“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.

    Wellington water system taste and odor impacted by algae

    Graphic credit Encyclopedia Britannica.

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    From the gravel road that borders the fenced North Poudre Reservoir No. 3, you can’t see the blue-green algae that is to blame for Wellington’s water woes.

    But if you poured yourself a glass from any faucet this summer, you probably tasted and smelled it. Your senses would’ve detected geosmin, the same compound that gives mud and rain-soaked streets that familiar earthy smell.

    In a perfect world, geosmin levels in the town water supply would hover no higher than about 20 parts per trillion parts of water, town administrator Ed Cannon said.

    As of early July, geosmin levels in North Poudre Reservoir No. 3 were about 15 times that. Summer heat invigorates the algae…

    The good news: As of Wednesday, geosmin levels were down to less than 2.5 parts per trillion in the town’s raw water thanks to a copper sulfate treatment on the reservoir, Cannon said.

    While the water tastes better than it did earlier this summer, history shows that the town has a long, expensive fight ahead of it.

    The algae problem isn’t unique to Wellington. Loveland’s Green Ridge Glade Reservoir became a veritable algae garden during last year’s steaming summer, making for earthy, pondlike water similar to what Wellington’s residents are experiencing this year.

    Loveland’s algae hasn’t gone away, but the city invested thousands of dollars in tools to beat it back, including hydrogen peroxide, four reservoir mixers and activated carbon compounds. If those tools aren’t enough, Loveland has a backup plan in the form of plentiful Big Thompson River water rights.

    Wellington’s backup plan is less airtight.

    Three algae-free wells supplement the reservoir water, but their output is limited. The town must draw even more water from the reservoir as its ranks swell and residents use more water on their lawns. That throws off the ratio of algae-free well water to algae-filled reservoir water and makes the stuff coming out of the tap smell and taste worse.

    The algae visits Reservoir No. 3 every summer, like an unwelcome house guest. Town officials say the guest was even more obnoxious this year because it started earlier and bloomed more fiercely.

    “To attack (the algae), we’re going to get extremely aggressive,” Cannon said during an interview at his office in Wellington’s town hall.

    In July, a gang of boats blasted the reservoir with copper sulfate to kill off the algae. They’ll probably have to make the rounds again this summer, Cannon said.

    The town hired additional workers for its water treatment plant and is adding another filtration process to increase the output of its Wilson Well facility, Wellington’s secondary water source. The $400,000 upgrade will supply the town with another 100,000 gallons of algae-free water each day once it comes online by this fall.

    Ashley MacDonald, one of Wellington’s six trustees, said Wellington needs to — and plans to — do two things to truly solve its water problem: Revamp the town water treatment plant and find new water sources…

    “I feel for them,” he said. “I’m dealing with the same issues. I don’t have an answer that’s going to please everybody, other than to make some assurances that we feel the investment we’re making in our water treatment plant will address that.”

    Cannon is referencing a plan to overhaul Wellington’s water treatment facility, which was built when the town was about two-thirds its current size. The upgrade will increase the plant’s capacity so it can treat water for as many as 16,000 residents. It will also make its filtration process more sophisticated so the water tastes better.

    That project is still in its design phase and will take at least 12 to 18 months to finish once Wellington’s trustees approve a game plan, Cannon said. Costs have not yet been projected.

    The other big goal to solve the problem is locking down higher-quality water sources for Wellington. The Board of Trustees hired Denver consulting firm Wright Water Engineers to help them evaluate options, including water from the City of Fort Collins, the East Larimer County Water District, the Poudre River and the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.

    The board will narrow down those options based on cost and efficiency in coming weeks, MacDonald said.

    Water treatment is important, but cities like Fort Collins have better-tasting water primarily because they store it in colder, deeper and higher-altitude reservoirs that are less vulnerable to algae attacks, according to Lisa Rosintoski, customer connections manager at Fort Collins Utilities…

    Wellington’s water doesn’t violate any water quality regulations, according to its most recent round of state tests in 2016. Those tests included tests for copper, lead, chlorine and uranium, among other compounds.

    A state test of raw water in North Poudre Reservoir No. 3 this summer came back absent of microcystin and cylindrospermospin, two compounds sometimes present in algae that are of public health concern.

    Fort Collins: Spring Creek Flood spurred increased flood preparedness

    Fort Collins, Spring Creek flood July 28, 1997

    From KUNC (Jackie Fortier):

    As the evening wore on, people living in two trailer parks just south of campus began to panic. Located in a low gully near Spring Creek, between College Avenue and a 15-foot railroad embankment, the trailers had begun to fill with water.

    “The rain kept falling hard on the same areas that had just had the heaviest rain so it was building this flood surge,” said state climatologist Nolan Doesken…

    Over the course of 24 hours, 14 inches of rain fell in southwest Fort Collins in a highly-localized storm.

    “And if anything that was what set the 1997 storm apart, everything was already soaked before it started — I mean really soaked — and then it dumped five hours of heavy rain, with the last hour being the heaviest of all,” said Doesken.

    Most of the water was building up behind the 15-foot railroad embankment near Spring Creek — where the trailer parks were.

    “Spring Creek is tiny. When you look at it, you can almost jump over it most times of the year,” said Marsha Hilmes-Robinson, floodplain administrator for the city of Fort Collins.

    During the flood, the railroad embankment was holding back 8,250 cubic feet of water per second.

    “Think of each cubic foot per second being one basketball going by a location in one second,” Hilmes-Robinson said. “So we had 8,250 basketballs flowing into the area behind the railroad embankment every second. That’s a lot of water.”

    The railroad embankment couldn’t hold. One of the culverts that had intentionally been filled blew out and water pounded through and eventually over the top. As the rain continued to pour through the night, residents of the trailer parks clung to trees and huddled on rooftops before rescuers in rubber rafts could reach them.

    “Then there was the fires, because some of the trailers had floated and the gas lines had been ruptured there was another explosion at a liquor store just to the north of the mobile home park, and then the train cars derailed,” Hilmes-Robinson said.

    Four train cars full of lumber and grain had been knocked off the tracks at the top of the embankment as the water began to go over the top.

    Rescuers worked through the night saving hundreds of people. Meanwhile at Colorado State University, 40 buildings were flooded, sustaining damages over $100 million, including to the newly renovated Morgan Library and the Lory Student Center.

    In all, five women died in the Spring Creek Flood and 200 homes were destroyed, including both trailer parks. Damages to the city and campus totaled $200 million.

    Since the Spring Creek Flood, an extensive rain gauge network has been installed in the foothills and in the city as an early warning system. The city has also taken an integrated approach to new projects, according to deputy director of the Colorado Resiliency and Recovery Office Iain Hyde.

    “When a new bridge or culvert or park is built, [Fort Collins] build risk reduction into that process, really thinking about floodplain management and sound regulations, and those actions are reducing risk but they’re also reducing risk for flood insurance for members of the community as well,” Hyde said.

    Now a gleaming apartment complex and strip malls sit where the trailer parks were. But the new construction had to meet need code regulations put in place after 1997, says Marsha Hilmes-Robinson.

    “Those city codes required the buildings to be raised by 18 inches above the 100-year floodplain,” she said.

    Flood mitigation also means giving the water somewhere to go. Fort Collins has used sales taxes to purchase two-thirds of the land in the 100-year Poudre River floodplain within city limits, turning it into natural areas and parks. The idea is to give the water somewhere to spread out and slow down. So far, it seems to be working.