The Northern Integrated Supply Project and the Windy Gap Firming Project, both projects managed by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, have been decades in the making, and once they’re complete, they’ll result in three new reservoirs intended to address a growing Front Range population.
During the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s fall water users meeting Wednesday in Fort Collins, officials took an audience through the progress of both projects.
The Northern Integrated Supply Project, which would affect Windsor and Evans, hit a major milestone in July after an Environmental Impact Statement was released.
“In 2019, we’re hoping for a really big, exciting year, in addition to the really big year we had this year,” said Stephanie Cecil, water resources project engineer for Northern Water.
The Windy Gap Firming Project, which would affect Greeley, is moving forward even as the project has been hit with a federal lawsuit.
In July, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its final Environmental Impact Statement on the project — a process that took 14 years.
“It’s a really significant step in the project to be able to have all of those things done,” Cecil said.
Right now, the group is focused on design, particularly for the Glade Reservoir and the Galeton Reservoir. One pressing step in the project will be to relocate a section of U.S. 287 to allow for construction of the reservoir.
Additionally, the organization is working on mitigation projects, including one to help pass fish though a diversion structure and measure the amount of water the group is handling.
The group is also working on permitting with counties and the state, and developing a financing plan.
“How is this over $1 billion project going to be financed, and how is the construction schedule going to line up with the financing plan?” Cecil asked.
Construction could start by 2021, Cecil said, and the projects that will likely get started first are the Glade Reservoir and the U.S. 287 relocation. Cecil said the group hopes that the reservoir will be filled in 2026 and able to serve water in 2030.
“We’re looking at about a five-year timeline, but it’s dependent on weather,” she said. “Hopefully by 2026, we’ll have some really wet years and we can fill it really fast.”
The Windy Gap Firming Project, a collaboration between 12 northern Colorado water providers, including Greeley, will result in a new reservoir — the 90,000 acre-foot Chimney Hollow Reservoir — and the largest dam on the Front Range.
When it’s complete, the project intends to make water supplies more reliable by installing the reservoir west of Carter Lake in Larimer County.
For the past year, the project has been in the middle of a lawsuit filed by environmental groups against federal agencies. The lawsuit questions the need for the project, saying it would make significant water diversions from the Colorado River, and that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Crops of Engineers did not have enough information before they issued initial permits to the district.
Still, Jeff Drager, director of engineering for Northern Water, said the project hasn’t been stalled by the lawsuit, especially because funding from the Natural Resource Conservation Service requires the group to use the money within the next five years…
Right now, the project is in the permitting process. So far, the organization has $11 million and is seeking ways to fund the final $4 million…
The project has been in the process of permitting the project for 15 years, Drager said…
Drager said the group hopes to start construction in 2021 or 2022.
Officials from the Army Corps of Engineers have released a Final Environmental Impact Statement that explores the alternatives for supplying a reliable water supply to 15 municipalities and water providers in northeastern Colorado.
The document outlines the impacts of Northern Water’s preferred alternative, the Northern Integrated Supply Project, as well as three other potential reservoir projects. It also looks at the effects to the environment if no action alternative is approved.
Northern Water officials began the formal permitting process to build NISP on behalf of the 15 participants in 2004, which resulted in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement in 2008. A Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement was released in 2015.
“This is another step in the process and a very thorough one at that,” said Northern Water General Manager Brad Wind. “We’re encouraged that it shows that no new significant issues have popped up and that the impacts can and will be mitigated.”
The Northern Integrated Supply Project includes the construction of Glade Reservoir northwest of Fort Collins and Galeton Reservoir northeast of Greeley. Five pump stations and 85 miles of pipeline would convey water to communities participating in the project as well as some farmers in the Cache la Poudre River basin.
The operation of the project would include minimum guaranteed stream flows through downtown Fort Collins, bypass of peak flows in most years, improvements to stream channel and riparian areas along the Poudre River and establishment of a recreation complex at Glade Reservoir.
“The NISP participants have really come a long way and stepped up to put together one of the most-robust mitigation and enhancement plans ever,” said NISP Participants Committee Chairman Chris Smith. Smith, the general manager of the Left Hand Water District added, “We are committed to the $60 million plan to protect and enhance the environment.”
In the 14 years since the permitting began, Northern Colorado has continued to grow at a record pace with seven of the top-growing cities within the NISP Participants Committee. Smith said, “we are the bullseye for growth in Colorado with the fastest-growing cities in the state all being NISP participants.”
In addition to NISP, which is the preferred alternative, federal officials looked at alternatives that included a different combination of reservoirs and conveyance methods. Out of 215 elements studied such as reservoir expansion, new reservoirs and groundwater storage, the Corps identified four that would meet the project purpose and need. The Corps also considered the impact of removing irrigation water from nearly 100 square miles of land in Northern Colorado, which, the FEIS illustrates, would occur if NISP is not approved.
NISP participants include the communities of Erie, Windsor, Fort Morgan, Evans, Fort Lupton, Eaton, Severance, Lafayette, Firestone, Frederick and Dacono. Also, the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District, Left Hand Water District, Central Weld County Water District and Morgan County Quality Water District are participants.
The public has 45 days to provide comments to the Corps on the FEIS. A Record of Decision based on the document and public input will be issued by the Corps and is expected in 2019.
The Army Corps of Engineers’ report, about 1,400 pages in all, explores all facets of the project, which leverages water rights purchased by Northern Water in the 1980s along with proposed reservoirs to store and release those rights as necessary.
Getting to this point has taken 14 years, and puts in site potential approval of the project in 2019.
“There’s a lot of smiles around here today,” said Brian Werner, Northern Water spokesman. “This has been a long process.”
Werner said the participants can now see light at the end of the tunnel. He could have said water, as the NISP plan would provide 40,000 acre feet of water per year to the partners. That’s roughly enough water for 80,000 families.
The proposal calls for two reservoirs: one called Glade Reservoir north of Fort Collins, and the other, Galeton Reservoir, north of Eaton.
The Glade Reservoir would be fed by the Poudre River, and the Galeton Reservoir would be fed via a pipeline from the South Platte River.
The Corps also looked at three potential alternatives, and analyzed impacts ranging from fish and wildlife to vegetation and water quality.
Most of the impacts analyzed in the report were considered minor or subtle, but there were areas of concern highlighted:
» Water quality in the proposed Galeton Reservoir, north of Eaton.
» Destruction of wildlife habitat with the Glade and Galeton reservoirs.
» Reduced flows along the Poudre River, particularly during peak flow months.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has now opened a public comment period, which will stay open until Sept. 4.
Werner said he saw no surprises in the report, and he said Northern Water is prepared to mitigate any impacts.
Werner said there will be a guaranteed minimum flow through Fort Collins throughout the year, something he said hasn’t been done.
“It’s taken 15 years, and those participants’ need hasn’t lessened. They still need the water, and that need has increased,” Werner said.
Windsor stands to get about 3,300 acre-feet of water, which would amount to double what the town’s currently uses, 3,400 acre-feet per year. When reached for comment Friday, Town Manager Shane Hale said officials there are pleased to have reached this step.
“Windsor’s one of the fastest growing communities in the state,” Hale said. “This is the cost of growth.”
Evans will get 1,600 acre-feet of water from the project, and City Manager Jim Becklenberg called the environmental impact statement an important milestone.
“Evans looks forward to continued community discussion of the project’s value to the community and how it fits into our long-term water and development planning,” Becklenberg said in a prepared statement.
The Central Weld County Water District, which supplies much of the rural residential tap water in Weld County, would gain 3,100 acre-feet from the project, adding to it’s 5,800 acre-foot annual allotment today.
“This would carry us for many years,” said Jim Park, president of the district’s board.
Greeley is not part of the project, and officials here have expressed concerns throughout the process. The official line, City Manager Roy Otto said, is that the city recognizes the need for all reservoirs in northern Colorado.
“Our only concerns are impacts to our water supplies, and how to mitigate (those impacts),” Otto said.
First and foremost, Otto said, he wanted to congratulate Northern Water.
“I think it’s very safe to say our water board is on the record supporting every single water storage project,” Otto said.
The plan goes beyond storage, or at least it’s storage-plus. The proposed Glade Reservoir would offer recreation opportunities, including boating and fishing, and would feature a visitor’s center.
There’s no such luck for Weld County residents, as the Galeton Reservoir would be off limits to those kind of recreation opportunities, apart from, perhaps, wildlife viewing, Werner said.
Even then, the Galeton Reservoir is expected to remove 215 acres of prairie dog colonies, 1,753 acres of swift fox habitat, 777 acres of grasslands and 964 acres of native shrublands, according to the report.
Werner, for his part, stands by Northern Water’s work to mitigate the negative impacts of the NISP.
“They’re always saying it’s not enough mitigation,” Werner said. “I would argue this is the most robust mitigation plan of any Colorado water project — it’s 136 pages. There will be impacts whether you’re building a highway, a school or a reservoir. We certainly believe we’ll mitigate those impacts.”
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.
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.
In a fast-growing state that places greater demands on its water supply each day, a state that regularly faces withering droughts, Hickenlooper has spent his eight years in office navigating water issues and leading the development of a state water plan that Denver’s chief water official calls a “real act of political courage.”
But not everyone believes the governor has made all the right choices on water. Colorado still faces daunting water-supply challenges. Some say Hickenlooper should have done more to promote dams and reservoirs and there’s no clear way to pay for the ambitious state water plan he fostered.
Still, many give Hickenlooper credit for reshaping how Colorado deals with water.
“He was the first governor to put water at the forefront,” said veteran northern Colorado water manager Eric Wilkinson.
Hickenlooper’s legacy may depend on what is done with the water plan that he is leaving for his successor. Colorado Politics talked to members of Colorado’s water community to see what they think his legacy in water looks like – and the governor weighed in on that, too.
When Hickenlooper became mayor of Denver in July 2003, the state was already entering the second year of a record-setting drought. Gov. Bill Owens, in his 2003 State of the State address six months earlier, claimed the 2002 drought was the worst in 350 years, with most of Colorado in what the U.S. Drought Monitor called “exceptional drought,” the worst stage in their rankings.
So water got into the future governor’s mind early on, although as mayor, his control was limited primarily to appointing commissioners to Denver Water, the state’s largest water utility.
But as he saw it, he wasn’t dealing with just Denver’s water. It was water that belonged to the entire state, he said.
At the time, state officials were also trying to figure out how to solve the water problem. In the midst of devastating drought, the General Assembly and Owens began working on several ideas that still hold water today, including a new assessment of Colorado’s water supply, known as the Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI)…
In the 2005 session, the General Assembly approved a law setting up groups known as basin roundtables, which divided Colorado into nine regions, each representing a major river, plus one for Denver.
But the groups weren’t required to work with each other. There were differences among the regions, including claims from the Western Slope that the Denver area was seeking more “transmountain diversions” to channel water from the Colorado River and other western waters through the mountains to the Front Range. That claim still sticks today.
And there were long-standing hard feelings over what happened about 15 years earlier, when ski towns joined forces with environmentalists to help defeat a major Denver reservoir project…
Two Forks was a proposed dam on the South Platte River that would have created a million acre-feet reservoir, flooding 30 miles of canyon from Deckers south to the river’s confluence with its north fork.
Advocates said the project was vital to supplying growing metro Denver. But environmentalists sounded the trumpets, complaining of the potential drowning of much of Cheesman Canyon with its prime fishing, hiking and kayaking areas, and the Environmental Protection Agency vetoed a permit for the project in 1990.
Denver Water, which exhausted its appeals of the rejection in 1996, was forced to shift to conservation rather than looking for major new water supplies from storage.
That’s the environment that Hickenlooper walked into as mayor. And that’s when his water legacy started, says Eric Kuhn, who has spent 40 years working on the Colorado River, including as general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District.
It was then, he said, that the groundwork was laid with Denver Water board members to build cooperation with Western Slope water providers.
Knowing that Denver Water controlled a quarter of the state’s water supply, it meant new conversations with the Western Slope water community. Those discussions started in 2006 between Denver Water and 42 Western Slope partners, ranging from water providers to local governments to ski resorts.
That eventually became the groundbreaking Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, first reached in 2011 and signed by all parties by 2013. The agreement resolved at least some of the historic fights over the Colorado River. It focused on efforts to improve the river’s health and looked for ways to provide additional water supplies to Denver Water…
Hickenlooper got one other big advantage during his time as mayor: The Denver Water board selected a new general manager, Jim Lochhead, who would continue the agenda set forth by the board and with Hickenlooper’s vision in hand. That took place in 2010.
Hickenlooper “made very thoughtful appointments” to the Denver Water board, including people like Tom Gougeon, John Lucero and George Beardsley, Lochhead told Colorado Politics. They were “really strong leaders with the ethics for moving Denver Water forward but with having us take a far-sighted approach with the Western Slope,” he said.
Part of a strategic plan
Hickenlooper says he tackled water issues again shortly after being elected governor in November 2010. The state found itself in another multi-year drought starting in 2011, and that’s when Hickenlooper asked if drought would be the new normal and how Colorado would deal with it.
He talked to other governors to research the best practices they employed, and found that what Colorado lacked was a comprehensive water plan, which he called a “serious vacuum” in the state’s framework. It was a risky proposition, given that Coloradans were historically polarized around the issue of water, he said.
There were things – like boosting water conservation – that he knew would be difficult. He knew rural Colorado’s farmers and ranchers did not want to be told what to do. “We couldn’t deny people the right to sell their property,” he said, referring to water rights. But the plan would look at how to incentivize farmers to at least temporarily lease their water rather than sell.
With the traditional east-west divide over water evolving with the completion of the Colorado River agreement, the time to strike came early on in Hickenlooper’s first term. He began asking his cabinet about a water plan.
According to James Eklund, who first served as Hickenlooper’s senior deputy legal counsel and then as director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), the governor was asked if he was willing to spend his political capital by wading into the water wars.
“Some governors only touch (the issue) on a superficial level,” Eklund told Colorado Politics. Previous governors would go to the Colorado Water Congress (the state’s leading water advocacy organization), pound the table, say that water is the lifeblood of the West and then get out.”
After the discussions with the other governors, that wasn’t going to be Hickenlooper’s way. “We have no choice but to treat this as a serious discussion” and to engage in strategic planning, according to Eklund.
Hickenlooper – a former restaurateur – looks at everything through a business lens, Eklund said. That meant that if water is so important to Colorado’s bottom line and there isn’t a strategic plan, that’s not acceptable.
In May 2013, Hickenlooper announced he would task Eklund and the CWCB to come up with a state water plan…
In November 2015, the water plan was unveiled after more than 30,000 public comments from all over the state. “We wanted to make sure all the interests were represented, not just conservation,” Hickenlooper said. “We also put in water storage,” meaning reservoirs, but that also ruffled the feathers of environmentalists, he said.
Hickenlooper said he was most pleased with the ability of the basin roundtables – set up in that 2005 legislation – to take the long view, especially for groups historically polarized over water.
According to many in the water community, it’s the statewide water plan that most defines Hickenlooper’s water legacy…
‘Water at the forefront’
The water plan attempts to address what is now expected to be a 1 million acre-feet shortage of water in Colorado by 2050, based in part on projected population growth of another 3 to 5 million people on top of the state’s current population of 5.6 million.
It focuses on a number of strategic goals: 400,000 acre-feet of water to be gained through conservation, another 400,000 to be gained through new or enhanced storage (dams and reservoirs), and the rest from other steps, such as agricultural water sharing.
The plan has its detractors who have criticized it for lack of specific objectives in how to achieve those goals. And some lawmakers believe the General Assembly has been shut out of the process and that storage gets short shrift.
Senate President Pro Tem Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling told Colorado Politics that he’s been frustrated with the plan’s lack of attention to storage and that there hasn’t been enough emphasis on how to avoid “buy and dry” – the practice of buying up agricultural land for its water rights and then draining the land dry…
Sonnenberg disagrees that the water plan is a positive legacy for Hickenlooper.
“He tried to put the plan together and it didn’t get a lot of attention other than from the environmental community that wants to make sure we leave more water in the rivers. If you want to be a water leader with a water legacy, you must support water storage that is paid for by the communities planning for growth,” Sonnenberg said, citing the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP), which plans two reservoirs – Glade, near Fort Collins and Galeton, east of Greeley.
Sonnenberg complained that the governor has not yet endorsed those projects, although Hickenlooper did endorse two other reservoir projects two years ago: Chimney Hollow, near Loveland, and expansion of Gross Reservoir, near Boulder.
But Eric Wilkinson, who recently retired as general manager of Northern Water, which runs NISP, does believe in Hickenlooper’s water legacy.
“He was the first governor to put water at the forefront,” Wilkinson told Colorado Politics. He was pleased with Hickenlooper’s endorsement of Chimney Hollow, a Denver Water reservoir project, which he said tells federal agencies that the project has cleared Colorado’s permitting and is ready to go forward. That was part of the state water plan, too, Wilkinson noted.
ilkinson also pointed to the people Hickenlooper put in charge of water issues as part of the legacy: Stulp, Eklund and Becky Mitchell, the current head of the CWCB; and both of his heads of the Department of Natural Resources, first Mike King and now Bob Randall.
In the water plan, the balance between conservation and new storage is a pragmatic solution for the state’s future, Wilkinson said. “We need to have a greater ability to manage the water resources, and to do that, conservation is first, but infrastructure is very much needed. The water plan calls that out.”
The timing was right and the leadership was right, Stulp told Colorado Politics.
Hickenlooper saw what had been taking place for the past seven to eight years, after the formation of the basin roundtables, which came up with projects for their own regions. The time was right to pull all that together, Stulp said.
Eklund, now with the law firm Squire Patton Boggs, is still involved in water issues, partly as Colorado’s representative on the Upper Colorado River Commission. He said Hickenlooper’s legacy isn’t only about the water plan; it’s also where he positioned Colorado internationally on water issues.
Colorado’s position as a headwater state that provides water to 18 downstream states and Mexico means “we punch above our weight on water policy,” Eklund said. The eyes of the water-stressed world are on the Southwest United States.
Colorado finally has a platform in that discussion by coming up with the water plan, which he called a “gold standard” for water planning. Other states and nations can look at what Colorado is doing and judge for themselves, he said.
Colorado now speaks with one voice on water, said Mitchell, who was in charge of water planning prior to becoming the CWCB’s latest director.
“The default starting point now on water talk is cooperation, not confrontation,” she told Colorado Politics.
The water plan shows what’s possible, she added, when people with polarized perspectives and faulty assumptions sit down together, listen and speak with civility and respect…
Hickenlooper told Colorado Politics he hopes the next governor recognizes the funding gap for implementing the plan. The General Assembly has so far devoted about $17 million over the past two budget cycles to funding projects in the water plan, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the need, which is estimated at around $20 billion.
Water providers are expected to shoulder most of that, but the state’s obligation is expected to be around $3 billion, at $100 million per year for 30 years, starting in 2020.
No one, including Hickenlooper, has come up with a solid plan for where that money is coming from. Lots of ideas have been floated, such as changes to the state’s severance tax structure on oil and gas operations – a no-go with Senate Republicans – bottle taxes, water tap fees and the like.
Hickenlooper said he believes funding for the water plan is sufficient for the next few years, but there is a gap, and at some point, the state will need to spend more money on water infrastructure…
That political courage, and part of the legacy, as Lochhead sees it, is that Hickenlooper opened the door for the next governor to come in and pick up where Hickenlooper ended and made it a little safer for a governor to jump into water issues.
So how does Hickenlooper view his legacy in water?
“If I was to look at the one thing that changed the most in my public life, it’s the collaborative approach,” the governor said. “This is everyone’s issue.”
There already are six projects being pursued in the South Platte Basin to extend the water supply. These are not included in the recent South Platte Storage Survey, but have been considered and under way for some time:
• The NISP/Glade project — The Northern Integrated Supply Project is a proposed water storage and distribution project that will supply 15 Northern Front Range water partners with 40,000 acre-feet of new, reliable water supplies.
• Chimney Hollow Reservoir — A 360-foot high dam that will hold 90,000 acre feet to help supply the thirsty Thompson Valley urban area. The water will come from the Windy Gap Project, a diversion dam and pumping station completed in 1985 to provide extra irrigation and municipal water out of the Colorado River. The water originally was stored in Grand Lake, but when that is full, the water cannot be stored. Chimney Hollow, also known as the Windy Gap Firming Project, solves that problem.
• Halligan reservoir enlargements — Halligan Reservoir near Fort Collins is about 100 years old. Its capacity is about 6,400 acre feet of water and the City of Fort Collins wants to add 8,125 acre feet to the reservoir by raising its dam about 25 feet.
• Milton Seaman Reservoir enlargement — Greeley originally had wanted to expand Seaman Reservoir in conjunction with Halligan, but because of diverging goals Greeley withdrew from the joint project. The expansion of Seamon now is targeted for design in 2028 and construction by 2030.
• Gross Reservoir enlargement — Gross Reservoir is one of 11 reservoirs supplying water to the City of Denver and surrounding urban areas. It is on the city’s Moffat System, which diverts water from the Western Slope to the metro area. Denver Water has proposed raising the dam height by 131 feet, which will allow the capacity of the reservoir to increase by 77,000 acre feet.
• Chatfield Reallocation Plan — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has determined that Chatfield Reservoir, built primarily for flood control after the 1965 South Platte River flood, can accommodate an additional 20,600 acre feet of water storage for water supply without compromising its flood control function. This additional storage space will be used by municipal and agricultural water providers to help meet the diverse needs of the state. No actual construction is required, but the legal, environmental, and engineering concerns of allowing the reservoir to hold more water all have to be satisfied.
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.
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.”