@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.”

    Michigan Ditch: “the biggest excavators we could bring in were nearly hanging off the edge of the mountain on the way up” — John Beckos

    Aerial view of Michigan tunnel entrance via City of Fort Collins.
    Aerial view of Michigan tunnel entrance via City of Fort Collins.

    From TrenchlessTechnology.com (Jim Rush):

    The Michigan Ditch is a 5.2-mile conveyance system that brings water from the high mountains into the Joe Wright Reservoir, a part of City’s two water sources. Over the years, the Michigan Ditch, a combination of pipeline and open channel originally built around 1900 and purchased by Fort Collins in the 1970s, was subject to the whims of Mother Nature. Specifically, one portion of the water supply route that crosses an area known as “the mudslide” was subject to periodic damage when the slides occurred.

    The City was accustomed to making simple repairs that involved digging up the pipe and moving or replacing it when the slide moves. But in September 2014, crews noticed something unusual. The pipe, which typically moved only during snowmelt in the spring, had moved substantially since its repair that summer. The following spring, even more movement showed that a more permanent fix was needed.

    “It was apparent that this wasn’t something we could simply dig up and put back in place like previous years,” said Owen Randall, chief engineer for Fort Collins Utilities. “We knew we needed a long-term solution that could cost upwards of $10 million. When I told City management the response was: ‘The water is worth $180 million, so go fix it.’”

    In summer 2015, the City got to work with a geotechnical assessment that included seismic refraction as well as vertical and horizontal borings. Meanwhile, the City put together a team of consultants and contractors to help ascertain the best way to move forward. After exploring the options, the team decided that a tunnel that would re-route the water through the mountain in stable rock was the best solution…

    The tunnel option provided the long-term solution the City was looking for while having the added benefits of less maintenance, less environmental impact and a construction cost comparable to other options…

    The logistics of working on the side of a mountain also presented challenges. The project site was located 2.5 miles up a narrow, winding dirt road that dictated the weight and dimensions of the equipment that could be safely transported. Additionally, the nearest town (Walden, Colorado; population 3,000) was located 30 miles away, with Fort Collins 70 miles away. Even cell phone service had to be brought in.

    “Due to the nature of the road, we were limited to about an 11-ft wide load,” said John Beckos, project manager for BT Construction. “We were unable to get a crane to the site, and the biggest excavators we could bring in were nearly hanging off the edge of the mountain on the way up.”

    The site access also dictated the type of tunnel boring machine that could be used to excavate the tunnel. After evaluating the options, the project team elected to use an Akkerman hard-rock TBM that had a mixed face cutterhead to deal with the highly fractured, hard rock and abundant fault and shear zones. The machine was compact enough to accommodate the limited space at both the launch and retrieval pits, light enough to be handled by the available equipment, and had enough power to drill through rock that reached strengths of 15,000 psi…

    The tunnel was mined from the downstream portal to the upstream portal. The first 40 ft of the alignment was straight before it transitioned into the 630-ft radius curve spanning 726 ft. The TBM was equipped with a conveyor system and dual muck boxes to remove the spoil. Spoil was stockpiled near the site to be used by the City for future repairs to the ditch and pipeline, as well as the access road, which the City also maintains…

    Randall said the ground made tunneling a challenge. “The only thing consistent about the ground was that the rock was inconsistent,” he said. “We would find hard zones 2-3 inches thick, 2-3 feet thick and 30-feet thick. We knew we were going to get into difficult geology, but it still posed a challenge.”

    Once the TBM was completely launched into the mountainside, the team had originally planned to be tunneling for about 6 weeks from early July through the middle of August. The inconsistent rock in the middle of the drive would end up slowing productions down and delaying the hole out until Sept. 29. And, despite the challenging ground, the TBM holed through precisely on target. Project team members credited the VMT guidance systems, typically used for larger and longer tunnels, for keeping the tunnel on line and grade…

    Over the last 20 years, Fort Collins has implemented and refined its delivery system known as the Alternative Product Delivery System (APDS). Fort Collins retains a group of prequalified contractors and consultants on an annual contract basis – known as master service agreements – and when a project is needed, the City can call on its team of service providers with expertise in a particular area to negotiate a contract. This allows the City to quickly gather a team to develop the project from start to finish.

    In the case of the Michigan Ditch Tunnel, the project team was brought on board to determine the best solution for the problem. As the project began to take shape as a tunnel, the City negotiated further contracts for tunnel design, construction and TBM procurement. The project team additionally developed a risk register to help identify and mitigate potential occurrences that could impact the project.

    “Rather than trying to write a contract for the whole project up front, we can write contracts that are very well defined, knowing what our scope of work is going to be as planning and design progresses,” Randall said.

    The added benefit of having the project team in place was that the project goals were defined by the team, rather than by an individual party or parties. “This was a very challenging and difficult project, but when you have everybody working toward the same goal, it makes all the difference in the world,” Randall added.

    “The team functioned at a very high level and with great communication,” Dornfest said. “It was extremely challenging, but there was never any finger pointing and we were able to get the job done on schedule and under budget.”

    Thanks to planning, teamwork and determination, the Michigan Ditch Tunnel project was successfully completed approximately $1 million below the initial budget of $8.5 million. The ditch system is now back online, assuring Fort Collins citizens of a reliable source of water for the years to come.

    Fort Collins water facility wins prestigious award — Fort Collins Coloradoan

    The water treatment process
    The water treatment process

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    Fort Collins Utilities’ water treatment facility recently won the American Water Works Association’s “Presidents Award,” which was given to 34 treatment plants in the nation.

    The award honors water treatment plants with high-level filter performance. The Fort Collins facility uses a meticulous treatment process to remove potential contaminants from source water, and the end product has consistently met federal safety requirements and won accolades for taste.

    “Receiving the Presidents Award status demonstrates the hard work and dedication of our employees and their commitment to provide great-tasting, high-quality drinking water to our community,” Water Production Manager Mark Kempton said in a city press release.

    For more information on local water, visit http://fcgov.com/water , email utilities@fcgov.com, call 970-221-6700 or V/TDD 711. To learn more about the Partnership for Safe Water, visit http://awwa.org/partnership.

    ‘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.

    Big snow for Fort Collins

    Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map via the NRCS.
    Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map via the NRCS.

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    It never looked like a blizzard outside, but three straight days of snow landed Fort Collins with upwards of 9 inches in the city’s northern reaches and at least 7 inches everywhere else by the end of Thursday. That makes it the biggest snow storm Fort Collins has seen this season and pushed the city above its average for this time of year.

    “Water storage is ‘integral’ to Fort Morgan’s future” — Ron Shaver

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

    From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

    A community that does not have enough water is a community that does not survive, and Fort Morgan city leaders want to ensure that is not what happens here.

    As such, the Fort Morgan City Council approved continuing the city’s role in the Northern Integrated Supply Project and the $360,000 expenditure that will require in 2017.

    Fort Morgan has been gambling on NISP, a massive water storage project, getting permitted and built for 13 years now, according to Water Resources/Utilities Director Brent Nation.

    But it’s a gamble that could pay off in water security for as long as the next five decades, according to City Manager Jeff Wells.

    About NISP

    That’s because NISP would include Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (aka Northern Water) building both Glade Reservoir north of Fort Collins and Galeton Reservoir northeast of Greeley and east of Ault.

    If these reservoirs get built, it would mean “40,000 acre feet of new, reliable water supplies” for the 15 NISP participants, which include Fort Morgan, Morgan County and Morgan County Quality Water District.

    But getting it built involves both completion of the final environmental impact statement for he project and getting a record of decision on a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

    As of January 2017, Northern Water was estimating that the Corps likely will finish the FEIS yet this year and then issue the record of decision on the permit sometime in 2018.

    Large cost, lengthy timeline

    Fort Morgan, alone, will have spent more than $1.3 million toward NISP and the city’s 9 percent stake in it over the project’s 13 years of planning and studies. And there could be another 10 to 12 years yet to go before NISP and its reservoirs conceivably would go online and the city would have water stored in Galeton Reservoir and pumped back to Fort Morgan.

    As the project progresses, the city’s annual payments for it will get larger and larger, Nation warned. He called the 2017 one among the last of the “smaller payments.”

    Depending upon what the Corps does this year, the larger NISP payments could start next year.

    “Next year, in 2018, we’ll start moving into the larger engineering payments, and then hopefully within a year or two after that we’ll be moving into construction-type payments, where we’re getting into millions of dollars for our portion of that work,” Nation said.

    Regardless, if and when it does get built, NISP would provide enough water to give the city water security for the future and whatever residential, commercial and industrial growth may come, according to Mayor Ron Shaver, Wells and Nation.

    And such a lengthy timeline is not unusual for this large of a water storage project, according to both Nation and officials from Northern Water.

    Reasons to continue

    But continuing to support it will be worth it for the city in the long term, Nation stressed.

    He shared his reasons why the city should “move forward on this project” with the council.

    “We continue to exist on a base water supply that we have to rent what we need for our current needs. We still have times of the year where we’re using some rental C-BT water in order to meet all of our water demands,” Nation said.

    Also, the Fort Morgan Water Treatment Plant is experiencing record levels for demand for treated water, with 1.5 billion gallons treated over the last 12 months.

    “Six out of the last seven months we had record production at treatment facility,” Nation said, adding that the local industry was “driving those numbers.”

    Specifically, large industrial water customer Cargill Meat Solutions is continuously pulling in water.

    “We’re not seeing a lot of downtime with Cargill,” Nation said. “And even when they’re down on that seventh day, they’re using a lot of water just to clean the facility.”

    And expansions at both the Leprino Foods cheese plant and the Western Sugar Cooperative beet plant have meant increased demand for water from Fort Morgan.

    “We just continue to see our industrial/commercial numbers go up as we continue just to exist at the current population that we’re at,” Nation said. “It kind of drives home to me that this project is important to us. It’s something that we need to continue to participate in and see it to the finish line. This is something we need as a community.”

    Wells agreed, adding that the city has previously looked into many other options for obtaining enough water for the city’s future.

    “Today, there are no more viable alternatives than NISP for the city of Fort Morgan,” he said.

    Shaver, who served as the city’s utilities director before retiring from the city and then serving on the council and now as mayor, said NISP is what the city needs for its future.

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