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

January 14, 2015


NISP: Northern Water officials looking to 2019 to turn dirt for Glade Reservoir

December 30, 2014
Aerial view of the roposed Glade Reservoir site -- photo via Northern Water

Aerial view of the roposed Glade Reservoir site — photo via Northern Water

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

When the Northern Integrated Supply Project was first proposed, Northern Water hoped to have Glade Reservoir complete and filled by 2013.

Now as the permitting process has stretched over a decade, the earliest date that construction could begin is 2019, with water flowing in by 2021.

“In this process, we learned a long time ago that there is no set date of when it’s going to be done,” said Brian Werner, spokesman for Northern Water, which is spearheading the project on behalf of four water districts and 11 cities and towns…

Despite delays, Northern Water is convinced that NISP and its two reservoirs, Glade and Galeton, will be built and are the answer to a growing population’s needs by storing water from the Poudre and South Platte rivers.

“Those 15 participants, their resolve is even stronger than ever,” said Werner. “The more time that goes by, the more important it is to have that water supply.”

However, an environmental group that opposes the project is just as convinced that construction will never begin and that participants are beginning to look to alternative options…

The Northern Integrated Supply Project is intended to provide additional water to the 15 Front Range providers by pulling excess water from the Poudre and South Platte rivers during plentiful years to fill two new reservoirs.

The water from the Poudre would be stored in a 5-mile-long reservoir northwest of Fort Collins. Glade Reservoir, which would be slightly larger in capacity than Horsetooth Reservoir, would hold 170,000 acre-feet of water and require relocation of seven miles of U.S. 287.

The second reservoir, Galeton, would hold 40,000 acre-feet northeast of Greeley and would be filled from the South Platte River downstream from Greeley. This water would be delivered to two irrigation companies in exchange for their Poudre River water.

Save the Poudre and other groups that oppose NISP say that science shows this project would drain the river to a mere trickle through Fort Collins, impacting habitat, wildlife, fishing, tubing, kayaking and trails that span the river corridor…

Northern Water says say this scenario will never happen. With required minimum flows in the river, Werner has said the water would be pulled only in years when there is excess.

And as soon as a supplemental environmental impact statement is released, Northern Water will begin working with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to mitigate any habitat or wildlife concerns, Werner said.

“Once the supplemental is out, we will start moving on some of these areas that have been stuck in molasses,” Werner said.

What is the process?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineer is the lead federal agency on the permitting process for the proposed water project.

The first step of creating an environmental impact statement began more than a decade ago — in August 2004.

Four years later, the first draft EIS was opened to public comment. During that time, supporters and opponents rallied at several public hearings and community events.

The federal agency then announced in 2009 that a supplemental draft EIS was necessary to include additional studies.

The supplemental report was anticipated to be released this year but instead was pushed back to sometime in 2015. If that does indeed happen, a final decision could come in 2016. If it’s approved, design would take place in 2017-2018, then construction in 2019…

How much does it cost?

As the project timeline has stretched out over the years, the cost too has stretched.

Northern Water and the participating water providers are paying for the studies and costs associated with permitting. So far they have spent about $14 million just for permitting, and Werner estimates that each additional year adds $1 million to $1.5 million to the tally.

Once a final decision is issued, and if that decision allows the project, construction is estimated at $500 million. That, too, could change depending on the final design, the year it is built and the economy.

“We’re at the mercy of the process and the federal government on this one,” said Werner. “It’s been an interesting ride.”

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.


Loveland: Regional Issues Summit recap

December 5, 2014
Colorado and Southern depot back in the day via LovelandHistorical.org

Colorado and Southern depot back in the day via LovelandHistorical.org

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Sarah Jane Kyle):

About 50 regional leaders and individuals attended the Regional Issues Summit in Loveland on Wednesday to tackle water and other issues.

Keeping water in mind — especially in “years of plenty” — will be a critical to Northern Colorado’s future because of the region’s ever-shifting water supply, said Northern Water General Manager Eric Wilkinson. Colorado’s population is expected to double in the next 40 years, making good planning “essential.”

“If you’re in a good spot in regards to water supply, you’re one day closer to a drought,” he said. “If you’re in a drought, you’re one day closer to a good water supply.”

Wilkinson added that 2014 is a year of plenty. Lake Granby is 7 inches from spilling over. Horsetooth Reservoir is also running high.

More rainfall meant less people needed to pull from water storage to meet their irrigation needs and contributed to Northern Colorado’s successful year.

Peak snowpack for the North Platte Basin was 140 percent above normal for the 2013-14 snow season, which peaks in April, according to the National Weather Service…

Addressing the need will take a tiered approach, with conservation as an important, but incomplete, piece of the puzzle, Wilkinson said.

“Conservation is the most important thing you can do and the cheapest thing you can do in regards to water management,” he said. “However, it is not a silver bullet. There are limits to what it can do.”

A more controversial approach is to create new water supplies and storage, such as the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP.

“We owe it to ourselves to explore that,” Wilkinson said. “We’re in a very great situation now, but we have a lot to do to plan for what’s coming up.”

More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.


NISP EIS delayed until spring

November 9, 2014


From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

…the modern struggle over Glade Reservoir — which would divert Poudre water into a lake larger than Horsetooth Reservoir — might not inspire a musket-bearing militia, it could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and has already sparked two complex environmental studies and angered Poudre River advocates.

Glade Reservoir may be just a plan on paper, but some say it is key to keeping Northern Colorado from drying up in the next few decades. Others contend that the highly controversial reservoir will damage the Poudre, not to mention swallow up acres of land, displace a federal highway and transfigure northern Larimer County’s landscape.

But release of a long-awaited environmental study that could pave the way for construction of two new Northern Colorado reservoirs — including Glade — has been postponed until next spring. The delay is the latest stall in an already yearslong battle over expanding Colorado’s water storage.

“We need this project and we need it soon,” said Carl Brouwer, who has been spear-heading the reservoir project, known as the Northern Integrated Supply Project, for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “We need this project today.”..

Now, the study won’t be released until possibly spring 2015, said Northern Water spokesman Brian Werner. That means the plan that would add millions of gallons to Northern Colorado’s reservoirs to stave off inevitable water loss remains years from realization. Meanwhile, Front Range cities are forced to lease water rights from agriculture in order to make up for water shortages, which continue to grow each year.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been studying the environmental impacts of the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP, for more than a decade and, in 2008, began a second study into the project after public outcry demanded it. The supplemental study has now taken more time to complete than the first draft released in 2008.

But the future of NISP is not entirely dependent on the results of that study — the project is tied to the fates of several other proposed reservoirs in Northern Colorado, all of which are snarled in years of environmental study.

The Army Corps would not confirm that it had officially changed the deadline for the next environmental impact statement but said it is “continuing to work through a deliberative process on the NISP schedule,” said spokeswoman Maggie Oldham.

But those in the Colorado water community believe the study won’t be released in December or January, as the Corps initially planned. The delay is likely due to the overlap of multiple projects along the Poudre River and their different deadlines…

Regardless, the way forward for NISP will not be simple, as the project’s success depends on the approval of two other potential reservoirs, Halligan and Seaman, both still years away from realization, said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute.

Northern Water has also yet to acquire all the land necessary to build Glade Reservoir, which would also require the relocation of 7 miles of U.S. Highway 287 north of Fort Collins. But all other elements needed to pull NISP together still await approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Waskom thinks delays on the NISP study can be explained by the complex overlapping of the two water storage projects and a series of staggered deadlines for each.

“You can see why they are having trouble,” he said Tuesday. But while the Corps grapples with balancing decisions on NISP and another reservoir project, the gap between Colorado’s water availability and water use continues to grow, said Waskom.

Decades of challenges

While Brouwer believes he can see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel for Glade, there are myriad obstacles that stand between the project and completion. In addition to years of environmental studies and public comment, Wockner has vowed to prevent the construction of Glade at any cost by invoking the public right to challenge Army Corps decisions in court.

All these things have kept Glade and NISP wrapped up in years of controversy, to the point that proponents of the project have joked they will never see it completed in their lifetime.

But Colorado might not have a lifetime to wait for more water, according to draft versions of the Colorado Water Plan completed this summer.

The state is on track to be short 500,000 acre-feet of water by 2050 — enough to cover half a million football fields in one foot of water. The Fort Collins-Loveland Water Conservation District has already passed its water shortage date: By 2005, the district was short 1,100 acre-feet of water, an amount that could grow to 7,500 acre-feet by 2050, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

The NISP project is projected to bring an extra 40,000 acre feet of water to Northern Colorado, to satisfy shortages in cities from Fort Collins to Fort Morgan.

The Northern Integrated Supply Project, of which Glade is a part, is just one of a few solutions offered by the in drafts of the state water plan for the South Platte River Basin, the most populous in the state. While Northern Water can’t begin work until the Army Corps finishes the supplemental study the project remains in limbo.

“We have our good days and our bad days, in terms of ‘is this ever going to end,’ ” said Werner.

The supplemental environmental study will not be an end to the NISP process, but instead just another step in many years’ worth of approvals and studies, not to mention potential court challenges from groups such as Wockner’s. Thanks to a 1980s purchase, Northern Water owns roughly 75 percent of the land needed to build Glade, but the district has yet to acquire land from Colorado State University, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, said Werner.

The cost of that land acquisition is unknown, Werner said. But the entire project has been given an estimated price tag of $490 million.

Glade Reservoir would begin just north of Ted’s Place, a Country Store gas station at the junction of U.S. Highway 14 and Highway 287. The reservoir, larger than Horsetooth, would fill 7 miles of highway with Poudre River water, and swallow land north of Ted’s Place and south of Owl Canyon. Only a handful of private property owners will be displaced Werner thinks, but the new reservoir would likely transform a few adjacent properties into lakeside real estate…

Meanwhile, the inevitability of greater water shortages looms. An executive order from Gov. John Hickenlooper required that the state start preparing a state water plan to reconcile water conflicts between the Western Slope and the Front Range, as well as plan for the next several decades. But that plan, the first draft of which is due to the governor by Dec. 10, will also be subject to a year of public comment.

In Fort Collins, which has been experiencing water shortages for almost 10 years, the gap between water needs and availability will grow steadily every year unless something is done.

“The gap only grows if the projects don’t get built,” said Waskom.

From the Associated Press via The Denver Post:

Plans for two new reservoirs in northern Colorado are facing more delays as a key federal review is not expected until next spring. The delay is the most recent turn in a long battle over expanding Colorado water resources.

The release of a long-awaited environmental study that could pave the way for construction of the two new reservoirs could be postponed until next spring, according to advocates and opponents.

The plan by the Northern Colorado Conservancy District to build Glade and Galeton reservoirs in northern Colorado was supposed to take a step forward this winter with the release of a second environmental impact statement. The statement has been postponed twice.

The reservoirs are part of North Colorado Water’s Northern Integrated Supply Project to create 40,000 acre-feet of new supplies.

The Army Corps of Engineers has been studying the environmental impacts of the NISP for more than a decade.

In addition to the two reservoirs, the project calls for two pump plants, pipelines and improvements to an existing canal, according to a Northern Water summary.

Northern Water distributes water to portions of eight counties in northern Colorado and a population of 860,000 people.

In 2008, the corps began the second study into the project after public outcry demanded it. The supplemental study has now taken more time to complete than the first draft, released in 2008.

The Corps of Engineers said it is reviewing the schedule for the new report, but no official date has been set.

The study will not end the process, but instead is just another step in the approvals, studies and potential court challenges.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here.


2014 Colorado November election:

September 15, 2014

Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative

Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative


From The Colorado Statesman (Ernest Luning):

“High and dry is not a water plan,” Beauprez responded to a question about water storage. “We simply must put a shovel in the ground.”

Saying he supports building water storage, no question, Beauprez contended that regulation gets in the way of building the projects Coloradans need. “A governor needs to lead on behalf of the people to eliminate regulatory hurdles, not add to them,” he said.

Hickenlooper countered that any big water storage project will take decades to complete and that “Every conversation has to start with conservation.” He also declined to take a position on the Northern Integrated Supply Project, a proposal to build reservoirs on the northern Front Range. “I’m not allowed to take — if I took a stand on NISP, it would jeopardize the entire federal process,” he said.

“On my watch,” Beauprez rebutted, “we’re going to build”


CWC Summer Conference recap, day 3: Exempt Colorado water storage projects from NEPA? #COWaterRally #ColoradoRiver

August 23, 2014

From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith) via the Aspen Daily News:

Colorado gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez told the Colorado Water Congress Friday that as governor he would be the “lead cheerleader” for new water storage projects in the state. He also drew a distinction between himself and Gov. Hickenlooper on the potential of a major new dam and reservoir project being built in the state.

The governor answered a question on Thursday at the Water Congress meeting in Snowmass Village by saying it was “unlikely” that public opinion in the state had shifted in favor of building a major new water storage project.

“I submit to you that’s not leadership,” said Beauprez. “I think we need a governor that stands up and says we’ve got to build new storage and I’m going to lead the way to make sure it happens. I’ll promote worthy projects. I’ll be your lead cheerleader on that.”

The Water Congress is an advocacy organization whose mission includes the “protection of water rights” and “infrastructure investment.”

Beauprez said he would seek to streamline the approval process for new water projects by asking Congress to pass a resolution exempting Colorado projects from NEPA, which often requires producing an extensive environmental impact statement.

“I’ll seek NEPA waivers for any project that meets the stringent Colorado standards, with the help of our Congressional delegation,” said Beauprez [ed. emphasis mine], a Republican who represented Colorado’s 7th District on the Front Range from 2003 to 2007.

Beauprez also told the Water Congress crowd that he supported approval of the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP. The project’s proponent, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, is seeking federal approval for two new reservoirs near Fort Collins.

The water for NISP will come from the Poudre and South Platte rivers on Colorado’s East Slope, but Northern Water’s existing system also uses water diverted from the Colorado River basin on the West Slope, and some of that water could be used in a system expanded by NISP. The Army Corps of Engineers has been leading the review of the project since 2004 and expects to release a decision document in 2016.

“Frankly, you’ve got a governor who can’t seem to decide if he’s for it [or] against it,” Beauprez said about NISP. “I’m for it. And I’ll do everything to make sure it gets approved and built.”

Given his enthusiasm for new reservoirs, Beauprez was asked by an audience member if he was proposing new transmountain diversions to augment the Front Range’s water supply.

“No,” Beauprez said emphatically.

“Where are you going to get the water from?” the questioner asked, noting that 80 percent of water in Colorado is on the Western Slope.

“What I’m proposing is the same kind of thing that NISP is doing — taking advantage of the opportunity to store East Slope water on the East Slope. I think until we’ve demonstrated that we’ve stored all the water we possibly can on the East Slope, transbasin diversions shouldn’t even be on the table.

“We know we can move water,” Beauprez continued. “And sometimes we’ve moved it because it’s been convenient, or because there’s the money, or because there’s the votes, or because of whatever. But the West Slope of Colorado is Colorado, too. And I understand that. And I want to protect that. And I know that you’ve got a whole lot of people downstream from you on the West Slope that covet that water as well.”

Beauprez, who grew up on a dairy farm in Lafayette and now diverts water to grow alfalfa and raise buffalo in Jackson County, said he has a keen appreciation for Colorado water law and will defend the state’s priority system, which is based on “first in time, first in right.”

“I know what Colorado’s time-honored water laws are for,” he said “I know that our prior appropriations doctrine has worked, and worked very, very well. And I know that there’s a lot of people that would like to gnaw away, erode, and destroy that. I’m not one of them. Our prior appropriations doctrine, our water law, and our right to own and utilize our water needs to be protected every day at all costs.”

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Like a bolt of lightning, climate change clearly divides candidates in the Third Congressional District.U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, a Republican, and his Democratic challenger from Pueblo, Abel Tapia were asked about it at the Colorado Water Congress summer convention.

“We all agree that climate will change,” Tipton said, quickly launching into campaign talking points on all-of-the-above energy policy.

But Tipton criticized the way some have politicized the issue and complained of governmental overreach by the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal departments.

“Anyone who doesn’t believe in climate change is fooling themselves,” Tapia said later in the day. “When you look at the forest fires and floods we have experienced, something has added to that.”

Tapia said the country has the ability and obligation to discover ways to overcome the effects of climate change to keep the county and world secure.

Tipton also stressed his record in Congress on water issues, citing his efforts to stop the National Forest Service from tying up water rights in federal contracts for ski areas and ranch land.

He said the EPA’s Waters of the [U.S.] policies are dangerous to agriculture.

“If the EPA can come in and tell us how to use water, we’re going to be stripping our farmers of their ability to make a living,” he said. “We need common sense in federal regulations.”

Tapia said his own life experiences as an engineer, school board member and state lawmaker give him a unique perspective that would serve the state in Congress.

“I’m a problem solver,” he told the Water Congress. “I know that when you need to know something you go to the experts. You are the experts on water.”

More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.

Tweets from the conference were tagged with the hash tag #COWaterRally.


Where our water comes from — Fort Collins Coloradoan

July 14, 2014

Ash and silt pollute the Cache la Poudre River after the High Park Fire September 2012

Ash and silt pollute the Cache la Poudre River after the High Park Fire September 2012


From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

With Colorado’s water year at its mid-July end and many Northern Colorado reservoirs still flush with the bounty of a plentiful water year, water woes of years past have turned into discussions of how the state will store water in the future.

In the coming months, the Army Corps of Engineers will release an updated study on the Northern Water Conservancy District’s proposal to expand its water storage capacity near Fort Collins. The Northern Integrated Supply Project would build Glade Reservoir northwest of the city, bringing a new reservoir larger than Horsetooth Reservoir to the area.

Before the release of the study reignites the battle over the potential environmental impacts of expanding Northern Colorado’s water storage capacity, we look at where Fort Collins gets the water that provides the basis for everything from the natural resources residents enjoy to the craft beer they drink…

Before the High Park Fire, which burned more than 87,000 acres of the Poudre watershed, Fort Collins Utilities split its water sources between the project and the river. But the Poudre’s water has since become filled with fire and flood debris, which prompted a total shutdown of river water for Fort Collins customers.

Time and the September 2013 floods have cleaned out the river, but the city is still mostly reliant on the C-BT project for more than 60 percent of its water each year.

Fundamentally, snowmelt fills the many reservoirs in the C-BT project. The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which helps manage the project, delivers a certain amount of water to cities like Fort Collins as well as farmers and irrigators — all of whom own hundreds or thousands of acre-feet of the project’s water…

Here’s a look at where our water comes from.

THE WESTERN SLOPE

The water that feeds Colorado — and a vast swath of the nation — begins its downward flow from the Continental Divide high in the Rocky Mountains. In order to harness water that otherwise would flow to the Pacific Ocean, water managers created a vast network of reservoirs, tunnels and canals to reroute Western Slope water to Colorado’s more populous Front Range.

LAKE GRANBY

For Fort Collins, and much of the northern Front Range, this is where it all begins. Snowmelt fills this Western Slope reservoir, and the water from it is pumped to Shadow Mountain Reservoir. From there, it’s literally all downhill — gravity pushes water through five reservoirs until it gets to Horsetooth Reservoir, southwest of Fort Collins. This year, due to above-average snowpack, Lake Granby soon will spill over its banks. It can hold up to 540,000 acre-feet of water.

HORSETOOTH RESERVOIR

Horsetooth was built along with the Colorado-Big Thompson Project and is a fraction of the size of Lake Granby — it holds about 156,000 acre-feet of water. This is where Fort Collins will get most of its C-BT water, which has traveled through the 13-mile Adams Tunnel, under U.S. Highway 34, and through several reservoirs. Fort Collins Utilities has its only operational water treatment plant at Horsetooth. In 2014, Fort Collins gets about 65 percent of its water from the C-BT project.

THE CACHE LA POUDRE RIVER

The Poudre River typically provides Fort Collins with 50 percent of its water. But after the High Park Fire polluted the river, Fort Collins has been forced to shut down its Poudre River sources, sometimes for months. The upper part of the river is considered “wild and scenic” — a federal designation. It is also one of the few remaining dam-free rivers in Colorado. In 2014, Fort Collins gets about 35 percent of its water from the Poudre.

CARTER LAKE

Carter Lake is one of many reservoirs that make up the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. Some of Fort Collins’ water can come from this reservoir, but not frequently. Other reservoirs in the system include Grand Lake, Mary’s Lake, Lake Estes and Flatiron Reservoir, to name just a few.

FORT COLLINS

Treated water coming into Fort Collins comes from a plant near Horsetooth Reservoir. Since Nov. 1, the city has used about 9,700 acre-feet of water from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, and about 5,200 acre-feet from the Poudre River. Before the High Park Fire, the city typically split its water use between the two sources but has since had to use more C-BT water.

More infrastructure coverage here.


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