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The Denver Foothills Project.

The Denver Foothills Project

Following is a foreword for a 10-minute video produced in 1986 that captured the design and construction and initial operational results of the Denver Foothills Project. This project resulted in a major new, extremely cost-efficient, primary water supply for Denver with a designed ultimate capacity of 500 million gallons per day (mgd).

After decades of study, preliminary design, geological evaluations, water law issues, environmental and regulatory challenges, and politics, in 1973, the Denver Water Board (DWB) signed a contract with Foothills Project Consultants to provide design and services during construction for the Denver Foothills Project. CH2M HILL was the lead firm of this consortium and tasked to work closely with a very professional and knowledgeable DWB engineering team in managing the overall design and construction of the project.

The primary components of the project consisted of:

  1. A 250-foot-high diversion dam on the South Platte River, allowing gravity flow of treated water into Denver. Harza Engineering was responsible for this element, executed primarily in Chicago. The firm had world-class experience and talent in this crucial aspect, and fully delivered on this project, with great professional engagement.
  2. 10.5-foot-diameter, 3.5-mile-long tunnel conveying water from behind the diversion dam to the water treatment plant (WTP). DMJM Phillips-Reister led this element, based in Denver. Their local knowledge and previous tunneling experience were very important, and they too were good partners
  3. A WTP with a core treatment capacity of 500 mgd, with an initial nominal treatment capacity of 125 mgd, and with provisions for three future 125-mgd additions. CH2M HILL was responsible for design of the plant and headworks structure.
  4. One transmission pipeline, 9-foot-diameter, delivering treated water from the Foothills WTP to Denver, and tying the supply into distribution reservoirs and pipelines. DWB staff was totally responsible for the design and services during construction of these pipelines.

Major milestones for the Denver Foothills Project were:

  • 1973 - Preliminary Design and Environmental Impact Assessment
  • 1974 - Final Design completed in 1 year
  • 1979 - Construction initiated in the fall of 1979
  • 1983 - Construction completed for the overall project, including the first 125-mgd increment of the treatment plant
  • 1986 - Construction completed on the second 125-mgd increment of the treatment plant

The 5-year delay between design completion and start of construction was the result of a massive Environmental Impact Statement for construction of the proposed Two Forks Dam and Reservoir upstream on the Upper Platte River. The result was the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stopped construction of Two Forks, which was pivotal to supply sufficient raw water storage for ultimate expansion of the treatment plant beyond a nominal sustained capacity of 250 mgd. The DWB made the decision to still construct 500-mgd minimum core hydraulic capacity of the project in case the raw water supply can be expanded in the future.

Reserve hydraulic capacity was designed into each of the treatment elements to allow operation at higher rates depending on actual treatment process performance. The plant has been successfully operated at rates up to 375 mgd.

Some of the CH2M HILL staff who were instrumental to the success of this project are listed below….with huge apologies to those not included only because of memory shortfall.

  • Holly Cornell – Foothills Project Consultants Project Director
  • Fred Harem – Foothills WTP preliminary design Project Manager
  • Bob Chapman – Foothills WTP final design Project Manager
  • Glenn Bethune – Architectural Lead
  • Dick Horning & George Dotson – Structural Leads
  • Dick Nichols and Rod Berklund – Electrical Leads
  • Dave Etchart – I&C Lead
  • C.Y. Shieh – Treatment Process Lead
  • Wil Kohne – HVAC Lead
  • Ralph Martin- Mechanical and Hydro Lead
  • Flip Phillips – Senior Inspector
  • Terry Sheldon – Resident Inspection Lead
  • Bill Eckenberg – Project Manager for Construction Services

Denver Water Board Key Leadership:

  • Dick Panesi – Project Director
  • Jack Parsons – Quality Review Lead
  • Ken Miller – Water Quality Director (Later CH2M's Group Director for Water Supply and Treatment)
  • Bob Weir – Operations Director
  • Jim Reddington – Construction Manager
  • Bill Geirer – Lead Operator (Later lead water treatment operations specialist for OMI)

(Foreword contributed by Bob Chapman, February 2016)