From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):
A community that does not have enough water is a community that does not survive, and Fort Morgan city leaders want to ensure that is not what happens here.
As such, the Fort Morgan City Council approved continuing the city’s role in the Northern Integrated Supply Project and the $360,000 expenditure that will require in 2017.
Fort Morgan has been gambling on NISP, a massive water storage project, getting permitted and built for 13 years now, according to Water Resources/Utilities Director Brent Nation.
But it’s a gamble that could pay off in water security for as long as the next five decades, according to City Manager Jeff Wells.
That’s because NISP would include Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (aka Northern Water) building both Glade Reservoir north of Fort Collins and Galeton Reservoir northeast of Greeley and east of Ault.
If these reservoirs get built, it would mean “40,000 acre feet of new, reliable water supplies” for the 15 NISP participants, which include Fort Morgan, Morgan County and Morgan County Quality Water District.
But getting it built involves both completion of the final environmental impact statement for he project and getting a record of decision on a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
As of January 2017, Northern Water was estimating that the Corps likely will finish the FEIS yet this year and then issue the record of decision on the permit sometime in 2018.
Large cost, lengthy timeline
Fort Morgan, alone, will have spent more than $1.3 million toward NISP and the city’s 9 percent stake in it over the project’s 13 years of planning and studies. And there could be another 10 to 12 years yet to go before NISP and its reservoirs conceivably would go online and the city would have water stored in Galeton Reservoir and pumped back to Fort Morgan.
As the project progresses, the city’s annual payments for it will get larger and larger, Nation warned. He called the 2017 one among the last of the “smaller payments.”
Depending upon what the Corps does this year, the larger NISP payments could start next year.
“Next year, in 2018, we’ll start moving into the larger engineering payments, and then hopefully within a year or two after that we’ll be moving into construction-type payments, where we’re getting into millions of dollars for our portion of that work,” Nation said.
Regardless, if and when it does get built, NISP would provide enough water to give the city water security for the future and whatever residential, commercial and industrial growth may come, according to Mayor Ron Shaver, Wells and Nation.
And such a lengthy timeline is not unusual for this large of a water storage project, according to both Nation and officials from Northern Water.
Reasons to continue
But continuing to support it will be worth it for the city in the long term, Nation stressed.
He shared his reasons why the city should “move forward on this project” with the council.
“We continue to exist on a base water supply that we have to rent what we need for our current needs. We still have times of the year where we’re using some rental C-BT water in order to meet all of our water demands,” Nation said.
Also, the Fort Morgan Water Treatment Plant is experiencing record levels for demand for treated water, with 1.5 billion gallons treated over the last 12 months.
“Six out of the last seven months we had record production at treatment facility,” Nation said, adding that the local industry was “driving those numbers.”
Specifically, large industrial water customer Cargill Meat Solutions is continuously pulling in water.
“We’re not seeing a lot of downtime with Cargill,” Nation said. “And even when they’re down on that seventh day, they’re using a lot of water just to clean the facility.”
And expansions at both the Leprino Foods cheese plant and the Western Sugar Cooperative beet plant have meant increased demand for water from Fort Morgan.
“We just continue to see our industrial/commercial numbers go up as we continue just to exist at the current population that we’re at,” Nation said. “It kind of drives home to me that this project is important to us. It’s something that we need to continue to participate in and see it to the finish line. This is something we need as a community.”
Wells agreed, adding that the city has previously looked into many other options for obtaining enough water for the city’s future.
“Today, there are no more viable alternatives than NISP for the city of Fort Morgan,” he said.
Shaver, who served as the city’s utilities director before retiring from the city and then serving on the council and now as mayor, said NISP is what the city needs for its future.