#ColoradoRiver: The latest “e-Waternews” is hot off the presses from Northern Water #COriver

Graph showing historical total active storage for Sept. 1. The green line indicates average storage, which is 492,333 AF via Northern Water.
Graph showing historical total active storage for Sept. 1. The green line indicates average storage, which is 492,333 AF via Northern Water.

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

C-BT Project Update
Going into September, C-BT Project storage continued to be above average. On Sept. 1, 2016, total active storage was 619,418 acre-feet, which is approximately 128,000 AF above average for this time of year.

For the 2016 water year, 142,579 AF has been delivered with 42 percent of the deliveries 0 from Carter Lake and 49 percent from Horsetooth Reservoir. The remaining nine percent is delivered from the Big Thompson River and the Hansen Feeder Canal.

Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water
Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

Longmont councillors want rate payers to weigh in on paying for Windy Gap supply

Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.
Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.

From the Longmont Times-Call (Karen Antonucci):

The Longmont City Council has opted to participate in the Windy Gap Firming Project, which would construct a reservoir in order to hold some of the water produced by Longmont’s water rights.

There are three options to finance Longmont’s projected $47 million portion of the Windy Gap Firming Project — one using all cash and two using variations of debt.

If the council chooses to pay the $47 million in cash, it would mean initial water rate increases of 13 percent in 2017 and 12 percent in 2018, above the 9 percent increase in both of those years that has already been approved, for totals of 22 percent and 21 percent.

Or, the council could choose to use $41 million cash and $6 million in debt. This would mean initial rate increases of 8 percent in both 2017 and 2018 above the already approved 9 percent increase in those years. With this option, the city would spend $50.1 million total, including interest, on the project.

Finally, the council could choose to finance the project with $30.3 million in cash and $16.7 million of debt, it would mean initiative water rate increases of 5 percent in both 2018 and 2019 above the 9 percent increase in both those years. This option would ultimately cost the city $55.8 million.

For the cash option and the $6 million debt option, the rate increases over 10 years would be similar. The $16.7 million debt option would result in the highest total rate increase over a decade.

Longmont spokeswoman Holly Milne said that the council asked for the survey and the online comment form because they wanted resident feedback before they make a decision.

Residents can visit http://longmontcolorado.gov/departments/departments-n-z/water/water-resources-supply/windy-gap-firming-project and fill out an online form with their opinion of what the city should do.

The city is also surveying 3,000 randomly selected Longmont households with a postcard survey. The households chosen will be different than the households that will receive the city’s separate customer satisfaction survey.

Public to get say next year on final NISP impact statement — BizWest

Northern Integrated Supply Project July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.
Northern Integrated Supply Project July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

From BizWest (Dallas Heltzell):

“We don’t know if that’s early or late 2017,” said Brian Werner, communications manager for the Berthoud-based Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the driving force behind the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project. Noting that the planning process for NISP now is in its 13th year, he added that “given the pace so far, we’d expect to see it released to the public toward the latter part of the year.”

[…]

The additional opportunity for public input “is not something we’d ordinarily do,” said John Urbanic, a Littleton-based senior project manager for the Corps’ Omaha District. “There’s typically no comment period on the final because the studies have been completed.”

The change in Corps policy was decided, Urbanic said, because the Corps has done additional water-quality analyses since it issued a Supplemental Draft EIS in June 2015. The final EIS will include updated environmental studies, as well as refinements that project manager Northern Water has made to its proposal.

In April, Northern Water responded to last year’s sharp criticism from citizens and some governmental bodies by revising its plans in order to provide a larger, steadier flow of water in the Cache la Poudre River as it flows through Fort Collins. The change would include releasing 14,000 acre-feet of water a year from Glade Reservoir into the Poudre for a 12-mile stretch through the city, then capturing it again at the “Timnath Inlet” near East Mulberry Street west of Interstate 25 through a pumping station and pipeline that would carry it down the Larimer-Weld county line to Northern Water’s Southern Water Supply Project, which serves communities from Broomfield to Fort Morgan.

Northern Water designed the revision to help allay opponents’ fears that by draining water from the Poudre, NISP would limit opportunities for recreation that include tubing, whitewater kayaking and fishing. The Fort Collins City Council late last summer unanimously voted to conditionally oppose the project, based on a report from a broad range of city departments that listed concerns about water-quality degradation because of reduced streamflow that could cause the city to spend tens of millions of dollars on extra water treatment, as well as what they saw as an incomplete supplemental draft EIS by the Corps.

Northern Water’s revised plan also would eliminate a proposed pipeline from Horsetooth Reservoir, west of Fort Collins, into the NISP system, Werner said — another response to public concerns.

Then in July, Werner said the proposed Galeton Reservoir might have to be moved because the site is home to about two dozen active oil and gas wells operated by Noble Energy…

“The move of the Galeton Reservoir site will not slow down the process further,” Werner told BizWest on Monday.

Urbanic said all public input received during the comment period for the final EIS will be reviewed and addressed in the “Record of Decision,” which completes the Corps’ permitting process.

About a dozen cities and towns and four water districts have signed up to buy water from the project if it wins final approval from the Corps. Supporters see NISP as crucial to keeping up with the growing demands of development, industry and agriculture along the Front Range and catching rainwater and snowmelt for use in drier years.

@OmahaUSACE: Update for pending Northern Integrated Supply Project Final EIS

Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.
Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

Click here to go to the project page. Here’s the release:

The Omaha District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will accept public comments on the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which is due to be released in 2017.

A formal comment period for the Final EIS provides the public an opportunity to review and provide comment about additional water quality analyses that have been taking place since the Supplemental Draft EIS was released in June 2015. The Final EIS will include updated environmental studies as well as refinements to Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s proposed action.

All public input received during the comment period for the Final EIS will be reviewed and addressed in the Record of Decision, which completes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permitting process.

Longmont council to ask public for Windy Gap feedback — Longmont Times-Call

Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.
Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.

From the Longmont Times-Call (Karen Antonucci):

Faced with three different financing mechanisms for Longmont’s $47 million portion of the Windy Gap Firming Project, the council chose to gather more information from the public first.

Longmont public works and natural resources staff told the council on Tuesday that they have three options to finance the $47 million — completely through rate increases, through rate increases and by issuing $6 million in debt or by issuing $16.7 million in debt.

The decision directly affects Longmont residents’ wallets. Essentially, paying cash up front with rate increases means steep rate jumps in the next two years but is cheaper in the long term.

If the council chooses eventually to finance it completely through cash, water rates will need to jump 21 percent in 2017 and 22 percent in 2018, including 9 percent increases already approved.

Debt, on the other hand, would cause milder rate increases for more years, and cost the city more long term.

On the other end of the extreme, council could choose to ask the voters to issue $16.7 million in debt for the project, which would mean delaying adding an additional increase to rates until 2018. In 2018, they would need to be raised 14 percent and another 14 percent in 2019, then between 5 and 7 percent each in years between 2020 through 2026.

With a projected 4.25 interest rate, a $16.7 million bond would cost an additional $8.4 million in interest, for a total of $25.1 million over 20 years.

In the middle of the two extremes is an option of a mix of cash and debt. The City Council could vote to issue up to $6 million in debt to finance Windy Gap without a vote of the general public. This would cause water rates to jump 17 percent each in 2017 and 2018, by zero percent in 2019 and between 4 and 7 percent each in years between 2020 to 2027.

Dale Rademacher, general manager of public works and natural resources, told the council that staff has timed it out so that the city wouldn’t lose any of the options by commissioning a survey of residents on the Windy Gap financing issue…

The council opted to commission a statistically valid survey be sent to 3,000 randomly chosen Longmont households explaining the three options.

NISP update: Galeton Reservoir North?

Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.
Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

The latest change to plans for NISP would be potentially moving the location for Galeton Reservoir about two miles to the north and a little bit west of its previously planned site northeast of Greeley, according to Fort Morgan Water Resources/Utilities Director Brent Nation.

This would be due to all the oil wells that have sprung up recently on the site originally planned by Northern Water for Galeton, which would be the part of NISP that held Fort Morgan’s 9 percent stake in the overall water storage project.

“We as participants have been well aware of the possibility of needing to move the Galeton Reservoir site,” Nation said. “That’s been in all of the applications, it’s been in all of the engineering work. The original site that was selected for that is now, basically, it looks like a large oil field. There’s well sites all over it.”

But Northern Water (aka Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District) has found another possible site for Galeton, and it’s not very far from the original plan, making much of the work done on studying and understanding the proposed location still useful, Nation said.

“As they were drilling more and more, it became obvious that they needed to maybe look into an alternative site,” he said. “And so they’re literally identifying a piece of ground that’s two miles further north. It’s in the same draw, it’s got the same formation. None of the characteristics really change, other than a little bit of pipeline length to get the water there and (some pumping to) get the water out.”

“We have found a site in the same vicinity as Galeton and believe it makes sense to make this move,” stated Carl Brouwer, project management manager from Northern Water.

Northern Water is doing more studies on the proposed new location for Galeton, but the district’s officials do not expect any problems with that site, according to information Nation provided to the Fort Morgan Times from both Brouwer and Northern Water General Manager Eric Wilkinson.

“We are doing ‘due diligence’ on Galeton North and have contacted parties that own land within the Galeton North Reservoir basin,” stated Wilkinson. “We have not found a fatal flaw associated with Galeton North. … The site will require two miles of additional pipeline, as it is further north, and (a) small amount of additional pumping. However, these additional costs appear to be more than offset by the additional costs associated with plugging and re-drilling the oil wells within the existing Galeton Reservoir footprint.”

Longmont councillors weighing cash v. debt for Windy Gap participation

Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.
Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.

From the Longmont Times-Call (Karen Antonacci):

The Longmont City Council on Tuesday will make several high-level decisions on how to finance the Windy Gap Firming Project.

In March, the council opted for the costlier 10,000 acre-foot level of the $387.36 million project, which would bring the pricetag for Longmont up to about $47 million. In April, the council directed they would prefer to pay with cash rather than debt for the $47 million, which would save money in the long-term but mean steep rate hikes in the short-term.

Now, staff has come back with a third option — a mix of cash and debt financing.

The council has already approved and codified raises to rates of 9 percent in both 2017 and 2018. If the council chose to finance the complete $47 million through rate increases, rates would need to rise 21 percent in 2017 and 22 percent in 2018, staff wrote to council in a memo.

But, raising rates is a little unpredictable for staff, because people might use less water in order to save money. While that helps with the city’s water conservation goals, it could make financing a huge project like Windy Gap tough.

“What we do know is that if we have a rate increase, it dampens consumption because people do react to an increased cost. What we’ve seen over time is that initial reaction tends to go away over time,” said Dale Rademacher, general manager of Longmont public resources and natural works…

By contrast, if Longmont chose to finance the $47 million project with $16.7 million in bonds, rates would not increase beyond the planned 9 percent in 2017 and then by 14 percent in 2018 and another 14 percent in 2019. The downside to debt is that it costs more in the long-term.

At a projected 4.25 percent interest rate, bonding out $16.7 million would cost the city $55.75 million over 20 years.

In the middle, staff has proposed bonding out only $6 million of the cost and financing the rest through rate increases.

This option would mean rate increases of 17 percent each in 2017 and 2018, between the two extremes of 21 percent with all cash and 9 percent with the higher debt option.

Rademacher said council could choose to bond out $6 million of the cost without a vote of the public…

Council on Tuesday needs to decide which financing option they want, and by extension, how much rates should raise in 2017.

Rademacher said all the rate raises are projected to happen by January 1, 2017 and if a major bonding issue needed to go to the ballot, staff are projecting to put it in front of voters in November, 2017.

Council could also decide to wait on the financing decision and get more public feedback on the issue. While there were questions related to Windy Gap on the regular Longmont resident survey, staff decided to remove those questions and ask council about a more specific survey.

National Research Center submitted a bid in order to survey Longmont residents about whether they would prefer to pay cash or debt for Windy Gap. To do an online-only survey would cost $3,440. To mail out a survey to randomly selected households would cost between $5,130 and $11,850 depending if NRC targeted 800, 1,500 or 3,000 households.