“Lack of water doesn’t stop growth” — Eric Wilkinson

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

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Rebecca Powell):

The panel last week gave its unanimous support to Northern Colorado Water
Conservancy District’s plan, which set out to address the impacts of the Northern Integrated Supply Project on fish and wildlife.

Concerns about the plan have centered on peak water flows and whether flows outlined in the plan will be enough to allow for a flushing that is vital to the Poudre River’s health…

Both Fort Collins City Council and Larimer County commissioners reviewed the plan, which was released in June.

Council sent comments back to the commission with recommendations, such as guaranteeing three days of peak flows on the river for critical flushing.

Commissioners opted not to send feedback to the commission, and its members said they were comfortable with the plan…

Northern Water is working with 15 Front Range partners who seek to build the project to meet water demands brought upon by future growth.

“Lack of water doesn’t stop growth. It just changes where it comes from,” Northern Water General Manager Eric Wilkinson told the Coloradoan Editorial Board on Monday. “In Colorado, it’s going to come from ag. … Without this project, there are 100 square miles of farms that will be dried up to provide that water.”

[…]

Now NISP must go through more water quality mitigation as part of the Federal Clean Water Act.

An Army Corps of Engineers decision on whether to allow the nearly $1 billion project is expected in 2018, after the proposal has cleared regulatory hurdles in Colorado.

CPW okays NISP wildlife mitigation plan

Aerial view of the roposed Glade Reservoir site — photo via Northern Water

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice) via The Fort Morgan Times:

The plan that was approved Thursday addresses the impacts to fish and wildlife due to the development and water diversion associated with NISP. Brian Werner, spokesman for Northern Water, said Friday the approval is a significant advancement of the plan.

“This was a significant step, there’s no question about that,” he said. “This is a big box we can check off, but there are still a few boxes ahead of us.”

The plan now goes to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which could give its approval to the project as early as the Sept. 20 board meeting, and then to the governor’s desk for signature.

There are plenty more boxes to be checked after that; the Environmental Impact Statement could be finished by the spring of 2018, Army Corps of Engineers approval could come sometime in early 2019, and then it’s back to the state level for what’s called a 401 Water Quality Certification.

Northern’s Werner said it could be 2021 or 2022 before anybody starts moving dirt. He said a proposed law to shorten the length of time it takes to bring water projects online wouldn’t affect NISP..

According to a CPW statement released on Thursday, the agency has been talking with Northern Water about the concept of this project for the last decade. Northern Water, CPW and the Department of Natural Resources have been discussing the fish and wildlife mitigation and project in earnest since October 2015. After more than two years of discussions, Northern Water presented and released a public draft of the plan at the June commission meeting. Ken Kehmeier, senior aquatic biologist with CPW, said Thursday he thinks the plan “provides a reasonable solution for fish and wildlife mitigation.”

“We understand the public’s concern for the river which is why CPW staff has been engaged in discussions for close to a decade,” he said. “If we were not involved from the onset, the level of mitigation, enhancement and protection of the river corridor and aquatic habitat would not be such a large part of Northern’s plans.”

A significant part of the mitigation plan, Kehmeier said, is what’s called the “conveyance refinement” flow, or year-round baseline flow plan for the river. The conveyance refinement intended to eliminate existing dry-up points on a 12-mile stretch of the Poudre River through Fort Collins. Average winter flows at the Lincoln Street Gate will be nearly doubled compared with current levels.

“The conveyance flow program is significant to the fishery and aquatic life because it keeps water in the river on a year round basis,” Kehmeier said. “Overall, the conveyance flow will significantly benefit the aquatic life in the river during the low flow times of the year.”

As part Northern Water’s plan, a new reservoir will be created for water storage and recreation opportunities for the public. Northern Water has agreed to provide $3 million plus an additional $50,000 per year for CPW hatchery expansion so that the new Glade Reservoir can be managed as a recreational fishery. Additional fishing opportunities will benefit the local and Colorado economy, as the fishing industry generates $1.9 billion in economic activity annually.

Northern Water has also agreed to provide wildlife habitat mitigation and enhancements on the west side of the reservoir, including the purchase of 1,380 acres to protect the reservoir drainage area and big-game habitat from development. This is critical winter range habitat for a non-migratory elk herd.

From email from Northern Water:

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission unanimously approved the Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan submitted by Northern Water for the Northern Integrated Supply Project at its meeting Thursday in Steamboat Springs.

The plan will protect the environment, fish and other wildlife in and near the Cache la Poudre River during and after NISP construction.

Read the CPW press release.

“This is a significant milestone for us,” said Jerry Gibbens, Northern Water’s NISP mitigation coordinator.

“We believe the plan is one of the most robust, if not the most robust, mitigation and enhancement plans ever proposed for a water project in Colorado,” said Northern Water General Manager Eric Wilkinson.

After years of discussion and multiple modifications to the proposed plan, CPW staff and commissioners expressed satisfaction with the updated plan.

“If you look at this as a package, we’ve hit a balance,” said Ken Kehmeier, CWC’s senior aquatic biologist. “This is a reasonable approach.”

Northern Water incorporated CPW’s recommendations into the revised plan to help minimize impacts to fish and wildlife habitat during all phases of the project. Northern Water also agreed to minimize the impacts of NISP operations on peak flows in the Poudre River, including adjusting water diversion rates gradually to avoid sudden changes in river flows.

The peak flow mitigation is a first-of-its-kind commitment to maintain peak flows in the Poudre River nearly every year for geomorphic and aquatic habitat purposes.

The refined conveyance portion of the plan “will get us water in the river 24/7, 365,” said Kehmeier.

This year-round baseline flow plan will be crucial for the river’s aquatic habitat and connectivity. The conveyance refinement flow is intended to eliminate existing dry-up points on a 12-mile stretch of the Poudre River through Fort Collins. Average winter flows at the Lincoln Street Gage will be nearly doubled compared with current levels.

In addition, wildlife habitat mitigation and enhancements will be made on the west side of Glade Reservoir. This includes the purchase of 1,380 acres that will be used to protect the reservoir drainage area from development and to preserve big-game habitat, including that of non-migratory elk.

Trout Unlimited also supports the NISP Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan. David Nickum, executive director of Trout Unlimited said at the meeting Thursday, “We feel this is a solid mitigation plan.”

After a decade of conceptualization and two years of serious discussion, CPW’s approval was made possible by the dedicated efforts of both Northern Water and CPW staff.

“The NISP participants want to thank all who have worked on this mitigation plan, CPW and Northern Water staff, for developing a plan we all can stand behind,” said Chairman Chris Smith of the NISP participants committee. “The plan makes for a better Poudre River.”

Thanks to all NISP supporters who sent comments to the CPW prior to yesterday’s vote!

Read the Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan.

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

CPW Commission unanimously approves NISP Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan @NorthernWater

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission has unanimously approved the Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan submitted by Northern Water for the Northern Integrated Supply Project on the Poudre River in Northeast Colorado. This plan is designed to address the impacts to fish and wildlife due to the development and water diversion associated with NISP.

Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) staff has been talking with Northern Water about the concept of this project for the last decade. Northern Water, CPW and the Department of Natural Resources have been discussing the Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan project in earnest since October 2015. Following more than two years of discussions, Northern Water presented and released a public draft of the Plan at the June Commission meeting.

CPW staff feel that Northern Water’s plan provides a reasonable solution for fish and wildlife mitigation.

“We understand the public’s concern for the river which is why CPW staff has been engaged in discussions for close to a decade,” said Ken Kehmeier, senior aquatic biologist with CPW. “If we were not involved from the onset, the level of mitigation, enhancement and protection of the river corridor and aquatic habitat would not be such a large part of Northern’s plans,” said Kehmeier.

Northern Water has made modifications to its project design and operations, and has committed to work with CPW. Recommendations by CPW are aimed at minimizing impacts to fish and wildlife habitat during all phases of the project. Some of these include:

  • Peak Flow Operations Plan, pg. 46
  • the “conveyance refinement” flow, or year-round baseline flow plan for the river;
  • the retrofit of four diversions that currently do not allow fish passage or sediment transport;
  • Big game habitat mitigation and enhancements
  • The Peak Flow Operations Plan will minimize the impacts of NISP operations on peak flows, higher flows in the spring. Peak flow is important for maintaining spawning habitat for fish and aquatic life. Northern Water has agreed to ramping water diversions gradually to avoid sudden changes in river flows and allow fish to adjust.

    The conveyance refinement is crucial for aquatic habitat and river connectivity. This process is intended to eliminate existing dry-up points on a 12-mile stretch of the Poudre River through Fort Collins. Average winter flows at the Lincoln Street Gate will be nearly doubled compared with current levels.

    “The conveyance flow program is significant to the fishery and aquatic life because it keeps water in the river on a year round basis,” Kehmeier said. The conveyance flow will also meet the Fort Collins River Health Assessment Framework flow of 20 cfs 97 of the time at the Lincoln Street Gage.

    “Overall, the conveyance flow will significantly benefit the aquatic life in the river during the low flow times of the year,” Kehmeier said.

    As part Northern Water’s plan, a new reservoir will be created for water storage and recreation opportunities for the public. Northern Water has agreed to provide $3 million plus an additional $50,000 per year for CPW hatchery expansion so that the new Glade Reservoir can be managed as a recreational fishery. Additional fishing opportunities will benefit the local and Colorado economy, as the fishing industry generates $1.9 billion in economic activity annually.

    Northern Water has also agreed to provide wildlife habitat mitigation and enhancements on the west side of the reservoir, including the purchase of 1,380 acres to protect the reservoir drainage area and big-game habitat from development. This is critical winter range habitat for a non-migratory elk herd.

    CPW recognizes that the water quality mitigation is not complete and the proposed project still needs to go through a 401 certification as part of the federal Clean Water Act process. This certification will be conducted by Colorado Department of Health and Environment. As part of a recommendation prompted by the Colorado Water Plan, CPW staff will participate in that process and feel that it will further enhance protection of the Poudre River.

    Temperature issues occur in the river on a year-round basis; the conveyance refinement and multi-level outlet tower at Glade Reservoir will aid in mitigating the temperature issues and other potential water quality issues, for example, sediment transport during low flow. The releases from the reservoir will be aerated and the multi-level outlet will allow water to be mixed if it is needed at a particular temperature.

    The Poudre River Adaptive Management Plan, pg 97, will allow a collective group of interested parties that include the City of Fort Collins, Northern Water, CPW, Larimer County and others to go back and make corrections to the plan and operation if any are necessary. The plan will also allow CPW and other parties to continue conducting projects to benefit the river to include floodplain connection, fish habitat enhancements and mitigate sediment transport.

    The Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan will now go to the Colorado Water Conservation Board for review.

    The full Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan can be found here: http://www.northernwater.org/sf/docs/default-source/default-document-library/2017-08-22-nisp-fwmep_draft-final-1.pdf?sfvrsn=90f38624_2

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

    @Northern_Water: “We will deliver day in and day out, every single day of the year, 18 [CFS]” — Jerry Gibbens

    Poudre River Bike Path bridge over the river at Legacy Park photo via Fort Collins Photo Works.

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

    [Tom] Donnelly and Lew Gaiter met with representatives of Northern Water during their administrative matters meeting Tuesday to consider input previously given to the commissioners from the Larimer County Environmental and Science Advisory Board.

    The volunteer citizen members of the committee expressed several concerns with the plan, including the plans for flushing the river, the flow levels and what advisory members considered to be “fuzzy at best” plans for paying for promised mitigations and enhancements.

    From Northern Water, general manager Eric Wilkerson and project manager Jerry Gibbens explained to the commissioners Tuesday that those issues had been addressed. They showed figures explaining how the mitigation plan improves the frequency of flushing the river and how it will ensure water in the river through all seasons as opposed to now when there are times that certain sections in Fort Collins are dried up.

    “We will deliver day in and day out, every single day of the year, 18 (cubic feet per second) in the winter and 25 cfs in the summer down river,” said Gibbens…

    As far as the funding, Northern Water is committing to $53 million in mitigation and improvements. They agreed to pay $13.8 million outright, Gibbens said. While Northern Water will look for partners and other funding sources for the rest ($39.2 million), they will make sure that every aspect of the plan is completed, according to Gibbens…

    After hearing from Northern Water, the commissioners decided not to forward any comments to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, which will vote on the plan next week. They said they appreciate the concerns brought forward by their advisory commission and are satisfied that Northern Water has addressed them to the county’s satisfaction.

    Commissioner Lew Gaiter said he was pleased that the information presented by both the environmental board and Northern Water served as education for the community…

    The wildlife mitigation plan is available online at http://www.gladereservoir.org and information on how to submit comments, due this Friday, is available at http://www.cpw.state.co.us.

    Fort Collins councillors approve sending staff NISP wildlife mitigation comments to state

    Poudre River Bike Path bridge over the river at Legacy Park photo via Fort Collins Photo Works.

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

    The City Council on Tuesday approved sending staff-generated comments on a Wildlife and Fish Mitigation Enhancement Plan proposed by Northern Water for NISP to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission.

    The council voted 4-3 in favor of sending on the comments, with members Bob Overbeck, Ross Cunniff and Ken Summers opposed, although for different reasons.

    For Overbeck and Cunniff, the comments by staff do not go far enough in criticizing the project and insisting on more mitigation. Cunniff said he did not like the process used by the state for addressing mitigation and the controversial water-storage project…

    Summers, who supports NISP, said the comments should not be sent.

    Staff’s comments touched on numerous areas of concern, including water quality and the amount of funding designated for wildlife mitigation. It includes recommendations for improving the plan, such as guaranteeing three days of peak flows on the river for critical “flushing” to support the river’s health.

    John Stokes, director of the city’s Natural Areas Program, said the comments do not imply support for NISP. But they were generated with the thinking that if the project is built, then steps should be taken to mitigate its impacts…

    The commission will weigh the plan in upcoming meetings and potentially forward it to the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the governor for approval. If approved, the plan would likely be included in the federal permitting process for NISP.

    Fort Collins takes a deep dive into @NorthernWater’s proposed NISP mitigation plan for Cache la Poudre through town

    Poudre River Bike Path bridge over the river at Legacy Park photo via Fort Collins Photo Works.

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

    The plan proposed by Northern Water, proponent of Glade and the controversial Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP, contains “new, useful and encouraging mitigation measures,” according to a staff memo to the Fort Collins City Council.

    However, the effort falls short of addressing the city’s long-running concerns about how reducing flows on the Poudre to store water in Glade would affect the river’s ecological health and water quality.

    More needs to be done in several areas addressed by the $59 million Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan to make it adequate as far as the city is concerned, John Stokes, director of Fort Collins Natural Areas, told City Council members Tuesday.

    Areas of concern include ensuring flows on the river during the spring runoff are high enough to flush sediment and protect fish and wildlife habitat. High flows also are needed to protect water quality, city officials said.

    City staff members recommend establishing an annual three-day period during peak flow on the river when no water would be taken for NISP in hopes of “cleaning” the river and boosting its health.

    Another issue is the amount of funding in the plan that would be set aside for mitigation and channel improvements. The $7.8 million in the plan for restoration and enhancement should be increased by $14.2 million, city staff said.

    City Council members were divided on the staff’s comments and recommendations for the mitigation plan, with council member Ken Summers saying they seemed “extreme” while others said they weren’t strong enough…

    Northern Water has listened to the city’s concerns and changed its plans to address them, said agency spokesman Brian Werner in a telephone interview.

    Operational plans include “flushing flows” when river conditions and water rights allow, he said. Northern also has agreed to minimum flows through Fort Collins of 25 cubic feet per second, or cfs, in the summer and 18 cfs in winter to support habitat.

    The mitigation plan could be changed as NISP continues through the permitting process, he said.

    “We think this a great opportunity to make that river better,” Werner said.

    The city’s comments on the NISP wildlife mitigation plan will be sent to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, which must approve the plan as part of the lengthy permitting process for project. So even if the wildlife mitigation plan gets approved, other agencies would still have to approve permits for NISP to become a reality.

    In 2008 and 2015, the council adopted resolutions stating the city could not support NISP as described in draft environmental impact statements…

    While not supporting NISP, the city’s comments and recommendations on how it might operate are based on the scenario that “if” the project is built, “then” certain steps should be taken to protect the city’s interests, Stokes said.

    If the mitigation plan is approved by the Parks and Wildlife Commission, it will be submitted to the Colorado Water Conservation Board and then the Governor’s Office for approval.

    Federal agencies that ultimately would permit NISP are likely to defer to the state’s position on mitigation plans, Stokes said, so communicating the city’s views on the project to the state is a critical step in the process…

    What’s next

    The Fort Collins City Council on Aug. 8 is scheduled to consider the city’s comments on the fish and wildlife mitigation plan for the Northern Integrated Supply Project that has been submitted to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission.

    The commission is scheduled to discuss the plan during its Aug. 10-11 meeting in Trinidad and its Sept. 7-8 meeting in Steamboat Springs.

    Comments on the city’s proposed comments may be made at http://www.fcgov.com/nispreview through July 30.

    Comments may be emailed directly to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission at dnr_cpwcommission@state.co.us.

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

    Federal resolution aims to streamline water storage permits

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

    From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

    House Resolution 1654 would set the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as the agency in charge of permitting water storage projects. That agency then would coordinate all the federal agencies involved in that process, as well as the reducing redundant requirements at state and local levels that currently are part of the permitting process.

    While this legislation becoming law could have substantial impacts on some proposed water storage projects in Colorado, it would not be likely to impact the process for the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP)…

    “Obviously we support the basic idea of streamlining the permit process,” Brian Werner from Northern Water said of the legislation. “We’re all for finding out how we can tweak this process.”

    For example, many of the studies and other preparatory work on a large water storage project like NISP could have been conducted concurrently, rather than sequentially, Werner suggested.

    “Streamlining doesn’t mean that we don’t do the studies,” he said, “but we could do it more efficiently.”

    […]

    Congressman Ken Buck, R-CD4, voted in favor of the resolution, even speaking for it on the House floor and mentioning proposed water storage projects in Colorado, like NISP, as why he supported it…

    House Resolution 1654 would set the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as the agency in charge of permitting water storage projects. That agency then would coordinate all the federal agencies involved in that process, as well as the reducing redundant requirements at state and local levels that currently are part of the permitting process.

    While this legislation becoming law could have substantial impacts on some proposed water storage projects in Colorado, it would not be likely to impact the process for the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP).

    That proposed water storage project would have Northern Water build two reservoirs, Galeton northeast of Greeley and Glade northwest of Fort Collins. They would provide water to the 15 NISP participants, including the city of Fort Morgan and Morgan County Quality Water District.

    “Obviously we support the basic idea of streamlining the permit process,” Brian Werner from Northern Water said of the legislation. “We’re all for finding out how we can tweak this process.”

    For example, many of the studies and other preparatory work on a large water storage project like NISP could have been conducted concurrently, rather than sequentially, Werner suggested.

    “Streamlining doesn’t mean that we don’t do the studies,” he said, “but we could do it more efficiently.”

    Congressman Ken Buck, R-CD4, voted in favor of the resolution, even speaking for it on the House floor and mentioning proposed water storage projects in Colorado, like NISP, as why he supported it.

    “Unfortunately, many water storage projects in my state face significant setbacks in permitting due to a long list of regulatory checkboxes,” he said in prepared remarks. “Much of this delay occurs because each level of government-local, state, and federal-requires (its) own studies and permitting checklists, even though many of those requirements are the same or only slightly different.”

    The goal would not be to eliminate environmental or safety requirements for getting the permits, Buck pointed out. Instead it would be to seek to get the “different levels of government to work together so that our water projects can earn the permits they rightly qualify for” during the initial permitting process.

    The legislation next faces debate in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, but a hearing date had not yet been set as of Monday afternoon. That committee includes Colorado’s Sen. Cory Gardner as a member.