Proposed Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District Dedication of Mitigation Releases for Instream Flow Use in the Cache la Poudre River @Northern_Water @CWCB_DNR

Cache la Poudre River. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs

Here’s the notice from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Rob Viehl):

Proposed Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District Dedication of Mitigation Releases for Instream Flow Use in the Cache la Poudre River (Water Div. 1)

The Colorado Water Conservation Board will be considering a proposal from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (“Northern Water”) for a proposed donation of a contractual interest in “Protected Mitigation Releases,” as defined in section 37-92-102(8), C.R.S. for instream flow use in a segment of the Cache la Poudre River (“Poudre River”). The Board will consider this proposal at its July 18-19, 2018 meeting in Glenwood Springs. The agenda for this Board meeting can be found at:
http://cwcb.state.co.us/public-information/board-meetings-agendas/Pages/July2018NoticeAgenda.aspx

Consideration of this proposal initiates the 120-day period for Board review pursuant to Rule 6b. of the Board’s Rules Concerning the Colorado Instream Flow and Natural Lake Level Program (“ISF Rules”), which became effective on March 2, 2009. No formal Board action will be taken at this time.

Information concerning the ISF Rules and water acquisitions can be found at:
http://cwcb.state.co.us/legal/Documents/Rules/Final%20Adopted%20ISF%20Rules%201-27-2009.pdf

The following information concerning the proposed lease of water is provided pursuant to ISF Rule 6m.(1):
Subject Water Right:

GLADE RESERVOIR
Source: Cache la Poudre River
Decree: 03CW0405
Appropriation Date: 5/2/1980
Adjudication Date: 12/31/1980
Decreed Amount: 220,000 Acre Feet

GLADE RESERVOIR FOREBAY
Source: Cache la Poudre River
Decree: 03CW0405
Appropriation Date: 5/2/1980
Adjudication Date: 12/31/1980
Decreed Amount: 5,400 Acre Feet

Proposed Reaches of Stream:

The reach of stream proposed for use of Northern Water’s Mitigation Release water is the Cache la Poudre River extending downstream from the Poudre River Delivery Pipeline (the point where releases from Glade Reservoir enter the Poudre River) to the Poudre River Intake Diversion. The segment extends from near the mouth of the canyon through the City of Ft. Collins for approximately 13 river miles.

Purpose of the Acquisition:

The water rights proposed to be donated to the CWCB would be up to 14,350 acre-feet per year of water available to Northern in the to-be-constructed Glade Reservoir and Glade Forebay in Larimer County. Based upon discussions with Northern Water and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (“CPW”) regarding the need for and use of the donated water, Staff recommends that the CWCB acquire a contractual interest in the mitigation release water of up to 14,350 acre-feet.

The acquired water would be used to preserve and improve the natural environment in the Poudre River to a reasonable decree by protecting Mitigation Releases up to 18-25 cfs to meet the Mitigation Plan targets and CPW’s recommended flows in the Poudre River. The CWCB shall use the Protected Mitigation Releases to help maintain stream flows in the Cache la Poudre River to preserve and improve the natural environment to a reasonable degree within the Qualifying Stream Reach in amounts up to the target rates of (a) winter flows of up to 55 cfs to preserve, and flows from 55 cfs to 85 cfs to improve, the natural environment to a reasonable degree, and (b) summer flows of up to 85 cfs to preserve, and flows from 85 to 130 cfs to improve, the natural environment to a reasonable degree.

Proposed Season of Use:

The CWCB does not currently hold an ISF water right within this reach of the Poudre River. Colorado Parks and Wildlife (“CPW”) and others have been studying and collecting field data in this segment of the Poudre River for over 10 years. CPW evaluated the studies and data by means including R2CROSS and PHABSIM modeling techniques to develop target flow rates for this section of the Poudre River. CPW’s preliminary target flow recommendations for this stream segment are as follows:

Season of Use: Winter (approx. November-April), Preserve Target Rates: Up to 55 cfs, Improve Target Rates: Between 55 and 85 cfs.
Season of Use: Summer (approx. May-October), Preserve Target Rates: Up to 85 cfs, Improve Target Rates: Between 85 and 130 cfs.

Supporting Data:

Available information concerning the purpose of the acquisition and the degree of preservation of the natural environment, and available scientific data can be found on CWCB water acquisitions web page at: http://cwcb.state.co.us/environment/instream-flow-program/Pages/NISPCacheLaPoudre.aspx

Linda Bassi
Stream and Lake Protection Section
Colorado Water Conservation Board
1313 Sherman Street, Room 721
Denver, CO 80203
linda.bassi@state.co.us
303-866-3441 x3204

Kaylea White
Stream and Lake Protection Section
Colorado Water Conservation Board
1313 Sherman Street, Room 721
Denver, CO 80203
kaylea.white@state.co.us
303-866-3441 x3240

The latest E-Waternews is hot off the presses from @Northern_Water

Looking east toward the Chimney Hollow Reservoir site, which is just this side of the red ridge. On the other side is Carter Lake Reservoir and beyond that, the Loveland area.

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

New website offers better access to Windy Gap Firming Project info

Northern Water and the Municipal Subdistrict have launched a revamped website to provide easy-to-find data regarding the Windy Gap Firming Project and its chief component, Chimney Hollow Reservoir.

The site, http://chimneyhollow.org, offers answers to frequently asked questions, information for potential contractors and download-ready fact sheets. In addition, it offers a video from Gov. John Hickenlooper that discusses his endorsement of the project as well as its place in the the Colorado Water Plan.

As the project moves forward, the site will also present information related to the construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir as well as the mitigation and enhancement efforts being conducted by Northern Water’s Municipal Subdistrict.

The project also has a presence on Facebook, found here.

Berthoud: #Conservation Gardens Fair at @NorthernWater, June 9, 2018

From the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District via The Loveland Reporter Herald:

Residents can learn about landscaping that requires less water in Colorado’s semiarid climate during a Conservation Gardens Fair at Northern Water on Saturday.

The free event, held June 9, will feature demonstrations and seminars on lawn and garden practices that are ideal for Colorado’s climate. Residents also can explore Northern Water’s conservation gardens, which showcase hundreds of plants and turf grasses that flourish in this region.

“Northern Water’s staff collectively has decades of experience in water-efficient landscaping and best practices for our climate, and we want to share that knowledge with the public,” Lyndsey Lucia, Conservation Gardens public outreach coordinator, said in a press release. “We encourage anyone who’s interested to join us at this event, as the wide variety of information provided at the Conservation Gardens Fair will be valuable for homeowners, businesses and green industry professionals alike.”

Joining Northern Water’s experts are representatives from Colorado State University’s Extension Office and master gardeners program, Colorado Vista Landscape Design, EWING Irrigation, Gardens on Spring Creek, Green Hills Sod Farm, Loveland Youth Gardeners, Plant Select and Turf Master.

Activities for children also are on tap at the Conservation Gardens Fair, the first 400 people will receive a free perennial and a gift from the prize wheel, and there will be a limited number of free sandwiches during the lunch hour, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The event is open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 9 at Northern Water’s headquarters, 220 Water Ave., in Berthoud. More information on the fair, including a list of how-to seminars and activities, is availalbe at http://northernwater.org.

Court battle continues over Windy Gap firming project — @AspenJournalism

Looking east toward the Chimney Hollow Reservoir site, which is just this side of the red ridge. On the other side is Carter Lake Reservoir and beyond that, the Loveland area.

From Aspen Journalism (Lindsay Fendt):

In western Larimer County a sedimentary rock ridge runs parallel to the gradual beginnings of the Rocky Mountain foothills, forming a large valley known as Chimney Hollow.

In May 2017, federal agencies approved plans to flood the valley — which is between Longmont, to the south, and Loveland, to the north — to create a 90,000 acre-foot reservoir.

But while the 14-year federal permitting process has now come to an end and construction slated to begin early next year, a federal lawsuit from six environmental groups could stop the project from moving forward.

“We are just trying to inject some sanity and stop the madness,” said Gary Wockner, director of Save the Colorado, an environmental nonprofit based in Ft. Collins that supports the Colorado River and is the lead petitioner in the case. “The Colorado River is the most dammed, drained, depleted river on the planet.”

The construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir is the foundation for the $400 million Windy Gap “firming project,” a supplemental storage plan tied to the existing Windy Gap dam and reservoir, which is on the main stem of the Colorado River in Grand County. The firming project also includes construction of a bypass channel at Windy Gap’s original diversion point in order to help mitigate existing impacts on fish and water quality.

The relatively modest Windy Gap reservoir, which holds 445 acre-feet, was built in 1985 to draw water from the Colorado River and pump it uphill to Lake Granby and into the Colorado-Big Thompson project. The water is then sent under the Continental Divide and into Larimer and other Front Range counties.

The Northern Colorado Water Conservation District based in Berthoud, owns the Windy Gap reservoir, operates the Colorado-Big Thompson system, and is intent on constructing Chimney Hollow reservoir to store additional Colorado River water.

Fourteen municipalities and water districts throughout the Front Range are signed up to help pay for the Chimney Hollow reservoir, based on the share of the water they intend to use.

Though the existing Windy Gap Project can today draw as much as 90,000 acre-feet of water from the Colorado River, due to junior water rights and a lack of storage, the project is often unable to provide any water at all to the Front Range.

With the Chimney Hollow Reservoir in place, the Windy Gap project could supply a guaranteed 30,000 acre-feet of water per year to its customers.

A graphic from Northern Water showing the lay out of Windy Gap Firming Project.

Other alternatives?

Wockner and Save the Colorado have been joined by five other environmental groups — Save the Poudre, Wildearth Guardians, Living Rivers, Waterkeeper Alliance and the Sierra Club — in suing the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers over their environmental review of the Windy Gap firming project.

The petitioners allege that the agencies violated the National Environmental Protection Act and the Clean Water Act by failing to consider alternatives, like water conservation, instead of building a new project.

“Rather than rigorously exploring and objectively evaluating ways to meet (Northern’s) actual water supply needs, the federal agencies accepted (Northern’s) claimed need at face value and only considered reservoir options that would further (Northern’s) preconceived goal of “firming” Windy Gap water supplies,” says the petitioner’s complaint.

Both the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers declined interview requests for this story, but according to the Bureau’s Final Environmental Impact Statement, the firming project would supply only about 10 percent of its customers projected 2050 water demand.

Because conservation cannot account for the entire projected gap, the FEIS states that the agency did not consider conservation as an alternative to the firming project.

The agencies’ assumptions about the demand gap are consistent with those of the 2015 Colorado Water Plan the state’s official water strategy document, which estimates that water demand in 2050 could exceed supplies by as much as 560,000 acre-feet.

To make up for this gap, the plan calls for conservation measures and also the significant expansion of water storage facilities.

Because of the water plan’s call for storage, the Windy Gap firming project is considered a critical storage project by the state and received endorsements from both the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Outflow from the dam across the Colorado River that forms Windy Gap Reservoir. Taken during a field trip the reservoir in September, 2017.

Conservation included

Northern, which is not a defendant in the lawsuit, filed a motion in March to intervene on behalf of the defendants in the lawsuit to help defend the permit process.

When asked why conservation was not considered as an alternative, officials from Northern said that the demand estimates already assume that municipalities will increase water conservation.

“We did not count conservation as an alternative. We built conservation into our demand projection,” said Jeff Drager, Northern’s director of engineering and the project manager for the Windy Gap firming project. “So when we looked at how much water our participants need we figured we factored in some level of conservation already.”

Though Northern and the state use the projected demand gap to justify the firming project, the petitioners say the demand estimates are inflated.

On May 3, the petitioners filed a motion to add a statistics report to the case’s administrative record.

According to the report, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps failed to update the estimated water use statistics in their impact statements with the actual water use data as it became available over the course of the 14-year permitting process.

The report found that the agencies’ estimates for municipal water use were between 9 and 97 percent higher than the actual water use figures.

“The thrust of our claim is that the federal government just took the project participants word for how much water they would need,” said Kevin Lynch, the attorney for the petitioners. “The agency has a duty to independently verify that need and they didn’t do anything. They took projections from 2005 and that data was wildly over-inflated.”

The court is now reviewing the petitioners’ administrative motions as well as motions by both Northern and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources to intervene on behalf of the defendants.

These changes will likely delay court proceedings for at least several months.

Fort Collins: “We need to be in the game [NISP] and to negotiate and look out for Fort Collins’ best interests” — Wade Troxell

Northern Integrated Supply Project July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Nick Coltrain):

The council voted 5-2 to allow city staff to negotiate, with Councilmembers Ross Cunniff and Bob Overbeck against, and those in agreement largely arguing it couldn’t hurt anything. City staff would need to go to council to approve any final deals.

“We need to be in the game and to negotiate and look out for Fort Collins’ best interests,” Mayor Wade Troxell said.

The agreement to negotiate doesn’t affect the city council’s overall negative disposition toward the Northern Integrated Supply Project. NISP would lead to the creation of two reservoirs, the Glade to the northwest of the city and the Galeton near Greeley. It would divert nearly 40,000 acre feet of water from the Poudre River. Fort Collins Water Resources Engineer Adam Jokerst noted for comparison that the city typically treats about 25,000 acre feet of water a year, about half of which is from the Poudre.

NISP: Fort Collins continues to try to influence final project

Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Nick Coltrain):

With a key final report looming for two proposed Poudre River-fueled reservoirs, Fort Collins City Council will weigh whether staff will try to negotiate over the city’s remaining concerns.

Past city comments helped steer the Northern Integrated Supply Project in a more agreeable direction, according to a staff report for Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. But concerns still remain. Staff members hope a negotiation might quell, or at least mitigate, some of them…

According to city staff, the prime concerns are:

  • a reduction of peak flows in the river, and related loss of river health and increased flood risk;
  • the unknown effect the project may have on water quality;
  • an unclear and “inadequately funded” adaptive management plan;
  • concerns that there’s not enough money gong to mitigation or river enhancement.
  • Officially, the city does not support NISP, but it has engaged in conversations with project organizer Northern Water on the project that has been talked about for more than a decade.

    City staff is pushing for more formal negotiations — the City Council stripped that specific language in a similar resolution in February 2017 — because the permitting process is nearing its end. The Army Corps of Engineers is poised to release its final environmental impact statement at the end of June, according to the city.

    The city isn’t a direct participant in the Northern Integrated Supply Project, though it is considered a stakeholder. The Corps doesn’t usually accept public comment on final environmental impact statements but is poised to do so this time, according to city staff. However, it will also likely be late enough in the process that public comment alone won’t be able to make change much.

    Any negotiations would likely include a give-and-take with Northern Water, such as the city’s help in expediting remaining permits, though staff didn’t speculate about what else it may be.

    “As with any such discussions regarding complex matters and potential agreements, there are no guarantees of success,” according to the staff report [ed. Click through to the Coloradoan to read the report]. “Furthermore, the approach will depend on Northern Water’s willingness to participate.”

    Brad Wind named @NorthernWater general manager #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    Brad Wind. Photo credit: Northern Water

    Here’s the release from the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Jeff Stahla):

    Colorado native Brad Wind has been chosen to lead Northern Water as the organization’s sixth general manager in its 81-year history.

    Wind, who most recently had served as the assistant general manager, Administration Division, was formally named to the position April 6 by the Northern Water Board of Directors.

    Wind joined Northern Water in 1994 as an engineer and previously served as the organization’s assistant general manager, Operations Division. Wind holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Colorado State University, a master’s degree in agricultural engineering from University of California at Davis and bachelor’s degrees in civil engineering and agricultural engineering from Colorado State University.

    Wind grew up in Northeastern Colorado, the area served by Northern Water. He was raised on a farm in Washington County and graduated from Brush High School.

    “Brad Wind has 25 years of experience built on the Northern Water tradition of teamwork and continual improvement,” said Board President Mike Applegate.

    “The Board is confident he will provide excellent leadership and vision as we move forward in service to the region,” he added.

    Wind takes over for previous General Manager Eric Wilkinson, who retired in April. Wilkinson will continue to work on a part-time role as a policy adviser for Northern Water.

    “I am thrilled to be named Northern Water’s next general manager, and I appreciate the legacy Eric has left us all,” Wind said.

    “We have a lot on our plate and our staff is up to the challenges of maintaining a reliable water supply and pursuing additional storage for northeastern Colorado,” he added.