A long-planned project that could see the construction of a massive reservoir designed to supply the water needs of some fifteen communities in northern Colorado has cleared an early hurdle.
The staff of the Larimer County Planning Department has given its approval to the awarding of a 1041 permit to build what is being called the Northern Integrated Supply Project.
That permit, according to Colorado law, allows a given project to move forward, while still being monitored by a government agency.
The project, as proposed by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, would in part see the construction of a reservoir on the northwest side of Fort Collins that upon completion will store up to 170,000 acre feet of water.
In turn, the stored water would be used to supply, through some 25 miles of pipeline, more than a dozen northern Colorado municipalities and water providers.
In documents submitted earlier this year to the planning department, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District noted that “as municipal water demands increase in northeastern Colorado, there is an ongoing and growing threat to nearby irrigated farmland.”
Without the construction of the reservoir, the document continues, “it is projected that more than 60,000 acres of irrigated agriculture may ultimately disappear.”
A review decision regarding the project by the Army Corps of Engineers is expected to be published later this year.
Members of the Larimer County Board of Commissioners, meanwhile, could vote sometime this summer on granting the project a 1041 permit.
By Garry Boulard
Work will be allowed to continue on the construction of a border wall between the United States and Mexico as a result of a U.S. Supreme Court decision to not take up a case seeking to block construction on a portion of the wall.
The court declined to issue a public statement regarding its decision.
Earlier this year a number of environmental groups had filed suit contending that the Homeland Security Department lacked the authority to not take into consideration environmental concerns related to the wall’s construction.
Those groups said that the continued construction of the wall had the potential of harming the habitats for endangered and threatened species, including jaguars and Mexican grey wolves.
More specifically those same groups objected to the use of waivers implemented by Homeland Security to speed up the building of the wall.
The Supreme Court decision comes just days after the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against a Trump Administration move to transfer around $2.5 billion in funds for various Defense Department infrastructure projects for the wall’s construction.
But a Supreme Court ruling last year permitted those funds to be used until the matter could be finally decided.
To date, at least 200 miles of a project that is designed to stretch from southern California to Texas has been completed.
By Garry Boulard
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is expected to sign into law legislation that, in part, will do away with around 70 capital outlay projects approved earlier this year by members of the state legislature.
The new legislation, Senate Bill 5, is designed to drastically reduce spending on a wide variety of infrastructure projects in the wake of a faltering state economy sparked by the COVID-19 outbreak.
As proposed by Senators George Munoz and Stuart Ingle, Senate Bill 5 authorizes some $10.9 million in “capital outlay project voids,” according to an analysis prepared by the Senate Finance Committee.
The bill also calls for a $2.4 million lifting of funds from the border authority, “a reduction of $75 million from transportation projects authorized in 2019, and various other fund sweeps totaling $33.6 million.”
Funding yanked from earlier approved projects includes $823,000 for the Holocaust and Intolerance Museum in Albuquerque; $2.4 million for the a road extension project in Santa Teresa; and $750,000 for the expansion of a trades program facility at the Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint.
In the cost-cutting effort, even smaller outlays have been cancelled, a group that includes just over $12,000 for improvements to the Sacramento Mountains Museum in Cloudcroft; and $10,000 for improvements to a Santa Fe Community College adult education facility.
The capital outlay reductions come on the heels of some $150 million Lujan Grisham vetoed in March for road projects and public works.
In announcing those vetoes then, the Governor remarked: “We’ve got to be prepared as a state economically. We want to make sure we have enough money in reserves.”
The Governor has until July 12 to approve the capital outlay reduction legislation.
By Garry Boulard
Planning is continuing at an accelerated rate for the expansion of Interstate 10 as it slices through downtown El Paso.
The more than $1.1 billion project, which has been the subject of studies and public input meetings for the better part of a decade, will see the acquisition of adjacent land, the demolition of buildings spanning several blocks, and the repurposing of several bridges.
The expansion project as undertaken by the Texas Department of Transportation will span just under 6 miles extending from Copia Street on the east side of downtown to the Executive Center Boulevard on the west side.
A study previously compiled by the Texas DOT called Reimagine I-10 pegged the downtown El Paso segment of a larger effort to upgrade the highway above and below the city as the most important part of the project.
In conforming with COVID-19 distancing requirements, the Texas DOT has scheduled its next public meeting, set for July 15, to be entirely online.
The design for the project is not expected to be completed until at least late 2023.
Transportation officials have long maintained that the I-10 in El Paso, originally built in the late 1950s, is outdated and in need of upgrading in response to vehicular traffic that has more than tripled just in the last two decades.
It is thought that construction on what is expected to be a four-year project will begin sometime in 2025.
By Garry Boulard
The percentage of small businesses across the country seeking federal loans as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak is still on the increase, according to a new survey just released by the National Federation of Independent Business.
The Nashville-based group in its latest monthly survey is showing that the number of responding small business owners applying for a Paycheck Protection Program loan has now reached the 81 percent mark.
That’s up from 77 percent for applicants in that same program in late May.
The latest NFIB survey also reveals that of those businesses in the late spring and early summer applying for Paycheck Protection Program support, an overwhelming 97 percent have since received a loan.
Nearly 60 percent of survey respondents also indicated that they are taking advantage of the program’s new loan forgiveness extension, as provided for in the PPP Flexibility Act signed into law in early June.
That legislation additionally allows small business borrowers to utilize a higher percentage of their loan on non-payroll expenses, a feature that, says the survey, some 60 percent of respondents said they regarded as helpful.
Just over a third of respondents to date said that they had applied for help under the separate Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, but are still waiting for their loans to be processed.
The survey, crunching the numbers of more than six hundred small business respondents, also revealed that some 56 percent said they thought they would need anywhere from less than $20,000 to just under $50,000 in loan support over the course of the next year.
A significantly smaller 37 percent thought they would need $50,000 to $250,000 in the same time period.
A hopeful note indicated that while 28 percent of respondents in May said their sales volume was at least 75 percent of what it had been just before the COVID-19 outbreak, that number has since improved to 40 percent.
The survey results, said Holly Wade, director of research and policy analysis for the NFIB, show that small businesses across the country continue to experience “a heavy amount of uncertainty and complications” in a coronavirus economy.
Added Wade: “Now that owners have more flexibility in using their PPP loan, they can focus on adjusting business operations accordingly as states loosen business restrictions.”
By Garry Boulard
A California developer that has to date built four apartment communities in metro Denver has just announced plans to build a fifth in the city’s Stapleton neighborhood.
The Solana Beach, California-based ReyLenn Properties says it wants to build its newest project on a currently vacant 4.5-acre site near the former Stapleton International Airport.
That site is located at the northwest corner of Central Park Boulevard and East 32nd Street, not far from a neighborhood of mostly upscale two-floor residences.
Earlier this month ReyLenn, which specializes in multifamily and mixed-use projects, announced the opening of its master planned Solana Stapleton luxury rental community.
That project includes 280 units of varying sizes, with rents starting at around $1,500 month.
Two years ago the company completed its Solana Lucent Station project in Denver’s Highlands neighborhood, a $60 million residential community with 285 units.
ReyLenn projects typically feature a variety of amenities including co-working spaces, spas and swimming pools, indoor basketball courts, dog parks, and community gardens.
Plans for the new Central Park Boulevard project have now been submitted to the City of Denver for review.
By Garry Boulard
Plans for the construction of just over 350 apartment units of varying sizes are on their way to the Broomfield City Council for review and hoped-for approval.
The project, being developed by Mountain View LLC, also of Broomfield, will be built in two phases on a currently open 19.7-acre site at the southeast corner of Wadsworth Boulevard and West 116th Avenue.
The site is in a mostly residential area, some 2 miles to the south of downtown Broomfield.
As proposed, what is being called the Wadsworth Station will go up in two phases, with an initial mix of 276 studio and one- and two- and three-bedroom units planned for the first phase construction.
Additional building features will include a coffee bar, conference room, and workspace areas. Exterior amenities will see the building of half a dozen carports and courtyard space.
Another 76 units will see construction in a later second phase.
The project, which has been in the talking and planning stage for nearly two years, has just secured the approval of the Broomfield Planning and Zoning Commission.
In recent years Broomfield’s apartment market has been booming, reflecting a 26 percent growth in its population in the last decade for a current total of just over 70,400 residents.
By Garry Boulard
An announcement temporarily halting a number of employment-based visas is expected to reduce the labor pool for some construction companies.
In arguing that the spread of COVID-19 required stricter immigration policies, President Trump signed an executive order that will prevent hundreds of thousands of new immigrants from entering the country until the end of this calendar year.
“Under ordinary circumstances, properly administered temporary worker programs can provide benefits to the economy,” Trump said in his order.
“But under the extraordinary circumstances of the economic contraction resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak, certain nonimmigrant visa programs authorizing such employment post an unusual threat to the employment of American workers,” the document continued.
Employment specialists said the order will impact the number of available workers in everything from landscaping to seasonal resort work and high-tech consulting.
In place for more than 60 years, the employment-based visa program has particularly provided a labor force in construction and home maintenance through H-2B visas designed for short-term workers.
Previously limited to no more than 66,000 such visas a year, the Trump Administration last year upped the number to 96,000, its highest peak in more than a decade.
The executive order has sparked varied responses. Sarah Pierce, an analyst with the Migration Policy Institute, said the President’s decision will introduce “more chaos into an already chaotic situation for a lot of U.S. companies.”
In an interview with the Reuters news service, Pierce added that the White House was in error in assuming that U.S. companies had yet to look at the domestic labor pool for workers.
She asserted that most companies would take that route, “before they get involved in a complicated process of trying to bring in more foreign workers.”
But Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, applauded the executive order as “welcome news for tens of millions of Americans who have lost jobs as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.”
In a statement, Stein continued: “Among the recently unemployed are workers of all skill levels who are ready, willing, and able to fill jobs as our economy recovers.”
By Garry Boulard
A new truck stop is set for construction off Arizona State Route Loop 303 in the city of Glendale, Arizona.
Members of the Glendale City Council have now given their approval to a rezoning of the proposed vacant site to allow for the construction of a Love’s Travel Stop location.
The project, which has been the subject of several public input meetings, will go up off the highway loop between Bethany Home Road and Glendale Avenue.
According to plans, the location will include truck parking space, a small grocery store and restaurant.
The project has been in the talking stage since at least last year and opposed by nearby residents who said they were concerned about the noise and pollution that might come from having trucks idling for extended periods of time on the property.
In voting on the matter, council members changed the zoning designation of the site in question from agricultural to commercial.
Based in Oklahoma City, the Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores company currently has more than 510 locations nationwide, with revenues exceeding $20 billion in 2018.
The company’s locations generally range in size from 8,000 square feet to as much as 16,000 square feet and can include multiple bays for car and truck fueling, as well as a multitude of truck parking spaces.
By Garry Boulard
A company that has been developing solar array projects across the country has announced plans to build a 372-megawatt facility near the San Juan Generating Station.
The Lehi, Utah-based Photosol US says it wants to build what could be a $680 million project encompassing more than 2,000 acres of solar panels.
Although a construction schedule for the project has not yet been announced, the company is working with the federal Bureau of Land Management in the hope of securing a variance to proceed with the project.
What is being called Shiprock Solar comes as a report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, based in Lakewood, Ohio, contends that the full potential for solar projects on leased federal lands has not been realized.
That report, Federal Land Agency Lags on Solar Development Approval Across Southwest U.S., contends that current BLM policies regarding such projects are outdated, adding at the same time that current solar markets “are primed for more activity.”
Photosol US officials say they are particularly interested in the Land of Enchantment because the state last year passed the Energy Transition Act. That measure mandates that all of New Mexico must be carbon free by the year 2050.
If built, the Shiprock Solar facility could provide power to entities from utility companies to large corporations and municipalities.
Besides needing BLM approval for a land variance, the proposed project must also undergo an environmental review as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.
By Garry Boulard
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