Population Growth Looms Large In Debates Over Proposed #Colorado Water Project — KUNC #NISP

Cache la Poudre River from South Trail via Wikimedia Foundation.

From KUNC (Luke Runyon) via Wyoming Public Media:

Many communities in the West are growing, and in some places that’s putting pressure on already scarce water supplies.

That’s the case in northern Colorado, where a proposed set of reservoirs promises to allow small suburbs to keep getting bigger. The project, called the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP), has stirred up a familiar debate over how the West grows, and whether water should be a limiting factor.

NISP — with its two new reservoirs, and network of pipelines across a broad sweep of Northern Colorado — is close to being fully permitted, which would pave the way to begin construction of the infrastructure project to satisfy the needs of 15 fast-growing Front Range municipalities and water providers. The project promises to give those communities water to build new homes and businesses — without buying it from farmers.

Glade Reservoir is the proposed body of water that would fill a bathtub-shaped valley north of Fort Collins that currently acts as a straight stretch of Highway 287…

U.S. Highway 287 runs through the future site of Glade Reservoir. The Larimer county Board of County Commissioners approved the 1041 Land Use Permit for NISP on Wednesday night. Photo credit: Northern Water

Glade would be one of the Western U.S.’s biggest new reservoirs to come online in the past couple decades. With a more than $1 billion price tag, a project of this size and scale has those who live near the new reservoir and along pipeline routes concerned…

Northern Water, the quasi-governmental agency that moves water through tunnels, canals and reservoirs across a broad swath of Northern Colorado, is pushing for NISP’s construction on behalf of 15 other water providers, mostly small suburbs that have ambitions to grow. The communities of Dacono, Firestone, Eaton, Lafayette, Windsor and Severance are all participants in the project, among others…

NISP is getting close to the end of a federal, state and local permitting process. Since first formally submitting for permits in 2004, the project has jumped through regulatory hurdles like a federal environmental impact statement, a water quality certification from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and a 1041 permit from Larimer County. The 1041 permit gives local governments in Colorado some oversight authority on large infrastructure projects within their boundaries…

[The Larimer County] voted to recommend the 1041 permit to the board of county commissioners, which then approved on a 2-1 vote the permit for the project…

The town of Erie, a rapidly growing community in Boulder County about a half hour from Boulder and north Denver, would be the largest recipient of NISP water…

After more than 15 years of permitting, countless hours of negotiation over the project’s mitigation plans, and millions of dollars spent on studies, surveys and outreach, the agency pushing for NISP, Northern Water, says it has made significant changes to the planned project in order to help the already overtaxed Poudre River. Opponents say the project will only hurt, not help.

The Cache la Poudre River, where NISP would draw water for its largest reservoir, is often referred to as a “working river.” It provides drinking water for cities and irrigation water for farms. During the summer months it’s popular with kayakers, tubers and anglers. It’s also home to fish, birds and other wildlife…

The project still needs one more federal approval from the Army Corps of Engineers before it’s considered to be fully permitted, and ready to head into design and construction phases.

Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water

Larimer County Commissioners approve permit for Glade Reservoir, #NISP — @Northern_Water

U.S. Highway 287 runs through the future site of Glade Reservoir. The Larimer county Board of County Commissioners approved the 1041 Land Use Permit for NISP on Wednesday night. Photo credit: Northern Water

Here’s the release from Northern Water:

The Northern Integrated Supply Project achieved another important milestone on Wednesday, with the Larimer County Board of County Commissioners approving the 1041 Land Use Permit application on a 2-1 vote.

The permit will allow the construction of Glade Reservoir, its recreation components and the pipelines to convey water from the reservoir to participants throughout Northern Colorado.

Central to the permit is the framework for the development of Glade Reservoir as a future recreation area to be managed by Larimer County. Glade Reservoir, just north of Ted’s Place on U.S. Highway 287, will join Horsetooth Reservoir, Carter Lake, Flatiron Reservoir, Pinewood Reservoir and the future Chimney Hollow Reservoir as a site for water recreation, fishing, hiking and more.

The participants of NISP have agreed to spend more than $16 million to develop the recreation site, and they have purchased the former KOA campground nearby to create camping opportunities.

Another part of the permit dictates the route and procedures for the placement of pipelines to deliver high-quality drinking water to communities in Northern Colorado. It reiterates the commitment of NISP to convey roughly one-third of its water deliveries via the Poudre River through downtown Fort Collins, increasing the overall number of days available for recreation at the new Fort Collins Whitewater Park.

NISP has now received its permit from Larimer County for land use and from the State of Colorado for Water Quality and for Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement. This fall, NISP anticipates receiving a Record of Decision from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Next year, NISP anticipates working with the City of Fort Collins to coordinate on a route for a pipeline to pick up the Glade Reservoir water that has been conveyed through Fort Collins via the Poudre River.

NISP is being built to address future water needs for 15 municipalities and water districts, including the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District, the Town of Windsor and others throughout the region. Northern Water is coordinating the effort through the NISP Water Activity Enterprise.

To learn more, go to http://gladereservoir.org.

Poudre River whitewater park. Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Collegian

From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

The vote came after lengthy hearings before the county board and the county’s planning commission. The majority of speakers at those meetings spoke about concerns over the project’s effects on the Poudre River, its main water source. The project would divert water from the river during its peak flows due to its relatively junior water rights.

Nearby residents in the Bonner Peak and Eagle Lake neighborhoods also voiced concerns about pipeline routes disrupting quiet, rural neighborhoods, and diminishing property values. Northern Water, the agency pushing for NISP’s construction, hasn’t ruled out using eminent domain to build those pipelines, if necessary…

In comments explaining his vote against the permit, Kefalas noted scientific papers show a warming trend across much of Colorado, with consequences for rivers fed by snowmelt, like the Poudre.

“Based on the modeling that has been done with the Upper Colorado River basin, I think there are serious implications to the Poudre River flow and how that affects the Glade Reservoir,” Kefalas said.

Kefalas said he was also uncomfortable with the project’s tradeoff in advocating for flatwater recreation on a reservoir a 20-minute drive outside of Fort Collins, instead of seeing high spring flows through the city as a recreational amenity…

In voting to approve, commissioner Johnson said a rejection of the permit would be an example of parochial self-interest. While much of NISP’s water would be used in communities outside of Larimer County, Johnson said Colorado is full of examples of projects where water is stored and transported from one region to another…

Commissioner Donnelly hewed closely to the county’s 1041 evaluation criteria, which assess projects based on how they fit into the county’s master plan and affect its residents. NISP’s proponents were able to satisfy all of the county’s criteria, Donnelly said…

The project is still awaiting a record of decision from the Army Corps of Engineers before it can move forward into construction.

Larimer County commissioners approve 1041 permit for #NISP by 2-1 vote — The Loveland Reporter-Herald

Cache la Poudre River watershed via the NRCS

From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Max Levy):

Larimer County’s Board of County Commissioners voted 2-1 to approve a 1041 permit for the Northern Integrated Supply Project on Wednesday, with John Kefalas casting the lone “no” vote.

Explaining his dissent, the District 1 commissioner said he felt the 12 land use criteria used by the board fell short and failed to create a “level playing field,” although he acknowledged the board’s efforts to allow public comment virtually…

He discussed the projected impacts of climate change on the upper Colorado River Basin, and echoed the concerns of many commenters regarding the reduction in flow that the Poudre River could see from the creation of the Glade Reservoir.

He pointed out that Fort Collins, which is bisected by the river, has concerns about the flows in the Cache la Poudre.

“I acknowledge that Northern (Water) has done their utmost to look at mitigation and other impacts on the Poudre River ecology, riparian areas and natural areas,” he said. “There still remains the fact that the city of Fort Collins has concerns about the potential impact on the Poudre River.”

Commissioners Tom Donnelly and Steve Johnson each walked through the land use criteria and how the project satisfied them…

The vote on the permit came after an extensive public hearing — one session saw representatives of the Northern Water Conservancy District advocate for the project, two sessions invited public comment, and Northern Water representatives answered questions during a fourth session.

While a large part of the presentation Wednesday was taken up by the commissioners explaining each of their votes, the commissioners also heard from Northern Water representatives who asked for adjustments to some of the conditions placed on the proposal.

The commissioners agreed to include a suggestion by Northern Water that, if the alignment of a related pipeline had to be adjusted by more than 100 feet without a landowner’s consent, that section of the pipeline would again have to be reviewed.

They also agreed to include restrictions proposed by Northern Water on construction activities in the Eagle Lake area.

Here’s a photo gallery from the hearing via The Fort Collins Coloradoan.

Proposed Water Project Tests If Northern #Colorado’s ‘Working River’ Can Handle Another Job — KUNC #NISP

Poudre River whitewater park. Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Collegian

From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

The Cache la Poudre River in Northern Colorado is often referred to as a “working river.” It provides drinking water for cities and irrigation water for farms. During the summer months it’s popular with kayakers, tubers and anglers. It’s home to fish, birds and other wildlife.

But a reservoir proposal facing a key vote from Larimer County commissioners would give it one more big task, and the panel is hearing from community members who think it can handle the work, and those who don’t.

The Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) — with its two new reservoirs, and network of pipelines across a broad sweep of Northern Colorado — is seeking a 1041 permit to begin construction of the infrastructure project that would use water from the Poudre and South Platte rivers to satisfy the needs of 15 fast-growing Front Range municipalities and water providers.

The agency pushing for NISP, Northern Water, says it has made significant changes to the planned project in order to help the already overtaxed Poudre River, while opponents say it will only hurt, not help…

But with the ribbon cutting less than a year ago, [Evan] Stafford said NISP presents an upstream threat. The project’s biggest reservoir, Glade, would be miles from the park, but it would be felt by kayakers and tubers alike. NISP would pull water out of the river at the same time whitewater paddlers flock to it.

“It’s already pretty affected, but NISP would really increase that effect to almost there being no flooding or a natural kind of rise in the river due to the snow melt,” Stafford said.

That’s important, not just for kayakers, but for the river’s ecological health too. High spring flows flush sediment downstream and are critical for fish and bird habitat…

But that characterization of NISP’s potential impact is unfair, says Northern Water’s general manager Brad Wind.

“At the end of the day to fill a reservoir you’ve got to extract some water from the river,” Wind said.

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

Because the project relies on relatively junior water rights, Wind says they would have to wait until the highest flows to divert water into the reservoir. Those flows come during the spring runoff. But, he said, once full, the reservoir would release water at other times of year when the Poudre is struggling because of demands from farmers…

NISP has committed to releasing so-called base flows through Fort Collins in certain times of the year to aid fish populations and fill-in dry up points that show up when demand from farmers spikes during the summer months. But it could be awhile before those releases take place. By Northern Water’s projections, construction on Glade’s dam and reservoir might take until 2027 to finish. Filling the reservoir could take up to a decade if the Poudre’s flows are reduced due to drought…

NISP is nearing the end of a more than 15-year permitting process. The latest stretch of public meetings has taken place almost entirely during the pandemic. NISP boasts a laundry list of endorsements from former governors, local business groups, farm groups, even two of three Larimer County commissioners. There’s been a renewed call from the project’s opponents for commissioners Steve Johnson and Tom Donnelly to recuse themselves from deliberations, though both continue to participate in hearings.

Fort Collins, the biggest city along the river’s course, recently voted to oppose the project, making it one of the first governmental bodies to do so…

Fort Collins city council’s opposition is more of a symbolic gesture, given that much of the project’s infrastructure falls outside city limits. The vote from Larimer County commissioners on the 1041 permit has real potential to either slow down the project’s momentum, or ease its way into being fully permitted. It still needs a record of decision from the Army Corps of Engineers, which could come as early as this fall.

All three Larimer County commissioners declined interview requests due to it being a pending land use issue.

Larimer County #NISP hearing recap

Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

Larimer County’s first public comment session for the Northern Integrated Supply Project’s 1041 permit application showcased heavy opposition to a reservoir plan that critics say would cause devastating impacts to the Poudre River.

About 100 people gave about 6 hours’ worth of testimony at the Monday hearing, which was the first of two hearings devoted solely to public comment on NISP’s 1041 proposal. Over 90% of the comments were in opposition to the permit.

Larimer County commissioners will accept more public comment Aug. 31, and NISP proponent Northern Water will have the chance to provide rebuttal to the comments at an upcoming meeting. Commissioners are expected to vote on the permit Sept. 2, but that could be pushed back.

The 1041 permit covers only a part of the NISP project: the siting of Glade Reservoir, NISP’s main water storage component, and four water pipelines throughout the county…

NISP opponents, however, say they doubt the project will be able to deliver all that water. They also say the project’s heavy spring and summer diversions will constitute a death blow to an already strained river that loses over half of its water before it reaches Fort Collins. The project could divert between 25% and 71% of the Poudre’s stream flows, depending on the month and time of year, with most of the diversions taking place in the higher-flow months of April to August…

[David] Jones was one of many local scientists who spoke in opposition of NISP and offered pointed criticism of its wildlife mitigation and enhancement plan. The plan includes a “conveyance refinement” proposal that would run some of the diverted water through a portion of the river in Fort Collins with the goal of addressing dry-up points and improving streamflows…

[Barry Noon] also criticized the mitigation plan for not sufficiently accounting for climate change, which climatologists project will deteriorate Colorado river flows, shrink mountain snowpack and exacerbate droughts like the one currently gripping the state. The Poudre relies solely on mountain snowpack, and the Grey Mountain water right that accounts for about half of NISP’s water is a relatively junior water right that is less likely to be satisfied in drier years…

Noon and others emphasized that Northern Water won’t have to meet its river flow requirements through Fort Collins until “full buildout conditions when NISP participants are consistently taking their full NISP yield,” according to the mitigation plan. The plan does commit to conveying at least 36% of total NISP deliveries through Fort Collins before buildout…

If it does happen, CSU biology professor and ecologist LeRoy Poff fears the river will buckle under the impact of degraded springtime flows that he predicts will fossilize the river channel, dry out wetlands and degrade riparian habitat. He said he found in research conducted for the city of Fort Collins that even the flows promised after buildout wouldn’t be enough to sustain the river and would result in damaged natural areas…

Fort Collins resident Joe Rowan said there’s “ample evidence” that Northern Water’s permit application meets or exceeds the standards laid out in Larimer County’s 1041 permitting process. He added that NISP “has been subjected to the most arduous, comprehensive and objective analysis any of us have ever witnessed” over the past few decades…

Residents near proposed pipelines speak up

Also present at Monday’s hearing were over 20 county residents whose property would be impacted by the four pipelines involved in the permit. Lisa Pewe, who recently moved to a Larimer County Road 56 property with plans to open an equine-assisted therapy nonprofit there, said the Northern Tier pipeline would be “devastating to my business, my dream and my property’s value.”

A 60-foot easement would run across the western and southern borders of her property, negatively affecting about 40% of her 5-acre property, she said. She asked commissioners to reject that portion of the pipeline or require Northern Water to use existing rights-of-way and easements in the area…

Loss was a key theme among the speakers. So was a reverential, almost familial connection to the Poudre. Will Walters said the Poudre River valley is home to four generations of his family since his granddaughter, Georgie, was born last winter. He described the way her birth renewed in the family “a sense of awe and wonder in our natural world” — and underlined a desire to protect it.

There’s no more water to wring from the river, Walters said, because what remains after generations of diversions does “crucial ecological work.”

Larimer County residents question environmental impact of #NISP during public hearing — The Loveland Reporter-Herald

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

From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Max Levy):

Second round of comments scheduled for Aug. 31

Larimer County residents weighed in on the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project on Monday, with the majority of dozens of speakers asking the county commissioners not to grant a 1041 permit for the $1.1 billion effort…

Members of the public mostly focused on the environmental impacts of the project, which would build two reservoirs capable of holding close to 216,000 acre feet of water on the dime of the 15 area water providers that could benefit, including the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District.

John Shenot of the Fort Collins Audubon Society brought up the group’s work to have the local stretch of the Poudre recognized as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society, meaning it includes areas such as nesting grounds, migratory stopovers or other essential habitats for at least one species of bird.

He called Glade Reservoir, which would tap into the Poudre River near the mouth of Poudre Canyon, an “existential threat” to bird habitats…

Another speaker, Larimer County alfalfa farmer Ken McCullough, said his opinion on the project turned when he learned that some of the water to be stored in Glade would be purchased from farms.

He questioned whether the project would take needed irrigation water from area farmers…

While the project has purchased Poudre River water from farms, that water has been exchanged for South Platte water, so it is not “buy-and-dry.”

Although the majority of speakers opposed the project, at least one man, Joe Rowan, who described himself as a longtime Fort Collins resident spoke in favor, describing the opposition as “sanctimonious rancor” and “ill-advised hyperbole.”

He located NISP in more than a century of water transfer and storage projects on the Cache la Poudre watershed.

“There would be no discussion of preserving habitat and sensitive ecological systems were water storage projects not pursued by prior generations,” Rowan said.

He also pointed out that county staff have recommended approval of the permit, and said commissioners deciding based on the input of some rather than the requirements of the permitting process would be the same as intimidation.

“We simply can’t be expected to self-govern if the loudest and most vitriolic of our fellow residents are allowed to cower elected representatives into submission,” Rowan said.

Others said the project would benefit communities outside of Larimer County, while county residents would bear the majority of the adverse impacts, particularly from the construction of Glade Reservoir west of Fort Collins.

David Jones, a vegetation ecologist at Colorado State University who stated he has been following the NISP project for more than a decade, said the project was “not in the interest of the vast majority of Larimer County residents.”

[…]

The next public comment session is scheduled for Aug. 31, and the commissioners are expected to make a decision on Sept. 2.

Larimer County kicks off public hearing on #NISP — The Loveland Reporter-Herald

Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water

From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

All three Larimer County commissioners began listening to an application for the Northern Integrated Supply Project on Monday, with Steve Johnson and Tom Donnelly declining to step away from the upcoming decision.

“I have no doubts I can consider that application on its merits and weigh it against the land use code,” said Johnson at the start of the public hearing Monday night.

Three organized groups opposed to the project and its associated Glade Reservoir — Save the Poudre, No Pipe Dream and Save Rural NoCO — had asked Johnson and Donnelly, the two Republicans on the board, to step back from the decision.

They claimed that the two commissioners, both in their 12th year of service, have shown “decade-long support and endorsement of the project” and have had outside contact with Northern Water, which has applied for a 1041 permit for its reservoir project on behalf of 15 water providers.

Johnson and Donnelly both stressed they would make an impartial decision on the application during this public hearing, which is scheduled to run across four days, and denied any bias…

Right now, the county is considering its 1041 permit, which allows the county to have input and impose conditions on the reservoir construction and pipeline facilities. County planning staff members recommended approval as did the Planning Commission, by a split vote, and the county commissioners have the final say…

The three-member elected board heard from the planning staff and Northern Water on Monday night during a 3½-hour hearing. Next, they will hold both afternoon and evening sessions to take public comment on Aug. 24 and Aug. 31 before deliberating and making a decision Sept. 2.

To approve the permit, the commissioners must believe that the project meets 12 criteria that are listed in the land use code, including whether:

  • It would negatively impact health and safety.
  • It mitigates construction impacts.
  • It doesn’t adversely affect the environment and natural and cultural resources without adequate mitigations.
  • Alternatives were considered.
  • In evaluating the 1,600-page application, the county staff looked at issues ranging from traffic associated with construction and future recreation to water-quality and air-quality impacts to a plan for recreation on the land surrounding Glade. They dug into everything from truck traffic trips to dust levels to the costs of recreation, as well as the acres of habitat and wetland mitigations compared with the amount lost.

    The staff recommended approval with requirements that include noise, water- and air-quality monitoring and mitigation during construction.

    The three commissioners listened to staff members and representatives of Northern Water during the first segment of the hearing, asking about negotiating easements on private property, associated road work, flow levels in the Poudre River and more.

    All three said they will carefully consider all the input from both Northern Water and residents, who will be allowed to speak at hearings on the next two Mondays. Residents who want to speak during the upcoming sessions must sign up by 10 a.m. Aug. 24 at larimer.org/planning/NISP-1041.

    Fort Collins City Council votes to oppose #NISP, changing previous stance — The Fort Collins Coloradoan

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    Fort Collins City Council voted [August 4, 2020] to oppose the Northern Integrated Supply Project, a departure from the city’s previous neutral stance on the controversial plan to siphon Poudre River water into two new reservoirs.

    Council members also endorsed city staff comments expressing reservations with Northern Water’s proposed Poudre intake pipeline upstream of the Mulberry Water Reclamation Facility. They adopted their position in a 5-1 vote on Tuesday, with council member Ken Summers voting “no” and Mayor pro-tem Kristin Stephens absent.

    The vote was the current council’s first opportunity to take a position on NISP. The city’s position on the project has vacillated over the years, wavering between opposition and a more neutral “can’t support” position. Council included in its opposition statement a note directing staff to continue working with Northern Water to address the city’s concerns about NISP and develop “a sustainable, long-term approach” to avoid, manage and mitigate the project’s impacts.

    Council’s job on Tuesday was to decide whether to endorse staff’s comments on the pipeline, which were submitted to Larimer County, and choose between four stances on NISP ranging from the most neutral “can’t support this variant of NISP” to the most outspoken “oppose (this version of NISP) and oppose the use of city natural areas.” They chose the latter.

    Poudre River whitewater park. Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Collegian

    At issue Tuesday was whether the city could take that stance on the project while maintaining a foothold in negotiations with Northern Water, the organizer of the plan to supply water to 15 small-but-growing Colorado municipalities and water districts. While the city itself isn’t among the participants, which include Fort Collins-Loveland Water District (covering the city’s southern reaches) and Windsor, the project would degrade springtime river flows through Fort Collins and the Poudre intake pipeline would affect several city natural areas…

    The intake pipeline is part of a concession Northern Water made to lessen NISP’s impacts on the Poudre through Fort Collins: Rather than drawing all the water off the river upstream of Fort Collins, Northern Water plans to run some of it through a 12-mile stretch of the river roughly between the Poudre Canyon mouth and Mulberry Street from fall to early spring.

    The “conveyance refinement” plan would run 18-25 cubic feet per second’s worth of water through the river, increasing the volume of water to eliminate some dry spots, lower the river’s temperature and reduce harm to fish [living] in the river. The intake pipeline near the reclamation plant is where Northern Water plans to take the water back out of the river…

    The influx of water will make “a very significant difference for fish” and offers clear environmental benefits for the river’s base flows, city watershed planner Jennifer Shanahan told council. But the structures involved with the intake pipeline will have temporary and permanent impacts to the Homestead, Kingfisher Point, Riverbend Ponds and Williams natural areas. Construction will have temporary impacts on traffic and visitors to those areas, including trail and parking lot closures, and more lasting impacts, including possible damage to sensitive wetlands, soil, wildlife and native vegetation and the sale of some land at Kingfisher Point Natural Area.

    The city submitted its comments on the pipeline to Larimer County as part of the 1041 permitting process. Staff recommended that Northern Water work with the city to refine the pipeline plan in several ways, such as shrinking the pump station and settling ponds proposed at Kingfisher Point, moving the pipeline further from the river at Kingfisher Point and creating a more ecologically sound river diversion at Homestead Natural Area…

    Council members agreed with the staff comments, but several of them offered broader criticism of NISP. Northern Water has been working for years on a broad plan to mitigate NISP’s impacts to the river, wildlife and riparian habitat, but environmental advocates say no mitigation plan can undo the irreparable damage of diverting so much water from a river that is already stretched thin. Fort Collins gets about half of its own water supply from the Poudre…

    Mayor Wade Troxell, who has the longest tenure on City Council, said he’s watched the city make progress in negotiations with Northern Water over the last 13 years. He discouraged his fellow council members from making “sweeping opposition statements that don’t get us where we need to go.”

    […]

    NISP is approaching a county decision on the 1041 permit that would allow construction of Glade Reservoir and four pipelines associated with the project. The Army Corps of Engineers is expected to issue its record of decision on the project as a whole this year, and if the project is approved, construction could begin as soon as 2023.

    Larimer County Planning Commission recommends #NISP permit by split vote –The Loveland Reporter-Herald

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

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

    The Northern Integrated Supply Project moved a step closer to construction Wednesday when the Larimer County Planning Commission recommended approval of the reservoir storage project.

    Four members of the volunteer planning board voted to recommend that the Larimer County Board of Commissioners approve a 1041 permit for the project that would include a new reservoir west of Fort Collins for water storage and recreation. Two voted against it, and the other three members stepped back from the decision because of perceived conflicts of interest.

    Planning Commission member Curtis Miller, a Loveland resident, said he is convinced that the project meets all the criteria for the permit and will be a benefit for the entire region…

    Drake resident Abbie Pontius, a member of the Planning Commission, also spoke in favor…

    However, Nancy Wallace, chair of the Planning Commission and a Fort Collins resident, voted against the project. She said that the water primarily will benefit residents outside Larimer County, and the reservoir would draw unwanted and unneeded traffic to the region…

    John Barnett, a Fort Collins resident on the Planning Commission, also voted against the project after saying he worries that it will affect water levels in the river downstream from Mulberry Street, particularly at several natural areas…

    The main approval for the project will come from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which after more than a decade of analysis, is expected sometime in 2020.

    But the project also requires a 1041 permit from the county on issues including the pipeline, realignment of U.S. 287 and recreation. A 1041 permit allows the county to make requirements on certain aspects of the project that would affect county residents.

    The Larimer County commissioners have the final say on the permit. That elected board has a public hearing scheduled over four consecutive Mondays starting Aug. 17. A final decision will come at the end of that hearing and will include consideration of the recommendation from the planning board…

    The last night of the Planning Commission hearing, on Wednesday, included several representatives of Northern Water answering questions previously posed by members of the Planning Commission as well as response to public comments. Those include:

  • Stephanie Cecil, water resources engineer, and Brad Wind, general manager, both said they realized that Northern Water needs to do a better job reaching out to people who live near the proposed Glade Reservoir and associated pipeline. Both committed to doing better at reaching residents, especially those who live in the Eagle Lake subdivision through which the pipeline will run. “Based on what we heard at the last meeting we missed the mark,” Cecil said.
  • The reservoir and dam will be built in an area that includes the North Fork and Bellvue faults. Jennifer Williams, a civil engineer with AECOM, a consultant hired by Northern Water, stressed that both faults are considered inactive, meaning they have not shown movement in the last 1.3 million years. In fact, the most recent movement is estimated to be 30 million to 60 million years ago, Williams said.
  • The project would require a new route for a section of U.S. 287 northwest of Fort Collins. This new stretch of highway would be completed before the existing route is decommissioned, and construction of the highway would commence at the same time as construction begins on Glade Reservoir. A specific schedule depends upon the timing of permits that are still outstanding. The new route will be about 1.6 miles longer than the existing highway.
  • Northern Water also clarified that the NISP participants have committed to paying $16.35 million, or 75%, of the construction of recreation facilities on the land around Glade Reservoir. The remaining 25% would be paid by other partners. Those have not been determined yet but could include corporate sponsors, grants or even Larimer County, which is looking to manage recreation at the reservoir.
  • Wallace, who voted against the permit, disagreed with that piece, saying that she believes that boating at the proposed reservoir should be changed to wakeless only without motorboats, and that associated savings could reduce the costs potentially paid by Larimer County…

    Miller and Jeff Jensen, another Planning Commission member from Fort Collins, strongly disagreed, saying that there is a demand for recreation including motorized boating. They said this added reservoir would help meet that need and provide a resource to Larimer County residents.

    The initial proposal was that Northern Water and Larimer County pursue a 25-year recreation lease with the option for a 25-year renewal. At Jensen’s suggestion, the Planning Commission voted to recommend a 35-year lease also with the option for renewal to manage recreation at Glade Reservoir in the future.

    Jensen, too, spoke strongly in favor of NISP and voted to recommend approval of the 1041 permit by the commissioners.

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

    The Planning Commission voted 4-2 to recommend approval of the permit, with commissioners Nancy Wallace and John Barnett in opposition.

    Commissioners said the long-debated project, which would provide water to 15 regional communities and water districts, would be a benefit to the county and the state.

    Commissioner Curtis Miller said the proposal met all of the county’s criteria for approval…

    The requested 1041 permit – named for the state law that grants local governments permitting authority over certain infrastructure projects – is for siting Glade Reservoir and its proposed recreational facilities, including a visitor center, campgrounds and boat ramps…

    The permit also covers the routes of four pipelines needed to convey water from Glade, including one that would release water into the Poudre River to run through Fort Collins and another to take it out again for delivery to communities to the south.

    As part of the project, Northern would build recreational facilities that would be managed by the Larimer County Natural Resources Department. The department manages recreation at Carter Lake and Horsetooth, Pinewood and Flatiron reservoirs…

    Under a condition of approval added by the Planning Commission, the county would have a 35-year management agreement for recreation on the reservoir with an option for another 25 years. The condition was one of more than 80 recommended by the commission and county staff…

    Representatives of Northern Water had answers for each of the objections, in part citing the exhaustive research and planning that went into a federal Environmental Impact Statement process for NISP that began in 2004.

    NISP would pay $53 million to mitigate its impacts to wildlife and the environment, with more than 90% of that funding spent in Larimer County, Northern Water officials said.

    NISP would provide 40,000 acre-feet of water annually to its participants, which include the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District and Windsor…

    A decision of record on the Environmental Impact Statement for NISP is expected to be released this year by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The project has received water quality certification from state regulators.

    What’s next

    The Larimer County Board of County Commissioners has scheduled the following hearings on NISP:

  • 6 p.m., Aug. 17 – Presentations only; no public testimony.
  • 2 p.m. Aug. 24 (break from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.)
  • 3 p.m. Aug. 31 (break from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.)
  • 6:30 p.m. Sept. 2 – questions, final deliberation and decision
  • Testimony will be taken in person and online. Registration to speak will be available online beginning Aug. 3.

    Speakers will be limited to 2 minutes each. Borrowing, lending or grouping time will not be allowed.

    Information: http://larimer.org/planning/NISP-1041

    #NISP update: The Larimer County Planning Commission holds first public hearing

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

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

    Dozens of in-person and remote speakers aired their concerns about the proposed $1.1 billion water storage and delivery project, which would include building Glade Reservoir northwest of Fort Collins.

    Issues raised about the massive project proposed by Northern Water included the ecological impacts of drawing water from an already heavily used Poudre River to store in the reservoir, the routing of pipelines that would carry water to participating communities, and the effects construction of the reservoir and pipelines would have on nearby communities…

    A decision of record on the Environmental Impact Statement for NISP is expected to be released this year by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The project has received water quality certification from state regulators…

    The Planning Commission is considering an application from Northern Water for a 1041 permit — named for the state law that grants local governments permitting authority over certain infrastructure projects — for the siting of the reservoir and associated recreational facilities, including a visitor center, boat ramps and campgrounds. The permit also covers the routes of four pipelines needed to convey water from Glade.

    Commission members heard presentations on the reservoir and pipelines from county staff members and Northern Water on June 24. Wednesday’s four-hour hearing was dedicated to taking public comment.

    Of the approximately 40 people who spoke individually or as the representative of a group, only one spoke in favor of NISP. The county has received several hundred emails from residents opposing the project…

    Northern Water has said the dam site is safe and structures will be designed to withstand seismic activity and soil shifts.

    Residents of the Eagle Lakes subdivision blasted the proposed routing of a pipeline from Glade through their neighborhood that would connect with another pipeline near the county line and carry water south.

    Northern Water would likely have to use its eminent domain power to get the 100-foot easement it wants for constructing the pipeline, said Eagle Lake resident Mark Heiden…

    He said alternative routes through open land are available if Northern Water were willing to pay the additional cost, which he estimated at $3 million.

    Area homeowners complained they would have to endure many weeks of disruption from construction activity and loss of use of their property because of the easements.

    Northern Water has said it would pay property owners fair market value for easements and restore disturbed land to pre-construction condition or better.

    Several speakers compared the proposed pipeline to the city of Thornton’s plan to run a massive pipeline along Douglas Road. The proposal was fought by No Pipe Dream and others.

    The county commissioners rejected Thornton’s proposed route last year. Thornton has sued the county in District Court over the decision…

    The Planning Commission continued its hearing to July 15, when members will hear additional information from staff and Northern Water before deliberating on its recommendation on a permit to the county commissioners, who will decide whether to grant the permit.

    The commissioners have scheduled multiple hearings on the permit application for NISP in August.

    After the public comment was completed, planning commissioners listed several questions they want addressed by county staff or Northern Water at the next meeting. The questions reflected issues brought up during public comment, including whether Northern Water has sufficient water rights to fill the reservoir and provide recreational opportunities.

    Northern Water has said boating would be possible on the reservoir 90% of the time.

    Commission member Nancy Wallace said she wants to hear more about how plans for the project address climate change and other “big picture” issues…

    What’s next

    The Larimer County Planning Commission is scheduled to have its final meeting on NISP beginning at 6 p.m. July 15 at the County Courthouse Offices Building, 200 W. Oak St. in Fort Collins.

    Attendance will be limited to 50 people because of COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings.

    The planning commission will make a recommendation on a permit for NISP to the Board of County Commissioners, which will decide on the application.

    Hearings by the commissioners are scheduled:

  • 6 p.m., Aug. 17 – Presentations only; no public testimony.
  • 2 p.m. Aug. 24 (break from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.)
  • 3 p.m. Aug. 31 (break from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.)
  • 6:30 p.m. Sept. 2 – Questions, final deliberation and decision
  • Speakers will be limited to 2 minutes each. Borrowing, lending or grouping time will not be allowed.

    Information: http://larimer.org/planning/NISP-1041

    Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water

    #NISP update

    Cache la Poudre River from South Trail via Wikimedia Foundation.

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

    The Larimer County Planning Commission on Wednesday heard details of plans for constructing and operating the project, which would include building Glade northwest of Fort Collins and laying 35.6 miles of pipeline to carry NISP water out of the county.

    The information packet given to commissioners, including staff reports, environmental impact statements and comments from numerous government agencies, is 3,242 pages.

    The packet includes more than 500 comments from members of the public, including groups and individuals who have been fighting NISP since it was proposed in 2004.

    Concerns about the project and its impact to the Poudre River during federal and state permitting processes were raised again along with new issues on the county level by environmental group Save the Poudre and others.

    Larimer County plans several hearings

    Wednesday’s meeting was the first of three planned by the planning commission on NISP. It consisted of presentations by county staff members and representatives of Northern Water, the main proponent of NISP.

    No public comment was taken. That will happen during hearings scheduled July 8 and 15. An additional meeting would be scheduled if needed to allow Northern Water time for rebuttal following the public comment, county officials said.

    Northern Water is seeking a 1041 permit — named for the state law giving authority to local governments to make decisions on certain types of infrastructure projects — for NISP. The planning commission will make a recommendation on the application to the Board of County Commissioners, which will decide whether to grant a permit.

    Three of the nine planning commission members recused themselves from the proceedings citing the potential appearance of impartiality or conflicts of interest: Anne Best Johnson, community development director for the city of Evans, which is a participant in NISP; Bob Choate, an attorney who might be called upon to give legal advice on the project to the Weld County commissioners; and Sean Dougherty, a Realtor who represents a landowner who might be affected by the project…

    Under the county’s 1041 regulations, the county’s purview of NISP is limited to the siting of Glade and associated recreational facilities and the locations of four large pipelines that would carry NISP water through Larimer County.

    The project must meet 12 criteria for approval, including that the project would not negatively impact public health and safety and the “proposal demonstrates a reasonable balance between the costs to the applicant to mitigate significant adverse (effects) and the benefits achieved by such mitigation,” according to the land-use code.

    County development review staff members said the proposal meets the criteria and recommended approval of the permit with 82 conditions, including requirements for several reports and plans for addressing issues such as noise and dust during construction.

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

    As part of the project, Northern would build recreational facilities that would be managed by the Larimer County Department of Natural Resources. The department manages recreation at Carter Lake and Horsetooth, Pinewood and Flatiron reservoirs.

    Facilities at Glade would include a visitor center, campgrounds, hiking, fishing and boating. A four-lane boat ramp would be built on the southeast side of the reservoir.

    The facilities would increase recreational opportunities as envisioned in county master plans, said Daylan Figgs, Natural Resources director.

    Demand for access to recreation will likely increase as the county grows in the years to come, Figgs said. The facilities proposed by Northern would cost about $21.8 million. NISP would cover 75% of the cost, with the rest coming from the county directly or through partnerships.

    [Nancy] Wallace said she was “struck” that the county might have to contribute to the cost of recreational facilities. NISP doesn’t appear to “give much to the county” other than its recreation components and water for Windsor and the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District, she said…

    Christine Coleman, a water resources engineer with Northern, told the commissioners $49 million in NISP environmental mitigation work would be done in the county.

    The final environmental impact statement for NISP estimated development of the reservoir could bring in $13 million to $30 million a year in economic benefits, Coleman said. The project would contribute $16.35 million to recreation facilities at Glade…

    To keep water flowing in the Poudre, which can dry up in spots under certain circumstances, NISP would release water from Glade back to the river through a 1.3-mile pipeline.

    The added water would flow 13 miles through Fort Collins before it is picked up by another pipeline upstream from the city’s wastewater treatment plant on Mulberry Street. The guaranteed flow through the city would be between 18 and 25 cubic feet per second.

    “This will increase flows at the Lincoln (Street) gauge in Fort Collins and the Poudre River in eight out of 12 months in average years and 10 out of 12 months in dry years,” said Stephanie Cecil, a water resources engineer with Northern.

    Water would be pumped into a pipeline running east to a pipeline along County Road 1 running south. The pipeline would affect some city-owned natural areas.

    A fourth pipeline would carry water from Glade along a route known as the “northern tier” and connect with the county line pipeline.

    The pipe would run through the Eagle Lake subdivision, sparking resistance to the proposal from local residents…

    Cecil said the pipelines would require 100-foot easements, of which 60 feet would be permanent and 40 feet would be temporary for constructions. Property owners would be paid fair market value for easements, and surface disruptions would be reclaimed to pre-existing conditions or better.

    NISP’s pipelines would range from 32 to 54 inches in diameter. The northern tier pipeline would carry about two-thirds of the water going to NISP participants, Cecil said…

    What’s next for NISP in Larimer County

    The Larimer County Planning Commission is scheduled to take public comment on NISP during hearings schedule July 8 and July 15 at the County Courthouse Offices Building, 200 W. Oak St. in Fort Collins.

    Both meetings will begin at 6 p.m. Attendance will be limited to 50 people because of COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings.

    Comments will be limited to 2 minutes per person. Borrowing, lending or grouping time will not be allowed. Groups and individuals who wish to speak in person or remotely must register at larimer.org/planning/NISP-1041.

    The planning commission will make a recommendation on a permit for NISP to the Board of County Commissioners, which will decide on the application.

    Hearings by the commissioners are scheduled:

  • 6 p.m., Aug. 17 – Presentations only; no public testimony.
  • 2 p.m. Aug. 24 (break from 5:30-6:30 p.m.)
  • 3 p.m. Aug. 31 (break from 5:30-6:30 p.m.)
  • 6:30 p.m. Sept. 2 – questions, final deliberation and decision
  • Information: http://larimer.org/planning/NISP-1041

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

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

    Larimer County staff has recommended approval of a 1041 permit for the Northern Integrated Supply Project with requirements that include noise, water and air quality monitoring and mitigation during construction of its reservoirs and associated pipelines.

    Engineering, health department and planning staff members outlined that recommendation to the Larimer County Planning Commission on Wednesday during the first of a three-part public hearing for the reservoir project, which over the past decade has drawn vocal opposition and support.

    Northern Water hopes to build the water project on behalf of 15 water providers as a way to pull water in wet years, from both the Poudre and South Platte rivers, to store for when needed. All of the participants have water conservation plans and have reduced their water use by 10%, but still need future water supplies, according to Northern Water…

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for the main permit to build the project — a decision expected sometime this year after more than a decade of evaluation. However, Larimer County does have some authority through its 1041 permit on certain aspects of construction of the reservoir and its associated pipelines as well as recreation on and surrounding the reservoir.

    The planning commission will make a recommendation to the Larimer County commissioners, who will hold a public hearing that is scheduled across three Mondays starting Aug. 17 and will end with a decision on whether to grant the 1041 permit.

    The first of the planning commission dates, Wednesday, was a presentation by Northern Water and by Larimer County staff. Public comment is slated for the next two hearings, scheduled July 8 and July 15…

    Some highlights of the presentation, from both county staff and Northern Water representatives, include:

  • The realignment of U.S. 287 north of Fort Collins is not part of the 1041 permit, but Larimer County is asking that the design take into effect the impacts on nearby county roads including the already dangerous intersection with U.S. 287 and Colo. 14.
  • Glade Reservoir would be able to store 170,000 acre feet of water with 1,600 surface acres and water that could hit 250 feet at its deepest. The reservoir would be 5 miles long, and the project would include four separate pipeline segments spanning a total of 35.6 miles.
  • Recreation at the reservoir would be detailed closer to construction to reflect trends and interests at the time but would include a mixture of boating, camping, fishing and trails that would help meet demands for a growing Larimer County population. Overall, Northern Water has proposed $21.8 million in recreation amenities and improvements, including a visitors center. Northern Water has committed to covering 75% of those costs through the project; the remainder would be covered through partnerships.
  • Northern Water would need to mitigate impacts on traffic that would range between 400 and 1,600 average daily trips during construction of the reservoir, up to 300 daily trips associated with construction of the pipelines and an average of 1,150 daily trips associated with recreation.
  • Larimer County would require traffic management, dust and noise mitigation plans, as well as groundwater monitoring. Construction would be limited to daytime, and the county would require private well monitoring to ensure that those water sources are not polluted.
  • County staff members believe any impacts on wildlife, wetlands, streamflow, fisheries and other natural resources would be mitigated by existing measures in a Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan that was approved by state officials in 2017, as well as through a water quality permit based on multiple studies and evaluations. The mitigation plan calls call for $53 million in improvements, including fish-friendly bypasses at diversion structures, a low flow plan to keep more water in the Poudre River through Fort Collins and enhancements to wetlands and wildlife habitat.
  • The project proposes swapping irrigation water from the Poudre River with water from the South Platte River, which will prevent “buy and dry” of farmland. This could keep more than 60,000 acres of irrigated farmland in production, according to Northern Water.
  • Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative

    #NISP update

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

    Save the Poudre has asked the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission to reverse the water quality certification permit for the Northern Integrated Supply Project.

    The nonprofit that organized in 2004 in opposition of the reservoir project said it had 13 objections to the water quality permit, including criticisms of the mitigation plans as well as effects on streamflow…

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

    Northern Water has proposed the reservoir project on behalf of 15 water providers, who are relying on Glade and Galeton reservoirs to store water for their future supplies.

    The water in the reservoirs primarily would come from the Poudre River…

    The project requires three major permits — a record of decision from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which after more than a decade is expected later this year; a 1041 permit from Larimer County, which has public hearings scheduled this summer; and the water quality certification.

    Staff with the Colorado Water Quality Division granted the certification in January…

    The appeal alleges 13 violations of state regulations in the project, including that Northern Water has not yet secured all of the needed water rights, that the project does not take the effect of climate change into its streamflow levels and that mitigation will not occur until full buildout of the project and does not allow peak flows to flush the river and restore the riparian areas…

    Northern Water disputes the allegations made by Save the Poudre. The water district has repeatedly said that it has worked hard to mitigate any damage that may be caused by the project and that is has addressed streamflow.

    Conditions agreed upon in the water quality certification include extensive river monitoring and an adaptive management program “that will bring stakeholders together to work formally on the future of the Poudre River,” according to a statement released by Jeff Stahla, spokesman for Northern Water.

    “Northern Water and the NISP participants submitted extensive documentation in our application to demonstrate our commitment to high water quality in the Poudre River,” Stahla said in the statement. “That commitment will extend for decades through the conditions agreed to by NISP participants.”

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

    Larimer County sets #NISP hearings despite limits to gathering size during #coronavirus pandemic — The Loveland Reporter-Herald #COVID19

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

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

    Opponents ask county to delay the hearings

    Larimer County has tentatively scheduled hearing dates for a county permit for the Northern Integrated Supply Project — hearings that are expected to draw crowds in a time of social distancing.

    Northern Water applied in February for what is known as a 1041 permit for the project, which calls for county approval of pieces of the project including a pipeline, highway relocation and recreation plan associated with the water project.

    Northern Water proposes pulling 42,000 acre-feet of water, primarily from the Poudre River, and storing it in two reservoirs on behalf of 15 water providers. The largest of the two reservoirs, Glade, is proposed to be built northwest of Fort Collins, with recreation to be managed by the county.

    The overall permit to build the project will come from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with some requirements from state agencies as well, the result of an environmental permitting process that has stretched over a decade. A federal decision is expected this year…

    Right now, the county is navigating ways to move to virtual public hearings, allowing public comments over the phone and through email for all of its meetings. There have been some hiccups as the county works to streamline the process to promote social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic…

    For the Northern Integrated Supply Project, as of now, the plan is to have a public hearing before the Larimer County Planning Commission on May 6 and the Board of County Commissioners on June 8…

    However, Jeff Stahla, spokesman for Northern Water, said the water district has been working on this project for a long time, has collected and is continuing to collect public input on the process. He said Northern Water will continue to work with the county to achieve that result through this hearing process.

    “We want to make sure the public has a chance to offer their input on this application,” Stahla said. “I applaud the county for trying to accommodate the public while acknowledging the health risks that are out there. We want to make sure there’s a public an deliberative process, so we’ll work with the county to make sure that happens.”

    #Colorado grants 401 Water Quality Certification to Northern Integrated Supply Project #NISP

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

    From Biz West Media/Boulder Daily Camera (Dan Mika) via The Fort Morgan Times:

    The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment gave approval to efforts to build the Northern Integration Supply Project, or NISP, securing one of three final permits the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District needs before it can start on the $1.1 billion water project.

    In a letter to Northern Water earlier this week, officials said the state has “reasonable assurance” the project would comply with all required water quality standards at the state levels.

    The letter said while the project wouldn’t directly discharge pollutants into water sources, it has “the potential to cause or contribute to long-term water quality impacts.” It is requiring member cities to monitor 21 locations along the NISP for water conditions needed to sustain healthy aquatic ecosystems, and to watch for bacteria, sediment and runoff material that could harm humans in contact with the river…

    NISP member cities and organizations include the Fort Collins Loveland Water District, Left Hand Water District, Erie, Lafayette, Windsor, Frederick, Firestone and Dacono…

    Northern Water spokesman Jeff Stahla said the state’s approval is a major milestone for the project as it approaches the final few months of getting required permits.

    “This is something we’ve been working on for years to submit the required data, and we’re pleased to see this response from the state,” he said.

    Northern Water requires two more permits before it can start construction on the project. A final decision from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected by June, while the utility next month plans to file for a “1041 local powers” permit with Larimer County. Residents would then have 90 days to offer feedback before county commissioners make a decision.

    Northern Integrated Supply Project recreation plan update #NISP

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

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    Plans for Glade Reservoir, the main storage component of the Northern Integrated Supply Project, are coming into sharper focus as the project approaches a series of landmark county hearings. Larimer County commissioners will review Northern Water’s 1041 permit application this spring. The permit covers the construction of Glade Reservoir and water pipelines for NISP, which would take water from the Poudre River to shore up supplies for 15 Northern Colorado municipalities and water districts…

    Larimer County’s upcoming review of a project decades in the making is just one reason 2020 is expected to be a game-changing year for NISP — for the project’s leader, Northern Water, and for the sizable camp of people trying to stop it…

    You can now count some neighbors of the Glade site in the latter. Residents of the Bonner Peak Ranch, Cherokee Meadows and County Road 29 areas have banded together to form a new opposition group called Save Rural NoCo…

    Members of Save Rural NoCo, as well as NISP nemesis Save the Poudre, plan to make their position clear during public comment at the 1041 hearings. The hearings haven’t been scheduled yet because Northern Water hasn’t submitted its 1041 application, but it likely will do so in the coming weeks, spokesman Jeff Stahla said.

    The submission will trigger a 90-day deadline for Larimer County to hold planning commission and board of commissioners hearings…

    NISP’s main proposed pipeline would carry water from Glade Reservoir about 40 miles southeast toward the project’s participants. The other pipeline would carry water from the Poudre River in Fort Collins about 5 miles east to meet up with the larger pipeline at the county line. The nonfinalized pipeline map is posted on nisptalk.com. A portion of the proposed route is similar to that of the rejected Thornton pipeline.

    While Thornton’s 1041 proposal drew commissioners’ ire for a perceived lack of benefit to Larimer County, Northern Water might have an easier time selling NISP as an asset.

    Most of the project’s 15 participants are outside of Larimer County, but about 16% of NISP’s water yield is projected to go to Fort Collins-Loveland Water District and Windsor. FCLWD is mostly in Larimer County, and Windsor traverses Larimer and Weld counties.

    And Northern Water’s conceptual recreation plan for Glade Reservoir describes the reservoir as an opportunity to alleviate pressure on Larimer County’s highly trafficked reservoirs and support population growth. The Larimer County Reservoir Parks Master Plan identifies Glade Reservoir as a “future park strategy.”

    If Glade is built, Larimer County will likely manage recreation at the site. Early concept plans for the reservoir and its surrounding acreage include a visitor center, 170-acre recreation area, boat ramp, three parking lots, unpaved hiking trails east of the reservoir and five campgrounds totaling more than 60 camping sites. Northern Water plans to pay Colorado Parks and Wildlife to stock the reservoir with walleye, saugeye, black crappie, bluegill, yellow perch and rainbow trout. Among an expansive list of other potential recreation opportunities are mountain biking, cross country skiing, rock climbing, horseback riding, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, power boating and jet skiing.

    Northern Water predicts recreation at the reservoir will generate $13 million to $30 million annually in tourism, economic opportunities for area businesses and sales tax revenue.

    On the other hand, NISP would significantly decrease flows in the Poudre River during peak season, diverting more than 40,000 acre-feet annually from a river that is already heavily used. Northern Water plans to send some water down the Poudre through downtown Fort Collins to reduce the impacts here, and the project is projected to slightly increase flows during off-peak season. Northern Water has also committed to spend millions on stream channel and riparian vegetation improvements, among other mitigation efforts.

    But the Poudre relies on high springtime flows to flush out sediment and preserve wildlife habitat along the river corridor, and NISP opponents like Save the Poudre argue that no amount of mitigation spending can negate the detriment of taking so much water out of the river…

    The 1041 process is technically supposed to be focused purely on the siting of Glade Reservoir and the NISP pipelines, but debate about NISP often blurs the line between nuts-and-bolts infrastructure issues and the project’s larger significance for the Poudre River.

    The most significant review of NISP’s necessity and environmental impacts is being carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is expected to issue a record of decision on NISP in 2020. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is expected to issue a decision on the project’s water quality permit by the end of the month.

    “When this was first contemplated, I don’t think anyone predicted it would all come together in the first quarter of 2020,” Stahla said. “What it means is that (NISP) is going to be top-of-mind for the next several months for folks here in Larimer County.”

    Glade Reservoir construction could begin as soon as 2023, with the first water storage taking place in 2028…

    Save Rural NoCo’s opposition to NISP might have begun with the predicted nuisance of living near Glade Reservoir, but residents interviewed by the Coloradoan said it’s grown into a wider-ranging objection to the project’s impacts on the Poudre River and wildlife…

    Jan Rothe, who lives off County Road 29C, feels the project’s benefits are being outsourced to the 15 participants’ fast-growing communities, most of which are spread across Boulder, Weld and Morgan counties…

    Northern Water will work with the county to mitigate noise and traffic impacts near Glade, Stahla said, and commissioners can impose conditions on recreation for the 1041 permit. For example, he said, motorized boating could be restricted to the east side of the reservoir so residents aren’t bothered by the noise.

    He added that the area is already home to a shooting range and a quarry, though, so the reservoir wouldn’t exactly be the only source of noise.

    Stahla said about 50 comment cards collected at the last open house showed a mix of opinions. Most of the commenters were concerned about the recreation plan fitting in with the neighborhood rather than objecting to the reservoir itself, he said…

    And Stahla took issue with the idea that NISP serves no benefit for Larimer County. NISP’s largest participant, Fort Collins-Loveland Water District, has a service area covering about 45,000 residents primarily in Larimer County. Windsor is located partially in Larimer County and has about 31,000 residents. The other communities are home to thousands of people who live in one place and commute to work in places like Fort Collins and Loveland, he said.

    Fort Collins itself gets about half its water from the Poudre River, and Horsetooth is filled with a mix of water from the Poudre and the Colorado Big-Thompson Project.

    “To look at your kid’s teacher who has to drive in from Eaton every day and say, ‘Well, that’s just a Weld County benefit” — I think it misses some of the larger points about where Northern Colorado is as a region,” Stahla said. “As the region has grown and become a mecca for economic and job growth, not everyone’s been able to fit within the area of Fort Collins Utilities. And therefore, the people outside of it need to have secure water supplies as well.”

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

    Fort Morgan councillors approve water and sewer rate increases #NISP

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

    From The Fort Morgan Times (Slade Rand):

    Rate increases tied into planning for possible NISP construction, city officials say

    Brent Nation, the city’s director of water resources and utilities, proposed to City Council members on Tuesday night rate increases that would mean that city customers will pay 8% more for water utilities and 2% more for sewage utilities starting in January 2020.

    The Fort Morgan City Council then unanimously voted to approve those higher rates during the regular City Council meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 3.

    “Looking at your average water bill for a resident in the City of Fort Morgan, it would go from $84 per month up to $90.75 per month, is what (our consultant) was projecting the change would be,” Nation said.

    That expected average increase of $6.75 per month for residential customers represents an 8% increase to the monthly consumer charge and a $0.29 bump in the commodity charge per 1,000 gallons of water. The consumer charge for a 3/4-inch water meter will increase from $42.39 to $45.78, and the charge for a 1-inch water meter will rise from $74.05 to $79.97 with the new rates.

    Sewer collection rates will increase, as well, in January 2020, with a $0.42 increase in the monthly charge for a 3/4″ residential water meter. The metered consumption charge per 1,000 gallons collected is rising 4 cents or 5 cents depending on the water meter size.

    The city is enforcing those higher rates as per the recommendation of a consulting firm Fort Morgan commissioned in 2018 to develop a 10-year water utility financial plan and a five-year sewer utility financial plan. Raftelis Financial Consulting gave the city a report that called for the two recent water rate increases and the sewer rate increase.

    Last year, the city also raised water consumer charge rates by a similar 8% across the board…

    Nation said the higher rates are necessary to better position the city and its cash reserves for completing the Northern Integrated Supply Project in the coming years, and to support the bond payments that project will require. NISP, which is entering its 16th official year in 2020, could provide up to 40,000 acre-feet of municipal water supplies for 15 cities in the Northern Colorado region by building two large water storage facilities.

    Fort Morgan committed to paying a $900,000 portion of NISP’s $10 million budget for the upcoming year during Tuesday’s council meeting.

    @Northern_Water meets with Larimer County Commissioners to craft IGA for #NISP

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

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Craig Young):

    The meeting between the three commissioners and four members of the board of Northern Water, which has been working since 2002 on the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project, was intended as a starting point in the two bodies’ goal to craft an intergovernmental agreement to govern certain aspects of the project.

    The project known as NISP, if it receives final approval later this year or early in 2010 from the Army Corps of Engineers, would result in Glade Reservoir in Larimer County and Galeton Reservoir in Weld County, and a system of pipelines to move water to and from the Poudre River and the South Platte River and to irrigation canals.

    The project, being funded by 11 municipalities and four water districts in northeast Colorado, would be capable of supplying 40,000 acre-feet of water each year…

    Although the meeting was intended as a work session, with no opportunity for public input, more than 30 members of the public filled the chairs set up in the commissioners’ hearing room in Fort Collins and required more to be brought in.

    At a few points in the Northern Water staff members’ presentations, low-level displays of disapproval could be heard from people in the audience.

    The meeting mainly consisted of slide presentations about the three aspects of the project that Larimer County has a say in: the route of the pipeline, the rerouting of 7 miles of U.S. 287 north of Ted’s Place that will be displaced by Glade Reservoir, and recreation on the new reservoir and the property around it.

    The two boards will meet again Sept. 23 to work more substantively toward an eventual intergovernmental agreement on those issues, according to staff members.

    Stephanie Cecil and Christie Coleman, water resources engineers with Northern Water, laid out some details of the three areas before the commissioners:

  • The pipeline in Larimer County would be 32 to 54 inches in diameter.
  • The pipe would be buried, and the construction would require a 100-foot-wide easement along its route during construction and a permanent 60-foot easement for future maintenance.
  • After construction, Northern Water would return the disturbed property to its previous condition or better, Cecil said.
  • U.S. 287 would be moved to the east, and its construction would be completed before Glade Reservoir is finished, to avoid traffic disruptions.
  • The new reservoir would provide about 16,000 surface acres for recreational uses such as boating and fishing.
  • A 170-acre area around Glade Reservoir would feature a visitor center, trails, campgrounds, boat ramp and parking areas, including a lot to allow people to carpool up the Poudre Canyon.
  • The recreational projects that Northern Water has committed to providing were worth $9 million when last calculated. The water conservancy district would arrange with a third party to run the recreation, such as Larimer County, Colorado Parks and Wildlife or a private company.
  • Coleman talked about the public outreach efforts that Northern Water has conducted so far, including the feedback-gathering during the environmental impact statement process, tours, more than 60 public events, informational mailings, one-on-one meetings and the recent launch of a new public-information website, http://nisptalk.com.

    Northern Integrated Supply Project upcoming discussion, July 24 #NISP

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

    Here’s the release from the Larimer County Board of Commissioners:

    The Board of Larimer County Commissioners and three members of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District Board will host a meeting at 1:30 p.m., July 24, 2019, at the Larimer County Courthouse Offices Building First Floor Hearing Room, 200 West Oak St., Fort Collins to discuss the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project [NISP] Intergovernmental Agreement [IGA].

    The IGA will address issues related to recreation, the relocation of U.S. Highway 287 and siting of conveyance pipelines in Larimer County.

    The public is invited to observe the discussion. Staff from Larimer County and Northern Water will be available following the meeting to answer questions from the public and written comments will also be accepted.

    An element of the proposed IGA is to include public meetings and public hearings with Northern Water, the Larimer County Planning Commissioners and Board of Larimer County Commissioners.

    There will be future opportunities for public input and hearings related to Northern Water’s proposal. For more information visit https://www.nisptalk.com/ or https://www.larimer.org/planning/hot-topics/northern-integrated-supply-project-nisp

    @Northern_Water: “Water Secure” and #NISP

    From Northern Water:

    A key element of NISP, the “Water Secure” program represents a shift away from “buy-and-dry” and is instead an outside-the-box approach to meeting the future water needs of Northern Colorado’s growing communities while also preserving our vital ag industry and environment.

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    Northern Water will have to buy “dozens and dozens” of Larimer and Weld county farms to lock down enough Poudre River water to fill a proposed reservoir for the planned Northern Integrated Supply Project.

    The unprecedented approach could substantially raise the price of NISP, a $1.2 billion storage and delivery project funded by the 15 Northern Colorado municipalities and water districts that will use the water. Northern Water leaders say the approach will also prevent the dry-up of thousands of acres of farmland in Larimer and Weld counties because the agency won’t strip the properties of water.

    Instead of taking the buy-and-dry route of diverting a purchased property’s water rights to a new use, Northern Water plans to trade its South Platte River water rights for the farms’ Poudre River water rights. That means Northern Water will divert water from the Poudre River to store in the proposed Glade Reservoir and give the farmers a slightly larger portion of South Platte water from the proposed Galeton Reservoir.

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

    Northern Water’s newly minted Water Secure program addresses a giant question mark that has lingered on the NISP road map for more than 15 years: The agency only has about half of the Poudre River water it needs for NISP. But it does have a lot of water from the South Platte River, which is less-suited for drinking than Poudre water and more expensive to treat.

    This problem has never been a secret, but until now, Northern Water’s public plans included the assumption that farmers would willingly trade their water with the agency for free.

    Those voluntary exchanges aren’t off the table, but Northern Water now plans to secure much of the water it needs by buying farms in two irrigation ditch systems — the New Cache la Poudre Irrigating Co. and the Larimer and Weld Irrigation Co. Once Northern Water owns those farms and their water, the agency will essentially be trading water with itself.

    “We’ve just become the most willing shareholder on the ditch,” said Greg Dewey, a Northern Water water resources engineer and Water Secure project manager.

    How we got here

    Shares of Poudre River water in the New Cache la Poudre and Larimer and Weld ditches are coveted because they’re senior water rights, which means their owners have first dibs for usage. That becomes important during dry years when there isn’t enough water for everyone who’s claimed a slice of an overallocated pie.

    Senior water shares are crucial for NISP because Northern Water’s current Poudre River supply (known as the Grey Mountain right) is a junior water right that will only be useful during wet years.

    Dewey called Water Secure’s approach a “risk management strategy” born during negotiations with the two ditch companies. He said it became clear that the farms Northern Water was eyeing for trades are vulnerable to buy-and-dry, a controversial practice that has fed Colorado population growth at the expense of irrigated farmland.

    “If that happens over the long-term, that jeopardizes our ability to exchange water with those systems,” Dewey said. “So this is a way to help preserve that exchange and also (address) a common interest we have with those companies to keep water in the system.”

    Northern Water unveiled the Water Secure program in February after closing a deal on its first farm, a 28-acre property northeast of Greeley. The farm cost $330,000 and came with 30 acre-feet of Poudre River water. Northern Water will need to buy “dozens and dozens” of farms to secure about 25,000 acre-feet’s worth of water exchanges for NISP, spokesman Brian Werner said. An acre-foot of water meets the annual needs of about three or four urban households…

    [Brian] Werner said staff is still evaluating how Water Secure will affect the price of NISP. He said the cost impact will depend on the ratio of farm purchases to willful water exchanges — and how much money Northern Water makes when it eventually sells the farms back to farmers.

    Northern Water plans to pursue legal contracts that permanently bind the water to the farmland regardless of its owner, which would shield the farms from buy-and-dry and protect the agency’s water exchange agreements. The water provider plans to lease the land to the original owner or another farmer until selling it to another entity that would be required to keep the South Platte River water on the property.

    “If we buy a farm and establish that water agreement, then we’ll be looking to sell it back into private hands,” Northern Water spokesman Jeff Stahla said. “Our goal is not to be the major landowner up there.”

    […]

    The legal agreements, likely conservation easements or covenants, would be the first of their kind in the region if not the state. Boulder County leaders have found success with a similar approach for preserving open space, Werner said.

    He argued more federal review is unnecessary because Northern Water has included the water exchanges in its NISP planning documents since at least 2004. Northern Water’s water court decree for the South Platte River water allows the trades.

    Dewey, a Kersey native and former farmer, is Northern Water’s “boots on the ground” for the program, Werner said. Dewey said Water Secure is getting positive feedback from farmers who’ve watched irrigated agriculture dwindle in Larimer and Weld counties.

    @Northern_Water: Farm purchase part of #NISP effort to ensure water-secure future for local communities and agriculture

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

    Here’s the release from Northern Water (Brian Werner):

    The recent purchase of a Weld County farm marks a new venture for Northern Water and Northern Integrated Supply Project participants – one that’s part of the ongoing, collaborative effort to secure future water supplies for both the region’s communities and our vital agricultural industry.
    On Jan. 31, Northern Water and the NISP participants purchased a 28-acre farm northeast of Greeley and the property’s water rights. The farm was purchased through the NISP Water Secure program, a cooperative effort to maintain the exchange of water for NISP while keeping water on participating farms. This investment is a shift from the “buy-and-dry” approach that has stressed our agricultural communities.

    This innovative program will eventually provide supplemental water to approximately 500,000 residents in northern Colorado while preserving thousands of acres of irrigated farmland. Water Secure is part of a strategic long-term plan to better plan for future growth and to consistently apply Colorado Water Plan principles to protect water for our communities, farms and the environment. Without innovative approaches such as Water Secure, the region is on pace to see hundreds of thousands of irrigated acres dried up by mid-century.

    “This is an outside-the-box, ‘buy-and-supply’ approach we’re taking to address the tightening water supplies facing Northern Colorado and its future generations,” said Northern Water General Manager Brad Wind.

    The recently purchased farm sits within an area of Weld County that is key to NISP – a project that, once built, will include Glade Reservoir near Fort Collins and Galeton Reservoir near Ault, and deliver approximately 40,000 acre-feet of water annually to 15 local communities and water districts.

    As part of the project, Northern Water and the NISP participants are working with the New Cache la Poudre Irrigating Company and Larimer and Weld Irrigation Company ditch and reservoir systems in Weld County, to use a portion of their senior water rights in exchanges that will ensure the NISP participants receive the water from the project.

    These exchanges with the two systems will keep water flowing to those farms, as well as include compensation that will enhance the long-term viability of their operations.

    To avoid water leaving those farms permanently through buy and dry purchases from other entities, Northern Water will buy land and water from willing sellers to ensure those supplies remain in the two ditch systems and available for exchange.

    The senior water rights in the New Cache and Larimer-Weld systems are currently among the most sought after by water providers looking to obtain future supplies.
    Farms in the New Cache and Larimer-Weld systems bought by Northern Water will remain in production, through limited land use easements on the property, lease-back agreements or other arrangements that will require continued irrigation on those farms.

    Furthermore, the purchase of any irrigated lands will be done with the goal of eventually returning them to private ownership.

    “The Water Secure program maintains irrigated agriculture and provides open space benefits while eliminating many of the long-term challenges with the practice of buying and drying,” Wind added.

    To learn more about NISP, go to http://www.gladereservoir.org.

    From The Greeley Tribune (Sara Knuth):

    As part of the newly implemented Water Secure program, Northern Water purchased the 28-acre farm northeast of Greeley on Jan. 31 with communities that participate in the Northern Integrated Supply Project, which will result in two reservoirs and more water for 15 communities…

    Instead of municipalities buying up water rights on farmland and leaving them to dry out, the district is looking at the initiative as a way to both preserve irrigated farmland and provide supplemental water to an estimated 500,000 northern Colorado residents.

    During a phone interview Thursday, Northern Water spokesman Brian Werner said it’s critical to make sure water is delivered annually to farms.

    “It’s what makes this project work,” he said. “Keeping water on farms, as opposed to the good old way it’s been done in the past in this state. The American West, you bought land and you dried it up. We’re buying it and we’re calling it ‘buy and supply’ rather than buy and dry. So we need to keep the water on the property.”

    This is how the program will work:

    Northern Water and the NISP participants, which include Evans and Windsor, will work with the New Cache la Poudre Irrigating Company and the Larimer and Weld Irrigation Company ditch and reservoir systems in Weld County to use a portion of their senior water rights to make sure the NISP communities get water from the project.

    In turn, the exchanges with the two systems will ensure water keeps flowing to participating farms and include compensation. Farms in both systems purchased by Northern Water will remain in production through arrangements such as limited land use easements and lease-back agreements.

    “To avoid water leaving those farms permanently through buy and dry purchases from other entities, Northern Water will buy land and water from willing sellers to ensure those supplies remain in the two ditch systems and available for exchange,” according to the news release.

    For the district, getting rights from both systems is significant — senior water rights in New Cache and Larimer-Weld systems are among the most sought after by water providers who are looking for supplies.

    Werner said the company isn’t sure yet how much the district will invest in the program but said it will likely take millions of dollars.

    Still, Northern officials emphasized that the purchase of any irrigated land will happen with an end goal in sight: return the farms to private ownership again eventually.

    Windsor town board OKs rate hike

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

    From The Greeley Tribune (Sara Knuth):

    The Windsor Town Board voted unanimously Monday to approve the second water rate increase of the year for residents as officials look to strengthen their plans to add more water supplies.

    The increase will bring rates up by an additional 6.21 percent, a hike that will appear on water bills April 1. In December, the board approved an annual increase of 3.29 percent that will be reflected on the March bill.

    For water users, the increase means average single-family monthly consumption charges will be about $38.37. In 2018, bills were $35.06 per month on average.

    During Monday’s meeting, town board said they didn’t come to the decision to raise the rates easily.

    When one resident expressed concerned about how the rate increase might impact residents, Mayor Kristie Melendez said town officials came to the decision over several meetings…

    The town, which currently owns shares in the North Poudre Irrigation Company and the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, is seeking to strengthen its participation in the Northern Integrated Supply Project, a massive project that will result in two new reservoirs and serve 11 communities and four water districts along the Front Range…

    As it stands now, Windsor owns 4,100 acre-feet of water. But it’s going to need another 15,800 acre-feet in the future to keep up with demand, officials said…

    In the town’s agreement with Northern Water, which manages the supply project, the town is scheduled to pay $100 million to the project by 2026, Town Manager Shane Hale said. The town won’t have enough money on its own to pay for that, he said, so officials will need a base of between $30 million and $33 million to issue debt to help pay for the cost in the future.

    Of the total cost Windsor will pay toward NISP, 12 percent will come from water users who will pay the rate approved Monday. The other 88 percent comes from town development fees.

    But Hale said town officials didn’t want to place the burden solely on developers and discourage them from coming to Windsor.

    Windsor has worked with consulting firms since 2009 to work on ways to secure water. Most recently, officials worked with Stantec Consulting to develop a plan to pay for Windsor’s place in the water supply project and operations, including collecting, cleaning, filtering, disinfecting and testing water.

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    Windsor’s residential water rates will increase by 6.21 percent to help fund the town’s involvement in the Northern Integrated Supply Project…

    The rate increase, paired with another increase that took effect Jan. 1, will raise the average single-family residential water bill from $35.06 a month in 2018 to $38.37 a month in 2019.

    Windsor is one of 15 municipalities and water districts that will receive water from the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP, a proposal to build two new reservoirs and fill them with Poudre River water. Participants are funding the costs of the project, and Windsor’s involvement will cost over $100 million, according to Mayor Kristie Melendez…

    The town is looking to ratepayers to fund about 12 percent of the project cost. The other 88 percent will come from a water resource fee leveled on each new home in Windsor, an approach that Melendez called “growth pays for growth.”

    […]

    NISP will supply about 3,300 more acre-feet if it jumps through all regulatory hoops. An acre-foot of water is equivalent to the average annual water use of 2 to 3 urban households.

    In all, NISP is expected to provide about 40,000 acre-feet of water to its participants. Windsor’s share of NISP is the third-largest among municipalities involved in the project.

    The two proposed NISP reservoirs include Glade Reservoir, which would be located near Ted’s Place north of Fort Collins, and Galeton Reservoir, which would be located northeast of Greeley.

    For comparison’s sake, Glade Reservoir’s capacity of 170,000 acre-feet is about 108 percent of the capacity of Horsetooth Reservoir. Galeton would hold about 46,000 acre-feet.

    The Army Corps of Engineers is expected to issue a record of decision on NISP in 2019. Affirmation from the Army Corps will likely trigger a legal challenge from NISP opponent Save the Poudre. Northern Water expects to begin storage in Glade Reservoir in 2025.

    Cache la Poudre: Fish ladder coming to the Poudre River at Watson Lake — #Colorado Parks and Wildlife

    Construction begins on Cache la Poudre River for fish ladder near Watson Lake. Photo credit: Jason Clay/Colorado Parks and Wildlife

    Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

    CPW partners with noosa yoghurt, Northern Water and Morning Fresh Dairy on project

    [In December 2018] a project [broke ground] that will help reconnect a fragmented Poudre River.

    In a collaborative effort, Morning Fresh Dairy, Northern Water and noosa yoghurt are partnering with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to put in a fish ladder at the Watson Lake Diversion. They hope this will be one of many ladders along the Poudre River that will allow fish to travel freely, improving the health of the fishery and the ecosystem.

    This Watson Lake fish ladder will reconnect over two river miles. The stretch contains important spawning habitat and deep pools that provide refuge for aquatic life.

    Watson Lake Diversion Structure is a channel spanning structure that represents a complete barrier to all upstream fish movement in the Poudre River. The structure delivers water to Watson State Fish Hatchery and is owned and operated by CPW.

    “We appreciate the collaboration from the project partners on this important fishway that will reconnect over two miles of stream habitat for the aquatic species,” said Kyle Battige, aquatic biologist for CPW. “Supporting fish passage at Watson Lake aligns with CPW’s goal through improving several facets: ecosystem health, angler access, public safety and public education.”

    Designed by OneFish Engineering, the fish ladder will provide upstream fish movement through the diversion structure for all species present within the river reach including longnose dace, longnose suckers, white suckers, brown trout and rainbow trout. The State Wildlife Area and Hatchery, where this project is located, receives a lot of visitors whether they are fishermen, birders, or families enjoying nature. Onsite educational material discussing fish passage will be an important component of the project providing a learning experience for school children and all other visitors.

    “The Poudre River has been an integral part of our family farm for over 100 years. We would like to be part of the solution for fish passage along the Poudre River, starting at Watson Lake,” says Rob Graves, owner of Morning Fresh Dairy and co-founder of noosa yoghurt. “We would like to find additional community partners and reconnect the river from Fort Collins all the way up through the Poudre Canyon.”

    The new fish ladder also fulfills one of the promises made by the participants of the Northern Integrated Supply Project to improve the Poudre River, outlined in the NISP Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan.

    “This project shows the commitment of project participants to address the overall health of the Poudre River,” said spokesman Jeff Stahla. He noted that participants have committed to spending $50 million on a state of Colorado Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan that includes minimum daily flows on the Poudre River through downtown Fort Collins, the construction of fish bypasses and other measures throughout the area

    The project started in December 2018 and will be completed in March 2019 before spring runoff begins on the Poudre River. One of the goals is to help move other fish passage projects forward on the Poudre River. Local ditch companies will be able to observe one of these projects first-hand and see that there is no negative impact to water delivery. This will be an important resource to move fish passage initiatives forward with other diversion structures.

    MEDIA CONTACTS

    Morning Fresh Dairy
    Stephanie Giard
    970.402.8982
    Stephanie@ForwardComs.com

    Northern Water
    Brian Werner
    970-622-2229
    bwerner@northernwater.org

    Colorado Parks & Wildlife
    Jason Clay
    303-829-7143
    jason.clay@state.co.us

    noosa yoghuer
    Stephanie Giard
    970.402.8982
    Stephanie@ForwardComs.com

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

    Windsor is looking at buying into the Windy Gap Firming Project

    Windsor Lake/Mummy Range

    From The Greeley Tribune (Sara Knuth):

    But as the [town board] looks at other plans to add water, it could introduce higher rate increases, higher fees for developers — or a combination of both. It just depends on the projects Windsor participates in.

    As the town grows, it’s looking at ways to prepare for an increase in water use. Among the recommendations Windsor Water Resource Manager John Thornhill presented to the board is to look at joining Windy Gap Firming Project and maintain participation the Northern Integrated Supply Project — both massive water supply projects managed by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

    Windsor is one of 15 northern Colorado communities already planning participating in NISP, which is also managed by Northern Water.

    The project, which would also impact Evans, would provide 40,000 acre-feet of raw water to all of the participants — enough for 80,000 families. Of that, Windsor would get 3,300 acre-feet of water, 8.25 percent of the total project.

    Still, town officials project that Windsor will need to supply 15,803 acre-feet of water in the future. That leaves the town with an 8,731 acre-foot gap in the total amount of water the town is currently has plans for — including NISP — and what officials know they will need in the future.

    In addition to participating in the Northern Water projects, Thornhill recommended budgeting money for water conservation, as well as acquiring new water from other providers in the region, such as the North Weld County Water District.

    As it stands now, Windsor’s treatable water supply comes from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, a Northern Water project that delivers more than 200,000 acre feet of water each year to 960,000 people in the eight counties it serves.

    @Northern_Water fall water users meeting recap

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

    From The Greeley Tribune (Sara Knuth):

    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.”

    […]

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

    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.

    @Northern_Water: NISP Final EIS released

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

    Here’s the release from Northern Water:

    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.

    To view the document, go to: http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory- Program/Colorado/EIS-NISP/
    Hard copies may be found at locations listed at http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Media/News-Releases/Article/1580028/final-environmental-impact-statement-for-the-northern-integrated-supply-project/

    Comments about the FEIS may be sent via email to the Corps, NISP.EIS@usace.army.mil. For more information, visit http://www.gladereservoir.org.

    From The Greeley Tribune (Tyler Silvy):

    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.”

    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:

    Click to access 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

    “If I was to look at the one thing that changed the most in my public life, it’s the collaborative approach” — Gov. John Hickenlooper

    Here’s an in-depth look at Gov. Hickenlooper’s legacy from Marianne Goodland writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette. Here’s an excerpt:

    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.

    US Drought Monitor June 25, 2002.

    The beginnings

    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.”

    Ongoing #SouthPlatte Basin water storage projects

    From The Sterling Journal-Advocate:

    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:

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

    • 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.

    Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.

    • 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.

    Reservoirs NW of Fort Collins

    • 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 Dam enlargement concept graphic via Denver Water

    • 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.

    Proposed reallocation pool — Graphic/USACE

    • 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.

    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.”

    Windsor town board planning for future water needs

    Windsor Lake/Mummy Range

    From Windsor Now (Emily Wenger):

    At the April 16 Windsor Town Board work session, Dennis Wagner, director of engineering for Winds or, said the town has several options as it considers how best to meet the water needs of current and future residents.

    Right now, the town is reliant on other sources to treat its water, so it has to pay the city of Greeley and the Fort Collins-Loveland and North Weld County water districts.

    But some town board members want to give Windsor a way to avoid those price tags, even if that doesn’t happen for many years.

    The regional water treatment plant also would serve Severance, Eaton and the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District.

    Eaton is also feeling the pressures of providing for future growth, said Gary Carsten, town administrator for Eaton, so being part of the regional project would help prepare the town to serve future residents.

    In 2017, the partners hired Black and Veatch Engineering to study the possibility. That plant would be east of Interstate 25 and just north of Colo. 14. The challenge with that plant, Wagner said, will be finding enough water to treat to justify the cost at $25 million for Windsor’s portion.

    At its April 9 meeting, the Windsor Town Board also approved a plan to continue discussions with Broe Infrastructure about another water treatment plant at Great West Industrial Park.

    That plant, which the town would eventually buy, would pull about 1,300 acre-feet of water per year from the ground and treat it.

    If all goes according to plan, Windsor Town Attorney Ian McCargar said construction on that water treatment plant would start in 2019 and be finished by 2021.

    Windsor is hoping much of that water will come from Northern Integrated Supply Project, of which Eaton is also a part. The project, which would create two new reservoirs to supply the region, has been in the works for about 18 years, said Mayor Kristie Melendez.

    Windsor gets its water rights from the Colorado Big Thompson project, which brings water across the Continental Divide from the upper Colorado River and North Poudre Irrigation Co. It’s enough for now, but town officials are concerned it won’t stretch as the town grows and everyone in northern Colorado is trying to provide enough water to serve their residents.

    Buying into NISP, Windsor officials said, could ensure that water is available.

    The town is expected to spend $86.6 million on the project before it’s completed, including a $2 million payment next year.

    Wagner said the project cost keeps going up as the project keeps getting put off and construction costs rise.

    Melendez said some partners are skeptical about NISP ever being completed, because the project is taking so long. Currently, it’s expected to be built from 2021-25, if the planning and approval process continues without any issues, but Melendez said she’s not convinced that will happen, because of continual postponements.

    2018 #COleg: LSPWCD supports Reservoir Release Bill

    North Sterling Reservoir

    From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

    The Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District’s Executive Committee voted Tuesday to support the Reservoir Release Bill that should be taken up by the General Assembly later this month.

    The committee reviewed a draft of the bill at its Tuesday meeting and made clear that it supports the draft as it now exists.

    The bill covers only the Northern Integrated Supply Project now, but might affect any future water project and possibly projects that include expansion of existing reservoirs. It requires Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District to maintain a prescribed stream flow in the Cache la Poudre River as it passes through Fort Collins, or about 12 miles of river channel. That water flow would be regulated by releases of water from Glade Reservoir.

    The proposed legislation converts into law a plan Northern Water presented last year, and that the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission signed off on last September, that mitigates NISP’s impact on recreational use of the river through Fort Collins

    The key to getting groups like Lower South Platte to support it is a section called “Costs of Bypass Structures.” In order for river flow to be maintained from the water release point at Glade Reservoir to the end of the project, it will have to flow past several irrigation diversion structures. Because a constant stream flow must be maintained, some or all of those structures will have to be modified because they now completely block the river and dry up the river at several places. Ordinarily, that’s allowable as long as sufficient water is returned to the river somewhere downstream.

    But under the terms of the Reservoir Release Bill, the prescribed stream flow has to stay in the river, which means diversion structures will have to be rebuilt or modified to allow water to go around them.

    The Costs of Bypass Structures clause puts the cost burden of those modifications on the reservoir owner, who is the party responsible for maintaining prescribed stream flow; in this case, that’s Northern Water.

    Lower South Platte’s manager, Joe Frank, told the executive committee Tuesday he thought the district should publicly support the draft legislation, partly to avoid any misunderstanding.

    “Last year we took a neutral stance on (a previous version) and someone took that to mean we didn’t care about it,” Frank said. “We do care, we care deeply, and we support it. What we meant was that we didn’t oppose the plan, but someone took it to mean we didn’t support it, either.”

    During discussion of the legislation Bruce Phillips, the state’s water commissioner for District 64 which includes the lower South Platte, said he thought stream maintenance provisions would be required in all storage projects…

    Ken Fritzler, the district’s board chairman, asked whether other committee members thought the draft legislation is something the board could publicly support. Gene Manuello answered that he thought it was.

    “I think we should support the draft as it is now,” he said. “We have supported NISP all along, and I think a majority of WRASP supports it.”

    WRASP stands for Water Rights Appropriators of the South Platte; it is a consortium that represents more than 240,000 irrigated acres from Barr Lake to Julesburg, and more than 1,150 high capacity irrigation wells that draw from the South Platte alluvial aquifer.

    Fort Morgan water rates to go up 3%

    Fort Morgan vintage photo from Moody’s Vintage Collectible Postcards

    From Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

    Starting in January, Fort Morgan residents can expect to pay at least $2 more per month for water, depending on their water usage.

    The Fort Morgan City Council recently approved adjusting water rates for 2018 to include the 3 percent increase recommended by the latest rates study.

    Water Resources/Utilities Director Brent Nation said that a residential household that currently pays $71.90 for a monthly water bill likely would have a bill next year of $73.90.

    The increase was recommended to the council so as to keep the city’s water fund revenue on track for the possibility of going out to bond for construction on the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP), as well as likely upcoming large capital projects at Fort Morgan Water Treatment Plant and ongoing maintenance of the city’s water delivery system, Nation and City Manager Jeff Wells explained…

    He said the price of constructing NISP has not changed, but some of the projections for how it is expected to be financed for Northern Water by the 15 participants – including Fort Morgan and Morgan County Quality Water District – are changing. That meant the city needed to figure out how to “balance out” those financing expense projections with the water fund projections for revenue.

    Nation said the latest water rates study included “a conservative approach” so that the city could “make sure that the fund is safely being funded for these projects” but also keep rates from having to skyrocket in the future.

    For now, Nation said the 3 percent water rates increase for 2018 would “keep us moving forward towards where we’re projecting that we’re going to need over the next 10 to 15 years, depending on how NISP plays out.”

    […]

    The current rate study did indicate that Fort Morgan’s water rates are on the higher end in northeast Colorado, but that had been the case since the Colorado-Big Thompson project began, Nation said.

    “We pay for high quality water, and that’s what we’re getting,” he said.

    But there also are other things the city’s water treatment and water delivery departments will look at doing so as to save money for rate payers, Nation told the council, not getting into specifics right now.

    Wells pointed out that the city has been collecting a monthly NISP fee from rate-payers so as to start building up cash toward future bonding for that project, if or when it gets approved.

    “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.

    @NorthernWater proposes $53 million for mitigation for NISP

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    [Northern Water] unveiled a $53 million fish and wildlife mitigation and enhancement plan for the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP), which proposes to funnel Poudre water into two reservoirs for 15 Northern Colorado municipalities and water districts. Among the involved communities are Windsor and the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District. The city of Fort Collins is not one of the entities that would receive water from the project.

    Northern Water’s mitigation plan includes strategies to preserve some of the Poudre’s peak flows, protect wildlife habitat near the project’s larger proposed reservoir, improve the river channel and keep more water than originally planned in the river through Fort Collins.

    But that’s not enough, opponents say. Project opponent Save the Poudre argues the Poudre sorely needs the high springtime flows that NISP would use to fill its reservoirs…

    Northern Water project manager Jerry Gibbens, who is leading NISP mitigation efforts, highlighted four key parts of the plan for those who don’t get through all 144 pages of the document.

    Keep some water in the Poudre through Fort Collins: NISP aficionados have heard of this one. Northern Water plans to run 14,000 acre feet of diverted water down a 12-mile stretch of the Poudre in Fort Collins before recapturing it for storage. The goal is to prevent dry-up spots on the Poudre in Fort Collins and preserve flows between 18 and 25 cubic feet per second.

    Preserve some peak flows: Basically, Northern Water would hold off on Poudre diversions for up to three peak flow days each year, depending on whether conditions are wet, dry or about average.

    During wet conditions when the reservoirs are full, Northern Water would divert no water from the Poudre during the three peak flow days. On average years, Northern Water would aim for up to three high-flow days with no diversions.

    “During dry years when we’re trying to get every drop, we probably won’t have any opportunity to bypass (diversions),” Gibbens said.

    Improve the river channel: The plan earmarks money for a channel and habitat improvement plan along the river. Northern Water plans to focus on 2.4 miles specifically: 1.2 miles within a reach of the Poudre from the Poudre Valley Canal to the intersection of Highway 14 and Highway 287, and 1.2 miles in the Watson Lake area north of Bellvue. Northern would fund channel reconstruction and habitat improvements. Northern also identified five sites for riparian vegetation improvement.

    Conserve wildlife habitat near Glade Reservoir: Northern Water plans to put a conservation easement on land it owns around the proposed location of Glade Reservoir, the project’s larger reservoir northwest of Fort Collins. Northern plans to buy more land in the area for the same purpose. A conservation easement would protect the land from being sold for urban development, Gibbens said.

    The plan also addresses water quality monitoring, water temperature mitigation, fish and bird habitat and a host of other issues. Check out northernwater.org for the full plan – but do it sooner rather than later. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is accepting public comments on the plan for 60 days, until early August.

    CPW will hold an open house to talk to the public about the plan at The Ranch in Loveland at 4-7:30 p.m. June 27. Later this summer, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission might suggest changes to the mitigation plan…

    Gibbens said NISP won’t hamper the Poudre’s peak flows during about 82 percent of years, either because of Northern’s plans to sometimes preserve peak flows or because Northern Water’s water right is out of priority during peak flow days. Colorado water rights operate on a first-come, first-served basis, so those who own older water rights get to use the water before those who own newer water rights.

    Still, NISP would result in lower average springtime flows on the Poudre, according to Northern Water’s projections. Project proponents point out it would also increase low flows during the fall and winter.

    “We still will have diversions for water supply purposes, but we feel that this plan really allows those water supply withdrawals and environmental needs of the river to coexist and actually make the river a better river with the project than without it,” Gibbens said.

    If approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NISP will yield 40,000 acre-feet of water per year to participants. An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons, enough to meet the water needs of three to four urban households for a year.

    NISP participants include Windsor, Eaton, Firestone, Frederick, the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District, Fort Lupton, Fort Morgan, Severance, Lafayette, Erie, Evans, Left Hand Water District, Morgan County Quality Water District, Central Weld County Water District and Dacono.

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

    Many in N. #Colorado welcome the @OmahaUSACE approval for Chimney Hollow Reservoir

    From The Greeley Tribune (Sharon Dunn):

    Just last week, the Army Corps of Engineers approved the Chimney Hollow reservoir project, which will hold 90,000 acre feet of water and feed several Front Range communities, including Greeley.

    Such infrastructure is vital for future growth, regardless, [Brian] Werner said.

    The fight is not over. The conservancy district will continue to fight for the Northern Integrated Supply Project, a proposed water storage and distribution project that will supply 15 northern Front Range communities with 40,000 acre feet of water. That’s been held up at the Army Corps of Engineers for more than a decade. A decision is expected next year.

    “Chimney Hollow and NISP will put a major dent into what we’ll need down the road,” Werner said. “More people are coming whether we build this or not. Our future looks a lot better having some of these storage buckets with more people than a lot more people and no storage buckets. We’ll start drying up more farms. We’ve got to have water.”

    In addition to water storage, the city of Greeley, has an intense focus on proper drainage to combat the decades-old problem of flooding in Greeley.

    Joel Hemesath, public works director, said the city has been working for the past two years with some bond money to improve drainage in and around Greeley. He said the city is gearing up for downtown projects, as well, that will route drainage to a detention pond by the Poudre River via bigger pipes.

    Since 2012, the city has spent a little more than $17 million on stormwater projects.

    The city also works hard to improve trails, dedicating just shy of $900,000 to them since 2012.

    Hemesath said the city would like to extend Sheep Draw Trail through some more western subdivisions, and extend the Poudre Trail farther east.

    How NISP works — @Northern_Water

    Watering down the war: How we may move forward on the issues of growth on the Front Range

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

    From The Rocky Mountain Collegian (Julia Rentsch):

    More than 4 million acre-feet of water has left the state via the South Platte River since 2009, and in an arid environment like the Northern Front Range of the Rockies, a drop unused inside the state boundaries is considered a drop wasted – especially as the area grows in population and demand for water subsequently increases.

    Experts say that the growth of Northern Front Range towns and cities will not be limited by physical access to water – the supply exists. What is up for debate is how we allocate the resource to provide a sustainable supply of water to meet both human and environmental needs.

    One attempt to solve this problem is the Northern Integrated Supply Project, also known as NISP – a proposed water storage plan that has been in the stages of federal permitting and review since 2004. It may be the most famous – or, depending on who you ask, infamous – water project in the region…

    On the surface, debate over the project seems to be gridlocked as participants wait for the final Environmental Impact Assessment to be complete. Discussion has stagnated over the basic question of whether the NISP project is in fact a dam on the Poudre.

    However, at the heart of the debate are larger questions about how to manage growth on the Front Range without sacrificing the health of the region’s rivers and agricultural land.

    “It’s really a deeper question of what do we want Northern Colorado to look like and how do we want to get there,” said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado State University Water Center and the Colorado Water Institute.

    NISP basics

    The current project plan calls for the building of two reservoirs: Glade in Larimer County and Galeton in Weld. Additionally, there would be a small reservoir for temporary storage near the mouth of the Poudre Canyon, three pump plants and pipelines to deliver the water to the participants and updates to an existing small canal.

    Designed to provide a reliable 40,000 acre-feet supply of water annually to the fifteen participating cities and water districts to meet needs through the year 2030. The project’s participant list includes the cities of Dacono, Eaton, Erie, Evans, Firestone, Fort Lupton, Fort Morgan, Frederick, Lafayette, Severance and Windsor; participating water districts are Central Weld County, Fort Collins-Loveland, Left Hand and Morgan County Quality. Per Northern Water’s estimates, these 11 towns and four districts serve about 240,000 residents in total.

    In order to do this, Northern plans to divert water from the Poudre during wet periods of the year — under projected conditions, the June rise of the river would be considerably lower than ecologists say is healthy. Northern Water is working on a plan to abide by guidelines that will be set by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, but what constitutes a healthy flow is up for debate.

    “We’re willing to work on a flushing flow plan because we know it’s a big enough issue,” said Brian Werner, a public relations officer for Northern Water.

    NISP was originally expected to cost $500 million; at this price, participants will pay about $12,500 per acre-foot of water they receive from the project. An equivalent amount of water from the Colorado-Big Thompson costs around $40,000 to $50,000 per acre-foot.

    However, more recent changes to make the project plan more feasible and sustainable have pushed the estimated price up to around $800 million.

    The project’s effects on the Poudre are of particular concern to ecologists.

    “The Poudre … is a working river, and it’s been developed to meet human needs since the late 1800s,” said Leroy Poff, a doctor of aquatic ecology at CSU. “But it continues to function ecologically in the lives of the citizens of Fort Collins… Proposed future development of the Poudre presents strong challenges to sustaining the ecosystem that we have today.”

    Planning the future of the Front Range

    The Colorado Department of Local Affairs reports that population in Larimer and Weld counties is forecast to increase by 92 percent from 2015 to 2045, exceeding the 53 percent growth forecast in the statewide population. In addition to the increased municipal demand for water, this level of growth has been attributed as responsible for traffic problems, both local and statewide housing shortages, and increasingly unaffordable housing.

    Despite the region experiencing a slight economic dip due to layoffs in the oil and gas industry as the price of oil lowered, the estimates of the North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization say that employment in the region is projected to increase by 80 percent between 2010 and 2040.

    The rising cost of living associated with these trends is causing people who hold jobs in metropolitan areas, but who cannot afford the high price tag of living within city limits, to move to smaller communities to take advantage of the more affordable sprawl. These ‘bedroom communities,’ as they’re termed, predominantly consist of residences, schools and churches and lack the commercial development that characterizes a healthy, balanced city.

    “We’re pushing people who don’t have two good incomes out of Fort Collins because of growth,” Waskom said. “What happens is that growth is now occurring in those places that weren’t here (before) and developed water supplies early on in the game.”

    Growth in these areas indicates that there is a lot of logistical work ahead for the various entities coordinating the region’s infrastructure. In addition to issues of water supply, there must also be planning to ensure adequate water quality, air quality and transportation to support the population. Numerous infrastructure improvement plans are in the works, but none have been as publicly contentious as NISP.

    While some opponents of NISP say that stopping the project, and therefore limiting the supply of water available to these developing communities, might be a solution to curb growth, experts say that this is not the case. If absolutely no action is taken, agricultural water rights would be on the hook to make up the difference.

    “I think it’s true and evident that water is probably not going to be what limits sprawl or growth in this area,” Waskom said. “It’s just got to come out of ag, and it comes out of the environment. Those are the two sectors that are at risk, and the economics of it are such that, as agriculture dries up and houses grow on top of what were cornfields, the economy grows. It doesn’t skip a beat.”

    Solutions

    Some groups are seeking to transcend the back-and-forth over NISP by way of compromise.

    Rather than depending on large new reservoirs and diversions, the nonprofit group, Western Resource Advocates, proposes an alternative plan with a diverse water supply portfolio. WRA’s ‘A Better Future for the Poudre River’ plan would, like NISP, provide 40,000 acre-feet of water to participants annually, but would utilize conservation, reuse, water transferred as a result of growth onto irrigated agricultural lands and voluntary agreements with agriculture.

    The Poudre Runs Through It, a group of professionals facilitated by CSU’s Colorado Water Institute, is looking at ways to bring together the diverse stakeholders on the river and to explore the continuing challenges and opportunities for collaboration.

    “I think until we start to engage more people in that discussion and more groups in that discussion, this is going to be a real tough thing to crack,” said Kehmeier, who is also a member of The Poudre Runs Through It. “It’s going to take more of the water users on the system than just one to make this work.”

    2017 #coleg: NISP-related bill fails in committee

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

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    The bill would have allowed Northern Water to run Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP, water through 12 miles of the Poudre River in Fort Collins and recapture it at the Timnath Reservoir inlet for storage east of Fort Collins.

    The bill failed 6-5 last week in the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee, with Democrats and Republicans voting against it…

    Northern Water spokesman Brian Werner said the district will still go through with its plan to run 14,000 acre feet of water through the river in Fort Collins with the goal of maintaining flows of 18 to 25 cubic feet per second. He attributed the lack of consensus on the bill to “uneasiness” in the water community about unintended impacts of the legislation.

    “We’re still going to do it,” he said of the so-called “conveyance refinement plan.” “We’re just going to look at Plan B, probably.”

    Whether Northern Water needs legal permission to carry out the plan remains a “gray area,” Werner said. But he added Northern Water will pursue the plan regardless of whether formal legislation is passed.

    Werner wasn’t sure if Plan B would come in the form of another bill or pursuing the plan without legislation. He said Northern Water was trying to pass a bill to make its case “air-tight.”

    Will Fort Collins voters get a chance to weigh in on NISP?

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

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Nick Coltrain):

    After hearing dozens of public comments, and having their email inboxes flooded with input, the council voted 6-1 late Tuesday night to take a place at the table with the Northern Water Conservancy District, the lead proponent of NISP and representative of 15 backers of the project. NISP would include two reservoirs fueled by the Poudre River, including one near the mouth of the Poudre Canyon.

    Council members were also clear that they didn’t view opening discussions as giving in to the project. Councilman Bob Overbeck — the only vote against it — added to the Tuesday resolution that the council outright opposed the project in 2008 and voted in 2015 not to support the project in its current form. The word “negotiate” and phrase “mutual interests,” referring to the city and Northern Water, were also struck from the resolution.

    Nonetheless, Gary Wockner, of Save the Poudre, said his group is looking at putting the question of whether the city should support NISP before city voters…

    Advocacy group Save the Poudre conducted an opinion poll, via 556 automated phone calls, which results found an overwhelming amount of opposition to the project among city voters.

    About 50 of the 60 or so people who made public comment Tuesday opposed the resolution or NISP outright…

    John Stokes, head of the city’s natural areas department, said Wednesday staff was happy to get more direction from council, in terms of having discussions with Northern Water regarding city concerns and mitigation proposals. He was also clear that staff didn’t view it as authority to make any decisions regarding the city’s support or efforts of NISP.

    “Council makes the decisions about all of this, and, clearly, if we’re going to make any progress on this, it needs to be with council on board,” he said…

    Brian Werner, spokesperson for Northern Water, said his group was grateful to be able to have more robust conversations about NISP with the city. There have been some talks with the city about its concerns, but it always felt “sort of like walking on egg shells,” without formal backing, Werner said.

    He noted Northern Water and its constituents have already shifted plans to address concerns about low-flow periods of when the Poudre River might dry up by including promises of base flows. Werner cited the city’s softening positions between 2008 and 2015 as proof of Northern Water’s efforts.

    “They’ve gone from an almost hell no, to a we’re not happy right now, but maybe make some changes and come back with another proposal,” Werner said. “… I would argue that shows we’ve been listening to Fort Collins as we’ve been trying to craft and draft this plan.”

    From The Rocky Mountain Collegian (Gabriel Go):

    Update: The council adopted an amended version of the resolution with a 6-1 vote. Bob Overbeck was the only dissenting vote.

    The Fort Collins City Council discussed Resolution 5217, which would begin discussions with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, a public agency which provides water to northeastern Colorado, on Tuesday. The discussion revolved around a controversial proposal known as the Northern Integrated Supply Project.

    The NISP is a proposed project meant to deliver 40,000 acres of water a year to 15 Northern Colorado communities. While the city itself would not a participate in the NISP, a portion of southeastern Fort Collins would partake in the project.

    The NISP would consist of three reservoirs along the Cache La Poudre River, including a large reservoir to the north of the city known as Glade Reservoir which would divert over 1,200 cubic feet per second of the river’s peak flows. This would reduce annual river flows by 20 percent and by 30 percent during the peak flow months of May, June and July, a staff report said.

    However, the project is not without opposition. According to non-profit organization Save the Poudre, the NISP/Glade Reservoir project would cause immense ecological damage to the Poudre River.

    According to the organization’s website, the project’s aim of reducing peak flows would prevent the river from cleaning itself of algae, endangering the Poudre’s water quality as well as the habitat of a number of aquatic plants and animals.

    The staff report also acknowledges that “it is likely the health of the river will be negatively impacted by NISP, especially without well-planned and extensive mitigation actions.” The report states that although the river is able to support a number of ecological systems, the Poudre is approaching “critical thresholds below which the river’s health and resilience will suffer.”

    The city’s Natural Resources Director John Stokes recommended the City Council to begin discussions with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. In particular, he recommended to negotiate with the public agency, saying it would be the best alternative outcome.

    If the city were to forego consulting with Northern Water the project would be left to federal and state agencies who would not consider the NISP’s impacts on Fort Collins.

    Close to 40 Fort Collins citizens approached the council for public comment, some urging the council to negotiate with Northern Water and some voicing their reservations.

    “I’ve noticed a marked decline in the river corridor already… I see virtually nothing anymore,” said one Fort Collins citizen about the current state of the Poudre.

    The city owns around 60 percent of the river’s corridor and the city has already engaged in a number of projects with regards to the Poudre, such as clean-ups and the creation of trails.

    Negotiations with Northern Water does not mean that the city has already agreed to the NISP’s construction. In order to construct the reservoirs a permit must be obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who must assess the environmental impacts of the project.

    The NISP has been in the federal permitting process for 12 years and thus requires many state and federal permits in order for the project to push forward. In 2015 the council passed a resolution which stated “the City Council cannot support NISP as it is currently described and proposed (as of 2015).”

    @FortCollinsGov NISP meeting recap

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

    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.

    Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

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

    From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

    The Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District’s board of directors decided Tuesday to not object to a plan to move the proposed Galeton Reservoir from its original site.

    Galeton is part of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s controversial Northern Integrated Supply Project, which would use water from the Cache la Poudre and South Platte rivers to irrigate, provide domestic water, and bolster the Poudre through Fort Collins.

    Northern Water originally planned to build the reservoir on the southeast side of Colorado Highway 14 near Galeton, but in the 10 years since the project was proposed Nobel Energy has drilled almost two dozen oil and gas wells in the area. Those wells would have to be capped, at tremendous cost to Northern, in order to use the site for a reservoir.

    Northern has applied to have the water rights instead transferred to land on the northwest side of the highway.

    LSP board member Brad Stromberger, who also is on the Northern board of directors, said the Berthoud-based water district is “in the design stages” on the project already and plans to begin construction on the reservoir within about five years.

    “This is a big project,” he said. “This is a new water source we need.”

    The LSP’s water lawyer, Kim Lawrence, had recommended that the district file an objection to Northern’s request. Such objections are commonplace primarily to get access to crucial engineering and financial information about water projects. LSPWCD has previously gone on the record as being entirely in support of NISP, and during Tuesday’s meeting the district’s manager, Joe Frank, cautioned that objecting to the change in the Galeton application could be used by NISP opponents to claim that the lower South Platte doesn’t support NISP.

    “We could, potentially, see about 10,000 acre feet of return flow per year from this project,” Frank told the board. “There might be a day here and there when they would take water that might have come down (the South Platte River) but the return flows will more than make up for that.”

    After a brief conference call with Lawrence, the board decided to not take any action on the Galeton Reservoir…

    The board did, however, vote to file an objection to an application by the Arapahoe County Water and Wastewater Authority to pipe 1,500 acre feet of water from the South Platte River into the off-channel Binder Reservoir, also known as the Brighton Lateral Reservoir. ACWWA wants to use the water to exchange with other water entities along the river. Lawrence’s recommendation to the LSP was to file an objection because the proposed project “affects many (irrigation) ditches in this reach.”

    @fortcollinsgov plans open house on NISP

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

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

    The public is invited to an open house on the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP, from 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 13 at the Lincoln Center, 417 W. Magnolia St.

    The open house will provide information regarding a proposal by Fort Collins staff members to explore the potential for negotiated outcomes for NISP with Northern Water, the primary proponent of the…project…

    Fort Collins has not supported the project as described in a draft Environmental Impact Statement for several reasons, including its potential impacts on city water facilities and the health of the river through the city.

    City staff members have proposed discussing mitigation for the project with Northern Water officials and possibly entering into negotiations…

    City Council is scheduled to consider staff’s recommendation during its Feb. 21 meeting.

    ‘As the Poudre Flows — Forest to Plains’ theme of Poudre River Forum

    Scott Hummer, general manager of North Poudre Irrigation Company, talks about how his agency worked with Fort Collins Natural Areas and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to include a fish passage when the irrigation company replaced a diversion structure on the Poudre River that was destroyed by the 2013 floods. Work was completed [in February 2016]. (Pamela Johnson / Loveland Reporter-Herald)
    Scott Hummer, general manager of North Poudre Irrigation Company, talks about how his agency worked with Fort Collins Natural Areas and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to include a fish passage when the irrigation company replaced a diversion structure on the Poudre River that was destroyed by the 2013 floods. Work was completed [in February 2016]. (Pamela Johnson / Loveland Reporter-Herald)

    Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jim Beers):

    The Cache la Poudre River, which flows from the mountains through Fort Collins, Timnath and Windsor to the plains east of Greeley, is at the heart of countless activities: from irrigating crops and lawns to providing drinking water for more than 365,000 people and hosting numerous recreational activities.

    Those with connections to and concerns for the Poudre River will gather on Friday, Feb. 3 for the fourth annual Poudre River Forum. After its first three years at Larimer County Fairgrounds, the forum is moving down the river to Greeley as a reminder that the Poudre River is important to all who benefit from it — from its headwaters to its confluence with the South Platte. This year’s forum — the theme is “As the Poudre Flows — Forest to Plains” — will be held from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at the Island Grove Events Center, 501 N. 14th Ave., Greeley. Pre-registration is required for all participants.

    Understanding the river, each other

    Sponsored by the Poudre Runs Through It Study/Action Work Group, the forum serves as a community-wide gathering of people from agricultural, municipal, business, recreational and environmental backgrounds to learn about and discuss issues related to the Poudre River.

    “The Poudre River Forum brings together those who use the river for agricultural and urban diversions and those who work to improve its ecological health. In the past those groups have not necessarily seen eye to eye,” said MaryLou Smith, PRTI facilitator. “Increasingly our participants are open to the idea that it takes collective vision and action to make the Poudre the world’s best example of a healthy, working river.”

    Once again, this year’s event will be facilitated by the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University. “The Forum is a great opportunity for the communities connected by the Poudre River to come together to better understand the entire watershed, and each other,” said Reagan Waskom, director of CWI.

    Forests and water quality/quantity

    Laurie Huckaby with the U.S. Forest Service, will present “The last 1,000 years in the Poudre according to the trees,” to kick off the topic of how important the upper watershed is to water quantity and quality.

    “Water quality and forests are inextricably linked,” said Joe Duda of the Colorado State Forest Service, who will join Huckaby as one of the presenters. “Forest conditions and insects, disease and fire all can have profound impacts on water flow and quality. Only healthy, resilient forests can continuously supply clean water.”

    Global lessons for local success

    “Finding the Balance: Managing Water for People and Nature” is the message of keynote speaker Brian Richter. Richter has been a global leader in water science and conservation for more than 25 years, and currently serves as chief scientist for the Global Water Program of The Nature Conservancy in Washington D.C. Richter’s ideas about the importance of recognizing the balance of working river/healthy river are the basis for which PRTI was initially formed. He has consulted on more than 120 water projects worldwide, and has served as a water advisor to some of the world’s largest corporations, investment banks, the United Nations, and has testified before Congress on multiple occasions. Richter co-authored,with Sandra Postel, the 2003 book Rivers for Life: Managing Water for People and Nature and in 2014 wrote Chasing Water: A Guide for Moving from Scarcity to Sustainability.

    Change affects all sectors

    An afternoon panel session will probe the impacts of change — positive and negative — along the Poudre River and how they have been similarly and differently addressed by agriculture, urban, and environmental sectors. They will discuss what anticipated future changes might these three sectors see as opportunities or incentives for mutually beneficial collaboration that could result in a healthier, working river?

    “It has been said that the only thing that is constant is change,” said John Bartholow, retired ecologist from U.S. Geological Survey, and panel coordinator/moderator. “The question is, can we learn to adapt to those changes sure to come on the Poudre in ways that benefit agriculture, municipalities, and the environment?”

    The panel will include Eric Reckentine, deputy director, City of Greeley Water and Sewer; John Sanderson, director of science, Nature Conservancy of Colorado; and Dale Trowbridge, general manager, New Cache la Poudre Irrigating Company.

    Videos, displays and music too

    The day-long forum also includes “River Snapshots” highlighting more than 15 projects undertaken by a variety of groups on the Poudre last year; “My How the Poudre Has Changed,” featuring historical 1970’s footage of the Poudre; updates from both the cities of Greeley and Fort Collins on current water programs; and over two dozen river-focused displays from community organizations and agencies. The day concludes with a social hour including food, beer and other beverages, and river-themed door prizes.

    Registration is $50 and includes lunch. Scholarships for students and reduced rates are available. The deadline to register is Friday, Jan. 27 at http://prti.colostate.edu/forum_2017.shtml.

    For more information, contact event coordinator Gailmarie Kimmel at PoudreRiverForum@gmail.com or 970-692-1443.