders. 

Greeley citizens have been told to conserve water, and we have.  Part of this conservation effort was required by the permitting process to enlarge MSR.  Now it appears that all of this conservation was really to make it easier for the developers to bring inferior and questionable water rights to the City at the expense of existing customers. 

Please go to savegreeleyswater.com for more information on this vital issue.  The Updates are a chronological blog, oldest material at the bottom.  If you are new to the site, it would be most helpful for your understanding to start at the bottom and work up.  The Resource page has research by a Professional Engineer who worked twenty two years in Greeley’s Water Department, as well as newspaper articles and compiled data from many sources. None of SGW’s information has changed.  These are the facts as we know them.  Unlike the City’s of Greeley’s propaganda mill, we have not changed our story. 

If you are serious about circulating a petition and think that you can obtain 50 signatures in the next 9 weeks, please Private Message me on Nextdoor and/or contact us on savegreeleyswater.com, and we will see that you get a set of petitions.

Thank you for your concern and, hopefully, your participation. 

We need your help!!

Referendum Outcome

Yesterday we turned in 2,028 unverified signatures to the City Clerk in an attempt to repeal Ordinance No. 10, 2021 which would allow the City to accept water credits from Terry Ranch. We needed 2,192 good, verified signatures for repeal and to allow the ordinance to go to a vote of the public. It was not enough to repeal the ordinance, but it does show a considerable amount of concern among the citizens about their drinking water quality.

We only had about 3 weeks to collect signatures, and in the midst of that 3 weeks we had a major and unusual snowstorm. The weather was not our friend.

On March 23, we requested a 2 week extension of time due to Covid, explaining how the City staff, City Council, and Water Board are not meeting in public due to Covid. Even the downtown hotel owners were given a deferral of their $212,242 payment on their redevelopment agreement for 2021 due to Covid. But the City Clerk did not have the discretion to give the Citizens the same consideration.

So, I suppose that the City of Greeley will close on the Wingfoot/Terry Ranch deal as soon as possible.

Acquisition of Terry Ranch Aquifer Will Not Reduce Our Water Bills

Someone commented on Nextdoor that they hoped that the acquisition of Terry Ranch would bring down their water bills. Here is why I think that won’t happen.

#1 Terry Ranch water is much more contaminated than Poudre River Water. The more contaminants, the higher the cost of treatment.

#2 The infrastructure for moving water from Terry Ranch to Greeley is not yet built. That costs lots of money. Nobody is going to pay that bill for Greeley. The Poudre River infrastructure is in place and has been upgraded. The Bellvue Water Treatment Plant has been enlarged and the 60” Bellvue pipeline that was meant to bring the increased water flow from an enlarged Milton Seaman Reservoir is just about complete.

#3 The main threats to our Poudre River water supply are contamination from spills and forest fires. Greeley’s water supply is so robust that any water contaminated in such a way can be bypassed down the river until the natural cleansing of the river takes place in 1-2 years. In the meantime, water can be taken from Horsetooth Reservoir through the Pleasant Valley Pipeline to the Bellvue Treatment Plant.

 #4 If Terry Ranch water becomes more contaminated than it already is, from past oil and gas wells that have been capped, or from the new wells that are on the books to be drilled in the future, or from several other possible contaminants that have been identified by engineers, the price of treatment will go way up, if it is possible at all.

Greeley has an abundance of water rights and water storage. In comparison, the population of Loveland is about 77,000. Loveland has 6,835 acre feet of water storage. Fort Collins at population of 174,000 has about 10,000 acre feet of storage. Greeley, at a population of about 110,000 has about 70,000 acre feet of storage. Greeley has ample water rights and storage to keep us developing for the next 20 years without Terry Ranch.

In that 20 years a US Corps of Engineers permit could be obtained to enlarge Milton Seaman Reservoir. We could keep our clean mountain water, keep our water bills reasonable and not have to worry about a huge investment in Terry Ranch that could easily be lost.