NISP supplemental draft environmental impact statement released, comment until September 3

July 3, 2015
Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative

Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative

Here’s the release from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Brian Werner):

With the Army Corps of Engineers release of the Northern Integrated Supply Project’s supplemental draft environmental impact statement, NISP proponents have accomplished an important milestone toward constructing two new, and very much needed, reservoirs in northern Colorado.

The SDEIS began in 2009 following a four-year process to produce a draft EIS. The NISP SDEIS is one of the most extensive and intensive reviews of a water project ever undertaken in Colorado. The additional studies closely analyzed riparian habitat, water quality, aquatic resources and hydrologic modeling.

“We are pleased to have reached this important milestone after 12 years and nearly $15 million in expenditures by the NISP participants,” Northern Water General Manger Eric Wilkinson said. “The SDEIS shows that the project is needed to meet a portion of the participants’ future water needs.”

The SDEIS includes a proposed mitigation plan illustrating how NISP participants will provide additional water to the Poudre River during low flows, build low-flow/fish-friendly bypass structures at key sites on the river through Fort Collins, and implement river restoration measures.

“NISP is a collaborative, regional project that will play a key role in addressing Colorado’s challenging water future by managing available water supplies that would otherwise flow out of state and do so while addressing environmental concerns in a proactive way,” Wilkinson added.

The SDEIS and additional information is available on the U.S. Army Corps website at: http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Missions/RegulatoryProgram/Colorado/EISNISP.

For additional information on NISP visit http://www.gladereservoir.org.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Nick Coltrain):

Public comment will now be accepted through Sept. 3, versus the initial 45 days. The corps’ posting does not include more public hearings on the proposal. There are two planned — one in Fort Collins and one in Greeley — for near the end of July.

The corps cited “a number of requests to extend the comment period” in its extension notice. At least one request, from U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat whose district includes Fort Collins. Anti-NISP group Save the Poudre also planned to ask for an extension and Fort Collins city staff analyzing the NISP report said the length of the comment period would dictate when they presented their findings to the city council.

Polis asked for a minimum of 120 for the report to be digested and commented on. He cited concerns by the Fort Collins city government that it have enough time for complete analysis and outreach on the proposal.

Low flow releases are part of the mitigation plan. From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Nick Coltrain):

The report, which clocks in at just shy of 1,500 pages, is the precursor to at least two public hearings and a 45-day public comment period on a plan to build two new Northern Colorado reservoirs capable of delivering more water to Colorado’s growing Front Range.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat whose district includes Fort Collins, has already requested the public comment period be extended to 120 days.

Documents released Friday add to a 2008 draft environmental impact statement for the water storage proposal. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which compiled the reports and is the ultimate authority on whether construction will be permitted, determined “substantial additional analysis was needed” after its initial report underwent public comment.

About 675 letters, emails and oral statements regarding NISP were recorded during that process.

“We are pleased to have reached this important milestone after 12 years and nearly $15 million in expenditures by the NISP participants,” Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District General Manger Eric Wilkinson said in a statement. “The SDEIS shows that the project is needed to meet a portion of the participants’ future water needs.”

Northern Water, a public agency that coordinates water management in Northern Colorado, proposed the project to help meet future water needs along the Front Range. It expects a final permit decision in 2017…

NISP opponents fear the project will siphon water away from the Poudre River, which flows through Fort Collins on its route to connect with the South Platte River near Greeley…

In its statement, Northern Water notes that the supplemental report includes mitigation plans to ensure additional water will be released back into the Poudre River during low flows, and includes construction of fish-friendly bypass structures and river restoration measures…

The project, if approved, would lead to the construction of the Glade and Galeton reservoirs, with an estimated combined storage of more than 215,000 acre-feet of water, 40,000 of which would go to municipal water supplies each year. The larger of the two, Glade Reservoir, would be larger than Horsetooth Reservoir.

Glade Reservoir would be built just north of Ted’s Place, the country store and gas station at the junction of Colorado Highway 14 and U.S. Highway 287. It would require portions of U.S. 287 to be relocated.

The reservoir, capable of holding up to 170,000 acre feet of water, would cover the land north of Ted’s Place and south of Owl Canyon with Poudre River water.

Galeton Reservoir, built northeast of Greeley, would be filled with water from the South Platte River.

From The Greeley Tribune (Catherine Sweeney):

WHAT’S NEXT

RESIDENTS INTERESTED IN COMMENTING ON THE SUPPLEMENTAL DRAFT OF THE NORTHERN INTEGRATED WATER SUPPLY ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT SHOULD DO SO PRIOR TO SEPT. 3. THERE ARE TWO PUBLIC HEARINGS IN WHICH TO DO SO:

» 5 p.m. July 22 at the Hilton Fort Collins, 425 W. Prospect Road, Fort Collins

» 5 p.m. July 23 at the Weld County Administration Building, 1150 O St., Greeley.

To view the supplemental draft environment statement, and to learn where to send written comments, go to the Army Corps of Engineers’ website.

Submit comments in writing to John Urbanic, NISP EIS Project Manager, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, Denver Regulatory Office, 9307 S. Wadsworth Blvd., Littleton, CO 80128 E-mail: http://nisp.eis@usace.army.mil..

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who serves on the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, focused on the harm “buy and dry” deals could do to Colorado…

Weld County Commissioners Barbara Kirkmeyer and Mike Freeman both attended the rally and expressed their support.

“It’s very important to me,” Freeman said. “We know the cost of buy-and-dry.”

Freeman represents Weld County’s District 1, which covers the northern half of the county. It also covers a vast amount of farmland, which would be considered for water lease deals.

Meanwhile, NISP supporters rallied at a shindig at Northern’s HQ yesterday. Here’s a report from Saja Hindi writing for the Loveland Reporter-Herald:

Speakers at the Northern Colorado Integrated Supply Project support rally made a consistent call to action to their attendees — make their voices heard…

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began its first environmental impact statement in 2004 with a draft open to public comment in 2008. The following year, they decided to conduct a supplemental draft environmental impact statement, and that was released June 19 of this year for public comment. The comment period was extended recently through Sept. 3.

The final impact statement is scheduled to be released in 2016 with a record of decision in 2017.

If the agency allows for the project to move forward, construction could begin 2019 and be completed in four years…

Senators, congressional leaders and local elected officials were among the 175 attendees at the fifth rally in support of the project at Northern Water in Berthoud Thursday afternoon.

“We all know this is a valuable project needed for this area, and it must move forward,” said Eric Wilkinson, Northern Water General Manager.

It’s not going to dry up the Poudre River, Wilkinson asserted to the crowd, rather make use of available water supplies in Northern Colorado. And it’s needed for the 15 participants in the project, the future of the region, the future of the state and for future generations, he added.

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, told the crowd there’s been a lot of talk this year in Colorado about rain barrels and harvesting water.

“Ladies and gentlemen, let’s help build this ultimate rail barrel,” he said. “Let’s build NISP.”[…]

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., also addressed the crowd, stressing the urgency of the project.

“These are the faces of NISP, the faces that know their communities need this water to survive,” Gardner said.

He said residents need to be serious about the infrastructure needs of the country and can’t keep pushing the projects down the road because delays will affect costs, people’s employment and access to water for individuals and agriculture.

Gardner said in an interview that the permitting process in these projects needs to be examined because both NISP and the Chatfield Reservoir project have taken more than a decade — even with broad bipartisan support.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Northern Colorado leaders rallied Thursday urging quicker green lights for their “ultimate rain barrel” — a $713 million project that would divert water from the federally protected Cache La Poudre River and store 71 billion gallons in two new reservoirs.

They contend this Northern Integrated Supply Project is crucial for 400,000 future Front Range residents in some of the nation’s fastest-growing areas around Colorado’s oil and gas boom.

Since April, so much rain filled existing reservoirs and flowed into the South Platte River that Nebraska got 1.3 million acre-feet that Colorado could have caught if it had more storage space such as NISP’s Glade and Galeton reservoirs, Northern Water manager Eric Wilkinson said Thursday. Northern Water has been seeking permits since 2004 and still faces federal and state regulatory hurdles.

Erie, Fort Morgan, Windsor, Firestone, Frederick, Dacono and others “are trying to meet their future water needs,” Wilkinson said.

Poudre water wouldn’t be taken during dry times, ensuring flows of at least 50 cubic feet per second during summer and 25 cfs in winter. Mitigation of harm to wetlands would lead to restoration of habitat elsewhere, he said.

“NISP will not dry up the Poudre River,” Wilkinson said. “This project makes beneficial use of available water supplies.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration must complete environmental reviews; a state spokeswoman said Hickenlooper and two key water officials were traveling and couldn’t respond to queries. Federal water engineers at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this week extended by 30 days a public-comment period on the latest environment impact document, due to be done next year.

Construction couldn’t begin before 2019, Northern Water officials said, assuming permits are issued…

The alternative to developing new water supplies would be for booming cities and industry to buy more water from farmers, leading to a dry-up of 100 square miles of irrigated agriculture, project proponents said. That would mean a $400 million loss of agricultural output, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner said at the rally.

“That is economic devastation,” Gardner said. “We can’t keep pushing it down the road. The longer this takes, the higher the cost, and the more acres that get dried up.”

This spring, water flows in the Poudre, a South Platte tributary with upper reaches protected as wild and scenic, were sufficient for Northern Water to trap and store 130,000 acre-feet in the two proposed reservoirs, officials said. The project goal is to store enough water to supply 40,000 acre-feet a year to 15 participating water providers.

Gardner said he’ll work to accelerate permitting in Washington, D.C.[…]

More than 150 state lawmakers, mayors, county commissioners, water providers and residents attended Thursday’s rally.

“We’ve got to find a way to keep Colorado’s water in Colorado,” state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg said. “We’ll have the ultimate rain barrel, ready to be filled, right up the road here.”

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


Granby: “State of the River” meeting recap #ColoradoRiver

May 29, 2015
Historical Colorado River between Granby and Hot Sulphur Springs

Historical Colorado River between Granby and Hot Sulphur Springs

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Hank Shell):

During the meeting, officials from the Upper Colorado River Basin’s biggest water interests including Northern Water, Denver Water and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation spoke about some of the basin’s biggest issues, including the state of runoff and snowpack in the region and the movement at Ritschard Dam on Wolford Mountain Reservoir.

Though snowpack seemed to falter during what proved to be a rather dry March, it’s been building steadily over the last three to four weeks, explained Don Meyer with the Colorado River District.

The variations in snowpack have pushed the basin into “uncharted territory,” he said.

“I think the message here is think 2010 in terms of snowpack,” Meyer said.

Though he added that snowpack is not analogous to runoff, Meyer said 2015 “will likely eclipse 2010 in terms of stream flow.”

Victor Lee with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation echoed Meyer, adding that recent cold temperatures across the region have allowed snowpack to persist.

Though snowpack is currently below average, it could linger past the point at which the average snowpack tends to drop…

If the current snowpack does translate into high runoff in Grand County, there may not be anywhere to put it, Lee said.

Front Range reservoirs are full, and storage in Lake Granby is the highest it’s ever been for this time of year, according to Lee’s presentation…

Though it could be a good runoff year for Grand County, Meyer said that snow-water equivalent above Lake Powell is still well below average, making it a dry year for the Upper Colorado River Basin overall.

RITSCHARD DAM

Officials aren’t sure when the settling and movement at Ritschard Dam will stop, but it poses no threat to safety, said John Currier with the Colorado River District.

“We really are absolutely confident that we don’t have an imminent safety problem with this dam,” Currier said…

ENDANGERED FISH

The Bureau of Reclamation will increase flows from the Granby Dam to 1,500 CFS around May 29 and maintain those flows until around June 8, Lee said.

The releases will be part of an endangered fish recovery program and will be coordinated with releases from other basin reservoirs to enhance peak flows in the Grand Valley where the plan is focused.

Wolford Mountain Reservoir will also participate in the coordinated releases, Meyer said.

The program hopes to re-establish bonytail chub, Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker and humpback chub populations to a 15-mile stretch of the Colorado River above Grand Junction.

WINDY GAP FIRMING

After receiving its Record of Decision last year, the Windy Gap Firming Project’s next major hurdle is acquiring a Section 404 permit from the Army Corps of Engineers for the construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir, said Don Carlson with Northern Water.

The permit regulates dredged or fill material into water as part of the Clean Water Act.

Northern Water hopes to acquire the permit this year, with construction possibly beginning in 2016 or 2017, Carlson said.

The project seeks to firm up the Windy Gap water right with a new Front Range reservoir. The project currently stores water in Lake Granby.

Because it’s a junior water right, yield for the project is little to nothing in dry years.

Northern Water also hopes to establish a free-flowing channel of the Colorado River beside the Windy Gap Reservoir as part of the Windy Gap Reservoir Bypass Project.

The new channel would allow for fish migration and improve aquatic habitat along the Colorado River.

That project still needs $6 million of its projected $10 million cost.

MOFFAT TUNNEL FLOWS

Moffat Tunnel flows are hovering around 15 CFS as Denver Water is getting high yield from its Boulder Creek water right, said Bob Steger with Denver Water.

The increased yield from that junior water right means flows through Moffat Tunnel will remain low through early summer, Steger said.

“The point is we’ll be taking a lot less water than we normally do,” he said.

Denver Water expects its flows through the tunnel to increase in late summer as its yield from Boulder Creek drops, Steger said.

Williams Fork Reservoir, which is used to fulfill Denver Water’s obligations on the Western Slope, is expected to fill in three to four weeks, Steger said.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.


The May 2015 “e-WaterNews” is hot off the presses from Northern Water

May 22, 2015
Katie Melander

Katie Melander

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Northern Water’s Katie Melander is the new president of the Colorado section of the American Water Resources Association. Katie is a water resources engineer. The gavel was turned over to Katie during the AWRA Colorado Section (@awraco) symposium May 1. An objective of the AWRA Colorado section is to promote the advancement of water resources research, planning, development, management and education.

More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


Northern Water: Congratulations to our own Katie Melander on becoming the president of @AWRACO

May 1, 2015

Northern Water bumps up quota to 70% for the season due to record storage

April 15, 2015

Here’s the release from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Brian Werner):

Northern Water’s Board increased the Colorado-Big Thompson Project quota allocation to 70 percent today. With C-BT Project storage at an all-time high for April 1, local storage reservoirs above normal and with mountain snowpacks declining, the Board chose to make available an average supplemental quota for 2015.

The approval increased available C-BT water supplies by 20 percent, or 62,000 acre feet, from the initial 50 percent quota made available in November.

The Board considered input from farmers and municipal water providers, demonstrating the varying demands and complex circumstances directors must consider when setting the quota. C-BT supplements other sources of water for 33 cities and towns, 120 agricultural irrigation companies, various industries and other water users within Northern Water’s 1.6 million-acre service area.

Directors carefully considered streamflow forecasts, which have declined since the beginning of March to below average in all C-BT related watersheds. Snowpack in watersheds contributing to C-BT inflow have gone from above average on March 1 to approximately 15 percent below average in April. In addition, March precipitation throughout Northern Water’s boundaries was just 21 percent of average.

Directors also took into consideration the drought throughout much of the American West and the potential for a dry spring or summer. Board Vice-President Kenton Brunner emphasized, “The Board always has the option to increase the quota in future months if conditions warrant.”

“We’re in good shape storage-wise and better prepared to have a down snowpack year than in many other years,” said Andy Pineda, Water Resources Department Manager. “The weather changes from year-to-year and we never know how much precipitation the mountains will receive, so having storage reservoirs this full is very beneficial for water users.”

Directors based their decision on the need for supplemental water for the coming year, while balancing project operations and maintaining water in storage for future dry years.

To learn more about Northern Water and the C-BT quota, visit http://www.northernwater.org.

More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


Upward is the only recent direction for C-BT share prices

February 9, 2015

Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities

Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities


From BizWest (Steve Lynn):

Prices of Colorado-Big Thompson water have reached an all-time high, selling for nearly three times more than just two years ago.

Shares of the water went for more than $26,000 apiece at an auction Jan. 23, according to Berthoud-based Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the equivalent of $52,000 an acre foot. An acre foot equals 326,000 gallons, enough water to serve 2.5 households annually.

The water was bought for industrial and municipal uses, said Brian Werner, spokesman for the district. The identity of the buyer has not yet been disclosed.

The high prices are likely to cause concern in the agricultural world, where farm water traditionally has been lower priced. Residential homebuilders also are likely to feel the squeeze, as fees for new water taps rise.

“It’s fairly expensive water these days, if you can find it,” Werner said. “Some people can’t even find it.”[…]

Built originally in the 1930s to serve the region’s massive irrigated agriculture economy, shares in the C-BT gradually have been acquired by fast-growing cities and energy companies. Now the water is largely owned by cities, and leased back to farmers or others who seek to use it on a temporary annual basis.

How much water is associated with each share in the system changes each year and is based on how much water is derived from snowpacks and precipitation. This year, a share of water equals six-tenths of an acre foot since the Northern Water Board of Directors declared a 60 percent quota last April, meaning water-rights owners can use only 60 percent of the resource they own.

The high prices for water come despite record levels of water storage in October in the district’s reservoirs, which span Northern Colorado and the Boulder Valley.

“Storage remained high throughout this year and through the winter,” Werner said.

As of Jan. 1, Colorado-Big Thompson had 665,000 acre feet of water in storage, 45 percent above normal, Werner said.

The higher levels stemmed from above-average snowpack, increased precipitation and less water delivered to water users. Flooding in September 2013 also replenished groundwater supplies in many areas.

Higher water storage may mean more water available to rent, but it may not affect water-rights prices, said Tom Cech, director of One World One Water at Metropolitan State University.

“The price of (Colorado-Big Thompson) water and other water rights in the region are directly tied to demand such as from energy development, water for fracking purposes, and then urban development,” Cech said. “Those are the two big drivers.”

Fracking involves pumping millions of gallons of water under high pressure deep underground to free oil and gas from dense shale formations. As energy companies benefit from the water, Cech said, agriculture has faced increasing challenges because of the high water prices.

“Irrigated agriculture is generally short of adequate water supplies,” he said. “In the wet years, there’s enough, but you always have the dry years around the corner.”

Slowing energy development because of lower oil prices could temper high water prices in the next year or so, he said. Oil and natural-gas drilling permits approved in Weld County remained flat during the third and fourth quarters amid falling oil prices, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Urban development, however, has shown no signs of abating. The population of Weld and Larimer counties is expected to grow from 580,000 to more than 1 million people by 2040.

“You have to have water supplies for the new residents, so developers and municipalities have to go out and acquire more water rights,” he said. “That should drive the price of water up.”

Developers in Northern Colorado cities such as Greeley already face higher tap fees when they have to rely on Colorado-Big Thompson water.

\If developers do not have water to supply their developments, they instead pay cash to use Greeley’s supply. Here also, rates have skyrocketed, with Greeley charging $25,000 per share in recent months, nearly triple the $9,000 per share it was charging in October 2012, according to Eric Reckentine, the city of Greeley’s deputy director of water resources.

Mike DiTullio, district manager for the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District, said the higher prices are making new homes increasingly expensive. He said he closed a deal in January for 200 units of Colorado-Big Thompson water – for about $5 million, at $25,000 per share.

The higher water prices will not affect rates of existing residential customers, DiTullio said. Instead, new homeowners and developers will foot the bill. The water district serves about 16,000 customers in Larimer County.

“That increase in raw water costs is paid for by new houses,” he said. “There’s no such thing as affordable housing in Larimer and Weld counties.”


The latest edition of Northern Water’s “Waternews” is hot off the presses

January 14, 2015


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