River Running Through

The oft-photographed red, white and blue Idaho Falls water tower in downtown is slated to be torn down and rebuilt in another location in the next few years. The water tower got its current color scheme in conjunction with the nation’s bicentennial in 1976.

Get your cameras ready — one of Idaho Falls’ landmarks just got its expiration date.

After more than 80 years of dominating the city’s skyline, the oft-photographed downtown Idaho Falls water tower is slated to be demolished and replaced by a new tower at a different location.

Idaho Falls Public Works presented the official timeline for the project to the city council Monday afternoon. The anticipated schedule would have a new water tower built near downtown Idaho Falls by the end of 2023, while the current tower will be torn down during the spring of 2024.

The current water tower was built in 1937 with 500,000 gallons of water storage for the city. It has not had any major renovations other than the addition of the iconic red, white and blue paint job added during the nation’s bicentennial celebration in 1976.

The city estimates that the total cost of constructing a new tower and tearing down the old one will be $6.5 million.

Public Works Director Chris Fredericksen said the city had discussed replacing the tower for more than a decade, ever since an inspection in 2008 first raised the issue. Plans to eventually replace the tower were included in the city water plan that was passed in 2015, and water rates had been increased over the past four years to help cover the project’s cost.

“We anticipate this new tower will be in service for as long as the one we have, so we want to make sure we make good decisions,” Fredericksen said.

The final design of the new tower should be completed by January 2022, with construction running from April 2022 until the fall of 2023. The new tower would be the same height — 180 feet as the current one to maintain pressure but will be wider and deeper, doubling the current tower’s storage capacity to address the growing needs of the city.

In order for both towers to be in operation at the same time during the switchover, the city is looking for a new location to build the larger tower. Public Works has narrowed the possible sites to three locations already owned by the city near downtown: along the Snake River in Capital Park-South, the parking lot between the State Office Building and the Idaho Falls Public Library, and the parking lot south of the State Office Building on Shoup Avenue.

The next year of the water tower schedule will be spent gathering public comment on the project and deciding between the three potential spots. Fredericksen and city Water Superintendent Dave Richards presented altered versions of the Idaho Falls skyline to the council to show what it would look like to have the water tower in other locations.

“It’s not as if this is something that we will start building immediately. But this is a very big project and we need to have a lot of discussions about it,” Richards said.

The next event where Public Works staff will answer questions about the project and gauge public opinion on the proposed sites will be the Budget Watch Open House at the Idaho Falls Library on May 7. There also will be a page on the Idaho Falls city website dedicated to the details of the water tower project.

Contact Brennen with news tips at 208-542-6711.

Kauffman reports on health care and city events for the Post Register.

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