NISP supplemental draft environmental impact statement released, comment until September 3

Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative
Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative

Here’s the release from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Brian Werner):

With the Army Corps of Engineers release of the Northern Integrated Supply Project’s supplemental draft environmental impact statement, NISP proponents have accomplished an important milestone toward constructing two new, and very much needed, reservoirs in northern Colorado.

The SDEIS began in 2009 following a four-year process to produce a draft EIS. The NISP SDEIS is one of the most extensive and intensive reviews of a water project ever undertaken in Colorado. The additional studies closely analyzed riparian habitat, water quality, aquatic resources and hydrologic modeling.

“We are pleased to have reached this important milestone after 12 years and nearly $15 million in expenditures by the NISP participants,” Northern Water General Manger Eric Wilkinson said. “The SDEIS shows that the project is needed to meet a portion of the participants’ future water needs.”

The SDEIS includes a proposed mitigation plan illustrating how NISP participants will provide additional water to the Poudre River during low flows, build low-flow/fish-friendly bypass structures at key sites on the river through Fort Collins, and implement river restoration measures.

“NISP is a collaborative, regional project that will play a key role in addressing Colorado’s challenging water future by managing available water supplies that would otherwise flow out of state and do so while addressing environmental concerns in a proactive way,” Wilkinson added.

The SDEIS and additional information is available on the U.S. Army Corps website at: http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Missions/RegulatoryProgram/Colorado/EISNISP.

For additional information on NISP visit http://www.gladereservoir.org.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Nick Coltrain):

Public comment will now be accepted through Sept. 3, versus the initial 45 days. The corps’ posting does not include more public hearings on the proposal. There are two planned — one in Fort Collins and one in Greeley — for near the end of July.

The corps cited “a number of requests to extend the comment period” in its extension notice. At least one request, from U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat whose district includes Fort Collins. Anti-NISP group Save the Poudre also planned to ask for an extension and Fort Collins city staff analyzing the NISP report said the length of the comment period would dictate when they presented their findings to the city council.

Polis asked for a minimum of 120 for the report to be digested and commented on. He cited concerns by the Fort Collins city government that it have enough time for complete analysis and outreach on the proposal.

Low flow releases are part of the mitigation plan. From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Nick Coltrain):

The report, which clocks in at just shy of 1,500 pages, is the precursor to at least two public hearings and a 45-day public comment period on a plan to build two new Northern Colorado reservoirs capable of delivering more water to Colorado’s growing Front Range.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat whose district includes Fort Collins, has already requested the public comment period be extended to 120 days.

Documents released Friday add to a 2008 draft environmental impact statement for the water storage proposal. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which compiled the reports and is the ultimate authority on whether construction will be permitted, determined “substantial additional analysis was needed” after its initial report underwent public comment.

About 675 letters, emails and oral statements regarding NISP were recorded during that process.

“We are pleased to have reached this important milestone after 12 years and nearly $15 million in expenditures by the NISP participants,” Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District General Manger Eric Wilkinson said in a statement. “The SDEIS shows that the project is needed to meet a portion of the participants’ future water needs.”

Northern Water, a public agency that coordinates water management in Northern Colorado, proposed the project to help meet future water needs along the Front Range. It expects a final permit decision in 2017…

NISP opponents fear the project will siphon water away from the Poudre River, which flows through Fort Collins on its route to connect with the South Platte River near Greeley…

In its statement, Northern Water notes that the supplemental report includes mitigation plans to ensure additional water will be released back into the Poudre River during low flows, and includes construction of fish-friendly bypass structures and river restoration measures…

The project, if approved, would lead to the construction of the Glade and Galeton reservoirs, with an estimated combined storage of more than 215,000 acre-feet of water, 40,000 of which would go to municipal water supplies each year. The larger of the two, Glade Reservoir, would be larger than Horsetooth Reservoir.

Glade Reservoir would be built just north of Ted’s Place, the country store and gas station at the junction of Colorado Highway 14 and U.S. Highway 287. It would require portions of U.S. 287 to be relocated.

The reservoir, capable of holding up to 170,000 acre feet of water, would cover the land north of Ted’s Place and south of Owl Canyon with Poudre River water.

Galeton Reservoir, built northeast of Greeley, would be filled with water from the South Platte River.

From The Greeley Tribune (Catherine Sweeney):

WHAT’S NEXT

RESIDENTS INTERESTED IN COMMENTING ON THE SUPPLEMENTAL DRAFT OF THE NORTHERN INTEGRATED WATER SUPPLY ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT SHOULD DO SO PRIOR TO SEPT. 3. THERE ARE TWO PUBLIC HEARINGS IN WHICH TO DO SO:

» 5 p.m. July 22 at the Hilton Fort Collins, 425 W. Prospect Road, Fort Collins

» 5 p.m. July 23 at the Weld County Administration Building, 1150 O St., Greeley.

To view the supplemental draft environment statement, and to learn where to send written comments, go to the Army Corps of Engineers’ website.

Submit comments in writing 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 E-mail: http://nisp.eis@usace.army.mil..

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who serves on the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, focused on the harm “buy and dry” deals could do to Colorado…

Weld County Commissioners Barbara Kirkmeyer and Mike Freeman both attended the rally and expressed their support.

“It’s very important to me,” Freeman said. “We know the cost of buy-and-dry.”

Freeman represents Weld County’s District 1, which covers the northern half of the county. It also covers a vast amount of farmland, which would be considered for water lease deals.

Meanwhile, NISP supporters rallied at a shindig at Northern’s HQ yesterday. Here’s a report from Saja Hindi writing for the Loveland Reporter-Herald:

Speakers at the Northern Colorado Integrated Supply Project support rally made a consistent call to action to their attendees — make their voices heard…

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began its first environmental impact statement in 2004 with a draft open to public comment in 2008. The following year, they decided to conduct a supplemental draft environmental impact statement, and that was released June 19 of this year for public comment. The comment period was extended recently through Sept. 3.

The final impact statement is scheduled to be released in 2016 with a record of decision in 2017.

If the agency allows for the project to move forward, construction could begin 2019 and be completed in four years…

Senators, congressional leaders and local elected officials were among the 175 attendees at the fifth rally in support of the project at Northern Water in Berthoud Thursday afternoon.

“We all know this is a valuable project needed for this area, and it must move forward,” said Eric Wilkinson, Northern Water General Manager.

It’s not going to dry up the Poudre River, Wilkinson asserted to the crowd, rather make use of available water supplies in Northern Colorado. And it’s needed for the 15 participants in the project, the future of the region, the future of the state and for future generations, he added.

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, told the crowd there’s been a lot of talk this year in Colorado about rain barrels and harvesting water.

“Ladies and gentlemen, let’s help build this ultimate rail barrel,” he said. “Let’s build NISP.”[…]

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., also addressed the crowd, stressing the urgency of the project.

“These are the faces of NISP, the faces that know their communities need this water to survive,” Gardner said.

He said residents need to be serious about the infrastructure needs of the country and can’t keep pushing the projects down the road because delays will affect costs, people’s employment and access to water for individuals and agriculture.

Gardner said in an interview that the permitting process in these projects needs to be examined because both NISP and the Chatfield Reservoir project have taken more than a decade — even with broad bipartisan support.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Northern Colorado leaders rallied Thursday urging quicker green lights for their “ultimate rain barrel” — a $713 million project that would divert water from the federally protected Cache La Poudre River and store 71 billion gallons in two new reservoirs.

They contend this Northern Integrated Supply Project is crucial for 400,000 future Front Range residents in some of the nation’s fastest-growing areas around Colorado’s oil and gas boom.

Since April, so much rain filled existing reservoirs and flowed into the South Platte River that Nebraska got 1.3 million acre-feet that Colorado could have caught if it had more storage space such as NISP’s Glade and Galeton reservoirs, Northern Water manager Eric Wilkinson said Thursday. Northern Water has been seeking permits since 2004 and still faces federal and state regulatory hurdles.

Erie, Fort Morgan, Windsor, Firestone, Frederick, Dacono and others “are trying to meet their future water needs,” Wilkinson said.

Poudre water wouldn’t be taken during dry times, ensuring flows of at least 50 cubic feet per second during summer and 25 cfs in winter. Mitigation of harm to wetlands would lead to restoration of habitat elsewhere, he said.

“NISP will not dry up the Poudre River,” Wilkinson said. “This project makes beneficial use of available water supplies.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration must complete environmental reviews; a state spokeswoman said Hickenlooper and two key water officials were traveling and couldn’t respond to queries. Federal water engineers at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this week extended by 30 days a public-comment period on the latest environment impact document, due to be done next year.

Construction couldn’t begin before 2019, Northern Water officials said, assuming permits are issued…

The alternative to developing new water supplies would be for booming cities and industry to buy more water from farmers, leading to a dry-up of 100 square miles of irrigated agriculture, project proponents said. That would mean a $400 million loss of agricultural output, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner said at the rally.

“That is economic devastation,” Gardner said. “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.”

This spring, water flows in the Poudre, a South Platte tributary with upper reaches protected as wild and scenic, were sufficient for Northern Water to trap and store 130,000 acre-feet in the two proposed reservoirs, officials said. The project goal is to store enough water to supply 40,000 acre-feet a year to 15 participating water providers.

Gardner said he’ll work to accelerate permitting in Washington, D.C.[…]

More than 150 state lawmakers, mayors, county commissioners, water providers and residents attended Thursday’s rally.

“We’ve got to find a way to keep Colorado’s water in Colorado,” state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg said. “We’ll have the ultimate rain barrel, ready to be filled, right up the road here.”

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

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