Fort Collins staff recommends against supporting NISP — Fort Collins Coloradan

From the Fort Collins Coloradan (Kevin Duggan):

The council on Tuesday is expected to consider comments the city would submit to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on its draft Environmental Impact Statement regarding the project, which would draw water from the Poudre River.

After studying the document, city staff members and consultants concluded the project would adversely impact the river’s ecology and go against the city’s interests if it were built.

A resolution drafted to go with the staff comments proposed to be submitted to the Corps states the council “cannot support NISP as it currently described and proposed” in the document.

The city’s 108-page report details technical issues with the draft EIS as well as impacts NISP would have by reducing the river’s flow levels through town during times of high runoff.

Potential problems cited in the report include degraded water quality, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities. The draft EIS does not adequately analyze alternatives to building the project as proposed by Northern Water and 15 participating water districts and towns, according to the report…

In 2008, Fort Collins came out against the project as it was described in the initial draft EIS. After seven years of more research and analysis, the Corps issued a supplemental draft EIS in June.

Comments on the document are due Sept. 3. The Corps is expected to review comments and potentially issue a final EIS next year.

Take part

The Fort Collins City Council will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday at city hall, 200 Laporte Ave. The meeting will be broadcast on cable Channel 14.

NISP: “There’s communities that are growing that need that water” — Reagan Waskom

Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water
Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water

From (Maya Rodriguez):

At the heart of the $500-million plan is the construction of two new reservoirs: Galeton Reservoir, northeast of Greeley, and Glade Reservoir, northwest of Fort Collins. Both are designed to provide water for the growing populations of several communities in Larimer, Weld, Morgan and Boulder Counties. Building Glade Reservoir would also involve the relocation of seven miles of Highway 287, at a cost of $45 million.

“We’ve got to figure out how we’re going to provide water for future generations and these communities – the 11 cities and towns and the four water districts – are taking a very proactive step in planning for their future,” [Brian Werner] said.

The water to fill both reservoirs would come from the Poudre River – diverting away about ten percent of that river’s annual flow and use it to provide water for an additional 80,000 to 100,000 households…

Reagan Waskom is with the Colorado Water Institute at CSU, which has taken no formal position on the project.

“We’re playing out in this one basin what’s going to happen all over the state,” Waskom said. “It’s an urban, environmentally conscious group of folks, that don’t want to see another depletion. There’s communities that are growing that need that water – that’s the tension: how much more can we take out of these rivers?”

The Army Corps of Engineers is taking public comment on the NISP until Sept. 3.

What risk do Larimer County waters face from mining? — the Fort Collins Coloradoan


From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

A map released last week by the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety shows the majority of the mines clustered in the Silverton area and the Summit and Clear Creek county areas.

The closest leaking mines to Fort Collins are a Boulder County cluster of seven, four of which aren’t undergoing active water treatment. There are about 23,000 abandoned mines in Colorado, according to the state geographical survey.

The map also charts mine-related impaired streams — waterways with levels of potential mining-related minerals that surpass state standards. Red lines on the map denote mine-related impaired streams.

The map shows a short red section on the North Fork of the Poudre River and a lot of red lines around the Big Thompson River in the southern part of the county.

The North Fork of the Poudre is red because it contains higher-than-normal levels of lead, cadmium and copper. The Big Thompson is red because of higher levels of the same minerals, plus selenium and zinc as well as low pH levels indicating acidity.

But it’s not as bad as it sounds, said Nicole Rowan, watershed section manager with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“It could be mining or it could be the geology of the area,” Rowan said. “This is one of the most mineralized areas in the world. That’s why people mine here.”

Federal law requires the state to assess its water quality and report the results. The map draws from the state’s last complete report in 2012. Of the Larimer County waterways included on the map, three segments are ranked high priority — meaning they’re a source of public drinking water or contain an endangered or threatened species with no plan in place to protect it.

These segments are:

•Big Thompson River’s Fish Creek below Mary’s Lake, due to low pH levels

•Big Thompson River from Rocky Mountain National Park to Home Supply Canal Diversion due to sulfide, copper, cadmium and zinc levels as well as high temperature

•Big Thompson’s North Fork due to copper levels

Zack Shelley, program director of the Big Thompson Watershed Forum, said the metals in the Big Thompson probably aren’t results of mining. The copper levels in particular are high because federal and state government used to treat algae in the river with copper sulfide, Shelley said. Other potential sources of metal in the Big Thompson include abandoned landfills, forest fires and septic systems in the area.

“To my knowledge, I don’t see a human health risk,” Shelley said, but the metals do present risks for fish and other aquatic life in the river.

The Big Thompson Watershed Forum will present new data on the river’s water quality next month.

The latest Northern Water “E-Waternews” is hot off the presses

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

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

<blockquoteThe Northern Water Board of Directors set 2016 water assessments during an Aug. 6, 2015 public hearing. Assessments for open-rate irrigation contracts increased from $10.90 per acre-foot unit to $17.60, and assessments for open-rate municipal, industrial and multipurpose contracts increased from $30.50 per acre-foot unit to $35.90.

The Board followed its general rate-setting objectives, which are outlined in its 2014 forward guidance resolution. Among other objectives, the resolution proposed a 2-year step increase in assessments beginning in 2016, and moving irrigation assessments towards a cost-of-service based rate. Both of these objectives are represented in the 2016 assessments.

The Board will consider forward guidance that provides an estimated range for 2017 and 2018 water assessments at its Sept. 3 Planning and Action meeting.

For information on water assessments, please contact Sherri Rasmussen at 970-622-2217.

Parker opens new water treatment plant

The water treatment process
The water treatment process

From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

Roughly 10 percent of Parker’s water is now going through a state-of-the-art treatment plant near Rueter-Hess Reservoir.

After a few initial hiccups, including the failure of a pump and issues with the feeding of chemicals used to rid the water of impurities, the $50.7 million treatment plant opened in mid-July following three weeks of testing.

Soon after, a handful of Parker Water and Sanitation District officials took their first drink of water processed through the sophisticated system of pumps, pipes and filters.

“We wanted to make sure everything was solid before we sent it out through the system,” said Ron Redd, district manager for Parker Water. “It tasted good!”

Construction began in 2012 on the treatment plant, which has been billed as an integral part of shifting from a reliance on nonrenewable groundwater in aquifers to renewable surface water. It incorporates many of the newest technologies and eventually will be able to process 40 million gallons per day. The first phase of construction spawned a facility that can churn out about 10 million gallons of treated water per day.

The new treatment plant processes 1.5 million gallons of the 12-million-gallon average needed to satisfy daily summertime demands, Redd said…

Four employees are based out of the treatment plant…

Approximately 20 percent of the total construction costs went toward ceramic filters that are more durable than traditional plastic filters and expected to last from 20-25 years.

“What’s different about this plant is it’s a fairly state-of-the-art facility,” Redd said. “It’s gathering a lot of attention from across the country and the world because of the technology we’re using. We’re anticipating lots of phone calls and (requests for) tours.”

Some Larimer County post-September 2013 flood permanent road repairs still 2-2.5 years out

Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280
Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Nick Coltrain):

Nearly two years after the September 2013 floods, permanent repairs are still ongoing — and in some cases just starting — on mountain roads scoured by roiling waters.

Gov. John Hickenlooper famously promised to reopen highways washed away within three months of the floods, a promise kept by the Colorado Department of Transportation. Hundreds of millions of dollars, most coming from the federal government, have poured into the mountain roads west of Fort Collins since then, making construction cones seem like permanent fixtures to those venturing above the foothills.

On Tuesday, another section of road was added to the to-do list of Northern Colorado road crews when the Larimer County Commission voted to repave an 800-foot stretch of road in Drake to grant more permanent access to a CDOT repair shop. It’s part of more than a dozen sites being handled by a contractor at a cost of about $700,000 — a drop in the bucket of $120 million in road repairs being overseen by Larimer County.

The county is on the hook for $10 million of those costs, with the majority covered by various federal agencies. The state is matching the county’s contribution.

“Everyone has access, so now it’s all about bringing those roads back up to pre-flood conditions, or close to it,” Assistant County Engineer Rusty McDaniel said.

McDaniel expects the permanent rebuild process, which will leave roads suitable for long-term use, to last about another two or two-and-a-half years — a similar timeline to when CDOT hopes to repair state highways that wind west of the Front Range. It’s a timeline CDOT more than defends; spokesman Jared Fiel highlighted it as ambitious.

Most projects like rebuilding U.S. Highway 34, which cuts from Loveland to Estes Park, would operate on a seven-to-10 year timeline, Fiel said.

“Obviously, you’re looking at a state highway going through a canyon where you have environmental concerns, concerns for both natural resources as well as wildlife in the area and all those things, plus you’re trying to get traffic up and down,” Fiel said.”So the whole process is actually quite daunting.”[…]

Fiel expects the permanent rebuild process to start at the end of this year, with off-road work being done in the eastern entrance to the canyon, where sheer rock walls loom over the road. That should have “very, very minimal impact” on travelers, Fiel said. More apparent — and potentially painful, to motorists at least — work could start once the winter weather clears in spring of next year.

“It may take some of us my age dying off before we finally catch on that we can figure this out” — Mary Lou Smith


From KUNC (Maeve Conran):

Weld County is the epicenter of urban growth and changing land use in Colorado. One of the fastest growing counties in the nation, its population grew by 40 percent since 2000 and it’s projected to double in the next 25 years. At the same time, 75 percent of its 2.5 million acres is devoted to agriculture as Colorado’s leading producer of sugar beet, grain, and beef cattle.

The dichotomy of urban growth and increasingly valuable agricultural land and water, has led many farmers in Weld to sell both resources. Kent Peppler, president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, said he’s seen this happen time after time.

“Money rules and some of this water is awfully valuable,” he said.

Weld County is working hard to preserve its agricultural roots. Its county code has a specific Right to Farm Statement. Farmers, water managers, land planners and policy makers are looking for alternatives to the traditional buy and dry process, where cities buy ag water rights shifting them to municipal use. Some cities are buying land and water then leasing them back to farmers. Some say that just delays the inevitable.

“That land can stay in production for a certain number of years, but eventually, the City of Greeley for instance, will need that water,” said MaryLou Smith of The Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. “That’s when the land will be dried up.”

The Colorado Water Institute has been working with the Keystone Institute to get land planners and water managers together and throughout Colorado some solutions are emerging. In the Arkansas Valley some farmers practice rotational fallowing, so they can lease, but not sell, water not being used. But a bill that would have allowed other types of temporary transfers of irrigation water failed in the state Legislature. Smith said solutions to water problems can look good on paper, but it’s hard to get everyone on the same page.

“The devil is in the details,” she points out. “So even those who are trying to develop ag and urban water sharing don’t necessarily agree on the way to do it.”

Smith sees solutions to our water problems coming with the next generation in agriculture who are moving away from the win-lose paradigm so prevalent in water discussions.

“It may take a new generation. It may take some of us my age dying off before we finally catch on that we can figure this out and we can incorporate all of these values. I really believe it.”