From The Fort Collins Coloradan (Jacy Marmaduke):
The Environmental Protection Agency has qualms about the review process for the Northern Integrated Supply Project, detailed in 20 pages of comments made public Thursday.
The EPA gave a rating of “Environmental Objections — Insufficient Information” to the Army Corps of Engineers’ supplemental draft environmental impact statement, which was subject to public comments until Sept. 3.
The “environmental objections” rating means the EPA has identified significant environmental impacts that the project must avoid. The “insufficient information” rating means the EPA found that the SDEIS doesn’t contain enough information to fully analyze the project’s environmental impacts.
The EPA’s comments aren’t necessarily binding, but the agency has veto power over the permitting process.
Both ratings are one step away from the worst the EPA can dole out. The EPA could have rated the project “environmentally unsatisfactory,” meaning it shouldn’t proceed as proposed, and “inadequate,” which would have required the Army Corps to release another supplemental draft.
The EPA’s rating is consistent with calls from the Fort Collins City Council, Save the Poudre and the Larimer County Board of Commissioners that the Army Corps conduct additional analysis of how NISP would affect water quality in the Poudre River, the primary source of water for a project that would create two reservoirs to provide 40,000 acre feet of water annually to 15 participants. Those include 11 cities/towns and four water districts. Towns include Windsor, Severance, Dacono, Eaton, Evans, Erie, Frederick, Firestone, Fort Lupton, Fort Morgan and Lafayette. The Fort Collins-Loveland Water District is a participant.
Essentially, the SDEIS includes a half-finished water quality analysis that predicts what kind of water quality effects might occur — temperature changes and increased concentration of certain sediments — but not the magnitude of those effects. The SDEIS says the full analysis will be in the final environmental impact statement, slated for release next summer.
NISP opponents took issue with the lack of full analysis because the Army Corps isn’t planning for a public comment period between the final EIS and its record of decision on the project.
In its comments, the EPA recommends the Army Corps publish the additional analysis before the final EIS and allow for a formal public comment period.