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.”

Fort Collins craft brewers cooperating on water issues

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacob Laxen):

On Tuesday night, Brewater hosted a panel open to the public at New Belgium Brewing.

“We all understand 100 percent how important water is to our product and our community,” said Horse & Dragon Brewing co-owner Carol Cochran.

While Oregon and Washington both have state brewery watershed groups, Brewater is the only formal collection of craft brewers from the same city to collaborate on water conservation issues.

Fort Collins craft brewers collectively use about two percent of town’s water. About half of what the craft breweries use is treated and returned to the Poudre River.

“We feel we need to do our part,” said Katie Wallace, New Belgium’s assistant director of sustainability.

Since Brewater was formed in 2013, equipment redesigns have saved 3 million gallons annually at Odell Brewing, 1 million gallons at New Belgium and 40,000 gallons at 1933 Brewing — which has since closed but has plans to reopen with a new concept under new owners.

“My biggest advice is to challenge your equipment supplier,” said Odell engineer Matt Bailey. “Just because it is out there doesn’t mean it’s the best practice.”

Water conservation tactics in Fort Collins range from New Belgium — the state’s largest craft brewer — having its own water treatment plant and converting some of its used water into electricity, to much smaller operations that do much more simple methods such as tracking beer loss.

“The bigger breweries in town have been fantastic mentors,” Cochran said. “They set a great example.”

And while the Fort Collins craft breweries may compete for sales and tap space, they work together on conserving water.

“We would like to make beer in the future,” said Zach Wilson, the new owner of 1933 Brewing. “So it is really important to be involved now.”

Fort Collins breweries to hold panel on water issues, April 18, 2017 — BizWest

New Belgium brewery. Photo credit Wisconsin Distributors.

From BizWest (Jensen Werley):

Northern Colorado breweries are gathering for Earth Day to discuss how breweries can help protect the local watershed.

Fourteen area breweries, including Odell Brewing Co. and Horse and Dragon Brewing Co., are gathering at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 18, at New Belgium Brewing Co. for the BreWater panel discussion.

“We’ve been gathering for the last couple of years to share water conservation practices and to learn about critical watershed issues from local experts,” Katie Wallace, assistant director of sustainability at New Belgium, said in a prepared statement. “This event will allow the greater community to hear about water issues that affect local brewers and to provide feedback on what matters to them.”

BreWater has already had success in helping fund the removal of the defunct Josh Ames Division Dam. Members have also toured the local watershed and hosted water experts.

“Brewers in Fort Collins are united on a lot of fronts,” said Carol Cochran, co-founder of Horse & Dragon Brewing Co., “but our common interest in great water is perhaps our strongest bond.”

The 14 breweries that are part of BreWater are 1933 Brewing, Black Bottle Brewery, CooperSmith’s Pub & Brewing, Equinox Brewing, Fort Collins Brewery & Tavern, Horse & Dragon Brewing Co., Intersect Brewing, Maxline Brewing, New Belgium Brewing, Odell Brewing Co., Pateros Creek Brewing Co., Snowbank Brewing, Soul Squared Brewing Co. and Zwei Brewing.

Guest who attend the panel will be able to get discounted beers and the chance to win local brewery gear.

#Snowpack/#Drought news: Is there snow on the horizon for Fort Collins?

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map March 26, 2017 via the NRCS.

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

Weekend rains dropped up to half an inch of rain on parts of a parched Choice City, and more rain is on the forecast for this week. But with one week left of what’s historically our snowiest month of the year, forecasters are divided on whether we’ll see any measurable snow at all.

The Coloradoan’s official Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network rain gauge at 1300 Riverside Avenue recorded 0.16 of an inch of rain Sunday…

Meanwhile, our lack of snow is becoming downright strange.

Fort Collins receives an average of 12.6 inches of snow in March, according to 1981-2010 normals from the Colorado Climate Center. This March, we’ve received only a trace of snow. Fort Collins hasn’t seen measurable snow in about a month, since a late-February storm left us with about 3.4 inches and 0.1 inches fell on the last day of February.

We’re also way behind on precipitation this month, with 0.19 inches compared to a normal amount of 1.31 inches by March 26. Rains this week should inch us a bit closer to the monthly normal of 1.59 inches, but barring any big downpours, we’ll probably still fall short for March.

The lack of moisture matters because Fort Collins has been in a drought since August. Our drought classification was recently elevated to “severe,” the third of five levels of drought intensity. The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center predicts we’ll remain in drought during the next three months.

If drought persists, residents can expect damage to crops and pastures, developing or imminent water shortages and a request for voluntary water-use restrictions. Snowpack in the South Platte River Basin mountains, which make up much of our regional water supply, has been steadily slipping during the last few weeks and now sits at 103 percent of the average for this time of year.

A snowless March is highly unusual but not unprecedented in Fort Collins. It’s happened about six times in recorded history, most recently in 2011 and 2012, when historic drought covered the state and Fort Collins received a trace of snow in March. The last March before that with no measurable snow was March 1966.

West Drought Monitor March 21, 2017.

Poudre River Forum: Powerpoints, video footage, program and more now available

CLick here to go to the website to view the materials. From the website:

Nearly 280 people registered to learn more from and about the diverse stakeholders of the Poudre River, and to explore the continuing challenges and opportunities for collaboration.

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

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.