Pitkin County ponies up $35,000 to help the Colorado Water Trust

Map of the Roaring Fork River watershed via the Roaring Fork Conservancy
Map of the Roaring Fork River watershed via the Roaring Fork Conservancy

From the Aspen Daily News (Collin Szewczyk):

A three-pronged approach to restore local water flows got a shot in the arm on Tuesday when Pitkin County supported a $35,000 Healthy Rivers and Streams grant to help a Front Range nonprofit’s plan to keep more water in the Roaring Fork River.

The project looks to provide a pathway for water right holders to leave more of their allocation in the Roaring Fork without being penalized, and assess availability of other water sources to combine the total for maximum benefit for the river.

The Denver-based Colorado Water Trust is spearheading the project, which aims to extend a non-diversion agreement for the city-owned Wheeler Ditch; look into the utilization of up to 3,000 acre-feet of water that would otherwise be diverted through the Independence Pass Transmountain Diversion System to bolster flows near Aspen; and study ways to use more water in Grizzly Reservoir to benefit the Roaring Fork.

The funding will go toward coordinating the project; the completion of a feasibility analyses; forecasting instream flow needs for the upcoming irrigation season; performing outreach; and monitoring and reporting of streamflow and project benefits, according to a supplemental budget request from Lisa MacDonald, of the Pitkin County Attorneys Office.

Amy Beatie, executive director of the Colorado Water Trust (CWT), said this is a “real opportunity” to put water back in the Roaring Fork River, especially in the stretch between the Salvation Ditch and Castle Creek…

Wheeler Ditch non-diversion agreement

Aspen City Council partnered with the Colorado Water Trust in 2013 on a one-year Wheeler Ditch non-diversion agreement to improve streamflow conditions on a section of river that flows through the city. This area stretches from the ditch, which is located near the eastern edge of town, down to the Rio Grande Park, the CWT grant application noted. The agreement was also renewed in 2014.

When the water level in the river fell below 32 cubic feet per second (CFS), the city reduced the Wheeler Ditch diversions to keep water in the river, leading to an increase of about 2 to 3 CFS from mid-July through the end of the irrigation season.

Under the new proposal, this Wheeler agreement would be extended for 10 years, but only five of those years are covered under SB-19.

The water trust’s hope is that once others with water rights see the success of non-diversion agreements, they too will allow more water to remain in the Roaring Fork without penalty.

Beatie added that the city of Aspen has given the CWT a “resounding thumbs-up” in its efforts.

“[The non-diversion agreement] is an informal agreement where a water user decides not to use its water right for its decreed purposes,” she explained. “But can instead leave it in the river. There’s no transfer obligations, it’s a very simple and private process and it’s a private contract between the trust and the city to experiment with leaving water in this section of river.”

More water from Grizzly Reservoir

Beatie said a right to 800 acre-feet of water in Grizzly Reservoir was acquired in a settlement by the Colorado River Water Conservation District in an application for a junior right enlargement.

John Currier, chief engineer with the Colorado River Water Conservation District, explained that out of the first 2,400 acre-feet that’s diverted in any given year under the junior water right, 800 goes to the river district.

“Through agreements with the city and county, that water is to be used in various ways, primarily for instream flow purposes,” he said.

Currier added that the real task of the overall project is figuring out how to marry the three sources and maximize the benefit.

“This was water that the river district secured,” Beatie noted. “It’s 800 acre-feet, about 750 of which can be used by a combination of the river district and Aspen for environmental purposes.”

Beatie said the river district is allowing CWT to analyze how the water can best be used and “sow this supply together with the Wheeler Ditch project.”

The CWT then intends to investigate how to best utilize the Grizzly water to enhance Roaring Fork streamflows, especially in years in which the Wheeler Ditch isn’t being diverted.

According to the CWT grant application, the first 40-acre feet of Grizzly Reservoir water would “be held in a mitigation account for subsequent release to enhance flows in the Roaring Fork during the late irrigation season.”

“The remaining water is to be stored either in Grizzly Reservoir in a Colorado River Water Conservation District account (up to 200 acre-feet) or held in [Twin Lakes Reservoir] storage,” the application continued.

Commissioner Steve Child asked if Grizzly Reservoir could be enlarged to provide more water on the West Slope.

Currier said that while nothing is in the works yet, the idea has “been on the radar screen.”

Water from the ‘Exchange’

In the third part of proposal, known as the “exchange,” the CWT will also investigate, in partnership with the water district, how to restore flows via the Independence Pass Transmountain Diversion System.

This could provide up to 3,000 acre feet of water “in exchange for equivalent bypasses from the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River,” the CWT grant application noted.

But Beatie said that while this arrangement has been implemented, it’s never been formally approved.

“The state engineer cannot administer an agreement, they need to administer a water right,” she said. “There may be more steps that need to be undertaken, both to secure this water right as instream flow, and then to have it protected.”

Wide support for effort

The Pitkin County commissioners supported the HRS grant allocation for the project, and praised the city’s involvement.

“From the bottom of my heart I want to applaud the city for taking the lead on this during the drought and continuing and following through,” said Commissioner Rachel Richards. “It’s just been fabulous.”

Dave Nixa, vice chair of the Healthy Rivers and Streams Board, said data from this project could provide a huge opportunity to increase local flows, calling it the most comprehensive grant request that HRS has ever received.

“We’re talking about, could some of those places be Snowmass Creek and the Crystal [River]?” he said. “Where we could use the value of this as a catalyst to encourage others to participate.”

April Long, stormwater manager for the city, said Aspen is looking at creating a river management plan for the Roaring Fork, calling it a top priority.

“It’s something that we’ll be working with the county very closely on, and all the other stakeholders in the suburb section of the watershed in the next two years to develop an operational river management plan for how we can maintain flows in drought years,” she said.

The CWT had already attained a matching grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and the total budget for the project is approximately $70,000, according to a letter from Beatie to the HRS board.

“The idea behind this application is that it’s a really good start,” Beatie said, “Our experience is that one step forward into solving flow shortages is often the catalyst to bring more energy and enthusiasm and other water rights and water users into the program.”

CDPHE: Trout from the Animas River safe to eat, tests show

rainbowtrout

Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (Meghan Trubee):

Fish tissue sampling by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment have determined trout from the Animas River are safe to eat. Most fish tissue analyzed after the Gold King mine release showed metals below detectable levels. All results were below the risk threshold. Levels of mercury, selenium and arsenic in rainbow and brown trout were within the range of levels in fish previously sampled in the state. The results most likely represent background levels, not a change in levels because of the Aug. 5 mine spill.

Fish samples were compared to EPA regional screening levels in a manner similar to risk assessment of water and sediment from the Animas River. Risk assessment focused on short-term health effects since the mine spill was a short-term event. Because there is a potential for fish to concentrate metals in their tissue over time, the department and Colorado Parks and Wildlife will continue to monitor levels of metals in Animas River fish. New data will be analyzed and results reported when available.

More information on the Gold King mine release is available at: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/animas-river-spill

September 10 seminar highlights water connections from Colorado to California — Hannah Holm

Colorado River Basin including Mexico, USBR May 2015
Colorado River Basin including Mexico, USBR May 2015

From the Grand Junction Free Press (Hannah Holm):

As California has sunk deeper into drought over the past several years, Colorado has mostly climbed out after the back-to-back dry winters of 2012 & 2013. At this point, Colorado is officially drought-free except for small patches with “abnormally dry” conditions in the northwestern and southwestern corners.

Because Colorado’s snowpack and water use affect water supplies downstream aligning supply and demand in Arizona, Nevada and California continues to be a struggle. Inevitably Colorado will face repercussions upstream in the headwaters of the great Colorado River.

The Colorado River District is providing an excellent opportunity to learn about these hydrologic and policy connections from some of the top minds in western water at its annual seminar September 10 in Grand Junction’s Two Rivers Convention Center. The theme of the seminar is “Will what’s happening in California stay in California?”

Starting off at 9am, climate researcher Klaus Wolter will discuss the climate conditions that have led to the 15-year southwestern drought that has helped drop the reservoirs of Lake Mead and Powell to historic lows.

On the policy front, former Las Vegas water czar Pat Mulroy will discuss why the impacts of water challenges along the Colorado will flow upstream as well as downstream. Jennifer Gimbel, Principal Deputy Secretary for Water and Science for the U.S. Department of the Interior and former Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, will provide a federal perspective on the regional drought and efforts to address the low levels in Lakes Mead and Powell.

Over lunch, longtime environmental reporter John Fleck will take time out from writing his book on the Colorado River to discuss the capacity of the Colorado River Compact to flex to address new realities of supply and demand. Bringing the focus back upstream, Colorado River District leaders Eric Kuhn and Dan Birch will then argue that Western Coloradans need to worry more about protecting existing uses in the face of drought than a big new project to take water east of the Continental Divide.

The final two speakers, Ken Nowak with the Bureau of Reclamation and Astor Boozer with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, will discuss trends, opportunities and challenges associated with agricultural water conservation, efficiency and transfers to urban areas. The seminar will conclude at 3:30pm.

The cost for the seminar, including lunch, is $30 if you register by September 4, and $40 if you pay at the door. Students can attend for $10. Full details are at http://www.crwcd.org.

This is part of a series of articles coordinated by the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University in cooperation with the Colorado and Gunnison Basin Roundtables to raise awareness about water needs, uses and policies in our region. To learn more about the basin roundtables and statewide water planning, and to let the roundtables know what you think, go to http://www.coloradomesa.edu/WaterCenter. You can also find the Water Center at http://www.Facebook.com/WaterCenter.CMU or http://www.Twitter.com/WaterCenterCMU.

Telluride: Workers installing pipe around Blue Lake

Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls

From The Watch (Stephen Elliott):

For years, Idarado, which owns much of the land and water rights in the upper basins around Blue Lake, and the town of Telluride have argued — occasionally in a courtroom — over water. Now, the two entities are working together to achieve the mutual benefit the pipeline project will bring.

“This project is necessary because it’s a historic pipeline that existed many, many years ago, installed by miners. Since it’s very old, and it’s in very extreme conditions in terms of climate and geology, it has sprung a lot of leaks,” Telluride Environmental and Engineering Division Manager Karen Guglielmone said. “Over the last several years, we’ve been in a bit of a drought and [the amount of water stored in Blue Lake] has dropped by many feet. It has become quite obvious that additional water from the next drainage is important to maintaining that water storage.”[…]

The new pipeline connects Lewis Lake and Blue Lake. Lewis Lake is at a slightly higher elevation than Blue Lake, which means gravity can facilitate the transfer of water from the higher lake to the lower. The water then is transported to the Bridal Veil Falls power station and eventually to the Pandora water treatment plant.

The vast majority of the new pipe, made of high-density polypropylene, is being installed on the flatter stretches between the two lakes by EarthTech West out of Norwood. The work to install the flatter, simpler sections of pipe has been moving relatively quickly in comparison to the highly technical — and laborious — work required in order to install the 160-foot section of pipe on the cliff.

That’s the job of Access in Motion, the rope access experts, a company based in Telluride and led by owner/contractor Juju Jullien. The crew, a half-dozen (depending on the day) expert welders and machine specialists used to dangling off the sides of cliffs and buildings, work six, 10-hour days while living at the camp, with two days off in between.

“You have to drive for almost an hour, and the road is very dangerous. Driving it after 10 hours of work on a daily basis is not something you want everyone to do, so the camp made sense,” Jullien said. “You can have the best technicians, but they also have to be mountain people, and people that can get along. Six 10-hour days at that altitude with heavy equipment… it’s fun and we love it, but it’s not a job that you start by running, because that job will outrun you.”

That sentiment, combined with the highly technical work involved with securing the steel pipe to the cliff, means it’s hard for Jullien to estimate when they might be done, though a natural deadline would be the first snowfall, which is fast approaching at 12,000 feet. Guglielmone said initial estimates were that the project would take between six and 10 weeks and would be completed by mid-September. Jullien’s team was not able to visit the site for the first time until July 13 due to late spring snow and rain.

To secure the pipe to the cliff, Jullien’s team will drill nine one-inch stainless rods 15 inches into the rock, seal them and then weld them to the pipe. Each anchor will be stress-tested at 8,000 pounds for five minutes before the pipe can be secured.

“It’s all custom work, hard to predict, and all on ropes,” Jullien said. “Each support for the pipe, they’re all different because the rock is not a concrete wall. You cannot have one design that you multiply. It’s a slow process.”

More important than the speed necessary to install the pipe before the winter snows arrive is safety, Jullien said.

“There’s a notion of distance and isolation up here,” he said. “A little accident up here is serious. If you’re in town, you’re next to the medical center. That’s easy.”

“As far as natural hazards like lightning, rain, snow, and cold [go], even the sun is a hazard at 12,000 feet,” Jullien continued.

To manage safety concerns at the site, the Access in Motion and EarthTech West teams have a joint safety meeting each morning. Additionally, Jullien said, his team’s experience working in the oil and gas industry, where safety regulations are incredibly thorough, means they are taking even more safety precautions than prescribed by their own industry regulations.

“It’s a very industrial approach to safety,” Jullien said.

“You can’t have any failure. That’s what we’ve learned on the big fields.”

Because the project is mostly on Idarado’s land and is overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, San Miguel County has limited oversight of the project. But, the county gave Idarado development permits and county staff visited the site.

“In general the county supports clean energy, and we think the hydroelectric plant does that,” county planning director Mike Rozycki said. “We look at it as an essential regional facility.”
At the site, reminders of the miners who once inhabited the basin below Blue Lake remain, in the form of dilapidated wooden structures and rusted pipes half-buried in the ground. Those miners are ever-present in the minds of those who now inhabit the flat, grassy campsite.

“We’re surrounded by historical flumes, and when we have to work around them and are not allowed to move them, we respect that because we understand how long they took to build,” Jullien said. “I love to see those old pieces of steel.”

Guglielmone has a more practical respect for the memory of the miners. She said that the fact that they built the pipe in the first place is reason enough to reconstruct it.

“Think about the miners living in those kinds of conditions. Would they really have built it if they didn’t believe that water was necessary in Blue Lake?” she asked. “They weren’t frivolous. They didn’t build infrastructure unless they felt strongly that they needed it.”

Mining reclamation may be a pipe dream — The Durango Herald

retentionpondsgoldkingmine082015
From The Durango Herald (Peter Marcus):

Part of the dilemma has to do with money. Estimates place national reclamation of inactive mines as high as $54 billion. Mining laws that govern the industry in the United States date back 143 years. The federal government is prohibited from collecting royalties on much of hard-rock mining, thereby leaving the coffers dry for reclamation.

Congress is expected to take up legislation that would allow the government to collect royalties, though the measure faces an uphill battle in a Congress plagued by political gridlock. Even still, there is the underlying issue of inadequate technology to address.

Reclamation work remains a pretty rudimentary process. For cleanup crews to really make a long-lasting impact, they must get beyond the opening of the mine. Back during the mining boom of the late 19th century and early 20th century, there was little engineering. Dams were installed, including a pile of material, and behind it was waste products, residual water and chemicals.

“You’re looking at the potential of these sort of hastily put together dams bursting, and the older they get, the more frequently that’s going to occur,” Cohen said.

For a mine to be properly restored, workers must address the waste rock pile, which includes all the rock that didn’t have enough ore to be worthy of processing. This material likely has a lot of pyrite in it, which can make acid mine drainage after it mixes with oxygen and water. This material is on the land surface.

There’s also tailings storage to address, which is the waste from processing the ore that took place to harvest metals. This fine texture also is on the land surface.

The waste piles – built on top of local soil – contained no liners and can be more than 1,000 acres large and taller than 300 feet.

“The idea was make gravity your friend. If we can dump it down someplace, rather than haul it far and up, we’re in business, and it’s less costly,” Cohen explained. “In the old days, that was their modus operandi.”

These waste piles must be moved to a place that has been properly prepared in a large pit lined with clay or a high-density polyethylene liner. A neutralizing material – like lime – is placed on the bottom of the acid-generating material and then on top of it. It is topped with another clay liner to spur vegetative growth. Some call it the “tailings burrito.”

But these pits will likely fail eventually, and there is usually a body of water running through it, which is problematic for water quality.

Often, a bulkhead, or reinforced concrete plug, is constructed at the mine opening. But this is a temporary solution at best. As Cohen pointed out, “water has this nasty habit of finding the path of least resistance.” The water simply finds its way through other openings, such as fractures in rock.

The bulkhead is really just a way to delay while money is sought for more permanent reclamation work. The ultimate solution is a treatment facility that could cost as much as $20 million to construct and another $1.5 million per year to operate 24 hours a day. The facility usually must be built at high altitudes in remote, difficult terrain.

But with a treatment facility, workers can control pipes in the bulkhead and adjust the flow of water so that it can be treated, offering a more permanent solution.

The EPA said that it is exploring building a treatment facility near Gold King in the wake of the spill. Groups have been calling for a treatment facility in the Upper Animas Mining District for years. Pollution from inactive mines has long contaminated Cement Creek near Silverton, which runs into the Animas. A treatment plant operated in the 1990s. But in 2004, the water-treatment facility was shut down.

In the meantime, EPA officials said water from Gold King is being captured and treated at a system of impoundments before being discharged to Cement Creek. Authorities have constructed four ponds at the mine site, which are treating water to remove as much metal loading as possible.

As Cohen pointed out, the government has few options.

“Even some of these treatment systems, what you see is these very basic systems,” he said. “We’re talking about a hole in the ground that’s lined where you throw some lime in. That’s only going to go so far.”

Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin

Colorado and portions of Wyoming and Utah precipitation as a percent of average August 2015
Colorado and portions of Wyoming and Utah precipitation as a percent of average August 2015

Click here to read the current assessment.

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.