Steamboat Springs Unable to reach another solution with the town of Hayden about the increased water needs of the expanded passenger terminal at Yampa Valley Regional Airport, the Routt County Board of Commissioners has decided to spend $500,000 to build twin 15,000-gallon tanks at the airport this winter.
The airport is financially self-sufficient, and County Manager Tom Sullivan said the money would come from YVRA’s capital improvement fund. The 30,000 gallons of water will be more than enough to operate the terminal’s fire suppression sprinkler system for one hour of use, Sullivan said.
YVRA, which is in the town limits of Hayden, has been relying on Hayden for its water supply for more than two decades. But the expansion of the airport terminal has increased water requirements for its fire sprinkler system. Sullivan said consulting engineers representing the two governments disagree on how to meet the new water infrastructure needs. And with the airport’s busy ski season upon it, the commissioners relented.
“We’re going to do what the town wants us to do,” Sullivan said.
He added that the county commissioners reminded Hayden officials during their discussions that the airport generates 46 percent of the town’s annual sales tax revenues. Hayden Town Manager David Torgler pointed out Thursday that the county also derives revenues from the airport.
Jacobs Engineering works for the county on airport design and planning, and Schmueser, Gordon, Meyer (SGM) consults with the town of Hayden.
“Jacobs has proposed solutions, but our engineers don’t agree they adequately protect the public water system,” Torgler said. He added that Hayden is committed to working with the county to meet the water needs of the airport.
Collaborated for 20 years
The airport originally depended on wells for its water supply, but it has been tied into Hayden’s water system since 1990. Sullivan said because the airport is on an elevated bench, it must pump the town water to the terminal.
Torgler said the crux of current discussions between the county and town is about a new high-capacity fire service pump installed by the airport to draw water from the existing 12-inch line that runs approximately 2.5 miles from the town water plant.
West Routt Fire Protection District Chief Bryan Rickman, who has jurisdiction over fire safety at the airport terminal, said Hayden has ample water to supply the sprinkler system at the airport. The problem, he said, is the length of the water main leading to the terminal and the estimated 8-minute lag between the time the fire service pump is turned on and when water is delivered.
“We have enough water to drown the airport,” Rickman said. “The problem is that the lag time is too long.”
Airport Manager Dave Ruppel said Thursday that in consultation with a previous engineering firm for Hayden, the county was under the impression that a pump would do the job for the expanded sprinkling system.
“The closer we got to it, we realized that wouldn’t be a good solution,” Ruppel said. “We decided the best way to do it under the circumstances was to build an independent system with the tanks at the airport.”
Torgler said the capacity of the new pump is so great that it also has the potential to create a void, or extended bubble of air, in the water main.
“Whenever that pump is on, it will pull water faster than the forced main can supply it,” Torgler said. “The result is that the new pump would be pulling water so fast” it would create a temporary void in the line causing water pressure to drop off below state standards.
In addition to building the water tanks, during the estimated 10 weeks while they are designed, delivered and installed the county will spend about $6,000 per month to compensate existing county employees who will stand fire watch at the airport terminal.
Rickman said he consulted with state officials to confirm the fire watch would adequately protect public safety until the new water tanks are installed.
“I thought the state might keep the county out of the terminal,” Rickman said. “We couldn’t let that happen. I contacted the state director of fire safety and she agreed the fire watch would protect public safety.”
This won’t be the end of discussions between the county and the town of Hayden about water for the airport. A 30-year agreement between the two governments that details the terms of water delivery to the airport is due to expire in 2019, and Sullivan said the county commissioners impressed upon the town the need to complete a water rate survey and begin to anticipate a time in the future when it will need to build larger water storage facilities of its own to service industrial-zoned land near the airport.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com