Fort Collins City Council opposes NISP — Fort Collins Coloradoan

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

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

The City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to support a resolution stating the city “cannot support NISP as it currently described and proposed” in a supplemental draft environmental impact statement, or EIS.

The recommendation from city staff to conditionally oppose the massive water-storage project, which would draw water from the Poudre River, was based on what the city describes as inadequate information and scientific analysis in the 1,500-page EIS document.

The staff’s comments will be forwarded to the Army Corps of Engineers, which is developing the EIS for the project.

Council members said staff did an “excellent” job of analyzing the document and highlighting its deficiencies, such as describing the project’s impact to water quality if it were built.

John Stokes, director of the city’s Natural Areas Department, said the resolution “leaves the door open” for continuing to work with the Corps and NISP’s proponents, including the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and 15 participating municipalities and water districts…

Council tweaked the language of its resolution to hint that the city might support NISP if it were changed in the ways proposed by city staff. The modified alternative would have water drawn from the river farther downstream, leaving flows through Fort Collins relatively intact.

Rather than Glade Reservoir, water would be stored in a reservoir near Cactus Hill, near Ault.

The council’s vote came after members heard more than two dozen speakers, with opponents of NISP outnumbering supporters about five to one…

But the city plays a role in the state of the Poudre River, said Mike DiTullio, general manager of the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District, which serves much of the southern third of Fort Collins.

The district is a participant in NISP, as is Windsor. Other participants are in Morgan, Weld and Boulder counties.

The city draws 12 million gallons a day from the river, he said.

“We’re all partners in this area, and Fort Collins is as much responsible for the condition of the river today as anybody else,” he said. “I hope you would take that into consideration …”[…]

The supplemental draft EIS looks at four alternatives for the project, including a “no action” alternative. The version of NISP preferred by Northern Water would build Glade Reservoir northwest of Fort Collins…

Differing views

Fort Collins city staff members and consultants who reviewed the supplemental draft environmental impact statement, or EIS, for the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project took issue with several elements of the 1,500-page document.

Below are some of their concerns as noted in a report to City Council and the response from Northern Water, which has proposed NISP in cooperation with 15 participating municipalities and water districts, in a letter to city officials.

Fort Collins: The absence of a water quality and stream temperature report that quantifies the water-quality impacts of the project. Many of the potential impacts to Fort Collins hinge on the report’s findings.

Northern Water: The draft document describes findings from the first phase of a two-phase water-quality analysis. The second phase will be included in the final EIS, and will include modeling for sensitive parameters such as water temperatures.

Fort Collins: The project has the potential for water quality degradation that could affect the city’s treatment facilities for drinking water and wastewater.

Northern Water: A study done by Black & Veatch, an international water and wastewater treatment engineering firm, concluded NISP would have negligible impacts to Fort Collins’ facilities.

Fort Collins: Flawed analyses and conclusions related to the project’s reduction of peak flows, which are likely to harm the environment and potentially increase flood risk.

Northern Water: NISP participants are developing a mitigation plan that would improve habitat along the river and guarantee flows during winter months.

Fort Collins: The project would have significant negative impacts to the recreation values of the river.

Northern Water: Glade Reservoir, which would be about the size of Horsetooth Reservoir, would offer residents increased recreational opportunities.

What’s next

Comments on the supplemental draft environmental impact statement on the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project are due Thursday. Comments may be emailed to nisp.eis@usace.army.mil.

Meanwhile the Larimer County Board of Commissioners reaffirmed their support for the project. Here’s a report from Nick Coltrain writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. Here’s an excerpt:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will receive a Larimer County advisory board’s concerns about the Glade Reservoir project, but county commissioners want to make sure their support of the proposal isn’t questioned.

Commissioner Steve Johnson rewrote a neutral cover letter to the Environmental and Science Advisory Board’s findings — the board’s chief concern was that it lacked all the analysis needed to fully weigh the Northern Integrated Supply Project — to say that the concerns shouldn’t jeopardize the project moving forward. The other two county commissioners signed off on the new letter Tuesday.

“We believe NISP to be very important to the future of Northern Colorado and we appreciate the input and concerns that many have shared,” Johnson wrote in the letter. “We believe that by working through these concerns collaboratively and constructively, NISP can and will be an even better project.”

All three commissioners have publicly voiced their support of the project to build Glade and Galeton reservoirs, which would add more than 215,000 acre-feet of water storage in Larimer and Weld counties.

From the Rocky Mountain Collegian (Rachel Musselmann):

NISP was originally proposed in 2008 by the Army Corps of Engineers and was unanimously opposed by city council. It was re-proposed this year with an updated environmental impact statement, and was opposed again, although conditionally…

Concerns about the program include economic loss due to lower river levels and water quality. According to Environment Colorado, the state of Colorado saw $18 billion spent on tourism in the past year, with over 16 million visitors, 662,601 fishing licenses sold and 83,683 registered boats.

Vivian Nguyen, an organizer with Environment Colorado, said in a press release that water levels and quality are central to Fort Collins culture.

“Our rivers and lakes are a big part of what makes summer fun,” Nguyen said. “There’s nothing quite like rafting down the Cache La Poudre River or fishing at Horsetooth Reservoir to cool off on a hot day.”

A lack of moderate water flow, called “flushing flows,” was also discussed by the council. Director of the Natural Resources Department John Stokes said he believes low water flow could be detrimental to the health of the river and lead to flooding.

“John Stokes is an incredible diplomat, and he is very kind to NISP, but as it stands the project is unacceptable,” Speer said. “It appears the updated environmental statement is not an improvement on the original.”

The council passed the motion to oppose NISP as it stands, under the condition that it may be revisited if modified.

Stokes said in his closing remarks he hopes for a more sustainable water use plan in the future.

“We need to be asking ourselves if a vision for Poudre River health is possible,” Stoke said.

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

While Fort Collins staff members have criticized Northern Integrated Supply Project for its potential harm to the Poudre River, the Larimer County commissioners have reiterated their support for the reservoir project.

“We believe NISP to be very important to the future of Northern Colorado, and we appreciate the input and concerns that many have shared,” the commissioners state in a letter written by Steve Johnson and approved Tuesday by all three elected officials.

“We believe that by working through … concerns collaboratively and constructively, NISP can and will be an even better project,” it states.

Their letter, which will be forwarded to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with a report from the county’s Environmental and Science Advisory Board, stressed that Glade and Galeton reservoirs are needed to provide future water supply for a healthy and prosperous region and to prevent that needed water from being taken from farmers.

They compared NISP to the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, on which the entire region relies today for a clean and abundant water supply.

“It’s impossible to imagine a healthy and prosperous Northern Colorado without it,” the commissioners’ letter states. “We should do no less for our children and their children.”

This is the opposite stance from the one released by Fort Collins staff members, who reported extreme concerns about what the project would do to the Poudre River. Echoing the concerns of long vocal opponents of the project, city staff members worry in the report that the project would degrade habitat, affect stream flow and even increase the potential for flooding.

These factors would kill the river and the community’s economy, including recreation, tourism and other businesses that are tied to the river corridor, according to opponents of the project, including three residents who spoke before the commissioners Tuesday. Also mentioned was the millions of dollars invested in natural areas and habitat along the river.

“The expected harmful impacts upon the Poudre River … are significant,” said Gina Janett, Fort Collins resident, calling the Poudre a “beloved resource.”[…]

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is wrapping up public comment on its supplemental draft environmental impact statement. Between this step and the final decision, the Corps has said it will complete additional technical analysis on stream flow and on mitigations to other concerns.

When that happens, those reports, too, should be open for public comment, according to the report created the Larimer County’s Environmental and Science Advisory Board…

The county commissioners forwarded that report to the federal agency despite two of the three commissioners (Tom Donnelly and Lew Gaiter) saying they did not want to cause more unnecessary delays in the final decision on NISP.

Donnelly said he is comfortable that the experts from the corps will complete the plan and make the right decision without public comment that could delay the permitting decision.

“This isn’t about whether you support the reservoir or not support the reservoir,” Donnelly said. “This is about if the reservoir gains support, this is what we need to do to mitigate these issues.”

“It’s a technical matter, it’s not a political matter,” he said. “We should leave the technical things, the scientific things in the hands of the experts.”

The third member of the board, Johnson, agreed that the remaining environmental concerns regarding the proposed reservoir project can be addressed by Northern Water. However, he noted that the project has been underway for eight years, so what is another 30-day to 90-day comment period.

Eric Wilkinson (Northern Water) statement about Fort Collins staff recommendation on NISP

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

From the Northern Water Twitter feed and FaceBook:

“The 15 Northern Integrated Supply Project participants and Northern Water are disappointed in the City of Fort Collins’ staff report pertaining to the NISP supplemental draft environmental impact statement.

“NISP participants have spent $12 million on the detailed SDEIS process. Under the direction of the Army Corps of Engineers, several expertly qualified independent consultants have thoroughly studied all aspects of NISP as reflected by the funding provided by the NISP participants to complete those studies. Two different consultant teams have independently studied the issues surrounding water and wastewater treatment and have concluded that NISP will have little to no impact on the City of Fort Collins operations. As a result of these efforts, we had sincerely hoped that staff would have had a more favorable opinion of those analyses and of the SDEIS as a whole.

“As planned by the Corps, in addition to the river water quality evaluation completed for the SDEIS, detailed water temperature and water quality analyses will be completed prior to the release of the Final EIS.

“We are very pleased that NISP has received more than 100 endorsements from throughout the state including the Fort Collins Coloradoan editorial board, BizWest, the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce and the Larimer County commissioners.

“The NISP participants and Northern Water look forward to establishing working groups with both the City of Fort Collins and the City of Greeley to develop measures to address their concerns and further enhance the Poudre River.”

Fort Collins staff recommends against supporting NISP — Fort Collins Coloradan

nisp
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 9News.com (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.

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.

Reservoirs Are Dead. Long Live Reservoirs: Water Bosses Eye The Cache La Poudre — CPR

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

From Colorado Public Radio (Grace Hood):

Colorado’s water planners…see the Cache la Poudre as an opportunity to help quench Colorado’s seemingly endless growth and thirst for water. That’s why Northern Water has proposed building two large reservoirs on behalf of 11 cities. It’s a project that sets them in emblematic conflict with environmentalists and other groups.

Resolving environmental disputes on large-scale water projects takes time. So does the federal permitting process. Water managers say that even without the conflict, projects take years–sometimes decades–to acquire the necessary permits.

“We would not look to short circuit the diligence and the rigor associated with environmental permitting processes. That’s really important,” said Jim Lochhead, manager of Denver Water. “That having been said, the permitting process if you look at it in total between federal and state, and everything else we need to do is broken.”

The Northern Integrated Supply Project

To quench Northern Colorado’s growing thirst for more water, the local agency Northern Water has proposed the Northern Integrated Supply Project. The effort would build one reservoir north of Fort Collins, and another near Greeley. Once both reservoirs are filled, about 40,000 acre feet of additional water supply would be released every year from storage. Households typically use between one-half to 1 acre-foot of water annually.

We can’t conserve our way to future supply. No matter how we phrase it, you just can’t do it,” said Brian Werner with Northern Water.

Northern Water is pursuing the project on behalf of 11 cities along the Front Range. Werner said his agency wants an “all of the above strategy” to meet growing water demand. So it’s eyeing more conservation and the exchange of water rights from agricultural land. Agriculture uses about 80 percent of the state’s water supply.

There were environmental studies done on the river to evaluate problems and propose solutions. Mark Easter with the environmental group Save The Poudre said the measures don’t go far enough.

“I think there’s a new conversation that’s starting around this, asking the question, do we really need these reservoirs?” said Mark Easter, board chair of Save The Poudre.

A swinging pendulum

A century of dam projects across the West have caused ecological harm to some Western rivers. Today the federal permitting process to build a dam or a reservoir is far stricter compared to the early 1900s. But some water managers fear the pendulum has swung too far.

Take Denver Water. It decided in 2002 it needed to expand the reservoir outside Boulder. The agency won’t find out whether it can do this until later this year.

For large-scale projects, it’s up to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to decide whether a project gets built. But you need permits from other federal agencies. And there are state permits. Meantime, Denver Water has employees devoted full-time to moving the reservoir expansion forward.

“If we look at a future with climate change and rapidly evolving conditions in terms of climate, and weather and drought, we need to be a lot more nimble in our ability to build critical infrastructure in this country,” said Lochhead.

Water managers like Lochhead say a rigorous environmental assessment is needed for projects. What slows the process down is that each permit has unique requirements…

These two proposed reservoirs in Northern Colorado will take time and money before they get off the ground. The environmental group Save the Poudre says it will continue to fight these efforts. Meanwhile a final decision from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on whether these reservoirs can be built won’t happen until 2017 at the earliest.

Duggan: Fort Collins still has deep concerns about NISP — Coloradan

From the Fort Collins Coloradan (Kevin Duggan):

In 2008, the City Council passed a resolution stating its opposition to the project, which would draw water from the Poudre River and store it in a new facility — Glade Reservoir — that would be built northwest of the city. Another reservoir, Galeton, would be built near Greeley and draw from the South Platte River.

The council at that time cited a variety of concerns raised by city staff members and consultants after reviewing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, or DEIS, for the project. Issues included potential negative impacts to the river’s water quality, riparian areas and wildlife habitat as a result of substantially reduced flows through Fort Collins.

Here we are seven years later and a Supplemental DEIS for the project has been issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which took a deeper dive into the project in response to comments made by Fort Collins and other stakeholders.

Don’t be surprised if the same concerns about NISP are raised this time around when the city submits comments to the Corps. Time and some tweaking of plans for the massive project haven’t made it any more palatable, according an early analysis of the SDEIS by city staff.

The document is improved, city staff say, but in the end, cutting the Poudre’s flow through the city by as much as 66 percent in May, 25 percent in June and 54 percent in July during years of average precipitation and river flows would have significant impacts.

Water quality would suffer — potentially raising the city’s costs for treating drinking water and wastewater — the number of “boatable” days on the river would drop, and the river’s ecology and overall health would be diminished, staff told council members Tuesday.

More Northern Integrate Supply Project coverage here and here.