From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):
City staff members have proposed beginning in-depth discussions with Northern Water to explore areas of “mutual interest” and possibly negotiate an agreement. City Council would have to approve any agreement, if one were reached.
Discussions with Northern Water, if approved by council, would be lengthy and touch on “endlessly complicated” details, said John Stokes, director of the city’s Natural Areas Department.
Fort Collins is not among the 15 municipalities and water districts participating in NISP, though as a stakeholder it has been involved with the project’s permitting process for many years.
In 2008 and 2015, the city submitted comments critical of the project to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing the Environmental Impact Statement process for NISP.
The Corps and other state and federal agencies will be involved in determining mitigation measures for NISP, which would reduce flows on the Poudre through the city 20 percent a year on average and 30 percent during peak flows in spring.
Experience tells the city it cannot rely on other entities to look out for the best interests of Fort Collins in assessing the negative impacts of NISP through town, Stokes said during a recent city-sponsored open house.
“They are not likely, in our view, to require mitigation at a level that we think would be important to the city if we didn’t negotiate,” Stokes said…
The final Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, for the project is expected to be released by the Corps later this year. A record of decision on whether the project may be permitted is expected in 2018.
If the project is permitted, construction could begin in 2025, city officials say.
Discussions and negotiations between the city and Northern Water would be outside of the permitting process, said John Urbanic, project manager with the Corps of Engineers…
Mitigation of environmental impacts are part of the permitting process. It’s possible a mitigation agreement between the city and Northern Water could be included in the permit, Urbanic stated in an email to the Coloradoan.
Whether an agreement would facilitate a permit being issued “depends on what’s in the agreement,” he said.
Fort Collins’ focus regarding NISP is on the area crossed by the river between the mouth of the Poudre Canyon and Interstate 25. The city owns several natural areas along the river corridor.
Stokes said the city has many concerns about the impacts of lowering baseline and peak flows on the Poudre, including:
Reduced water quality and additional stresses on city water treatment facilities Reductions in the health of the river’s ecology and biological resources Reductions in the river’s ability to convey flood water Diminished recreation and aesthetics
Specifics of what city staff would seek from Northern Water through negotiations and what it might have to do in return have not been determined, Stokes said.
About 200 people attended a city-sponsored open house on the issue Monday at the Lincoln Center. Longstanding opponents and proponents of NISP were on hand, stating familiar positions.