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.

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.

Public comments on NISP accepted through Sept. 3 — The Fort Morgan Times

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

From The Fort Morgan Times:

Although public hearings on the Northern Integrated Supply Project have been completed, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will continue to accept written comments about the project from the public until Sept. 3.

NISP is a proposed water storage project in which the City of Fort Morgan is one of 15 participating entities. The project involves the creation of two reservoirs near Fort Collins and Greeley, and Fort Morgan officials consider it the best possible way to secure a stable water supply for the city’s future, according to a city news release. The project is spearheaded by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

NISP has been in the permitting stages for many years, and the public hearings and comment period on the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement mark a significant step toward final permitting of the project by the Corps of Engineers.

The SDEIS was finally released on June 19 and public comments are being accepted now. A copy of the SDEIS is available at the Fort Morgan Public Library and it can also be viewed on the Army Corps website at

Written comments can be submitted via e-mail to Comments can also be mailed 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

For additional information on NISP visit

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

The July 2015 Northern Water E-Waternews is hot off the presses

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

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

Supporters Gather at NISP Rally

More than 150 Northern Integrated Supply Project supporters rallied at Northern Water’s headquarters on July 2 to celebrate momentum created by the recent release of the project’s Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Speakers U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, State Senators Mary Hodge and Jerry Sonnenberg, Chris Smith (Left Hand Water District general manager and NISP participants Committee chairman) and Eric Wilkinson (Northern Water general manager) addressed an enthusiastic audience comprised of NISP participant representatives, mayors, county commissioners, lawmakers and private citizens.

Several speakers warned that without NISP, more farmland will be dried up as water providers find necessary supplies for their needs. The SDEIS studies show this could lead to a dry-up of an additional 100 square miles of irrigated farmland – an area approximately twice the size as the City of Fort Collins.

“That would mean a $400 million loss of agricultural output,” said Gardner. “That is economic devastation. 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,” he added.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

CSU releases informational video about NISP and the NEPA process

Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jennifer Dimas):

What is NISP? What is a supplemental draft environmental impact statement? Why should I care? Colorado State University is today releasing an animated video to answer those questions – “NISP (and its SDEIS) in a Nutshell.”

NISP is the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project, and the 1500-page Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS), released a month ago by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is part of a federal process to assess the environmental effects of NISP to inform permitting decisions.

CSU hopes the eight-minute video – featuring colorfully animated characters – gives the public a basic understanding of the project and the process. The university has no formal position on the project.

“We produced the video to be an objective resource, knowing that much of what the public hears about the subject comes from either project proponents or opponents, promoting their respective views,” said MaryLou Smith, policy and collaboration specialist with the Colorado Water Institute, part of CSU’s Office of Engagement. “This piece gives the public a foundation from which to dig deeper, if they wish.”

To view the video go to There are a number of other helpful resources that can be accessed there as well.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) coverage here and here.

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