From BizWest (Dallas Heltzell):
Larimer County commissioners on Tuesday voted to forward a citizens’ advisory board’s list of critical comments about a controversial water-storage proposal to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — but added their own letter supporting the project.
The commission had asked the all-volunteer Environmental and Science Advisory Board to review a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project, which the Corps released in June. The ESAB report, dated Aug. 18, blasted what it called the SDEIS’ lack of detail on key issues and included a long list of concerns about NISP’s effect on such things as flows, fish habitat and water quality in the Cache la Poudre River as well as plans to mitigate the problems.
The county commissioners voted 3-0 to send the ESAB report to the Corps — accompanied by a letter from the commissioners saying that Larimer County is not opposed to NISP and believes the ESAB concerns can be addressed sufficiently. The commissioners’ letter lays out why it believes NISP to be very important to the future of Northern Colorado.
Fort Collins’ city staff also was critical of the impact statement for leaving key questions unanswered, and recommended last week that the Fort Collins City Council vote to express conditional opposition to NISP. The city council will consider that recommendation at Tuesday night’s regular session, which will be broadcast on cable Channel 14.
The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District would build NISP if it receives a federal permit.
From email from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Brian Werner):
Earlier this week, Larimer County commissioners submitted a letter supporting NISP to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is the third county board to endorse NISP, following earlier endorsements from Morgan and Weld County commissioners.
All three commissioners have voiced their support of the project to build Glade and Galeton reservoirs. Utilizing these reservoirs, the project will provide water entities with approximately 40,000 acre-feet of new, reliable water supply each year.
NISP has the support from every newspaper representing project partners including: BizWest, Longmont Times-Call, Fort Morgan Times, Greeley Tribune, Carbon Valley Independent, Erie Review, Lafayette News, Lost Creek Guide, Louisville Times, Loveland Reporter Herald and the Coloradoan. This link contains the complete list of NISP supporters/endorsers.
Reasons for support are broad, but there is a shared view that NISP needs to be built has soon as possible to capture and store water in wet years for the needs of current and future generations in all years.
During the July 2 NISP rally, State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg summarized what NISP will achieve for the 15 northern Front Range water providers. Sonnenberg said, “There’s been a lot of talk about using rain barrels this year. Well, we’ve got to find a way to keep Colorado’s water in Colorado. We have the ultimate rain barrel, ready to be filled, right up the road here.”
Another common theme among NISP supporters is that water conservation alone cannot meet the water needs of Northern Colorado. Several regional newspapers have made this point including the Ft. Collins Coloradoan, Loveland Reporter-Herald and Longmont Times-Call.
The Coloradoan editorial board editorial “NISP Needed to Solve Region’s Water Problem” pointed out: “The future of water in Northern Colorado – and our state as a whole – is now.” It also stated, “Our state – and Northern Colorado – faces a water shortage as the population grows. The Northern Integrated Water Supply project, in tandem with other efforts, is key to solving that problem.”
The Loveland Reporter-Herald/Longmont Times-Call editorial was entitled “Water Conservation Needed, and so is NISP.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers extended the public comment period an additional 30 days.The comment period ended Thursday, September 3.
From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):
The end of the public comment period signals an important step in a lengthy review process of a project that would transform the future of water use for Northern Colorado. Northern Water began petitioning more than a decade ago for the project, which would draw from the Poudre and South Platte rivers to supply 40,000 acre feet of water a year to 15 participating communities and water districts.
So, what’s next?
The Corps will review the comments and prepare a Final Environmental Impact Statement by next summer. At this point, no public comment period is planned for the final statement, project manager John Urbanic said Thursday.
After the final EIS, the Corps has to issue a record of decision – a final decision on whether it will grant Northern Water the federal permit necessary to carry out the project. That decision can be challenged in court.
The Corps’ final EIS will include additional analysis of how the project would influence water quality in the Poudre River. NISP opponents argue the Corps’ omission of that analysis in past environmental impact statements constitutes a violation of federal law, which requires the Corps to thoroughly analyze all potential environmental impacts of a proposed project.
Urbanic said the Corps may allow for public comments on the water quality data even if there’s no official public comment period for the final EIS…
Northern Water spokesman Brian Werner said he’s as excited to see the SDEIS comments as anyone else – but he’s not expecting any big surprises.
“I don’t think we’re gonna see a lot we haven’t already heard,” he said.
Northern Water is continuing to work on its plan to mitigate the project’s environmental impacts and developing another mitigation plan in communion with the Colorado parks and wildlife department.
Werner said he’s confident the Corps’ next report will unearth “good information” about NISP’s potential influence on Colorado’s environment.
“It’s not going to erase all questions and doubts, but it’ll do a great deal,” he said. “There’s nothing like good quality data to back up what you’re saying.”