Windy Gap Bypass Project still lacks $50,000 for engineering
Grand County and its partners have raised all but $50,000 of the $385,000 needed for the first two engineering phases of the Windy Gap Bypass Project.
The first engineering phase will cost $85,000, to which Grand County has contributed $55,000 and the Upper Colorado River alliance has contributed $20,000, and the Colorado River District pitched in $10,000, said Assistant County Manager Ed Moyer during the Tuesday, Sept. 22 board of county commissioners meeting.
Former County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran and Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited, secured $250,000 from the Gates Family Foundation to fund phase 2 of the project, leaving $50,000 to be raised, Moyer said.
Project participants hope to have the two phases completed by 2016.
The Windy Gap Bypass Project seeks to establish a free flowing channel of the Colorado River around the Windy Gap Reservoir near Granby.
Proponents say the project will vastly improve the condition of the Upper Colorado River by reconnecting fish migration corridors and addressing temperature and sediment issues in the river.
The project’s total cost is around $9.6 million.
Grand County had planned to contribute half of the remaining deficit for the project’s engineering phases, but a warning from Finance Director Scott Berger earlier in the meeting Tuesday temporarily precluded that option.
Berger told the board that the county could be broke by the end of next year if the commissioners continue to allow additional spending.
The news seemed to take the board by surprise.
“We’re not going to spend funds until we understand what’s going on with this budget,” said Commissioner Merrit Linke.
Discussing other funding options, Commissioner James Newberry said the Colorado River District could possibly contribute up to $10,000. Newberry said he would raise the issue during the district’s Sept. 24 meeting.
Commisioner Kris Manguso questioned whether Northern Water could make a contribution from the $2 million that it has set aside for engineering and construction of the project.
Northern Water has already contributed $250,000 to a study on the benefits of the project and additional $50,000 from the $2 million fund, Moyer said.
“To date they’ve spent $300,000, and they’re not going to release any more out of that $2 million until such time as I believe they have their permit,” Moyer said.
Northern Water will provide $500,000 from the $2 million for engineering and permitting of the Windy Gap Bypass Project once all permits and authorizations for the Windy Gap Firming Project have been issued and accepted, according to the Windy Gap Bypass Funding Agreement.
The release of the remaining fund is contingent upon issuance of the construction contract for the Windy Gap Firming Project “without litigation,” the agreement states.
Newberry also suggested the county examine its possible budget shortfall and look for possible funding sources during budget discussions later on Sept. 26.
“If we’re not going to give $25,000 here for this river, if were not doing certain things that are important to Grand County based on this, then we’re in bad shape,” he said.
Check the Friday, Sept. 25 edition of the Sky-Hi News for more updates on the Grand County budget.
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