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September 1, 2023 – Capital improvement planning ensures fiscal responsibility

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One of the guiding principles at Boxelder Sanitation District is a commitment to being fiscally responsible. You may already know that Boxelder Sanitation has over 100 miles of sewer lines, but these lines, and the process of treating the wastewater that they bring, require a forward-thinking approach in order to anticipate both planned and unplanned challenges. With both commercial and residential customers, Boxelder continues to consistently provide a service that is reliable while focusing on the changing landscape of our District. Growth is a main concern for many in Northern Colorado, yet other aspects must be considered when planning for the future of our District.

  • Growth: As more customers come into our District, we provide connection to our systems. Our philosophy has always been “growth pays its way.” This means that developers invest in new infrastructure, and our customers don’t shoulder these costs.
  • Rehabilitation & Replacement: This includes the overall infrastructure in our District — pipes, equipment, electrical and control systems. These projects are funded by the District, and as such, require careful planning.

As infrastructure ages, it may lose its functionality. In these cases, we evaluate whether a rehabilitation to near-new condition is possible, or if a cost-effective replacement is required. These projects can also include upgrades to technology. Additionally, as new regulations governing wastewater treatment go into effect, upgrades to our systems may be required to comply with those regulations.

To properly forecast these potential factors, we maintain an ongoing, comprehensive capital improvement plan (CIP), which projects 10 to 20 years, or longer, into the future. It provides the foresight to accommodate regulatory changes as well as anticipated infrastructure projects. These can include the installation of new sewer lines, lift stations, and treatment plant upgrades throughout portions of Fort Collins, Windsor, Severance, Timnath and unincorporated areas of Larimer and Weld Counties. Our CIP helps our District establish a solid foundation for responsible spending and spreads out efforts to avoid costly surprises for our customers.

To guide the long-term planning process, it is necessary to have a clear CIP that captures some of the considerations we plan for. These can include:

  • The capacity of the existing sewer collection system and treatment plant.
  • List of planned improvements to address various needs (replacement, rehabilitation, expansion, etc.).
  • Estimated time of completion of capital improvements.

The growth in Northern Colorado is hard to ignore. Our customers can rest assured that the “growth pays its way” philosophy allows builders to invest in the infrastructure for these new developments. Boxelder partners with these developers to integrate new infrastructure into our District. However, we are also keeping an eye on our existing systems to ensure that efficiency and regulatory compliance benchmarks are consistently met.

Rehabilitation and replacement projects are also included in the CIP. This means that cost, timeline, and compliance considerations for every project are carefully planned for and prioritized. Judicious planning is essential for ensuring that funds are being used effectively. The District is dedicated to being fiscally responsible while also maintaining the consistent service that gives our customers peace of mind.

Standard replacement and rehabilitation projects include things such as:

  • Lining existing sewer lines with new high-quality materials to extend the life of sewer lines
  • Rehabilitation of leaking or structurally weak manholes
  • Rehabilitation of existing lift stations, pipes, pumps, control panels and more

Some projects are required to improve the performance or operation of District assets or are required to assure compliance with regulations. These projects typically include planning, engineering and construction, and are a one-time, unique project such as the addition of a new process to the treatment plant.

If, however, growth is driving a larger capital project, developers invest in that project through their plant investment fee.  Plant investment fees include the costs for infrastructure expansion or for equipment required to accommodate the increased demand. This might involve expanding the treatment plant’s footprint to handle the additional flows from new developments, overall facility upgrades, purchasing new equipment, and new sewer lines, lift stations or pump stations.

Regardless of the size of the project, every single effort is carefully considered and mapped out from initial analysis to engineering and even administration. Boxelder also evaluates sustainable growth so we can meet the needs of the community while also complying with environmental and governmental regulations.

Looking at the CIP, these are the priority projects on the horizon:

  • Maple Hill Bottleneck (2022-2023) — This is a project that replaces a smaller 12-inch sewer with a larger 21-inch sewer. This will allow for increased capacity in the northern portion of the District for existing areas such as Maple Hill, Hearthfire, Sonders and Country Club Reserve as well as other future planned developments.
  • Acoustic Testing Program (2023) — This project will complete a comprehensive acoustic investigation and condition assessment program for the collections system. The project will use state-of-the-art acoustic testing equipment to determine the extent and location of pipe defects and to inspect the conditions of manholes. The results of the project will be the development of a list of problem sewers and manholes that may need rehabilitation.
  • Old Clay Interceptor Project. — This project replaces the sewer line between Mulberry and Prospect. This old pipe is made out of vitrified clay, hence the name “Old Clay Interceptor” The old pipe will be replaced with a new larger plastic sewer line which will reduce infiltration and provide capacity for existing and future customers. This project will take several years to complete and is scheduled to start in 2024.

Boxelder’s CIP is a roadmap for our future and the current demands that we continue to meet. We look ahead and are actively anticipating how to plan for exciting projects that integrate improved processes 20 years, or more into the future. We continue to consider the most effective ways to accomplish projects involving replacement and rehabilitation, new regulations, or compliance, our goal is to stagger those projects to protect the budget and our customers’ pocketbooks. We are proud of our continued efforts to keep our rivers and streams free from contaminants. Our knowledgeable team keeps pace with what needs to happen and knows our system inside and out so we can get ahead of challenges. Guided by our CIP, we can stay on target for responsible spending all while maintaining the highest-level processes at our treatment plant to continue to provide the best service to our customers every day.