#FortCollins issues water restrictions to protect supply — 9News.com

Mammatus clouds, associated with strong convection, grace a sunset over Fort Collins, Colorado, home of the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere at Colorado State University. Photo credit: Steve Miller/CIRA

From 9News.com (Janet Oravetz):

Water restrictions will be implemented for residents of Fort Collins following extreme drought conditions and wildfires which have the area facing a potential water shortage, the city announced on its website.

The water use restrictions will take effect Oct. 1 and will remain in effect until the order is lifted by the city manager…

Ongoing drought conditions, the Cameron Peak Fire burning near Walden and an infrastructure repair project known as Horsetooth Outlet Project (HOP) have the city facing a projected water shortage unless action is taken, the city said.

Typically, utilities receives about 50% of its water from Colorado-Big Thompson shares via Horsetooth Reservoir and 50% from the Cache la Poudre River. During HOP, utilities will have limited access to water supplies in Horsetooth and will rely more heavily on the Poudre River.

If conditions during HOP – like continued drought or poor water quality due to the Cameron Peak Fire – prevent or limit the ability to deliver water from the Poudre River, a temporary backup pump system will convey water from a different Horsetooth Reservoir outlet to the Utilities Water Treatment Facility.

The capacity of this backup system is expected to supply only average utilities winter water demands, which does not include irrigation or other seasonal outdoor uses.

Lawn watering will not be allowed beginning Oct. 1. Trees, gardens for food production and other landscapes may be watered by hand or drip systems only. There are also restrictions on vehicle washing, power washing and street sweeping, among other things.

As #CameronPeakFire reaches historic acreage, experts predict damage to #PoudreRiver — The #FortCollins Coloradoan

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

Now environmental and water quality experts are bracing for more substantial impacts on the Poudre River and the people who depend on it for drinking water, farming, industry and recreation. Degraded water quality, enhanced flood risk and threats to aquatic wildlife are all distinct possibilities as the blaze takes its toll on a delicate, far-branching river ecosystem that had largely recovered from the impacts of the High Park Fire.

The coming weeks and months will bring more news about what the Cameron Peak Fire will mean for the Poudre River. Until then, some staff of the agencies that monitor the river are in a similar position to the rest of us: Stuck in an anxious waiting game as the blaze continues, temperatures warm up and many details about the fire remain obscured in the ever-present haze.

“There are still so many uncertainties,” said Jen Kovecses, executive director of the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed. “We’re certain about how big the fire is, but we’re not certain about its intensity on the landscape and what it will look like. That’s going to be the missing puzzle piece that we need to understand the full suite of post-fire impacts from this event.”

The aftermath of the High Park Fire offers a glimpse, albeit not an ironclad preview, of some impacts that could come from the Cameron Peak Fire. It all starts with the fire burning away the carpet of leaves, twigs, branches and other vegetation on the forest floor, known as “duff.”

“The fire can consume both the forest canopy and the material on the ground, which is a big problem, because now we have bare soil exposed,” said Pete Robichaud, a research engineer with USDA Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station. “That forest floor duff layer is like a big sponge. It absorbs the water when it rains, it allows the water to percolate slowly into the soil — it’s great. Well, now the fire removes that, and when the rain comes, there’s no sponge.”

The other problem is smoke, which can seep into the forest floor and cling to soil particles as it cools and condenses, making them hydrophobic — or water repellent.

The two forces combined can leave the soil vulnerable to even a mild afternoon thunderstorm. Water reverbs off the forest floor and travels downslope to the river, dragging soil, sediment and ash along for the ride.

That’s what happened after High Park, which infamously turned the Poudre black in summer 2012.

“Without the ability to soak up water and temper the intensity of rain events, the system overall became a much flashier system,” said Jill Oropeza, director of sciences for Fort Collins Utilities’ Water Quality Services Division. “You’d see water levels rise really quickly; you’d see material from the hillslopes move into the river channel really quickly, and then the quality would change really quickly as well. You just had tons and tons of ash and sediment that got mobilized into the stream channel and then eventually conveyed downstream.”

Cameron Peak Fire map August 14, 2020 via InciWeb.

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.

    Stocking greenback cutthroat trout into the Poudre River tributary system — @COParksWildlife

    Covid-Mask-wearing Black Bear. Credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife

    From Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Jason Clay)

    A multi-agency effort to restore the federally threatened greenback cutthroat trout into its native river basin took a giant hike upwards last week when an army of Colorado Trout Unlimited volunteers led by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and U.S. Forest Service staff stocked the Colorado state fish into a new body of water.

    Around 10 staffers and 40 volunteers from Colorado Trout Unlimited each hiked between 12-15 greenback cutthroat trout in backpacks into a Poudre River tributary stream. This introduction marks just the fifth body of water in the state the greenbacks now can call home, with four of those five within the South Platte River basin that the greenbacks are native to.

    “Today is one of those exciting instances of getting a new population established,” said Kyle Battige, Aquatic Biologist with CPW. “We are trying to replicate and perpetuate this resource across the landscape, by getting greenbacks into more water bodies within the South Platte River basin.”

    A total of 711 greenbacks were stocked on Tuesday, July 28. They came from the Mt. Shavano Hatchery out of Salida. It took the hatchery one year to take the fertilized eggs, hatch and raise the fish to five inches in length, primed for release into the wild.

    “Colorado Trout Unlimited is a proud partner in the campaign to protect and restore our native trout,” said Dan Omasta, Grassroots Coordinator for Colorado Trout Unlimited. “This stocking project is another great example of how anglers and local communities can work together to save a threatened species. We had over 40 volunteers that traveled from as far as Eagle, Colo., and Wyoming to carry fish over nine miles into the backcountry on a rainy afternoon. The passion and dedication of our community is what drives an optimistic future for the greenback cutthroat trout.”

    U.S. Forest Service personnel located the fishless stream in the Poudre River basin a couple years ago and the agencies did their due diligence to make Tuesday’s stocking become a reality. Aquatic biologists conducted stream sampling with backpack electrofishing units and took eDNA samples to confirm it was indeed a fishless location. Habitat suitability work also took place to ensure the fish would survive once stocked. Everything checked out and the greenbacks were stocked into a fifth body of water in Colorado.

    “We’re excited and proud to be partnering with CPW on this important effort reintroducing greenback cutthroat trout and restoring part of Colorado’s natural heritage,” said Christopher Carrol, Fisheries Biologist and Watershed Crew Lead with the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland. “We especially want to thank Colorado Trout Unlimited and Rocky Mountain Flycasters Chapter of Trout Unlimited for organizing so many passionate volunteers and helping collect data that informed our decision for making the reintroduction. Shared stewardship and working together pays dividends for native species.

    An important characteristic when looking to identify a reintroduction site is that the stream must be fishless. It must also have protection from invasion of non-native trout that will outcompete and overrun the greenbacks.

    “This location is protected by a series of natural waterfall barriers, upwards of 20-feet, that ensures the reach we stocked will not be invaded by non-native fish downstream,” Battige said.

    Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout

    The greenbacks have previously been stocked into Herman Gulch, Dry Gulch, and Zimmerman Lake – all within the South Platte River drainage. These rare fish, twice believed to be extinct, are descendants of the last wild population of native greenback cutthroat trout found in Bear Creek outside of Colorado Springs in 2012. Bear Creek is the fifth body of water in Colorado where the fish currently reside.

    “This project could not have been completed without the hard work and dedication of today’s volunteers. The hikes that they did range from four miles roundtrip up to nine miles and covered 1,200 to 2,400 vertical feet of elevation, so it was a pretty substantial undertaking,” Battige said.

    The fish were loaded onto the hatchery truck at 3:30 a.m. and driven roughly 240 miles to the trailhead where they got loaded into bags with 1-2 gallons of water and pumped full of oxygen. The fish were put in ice water before leaving the hatchery, so they can handle the conditions better during their long journey.

    “Lowering the temperature helps the fish travel well, ensures that their metabolism slows down and decreases the overall stress on the fish,” Battige said.

    The water temperature in the stream was 51 degrees, so before getting stocked the volunteers tempered their fish, meaning they took time to slowly acclimate the fish to the temperature in the creek over a 10-15 minute time period.

    Crews will stock additional greenbacks into the same location each summer for the next two years as they look to establish the population. They will follow up with surveys to see how the fish are doing and aquatic biologists will look for signs of natural reproduction and new greenbacks hatching in the stream in 3-4 years.

    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.

    Aurora seeks to buy Whitney Ditch water at Windsor — The Loveland Reporter-Herald

    Cache la Poudre River May 2018. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Ken Amundson):

    The water running through the Whitney Ditch is from the Cache La Poudre River. Seller of the water shares, which have an average yield of 1,629 acre feet of water — or about 531 million gallons, is BCI Waterco LLC, a company at 252 Clayton St. in Denver. The address is shared by The Broe Group and Great Western Railway, owners of the industrial park.

    The purchase is part of an effort that began in 2003 to buy water rights in the South Platte basin, dry up the land that had been irrigated by the water and bring the water to the thirsty urban developments within Aurora, Colorado’s third largest city behind Denver and Colorado Springs.

    While the proposed purchase agreement includes a pipeline easement for land within the industrial park, getting the water to the Denver metro region is not included in the deal, nor is the required amendment of water court decrees to specify where the water will be used.

    “We have had high level concept discussions” about getting the water to Aurora, but the city does not have a specific plan, [Dawn] Jewell said.

    Jewell said Aurora has purchased other water shares in Northern Colorado, but none from the Poudre. It has water rights from the South Platte main stem and some in the Greeley area, she said.

    The city may choose to place the water in a reservoir in the region — it has one already west of Platteville — and seek an opportunity to exchange shares with someone else.

    The deal is expected to close Aug. 31, according to city council documents.

    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

    Opinion: Fort Collins sanitation district expands reclamation facility — The Fort Collins Coloradoan

    Here’s a guest column from Jim Ling that’s running in the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

    From where I stand, the South Fort Collins Sanitation District (SFCSD) is proud to announce it is nearing the completion of its approximately $35 million wastewater reclamation expansion, which includes improvements to its facility.

    These much-needed improvements, slated for completion by the end of the year, allows us to meet new, more strict requirements from the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), in addition to providing additional capacity for future growth.

    With this expansion, SFCSD can delay the implementation of future regulations by up to a decade, providing more time to budget for future requirements. Building now proves more economical than waiting, allowing SFCSD to do more with less.

    We work hard to protect our customers and the environment by trying to stay ahead of the game and prepare as economically as possible.

    The SFCSD serves an area encompassing approximately 60 square miles, including residents in Fort Collins, Loveland, Timnath, Windsor and Larimer County. These valued customers may rest assured that we will continue to provide excellent service and treatment 24/7, 365 days a year.

    Performing these types of improvement projects proactively helps control costs, further protecting our customers from unnecessary fee increases. Best of all, we continue to offer very high levels of service at reasonable costs for our customers.

    Thanks to careful planning, we expect the project to finish on time according to plans, and under budget.

    Capacity increases are paid by growth through the sale of taps and impact fees collected during development. Costs associated with enhanced treatment needs are funded through monthly wastewater charges to our customers.

    Our staff and board work hard to be good stewards of our constituents’ money. As of now, the district has not had to borrow to finance these important and necessary projects, thus saving money by avoiding interest payments.

    More than 400 miles of collection lines bring wastewater to the water reclamation facility 24-hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days a year. The current treatment process at the facility is capable of treating 4.5 million gallons of water per day.

    As EPA and CDPHE requirements for water reclamation become more stringent, we must adapt and add processes to continuously improve the quality of water discharged from our plant.

    By sending cleaner water to the Poudre River, we improve the river’s health. Not only will these facility enhancements continue to provide excellent service and treatment, but they will also allow us to handle the population growth that many communities in Northern Colorado are experiencing.

    Water is a finite resource and it needs our protection. We continue to do everything we can to ensure that clean and healthy water is available to future generations.

    To learn more about this plant expansion and follow its progress visit https://fclwd.com/wastewater/about-us/wwtp-expansion/

    Jim Ling is a member of the South Fort Collins Sanitation District board of directors.

    Clarifier up close. Photo credit: The South Fort Collins Sanitation District

    #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.

    #Snowpack news: @Northern_Water directors give preliminary recommendation for a 70% quota

    Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS.

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Miles Blumhardt):

    Colorado’s above-average snowpack for the second consecutive year has created similar reservoir storage excess, which is good news for farmers, city municipalities and residents.

    On Thursday, Northern Water board of directors gave a preliminary recommendation of a 70% water quota, the same as last year when Colorado had robust snowpack.

    The board sets a quota of 50% in November then increases or decreases the water quota as the water season plays out.

    …Tuesday. Snowpack, reservoir storage, stream flows and a projected April precipitation forecast are all indicating ample water, which prompted the board to make its initial recommendation. A final decision will be made at next week’s board meeting.

    “We anticipate this summer that farmers will have the water supply they need for the summer growing season,” said Jeff Stahla, Northern Water spokesperson. “And the same will be true for businesses and residents throughout the year.”

    That’s not only good news for farmers but recreationists as well. Horsetooth Reservoir is already more than 90% full, and Stahla said he expects an ample water supply at the popular reservoir throughout the boating season…

    How snowpack is faring in each of Colorado’s basins

    As of Tuesday, average snowpack over the eight basins statewide was at 108%, marking the second consecutive year of above-average snowpack. It’s the third time in four years the state’s basins have hit that mark.

    The South Platte River Basin, which includes Fort Collins and Denver, led the state at 118% of average, which is just shy of where the basin was during last year’s big snow year.

    Russ Schumacher, director of the Colorado Climate Center, said the key snowpack station for the Poudre River is at Joe Wright Reservoir. It was at 111% of the median.

    The North Platte River Basin and Yampa/White River Basin each were at 113%; Upper Colorado River Basin was at 111%; Arkansas River Basin and Upper Rio Grande River Basin were at 101%; San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan River Basin was at 100% and the Gunnison River Basin was at 98%…

    What to expect in April

    April is the city’s third wettest month with normal precipitation of 2.06 inches, trailing May and June. Average snowfall is 6.2 inches, but Schumacher said April, like March, has shown it can bring snowstorms producing 12 inches or more of snow.

    Four of the city’s top 10 snowstorms have occurred in April, with all dumping more than 20 inches on the city.

    Westwide SNOTEL April 3, 2020 via the NRCS.

    Our first crack at legislation ends in success! — @COWaterTrust

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

    From the Colorado Water Trust (Kate Ryan):

    Last week, Governor Polis signed into law two bipartisan bills that will help us in our mission to restore water to Colorado’s rivers in need. We couldn’t be more excited about HB 20-1037—a bill that provides direction for instream flow augmentation plans—and HB 20-1157—a bill that expands a program for temporary loans of water to the environment. Each of these bills was two years in the making, and ended up better for it. Water users from across the state weighed in on how these changes could work in tandem to both complement historical water uses, particularly agricultural, and to improve environmental conditions.

    So, how will these bills work to restore water to rivers in need? We refer to HB 20-1037, as the the instream flow augmentation bill. This bill will facilitate court-approved plans under which water users can add water back into hard working, heavily used rivers under the auspices of the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB). Water added back to the river will be protected as “instream flow,” or water that is designated for environmental purposes, but other water users can continue to divert water from the river for consumptive uses like agriculture and municipal delivery just as they always have. It’s a brand new concept using augmentation plans for instream flow—and required this clarification of old law. With this change, we can now move forward on our long-time goal of connecting the Cache la Poudre river from Fort Collins to Greeley.

    HB 20-1157 is what we call the instream flow loan bill. It will add tools to a loan program that the CWCB has managed for some time. Until this bill, a water user could only loan their water right to the CWCB to be used for instream flow use in 3 out of 10 years. This legislation increases that to 5 out of 10 years. Additionally, in the past, only one ten-year loan period was allowed, but now that loan period can be extended for two additional ten-year periods. In sum, a water user can now loan their water to the CWCB for up to fifteen out of thirty years. There are many more details under this program, but what the legislation boils down to is a big benefit to aquatic environments and flexibility for water users who want to engage in this program, often for compensation.

    We are proud to have worked with project partners including Cache la Poudre Water Users, the cities of Thornton, Fort Collins and Greeley, Northern Colorado Water Conservation District, the CWCB and Colorado Parks and Wildlife as proponents of the instream flow augmentation bill. It was our first foray into original legislative work, and a big success. And, we are thankful to The Nature Conservancy and Conservation Colorado for spearheading the legislative effort for the instream flow loan bill. Now, we can’t wait to do what the Water Trust does best—use these tools for projects that will restore water to our rivers. First stop, the Cache la Poudre River with the instream flow augmentation bill. Onward!

    Thornton Water Project update

    From The Greeley Tribune (Cuyler Mead):

    [Ted] Simmons is one of more than a hundred landowners — some who have been there for generations — who received a letter in recent weeks from an agent of the city of Thornton.

    The letter offers Simmons and his neighbors a sum of money — Simmons reckoned the city is figuring about $7,500 per acre — for a permanent easement that would allow the city to build a jagged-lined water pipeline, north to south, across Weld County into Thornton.

    “The current proposal makes that piece of land almost unusable,” Simmons said. “I can still put up hay, but for the future, if you want to do any plans in the future, it pretty much destroys the whole piece. You can’t build over it.”

    […]

    Thornton Water Project map via http://thorntonwaterproject.com

    The permitting process has been a bit rocky. It involves both Larimer and Weld counties, and the commissioners of each county have thrown various hurdles in the way of the city which resides in neither of their jurisdictions.

    Initially, the project proposed to take Weld County Road 13 much of the way south. But there was concern on the part of the Weld commissioners that that was unfair to the landowners along that stretch of highway.

    “We said we were not willing to put the pipeline in our right of way,” Weld County commission chairman Mike Freeman said by phone this week. “The reason is, with farming, they farm up to the county road. So it still impacts the landowners as much. The landowners need to be paid for these easements. It’s going to impact them, so they need to be paid.”

    About 160 parcels are crossed, Koleber said, as the hypothetical pipeline traverses Weld County. And the commissioners weren’t making things any easier on Thornton, either.

    “Weld commissioners said, ‘We want you to acquire all of the easements that you need for the pipeline ahead of time,’ before they even look at the permit,” Koleber said. “That’s reverse of how a project normally goes. Permit-design-right of way-construction. They flipped that and continued our process for a year, from July 2019 to July 2020.”

    That said, roadblocks or not, Weld has been substantially more accommodating than Larimer. There, the commissioners rejected the permit application and are on their way to court with the city of Thornton. Freeman said that that’s not the plan in Weld.

    “We want to make sure they’re treating people fairly,” Freeman said. “We can’t get in the middle of negotiation, whether they’re paying enough, but we want to make sure they’re getting those easements secured, not coming in and saying, ‘We’ve got 30%.’ We’re not going to approve a pipeline if we don’t know where it’s at … but if they come in with an application demonstrating it’s complete, and it’s a good one, more than likely we’d approve it.”

    But the landowners — at least some of them — aren’t thrilled with the idea of giving up a strip of their property to the underground pipeline, even if it can be farmed right over the top of it as Thornton claims.

    That’s because, like Simmons, the value is less in agriculture now than it is in development potential. Houses or other municipal space are where the future is.

    Simmons and his neighbors, including Ken and Sue Kerchenfaut, would much rather the pipeline go down Weld County Road 13, actually. But if that’s not an option, Simmons has another idea, too. Rather than jutting through the various properties in a zig-zagging line, why not take a straight shot parallel path with an existing Sinclair Energy pipeline that already stripes his and many of his neighbors’ land?

    […]

    Like it or not, it seems they’ll probably have to give up the easement one way or another. Thornton feels comfortable its eminent domain powers will be backed up in court, should it get that far.

    And they’re probably right.

    Thornton is a home rule charter, and such entities are granted quite broad eminent domain power for the sake of a public good by the Colorado constitution. That’s what an expert on the subject, University of Colorado professor Richard Collins, said by phone this week.

    “The home rule powers of the constitution explicitly authorize home rule charters to have eminent domain,” Collins said. “So there’s really not much doubt that a home rule city would have broad powers of eminent domain.”

    Thornton Water Project update

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    [Thornton] plans to start building uncontested portions of the water pipeline in Windsor and Johnstown to keep the project on schedule, spokesman Todd Barnes said.

    Meanwhile, Thornton plans to file an opening brief [February 27, 2020] in its lawsuit contesting Larimer County commissioners’ rejection of the pipeline. Commissioners’ jurisdiction applies only to unincorporated areas of the county.

    Once Thornton files the opening brief, Larimer County commissioners will have about five weeks to file reply briefs, unless they get an extension.

    It’s been more than a year since commissioners unanimously denied a 1041 permit for the pipeline’s proposed path through unincorporated Larimer County. The pipeline is intended to transport Poudre River water from reservoirs northeast of Fort Collins to Thornton’s water treatment plant.

    The water, eventually amounting to an average of 14,000 acre-feet annually, would support Thornton’s growing population. About 140,000 people call the Denver suburb home today, but city officials expect the population to grow to 250,000 during the coming decades…

    Many Larimer County residents objected to the pipeline’s proposed path, arguing Thornton should run the water through a stretch of the Poudre River instead. Thornton’s water is already taken out of the river upstream of Fort Collins for agricultural use, but river advocates say Thornton should use its project as an opportunity to bolster stream flows and provide a benefit to Larimer County.

    Larimer County commissioners rejected Thornton’s 1041 permit because they said it didn’t meet seven of the 12 criteria for the permit, including mitigation of environmental impacts, mitigation of adverse effects on land, and project benefits that outweigh the loss of any natural resources or agricultural productivity…

    Thornton’s lawsuit argues commissioners were legally bound to base their decision solely on the pipeline’s siting and direct impacts. Commissioners’ decision illegally undermined Thornton’s rights by taking irrelevant factors into consideration, Thornton argues…

    “… this Court should declare, or rule as a matter of law, that (the board) cannot consider, condition or deny the application based on any river or canal concepts that undermine Thornton’s property rights, constitutional rights and water rights in the diversion point, the delivery point, the quantity and quality of the water right or the right to remove water from Thornton-owned farms adjudicated in the Water Decree because doing so is prohibited by (state statute),” stated documents Thornton filed in Larimer County District Court this week.

    Larimer County’s rejection of Thornton’s permit application applies only to its proposed path through unincorporated parts of the county. Thornton has intergovernmental agreements with Windsor and Timnath allowing pipeline construction and is crafting an agreement with Johnstown, Barnes said.

    The Johnstown portions of the pipeline that could begin construction in March are on easements with private landowners.

    Barnes said the project remains on schedule to begin water deliveries in 2025.

    See Article 7.

    #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.

    @USACE releases Draft EIS for Halligan Reservoir expansion

    Reservoirs NW of Fort Collins

    Click here to read the draft EIS. Here’s the abstract:

    The Halligan Water Supply Project (Halligan Project) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIS) evaluates the effects of enlarging the existing Halligan Reservoir located about 25 miles northwest of Fort Collins on the North Fork of the Cache la Poudre River (North Fork) in Larimer County in north central Colorado. The City of Fort Collins Utilities (Fort Collins) proposes to raise Halligan Dam by 25.4 feet to enlarge Halligan Reservoir from its current capacity of 6,400 acre-feet to approximately 14,525 acre-feet to provide about 7,900 acre-feet of additional annual firm yield to meet Fort Collins’ projected 2065 municipal and industrial water demands. The existing reservoir surface area is approximately 253 acres; the proposed enlargement would result in a surface area of approximately 386 acres. The Halligan Project would result in the placement of fill material into waters of the U.S., which requires a Department of the Army permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act

    Halligan Reservoir aerial credit: City of Fort Collins

    Halligan Dam is a concrete arch dam built over 100 years ago and will require rehabilitation in the near future to address safety risks. These safety risks would be addressed by Fort Collins under their proposed action during enlargement of the dam. Under the Project Alternatives, ownership of and responsibility for the dam rehabilitation would revert back to the North Poudre Irrigation Company. Under Fort Collins’ proposed action, Halligan Reservoir would continue to be filled with direct flows from the North Fork. Releases would be made to the North Fork downstream of the dam and would flow through Seaman Reservoir to the confluence with the Cache La Poudre River. From there, water would be exchanged up to Fort Collins’ intake or to the Monroe Canal intake and delivered to Fort Collins’ water treatment facility through the Pleasant Valley Pipeline. Under the proposed action, Fort Collins would maintain a minimum flow of five cubic feet per second in the North Fork from May 1 to September 30, a minimum flow of three cubic feet per second the remainder of the year, and forego all diversions to the enlarged pool and Halligan Reservoir for the three days that coincide with the forecasted peak runoff flow event for the North Fork.

    This Draft EIS also evaluates the effects of the following alternatives to the Halligan Project: the No- Action Alternative; the Expanded Glade Alternative; the Gravel Pits Alternative; the Agricultural Reservoirs Alternative and the No-Action Alternative.

    Reviewers should provide the Corps with their comments during the Draft EIS review period. The Corps will respond to substantive comments on the Draft EIS in a Final EIS. The Draft EIS and supporting documents are available at: or https://go.usa.gov/xEfp5 or http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory-Program/Colorado/EIS-Halligan/

    #PoudreRiver work group seeking nominees for annual Poudre Pioneer Award — The Greeley Tribune

    Cache la Poudre River from South Trail via Wikimedia Foundation.

    From The Greeley Tribune (Joe Moylan):

    The Poudre Runs Through It Action Work Group is seeking nominations for its annual Poudre Pioneer Award, and will recognize the honoree on Feb. 28, 2020 at the Poudre River Forum at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center in Loveland.

    Each year, the Forum brings together those on the Poudre who farm, deliver clean potable water, drink beer, recreate and advocate for river health to learn from one another and to explore how we can move from conflict to collaboration. The awardee will be selected prior to the forum, invited to share a short acceptance speech and will be recognized through local media.

    Those eligible are individuals or organizations, including businesses, public agencies, and non- profits, who have substantially contributed to the goal of making the Poudre a river that supplies the goods and services demanded by our complex society, within the existing and evolving water rights system and honoring existing property rights, while maintaining and improving ecological integrity and resilience.

    Many contributions can further the goal of a healthy working river, including, but not limited to, fostering collaboration across water use sectors including agricultural, urban, and environmental, production of scientific or technical information, fundraising, engineering excellence, public outreach, water resources management, or water quality and quantity monitoring. These contributions may be judged on their degree of effectiveness, innovation, creativity, novelty, problem solving ability, ease of duplication by others, and leadership.

    Nominees need not live or work in the Poudre Basin, but the tangible results of their efforts must be evident within the basin and have a direct nexus to our goal for the Poudre River.

    Nominations can be made by anyone and are due on Sunday, Dec. 1. Nominations can be submitted online.

    All of the materials for the nomination must be uploaded at once, so have the following prepared prior to accessing the online form:

  • Information about why you think your nominee should receive the Poudre Pioneer Award.
  • Nominee’s notable accomplishments.
  • Nominee’s impacts and contributions in the Poudre River Basin.
  • Up to three letters of support.
  • For more information,contact nomination committee chairman Aaron Goldman at poudreriverforum@gmail.com.

    The River The Land, The People, The Cache — Greg Hobbs

    The River The Land, The People, The Cache

    We are the land, the river keepers,
    the public who owns the water resources,

    We are those who live along the waters,
    those whose duties require running the water
    through the ditches to those who own use rights,

    We are those who own the bed, the banks
    of the stream, the lands through which
    the arteries of the ditches run,

    We are the look, the feel, the faces, the hands
    of Colorado, the bundle of rights and duties
    that inter-depend upon each other,

    We are the Cache – for and with each other –
    for all the creatures who must rely

    On our best creative judgment,
    always shaping.

    Greg Hobbs 11/8/2019

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    ‘This is really a gem now,’ Poudre River Whitewater Park opens with a splash — The Rocky Mountain Collegian

    Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Collegian

    From The Rocky Mountain Collegian (Ceci Taylor):

    Sounds of the Poudre River rolling over rocks, children and adults laughing and screaming and live music could be heard just north of Old Town at the Poudre River Whitewater Park Saturday.

    An ongoing project since 2014, the Poudre River Whitewater Park was finally opened to the public [October 23, 2019].

    A number of people spoke at the ribbon-cutting event, including Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell, Councilmember Susan Gutowsky, local business owner and project donor Jack Graham and City Manager Darin Atteberry.

    “This is really a gem now in Fort Collins, and I’m really excited to be here today and to appreciate all the things this great City can do for the people of Fort Collins,” Troxell said. “The Poudre River is indeed a treasure, and we must guard it, and we must protect it and we must also enjoy it.”

    Alex Mcintosh, a Fort Collins resident and kayaker, said the construction of the Whitewater Park in Fort Collins means a lot to him as a kayaker.

    “I think it will bring a bunch of different subcultures and communities together: fishermen, rafters and people during the summer for tubing,” Mcintosh said. “It’s nice to see they’ve taken the initiative to create something in town for everyone to enjoy and learn and educate themselves about the river.”

    Fort Collins community members kayak and sit on the shore of the Poudre River during the grand opening of the Poudre River Whitewater Park off of North College and Vine Drive Oct. 12. (Alyssa Uhl | The Collegian)

    Troxell said the Poudre River has been a working river for a long time, so a lot of diversions, irrigation ditches and canals have already been built into the river. He said this particular part of the river already had a lot of man-made additions to it, which makes the river uninhabitable and inaccessible.

    The goal of the Poudre River master plan is to reclaim the river for natural habitat and create accessibility for the people of Fort Collins, and the completion of the Whitewater Park marks the beginning of that process.

    “When I was growing up here, the river was the back door,” Troxell said. “It had the riff-raff, it had the old cars and now, today, it’s our front door.”

    Gutowsky said the Heritage Trail Program plans to add signs throughout the river corridors, along with viewing areas that will allow visitors to understand the messages of history and the environment of the Poudre River.

    “Here we are today celebrating the Poudre River, and it is the jewel of our City,” Gutowsky said. “Over the decades, our river has seen great drama and interesting characters. It has many interesting stories to share. Not only will our Whitewater Park be a recreational phenomenon, but it will also serve as a heritage gateway: a physical and informational gateway created through a funding partnership.”

    Graham said there was a massive amount of people who contributed to the project, and nothing could have been accomplished without the support of Fort Collins citizens who voted for and donated to the park.

    “We should point to the success of this park as a great example of how investing in our community works, and we should continue to invest wisely,” Graham said. “People will be attracted to come to Fort Collins to see the Whitewater Park and the River District. New businesses will be formed, and the help of our community to even higher levels of economic strength are going to occur. The park is going to be a great asset to our City.”

    Atteberry said the park is only the beginning, and new ideas and projects are already in motion for the Poudre River. He also said the main goals of the Whitewater Park were recreation for citizens of Fort Collins, river safety and the juxtaposition between the man-made and the natural environment.

    Fort Collins community members kayak and sit on the shore of the Poudre River during the grand opening of the Poudre River Whitewater Park off of North College and Vine Drive Oct. 12. (Alyssa Uhl | The Collegian)

    “Recreation matters to this town, not only because it’s fun, but because we want to be a healthy community, and this is forwarding that strategic objective,” Atteberry said. “Safety matters. There are going to be fewer properties that are flooding because of this project. It’s not just a pretty face. It has a deep function to it, and that is it helps take properties out of the floodplain.”

    Kurt Friesen, director of the Park Planning and Development department for the City of Fort Collins, said the construction of the park wasn’t easy, and seeing it open was so rewarding because he knew the process it went through.

    Friesen said the project underwent a number of obstacles, including the limited timeframe given to get the work done in the river. He said a series of very old manholes were found in the river that were used to direct flows into the old power plant.

    Friesen said that, normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal, but since the team was racing against the clock to get the work done before the snowmelt in April, it was a problem.

    However, the contractors and their team were able to get the manholes removed quickly, and the project was able to continue.

    “I just want to say thank you to those that committed themselves,” Friesen said. “I believe this will be Fort Collins’ next great place largely because of that commitment.”

    Ceci Taylor can be reached at news@collegian.com.

    Halligan Water Supply Project Cost Update — @FCUtilities

    Halligan Reservoir

    Here’s the release from Fort Collins Utilities (Eileen Dornfest):

    Fort Collins Utilities has updated the cost estimate for the Halligan Water Supply Project (Halligan Project). Based on information known at this time, current estimates indicate a probable cost of $120 million. However, costs could vary between $100 million to $150 million as the project scope and schedule are more clearly defined.

    The project will be paid for primarily by fees related to new development and redevelopment. The updated cost is not expected to significantly change Utilities’ water rate forecast. Future rate increases are not expected to change from the current rate adjustment strategy.

    To date, $19 million have been spent, mainly on environmental studies for both the Halligan Project and several other water storage alternatives that have been considered as part of the federal permitting process and on real estate acquisition.

    While the cost of water continues to rise in Northern Colorado, the Halligan Project remains the most cost-effective alternative to provide a safe and reliable water supply for Utilities’ existing and future customers. Other water supply options available to the City of Fort Collins cost seven times or more per acre-foot (approximately 326,000 gallons) of firm yield.

    Without the Halligan Reservoir expansion, customers could be vulnerable to future service interruptions during prolonged drought and emergency situations.

    Since entering the federal permitting process in 2006, project costs have been updated periodically. The last estimate was developed in 2017 and indicated a total cost of $75 million. Since then, Utilities has learned more about the future schedule and cost of federal, state and county permitting processes; real estate acquisition needs; evolving best practices in dam design and construction; and opportunities for environmental enhancements. Additionally, the cost increases $4 million for every year that construction is delayed due to permitting or other circumstances.

    In the past, the estimate was presented as one value – a best approximation of total project costs. In the future, the cost will be presented as a range of costs to reflect the evolving nature of a project of this size and complexity.

    Expected to be completed around 2026, the project will raise the height of the existing Halligan dam by 25 feet and increase the reservoir’s water storage by approximately 8,100 acre-feet. In addition to providing a safe, reliable water supply, the project will rehabilitate a 110-year-old dam that will need repairs in the future and enhance stream flows downstream of the reservoir, improving habitat and the ecosystem.

    A draft Environmental Impact Statement is anticipated to be released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers later this year, followed by a public comment period.

    To learn more about the Halligan Project, visit http://fcgov.com/halligan, email halligan@fcgov.com or call 970-416-4296 or V/TDD 711.

    “We know population will double by 2050, and we know the rivers won’t” — Chris Matkins

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

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    The all-American ideal of an expansive, emerald green lawn accounts for almost two-thirds of the average Fort Collins resident’s water bill.

    But the two main water providers serving Fort Collins taps — Fort Collins Utilities and Fort Collins-Loveland Water District — want to change that. The two districts are focusing increasingly on outdoor irrigation to meet conservation goals and deal with the water demands of a growing population…

    Fort Collins Utilities provides water to most of Fort Collins north of Harmony. Fort Collins-Loveland Water District provides water to most of Fort Collins south of Harmony as well as parts of Loveland, Timnath, Windsor and Larimer County.

    Fort Collins Utilities, whose water use has consistently declined since the ’80s, has a goal of reducing water use another 10% by 2030. Fort Collins-Loveland Water District is headed toward a goal of reducing water use 10% between 2015 and 2024.

    “We know population will double by 2050, and we know the rivers won’t,” said Chris Matkins, Fort Collins-Loveland Water District general manager. “So we understand that we’ve got to make some changes.”

    Fort Collins Utilities has lowered its overall water use since the ’80s, and the community’s per-capita use reached 143 gallons a day in 2018 (down from 248 in 1989). Fort Collins-Loveland Water District’s per-capita use reached about 177 gallons a day in 2014 and has significantly declined since then, Matkins said.

    Winner of the Best Tasting Water in the Rocky Mountain Section-City of Fort Collins — @RMSAWWA

    Winning cities representatives 2019.
    Photo credit: AWWA — Rocky Mountain Section

    Here’s the release from the AWWA — Rocky Mountain Section:

    The water has been tasted, the water has been tested and the winner of the “Best of the Rocky Mountain Section” water taste test has been announced! City of Fort Collins took first place with a panel of veteran judges and media reporters evaluating water appearance, quality, order, and taste, of course. Competition was stiffer this year with 15 municipalities, from Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico, competing for the title of the best drinking water in the mountain west during the 2019 annual conference of the Rocky Mountain Section of the American Water Works (RMSAWWA) in Keystone, Colorado. You can learn more about the winner, City of Fort Collins Utility, by visiting http://www.fcgov.com. Second place was awarded to Aurora Water, Colorado with the City of Cheyenne Board of Public Utilities, Wyoming coming in third.

    City of Fort Collins will now go on to represent the mountain west in the national “Best of the Best” water taste test at the American Water Work Association’s Annual Conference and Exposition (ACE20) in Orlando, Florida, June 14-17, 2020. Over 11,000 water professionals across the country will gather at ACE20 where the best-tasting tap water in North American will be declared.

    The RMSAWWA is the regional section for the AWWA, which is the largest non-profit, science-based organization in the world for drinking water professionals. The RMSAWWA covers Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico and has over 2,400 members, representing water utilities, engineering consultants and water treatment specialty firms.

    Job Announcement: General Manager Position Northern Colorado Water Association Wellington, #Colorado

    From email from the Northern Colorado Water Association:

    The Northern Colorado Water Association (NCWA), a Colorado non-profit corporation, which provides potable water service to approximately 1,500 rural customers in northern Larimer County, is seeking a General Manager. NCWA provides domestic water to the rural area roughly between Fort Collins and the Wyoming border; and between the foothills and the Interstate 25 corridor. Existing sources of water supply include wells and connections to area water districts. The current General Manager is retiring at the end of 2019 and it is anticipated that the replacement would start around December 1, 2019.

    If you are qualified and interested in applying for this position, please email your resume and a letter of interest identifying your unique qualifications to perform the required duties to rich.ncwa@cowisp.net by September 1, 2019.

    Duties of the General Manager include the following:

    Provides overall company management, subject to review and approval by the Board of Directors.

    Provides overall company management, subject to review and approval by the Board of Directors.

    Responsible for all aspects of financial management including:

  • Budgeting
  • Billing
  • Revenue
  • Expenditures
  • Payroll
  • Cash flow
  • Banking
  • Investments
  • Insurance
  • Taxes
  • Coordination with outside accountants/auditors
  • Preparation of monthly reports of financial activities for the Board of Directors
  • Performs continual monitoring, assessment, and identification of the water system’s capability to provide reliable water service to existing and future customers including:

  • Evaluation of water system supply capability
  • Determination of ability to serve new taps
  • Identification of needed capital improvements
  • Assessing maintenance needs
  • Evaluation of raw water supplies
  • Long range strategic planning
  • Coordination with outside consultants/jurisdictional agencies
  • Participates in extensive communication and coordination with the Water System Operator relative to field activities and system operation

    Responsible for human resource activities including;

  • Hiring employees
  • Compensation
  • Performance evaluation
  • Acquiring and administering employee benefits
  • Filing periodic government reports
  • Addresses customer questions and/or complaints

    Attends Board of Directors meetings, prepares agendas, takes minutes, and advises the Board of the company’s activities, status, etc.

    Organizes the annual Membership meeting, provides legal notice, secures proxies, and provides a report of the company’s activities during the previous year to the attendees

    Administers the acquisition and maintenance of office equipment and software

    Acquires and coordinates legal counsel when appropriate.

    Organizes and maintains company records

    Other activities that may arise or be directed by the Board

    Photo credit: Melissa Wiseheart via the Northern Colorado Water Association

    Soldier Canyon Water Treatment Authority embarks on $38.9 million expansion

    The Soldier Canyon Dam is located on the east shore of Horsetooth Reservoir, 3.5 miles west of Fort Collins, Colorado. The zoned earthfill dam has an outlet works consisting of a concrete conduit through the base of the dam, controlled by two 72-inch hollow-jet valves. The foundation is limey shales and sandstones overlain with silty, sandy clay. Photo credit Reclamation.

    From The North Forty News (Annika Deming):

    Soldier Canyon Water Treatment Authority recently broke ground on a $38.9 million expansion to the water treatment plant in Fort Collins, Colorado. Fort Collins-Loveland Water District (FCLWD) receives the majority of the water it provides to 45,000 people in parts of Fort Collins, Loveland, Timnath, Windsor and Larimer County from the Soldier Canyon Filter Plant. Slated for a 2021 completion, the project will allow Soldier Canyon to meet peak summer capacity demands without relying on any other plants. It will also improve water quality with the construction of additional taste and odor facilities.

    FCLWD currently receives raw water from the North Poudre Irrigation Company, Colorado-Big Thompson (C-BT) project, Josh Ames, Divide Canal and Reservoir Company, and Windsor Reservoir Company. Raw Water sources must be treated before being delivered to customers. Most of the water delivered to customers for household usage comes from the Soldier Canyon Filter Plant, which pulls from the Poudre River and Horsetooth Reservoir. The plant has some of the highest quality water in the area, which is measured and reported on quarterly for the plant, and years for FCLWD. The remainder of the water comes from the City of Fort Collins Water Treatment Facility and the City of Loveland Water Treatment Plant.

    After the Soldier Canyon plant expansion is complete staff will be able to treat 60 million gallons of water per day. They will also have more treatment tools available for taste and odor removal, additional flocculation and sedimentation facilities, and additional contact time for chlorine to inactivate viruses and other pathogens. The expansion will be constructed offline, meaning minimal impact to FCLWD customers. At the end of the project, it will be connected to the existing facility.

    “Our mission has always been to provide high quality, secure, reliable and affordable water to our customers,” says Chris Matkins, FCLWD general manager. “As the district continues to expand, we need to ensure we can continue to provide the highest quality water in the area water to customers. We are always planning for the future and this expansion is part of a multi-prong plan to meet demand and maintain infrastructure.”

    Soldier Canyon Filter Plant, located at the base of Horsetooth Reservoir, treats and distributes water for three local entities: Fort Collins-Loveland Water District, North Weld County Water District and East Larimer County Water District.

    FCLWD has provided water services to businesses and citizens since 1961. The District serves approximately 45,000 people in an area that encompasses approximately 60 square miles in parts of Fort Collins, Loveland, Timnath, Windsor and Larimer County. Governed by separately elected Boards of Directors, the Districts provide the full spectrum of high-quality and dependable water treatment and delivery as well as water reclamation services. For additional information about Fort Collins-Loveland Water District, its services and project visit http://www.fclwd.com or follow us on Facebook.

    For additional information and updated on the expansion as well as tips for water conservation and efficiency visit FCLWD’s Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/fclwd.

    @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.

    Some activities at Windsor Lake Reservoir are not permitted due to cyanobacteria bloom

    Windsor Lake Reservoir. Photo credit: The Town of Windsor

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Miles Blumhardt):

    Tuesday, Windsor announced it was closing Windsor Lake Reservoir because the water tested positive for cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae. The test was conducted Thursday.

    The popular lake’s swim beach and dog beach have been roped off. Swimming, bathing and pets are not allowed in the water. Rentals and concessions will not be available during the closure.

    Permitted motorized and non-motorized boaters are allowed on the lake but tubing and water skiing are not allowed. Boat traffic actually agitates the water and helps reduce the bacteria, which is why it is allowed. Non-motorized boaters can recreate in the reservoir at their own risk.

    “Out of an abundance of caution last week, we issued a precautionary health advisory,” Eric Lucas, Windsor’s Director of Parks, Recreation & Culture, stated in a release. “A new sample has been sent to the state laboratory today and we will continue to test weekly until the bacteria clears up.”

    More ag water protection needed as Northern Colorado keeps booming: expert panel — The Boulder Daily Camera

    Photo credit: Jonathan Thompson

    From The Boulder Daily Camera (Sam Lounsberry):

    With concerns looming large over two expensive proposals to divert one of the Front Range’s most beloved rivers, the Cache la Poudre, to store supply for 15 Northern Colorado water providers and another to transport water out of the basin to Thornton via pipeline, more planning to keep water rights in the region for agricultural use is economically essential.

    That is, unless Front Range residents approve of the disappearance of local farms and the volume of business, environmental benefit and cultural impact provided by the ag sector, panelists at a BizWest-sponsored discussion on water and energy policy said Thursday at the Larimer County Fairgrounds.

    Northern Water is still working through the permitting process for the two reservoirs with hopes of filling them by 2028, while Thornton is suing Larimer County over a land use denial for the pipeline…

    The construction boom across the Front Range has greatly expanded the markets for water shares, especially Colorado-Big Thompson units representing flow brought from the wet Western Slope to the dry Front Range through the Northern Water-managed Colorado-Big Thompson system. Those units can be transferred from farmers to municipalities without the hassle of water court…

    As a result, market pressure has fallen on native basin water owners, whose values also are ticking upward.

    “The level of scarcity has really come to bear since the last economic upturn,” Greeley Water and Sewer Director Sean Chambers said. “Water leaving northern Colorado is an export of our ability to grow now and in the future in a sustainable way. Denver metro economies can still find value even in this hyper-inflated (water) marketplace.”

    […]

    Regulations or legislation to restrict water resources from being transported outside the boundaries of their local basins, though, are likely not a fair solution to farmers, former Northern Water manager Eric Wilkinson contends.

    Because water rights in the state are considered property, agriculturalists should have the option to take advantage of selling them for fair market value, Wilkinson said. New public entities might need to be conceived or old ones redesigned to compete for water rights with the mission of preserving them for local use, he said.

    But building political will for such efforts has been a challenge.While Boulder County taxpayers have funded aggressive open space programs that have resulted in the purchase and protection of vast swaths of farmland, voters in neighboring areas with conservative roots have been more cautious.

    Yet there is urgency to gain the political capital needed to invest in the preservation of farmland through open space programs or otherwise before the land and water become too valuable, and thus tempting for owners to sell. Maps of the growth management areas of the municipalities north and east of Longmont show they have collectively targeted practically all undeveloped land along the Interstate 25 corridor to the Wyoming border.

    “The Greeley City Council is thinking about trying to establish an open space tax of some kind,” Greeley City Manager Roy Otto said in an interview. “But I think to make this work, Weld County as a whole will have to do something like that, as well.”

    Otto added praise for open space programs in Boulder and Larimer counties as a means of protecting land and ag, but said an “honest” education effort about peripheral consequences of limiting the development of municipal boundaries through dedicated open space has to occur with Longmont’s eastern neighbors.

    Timnath Reservoir – Health Advisory/Alert — Town of Timnath

    Here’s the release from the Town of Timnath:

    Timnath Reservoir Health Advisory

    This is a precautionary alert to advise all users of the Timnath Reservoir that Blue-Green Algae (Cyanobacteria) may be present in areas of Timnath Reservoir. Blue-Green algae can cause illnesses such as; diarrhea, abdominal pain, eye and skin irritation, and rashes. Experts advise against wading or swimming in areas where Blue-Green Algae is present, and keeping pets and livestock away.

    The photos below were taken At Timnath Reservoir.

    Cyanobacteria blooms Timnath Reservoir July 2019. Photo credit: The Town of Timnath

    How to spot blue-green algae

  • A cyanobacteria bloom can turn water turquoise, bright green, pea green, brown or other unusual shades. Rafts of froth or foam sometimes appear.
  • At times blooms appear along shorelines and in bays and other areas shielded from wind and waves, and often follow periods of hot, calm weather and can persist into the fall.
  • Experts advise against wading or swimming in water with this appearance, and keeping dogs and livestock away.
  • To protect yourself and your pets:

  • avoid contact with blue-green algae blooms
  • Do not swim or wade in water where blue-green algae is visible
  • Do not drink or cook with water from this reservoir
  • Clean fish well and discard guts – avoid eating fish that look unhealthy
  • If contact occurs, wash with clean water as soon as possible
  • If, after being in the reservoir, you or your animals have sudden or unexplained sickness call your doctor or veterinarian.
  • Graphic credit: The Town of Timnath

    Thornton Water Project update

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

    Judge Juan Villasenor issued an order in 8th Judicial District Court on Sunday, granting the request of both No Pipe Dream and Save the Poudre to “intervene” in the lawsuit, essentially allowing both groups to back Larimer County’s decision to deny a permit for a section of water pipeline.

    The ruling states that both groups have an interest in the decision of whether the pipeline can be built to carry water from the Poudre River to Thornton, but that “neither organization nor their members’ interests are entirely or adequately represented by the existing parties.”

    […]

    The judge agreed in his ruling that those residents could be adversely affected by the pipeline and rejected Thornton’s argument that they should not have a say in the suit. He ruled that the group does have a legitimate interest in the case and is seeking the same result as the Larimer County — a court decision upholding the commissioners’ permit denial.

    “Thornton contends — facetiously in the Court’s view — that the interests that the No Pipe seeks to protect aren’t germane to its purpose,” the ruling states, stressing that the residents’ interests could be harmed if the pipeline were built along either route.

    “The outcome of this litigation could result in a loss of property through loss of the property itself, use, access or quiet enjoyment,” the ruling states, adding “Thus, No Pipe has an interest in the outcome of the litigation.”

    […]

    The judge also allowed a second group, Save the Poudre, to join the lawsuit because, like No Pipe Dream, the nonprofit was involved in the process all along and is seeking the same result as Larimer County.

    constitutionstateofcolorado
    See Article 7.

    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

    #Runoff news: Northern #Colorado rivers have likely peaked for the season

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    The Poudre and Big Thompson rivers are gushing as a wave of warm weather sends mountain snowmelt rushing toward Northern Colorado, but regional officials say flows should taper this week and don’t expect major flooding.

    The Poudre flowed about 4.3 feet high at the Lincoln Street gauge Tuesday afternoon. Its volume of 956 cubic feet per second was nearly three times the median for this time of year…

    A blast of summer heat will bring Fort Collins a string of days with highs above 90 degrees, starting Wednesday and holding on through Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. Hodges said flood risk isn’t a big concern, though, because so much of the mountain snowpack that feeds the Big Thompson and Poudre rivers has already melted…

    Remaining snowpack is plummeting in both the North Platte and South Platte river basins, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service…

    The onset of summer also means people will divert more water from the Poudre, which loses over 60% of its water before it even gets to Fort Collins…

    The Big Thompson and Poudre rivers have likely already reached their peaks, Hodges said. The Big Thompson reached about 5.8 feet — action stage for flooding is 6.5 — above the canyon mouth on Thursday, according to the Colorado Division of Water Resources…

    The Poudre reached about 5.7 feet at the canyon mouth Friday. Action stage is 6.5 feet. It peaked at about 5.5 feet through town on Friday, well below the action stage of 9 feet.

    From OutThereColorado.com (Spencer McKee):

    The warmer temperatures in Colorado’s mountains are expected to melt quite a bit of snowpack. Be warned that Colorado’s rivers and waterways will be swollen with fast moving and powerful water, making them very dangerous. Three people have died in three separate incidents over the past week in Colorado rivers.

    Greeley Water Pollution Control Facility awarded a National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) Peak Performance Platinum 8 Award

    Photo credit: Greeley.gov

    From The Greeley Tribune (Tamara Markard):

    NACWA recognizes wastewater plants that achieve 100% compliance with the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) over a consecutive five-year period.

    The Greeley wastewater plant discharges more than 7 million gallons of treated water back into the Poudre River daily. Compliance with permitted requirements ensures that water is safe for downstream users, aquatic habitats, and the environment, according to a Greeley news release…

    The wastewater plant maintains compliance through the operation and support of various systems that remove pollutants from the wastewater. Samples of the water are then tested and analyzed to ensure that the proper treatment has been performed…

    or more information on the plant, water and sewer utilities, or to inquire about a tour, call (970) 350-9360 or visit http://www.greeleygov.com/water.

    Thornton Water Project update

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    Larimer County leaders are asking a court to uphold their rejection of the Thornton pipeline.

    The city of Thornton sued Larimer county commissioners in April, asking the Larimer County District Court to overturn the board’s decision and either approve one of the two proposed pipeline routes or force the county to do so. Larimer County commissioners filed their response to Thornton’s lawsuit Monday afternoon.

    The legal battle is the latest twist in a yearslong fight over a proposed pipeline that would carry Poudre River water from reservoirs north of Fort Collins to Thornton…

    Pipeline opponent No Pipe Dream and river advocacy group Save the Poudre both plan to intervene in the lawsuit, those groups’ leaders told the Coloradoan. If the court allows the groups to intervene, they’ll become parties in the lawsuit…

    Commissioners argue the court must affirm their decision if there’s any “competent evidence” in the record supporting it. Competent evidence is a legal term describing evidence that tends to prove a matter in a dispute.

    The county also argues the court doesn’t have the authority to substitute its own judgment on the pipeline path. If the court decides commissioners made the wrong call, it must send the case back to the board for reconsideration and correction, the answer argues.

    Next steps in the lawsuit could include a motion for judgment or a scheduling conference for the parties to discuss the potential of a settlement or plan a discovery period and timeline for a trial.

    Map via ThorntonWaterProject.com

    Larimer County is still waiting for $20 million from FEMA for repairs after 2013 floods

    Damage to US 34 along the Big Thompson River September 2013. Photo credit: CDOT

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    Nearly six years after the Big Thompson River flood wrecked U.S. Highway 34, stranded Estes Park and wiped out bridges and homes, the U.S. government has yet to fund $20 million of repairs in Larimer County.

    The county hasn’t started construction on County Road 47 (Big Elk Meadows) and County Road 44H (Buckhorn) because of the lack of funding. The county finished work on Big Thompson River bridges destroyed and rebuilt after the flood but hasn’t been reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the project.

    The delay in FEMA funding for Larimer County’s last three flood recovery projects has county officials in a bind: As another construction season looms without federal money, so does a crucial state deadline.

    Colorado’s general fund has paid for about 13% of Larimer County’s flood restoration work since 2013. Come September 2020, state funding for the projects will dry up.

    “We will not be able to meet that deadline with the delays we’ve had because of this issue,” said Lori Hodges, Larimer County emergency management director. “Our biggest projects are at risk because we haven’t gotten the guidance we need.”

    The holdup is essentially a bureaucratic issue. Congress passed a law in October 2018 changing the way FEMA awards money for disaster recovery work.

    FEMA used to deny funding for all projects that didn’t meet a strict set of code compliance guidelines. The guidelines had little wiggle room for projects on roads and bridges in complex terrain — like the ones destroyed by the flood in the Big Thompson canyon. For example, a road repair in a narrow, rocky canyon probably couldn’t meet FEMA’s requirement for shoulder width.

    The Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 instructed FEMA to award money for projects that don’t meet the strict guidelines as long as a local engineer signs off on the work and agrees a waiver is necessary. Congress gave FEMA 60 days to give its regional offices guidance on how to award funding under the new law.

    But FEMA hasn’t done that yet, so regional officials won’t fund the implicated Larimer County projects, Hodges said. FEMA Region 8 spokesperson Lynn Kimbrough told the Coloradoan the office paused a Larimer County funding appeal as it waits for policy guidance from headquarters…

    CR 47, partially destroyed by the flood, branches off U.S. Highway 36 between Lyons and Estes Park. The road is accessible but unpaved. An 11-mile stretch of CR 44H, located in Buckhorn Canyon and the Roosevelt National Forest, was heavily damaged in the flood and the High Park Fire in 2012.

    noosa yoghurt and Morning Fresh Dairy named Northeast Region Partner of the Year — #Colorado Parks and Wildlife

    Water courses through the new fish passage at Watson Lake State Wildlife Area. The passage allows fish to swim up and down the river past a diversion dam. Photo credit: Northern Water

    Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

    The Graves family, owners of Morning Fresh Dairy and noosa yoghurt, was honored Thursday night with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Northeast Region Partner of the Year Award for 2019.

    The award was announced at the annual Partners in the Outdoors Conference awards dinner held at the Beaver Run Resort & Conference Center.

    The Graves’ were nominated by CPW Assistant Area Wildlife Manager Jason Surface. Rob and Lori Graves were on hand at Thursday’s dinner and banquet to accept the award.

    “The entire Graves family, and Rob in particular, deserve this award for their unwavering commitment to the natural resources of Colorado and the mission of CPW,” Surface said. “Through all facets of his life, Rob has recognized the importance of connecting all Coloradoans, including his employees, children, grandchildren and community members to their natural resources and building successful partnerships.”

    Rob Graves is co-founder of noosa yoghurt and the Graves family owns a sixth generation dairy farm, Morning Fresh Dairy, in Bellvue, Colo.

    The Graves family epitomizes a CPW partnership and has improved the state’s natural resources through stewardship, education, and monetary contribution.

    The recently completed fish ladder at the Watson State Wildlife Area and Watson Lake is one recent project that exemplifies their commitment and generosity, and it will be on display next week with the ribbon cutting ceremony to showcase the project’s completion. Graves has been heavily involved with the project from its inception in 2016, funding the conceptual design in 2017 and his leadership and contributions were instrumental in moving the habitat improvement project a reality.

    The Watson Lake fish ladder is reconnecting over two river miles on what was a fragmented Poudre River. The stretch there at Watson Lake contains important spawning habitat and deep pool that provides refuge for aquatic life.

    “The Graves family have been and continue to be a great partner to CPW and truly help us achieve the goals laid out in both our Strategic Plan and Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP),” Surface said.

    “Both of these plans emphasize the importance of wildlife conservation, outdoor stewardship and connecting people to the great outdoors by providing sustainable access and opportunities to outdoor recreation. These are goals they believe deeply in and he has made these a priority for not only himself, but his family, employees and the community of Bellvue as well.”

    There are many arenas where the Graves’ family plays a hand in sharing the mission of CPW through conservation and community enhancement.

    They develop and make outdoor stewardship ethics a priority, organize volunteer work and maintenance on our public lands, particularly at the Watson State Wildlife Area that they have adopted as their own. They organize and host events like the Pleasant Valley Days, which is focused on bringing the community together and getting people of all ages outdoors.

    The ribbon cutting event for the Watson Lake fish ladder is taking place on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, at 11 a.m.

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife: Ribbon cutting at Watson Lake fish ladder rescheduled for May 1

    Water courses through the new fish passage at Watson Lake State Wildlife Area. The passage allows fish to swim up and down the river past a diversion dam. Photo credit: Northern Water

    Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

    The ribbon cutting ceremony for the completion of the fish ladder at Watson Lake has been rescheduled and will now take place on May 1 at 11 a.m.

    It was originally set for April 12, but due to inclement weather during that week, was postponed.

    Watson Lake is located in Bellvue, Colo., just west of Laporte, on Rist Canyon Road.

    More Information:
    Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) along with funding partners noosa yoghurt, Northern Water, Morning Fresh Dairy, Poudre Heritage Alliance and Trout Unlimited will celebrate the completion of the fish ladder at Watson Lake.

    The collaborative project is helping to reconnect a fragmented Poudre River. The stretch contains important spawning habitat and deep pools that provide refuge for aquatic life. This Watson Lake fish ladder is reconnecting over two river miles. The group hopes this will be one of many ladders along the Poudre River that will allow fish to travel freely upstream and downstream, improving the health of the fishery and the ecosystem without impacting water delivery.

    Noosa yoghurt has been heavily involved with the project from its inception in 2016, funding the conceptual design in 2017. The vision for noosa has always been to give back to the community in a meaningful way.

    “The Poudre River is a treasure in Northern Colorado,” said Stephanie Giard, community outreach coordinator for noosa yoghurt. “The project area is frequently visited by neighbors in the Pleasant Valley for fishing, birdwatching, or just enjoying nature. It is our responsibility to protect this valuable resource in our community.”

    Watson Lake Diversion Structure is a channel spanning structure that represented a complete barrier to all upstream fish movement in the Poudre River. The structure delivers water to the Watson State Fish Hatchery and is owned and operated by CPW. The new fish ladder allows for passage through the diversion for all species present within the river reach including longnose dace, longnose suckers, white suckers, brown trout, and rainbow trout.

    Designed by OneFish Engineering and built by L4 Environmental, the fish ladder at the Watson Diversion was completed in record time. Biologists and engineers from across CPW came together to work with OneFish Engineering to find the optimal design to provide upstream fish movement through the diversion structure. The construction project started in November at the end of the irrigation season. It had to be completed before spring runoff, which can start as early as March. The project was blessed with ideal weather for construction this winter.

    “This project will improve river connectivity and benefit the aquatic resources by allowing fish to move freely back upstream as they wish,” CPW Aquatic Biologist Kyle Battige said. “Outside of the benefits to aquatic life, this project is important as it showcases the feasibility of fish passage at these large diversion structures and will hopefully further momentum for these types of projects. It also serves as an example of the collaboration and team effort from multiple entities that these large-scale conservation projects will have to have in order to be successful in today’s world.”

    Northern Water General Manager Brad Wind said this project will be an example of future cooperative efforts on the river.

    “This will be the first of several projects like these to create a healthier Poudre River for generations to come,” he said. “Northern Water and the NISP participants are proud to have been part of the cooperative effort to get this project completed.”

    “This is a first step in improving the health and resiliency of the Poudre River,” said Rob Graves, owner of Morning Fresh Dairy and co-founder of noosa yoghurt. “Through collaboration, we can preserve and protect this critical natural resource that flows through our community.

    “The river has played an important role in our business and in our family for over 100 years and we want to protect it for generations to come. We hope this project and future projects will be the legacy of our family and Morning Fresh Dairy.”

    The latest e-WaterNews is hot off the presses from @Northern_Water

    Water courses through the new fish passage at Watson Lake State Wildlife Area. The passage allows fish to swim up and down the river past a diversion dam. Photo credit: Northern Water

    Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

    Fish passage begins its work reconnecting Poudre River segments

    Construction crews have completed a new fish passage along the Poudre River at Watson Lake State Wildlife Area northwest of Fort Collins.

    Built with the cooperation of the participants of the Northern Integrated Supply Project, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, noosa yoghurt and Morning Fresh Dairy, the passage serves to reconnect stretches of river that had been separated by a diversion dam.

    Fort Collins company OneFish Engineering designed the project, and the construction company L4 Environmental built it over the past four months.

    A dedication ceremony for the new structure is planned for early May. The Poudre Heritage Alliance and Trout Unlimited are also providing assistance, and a public celebration for the new passage is planned during the Pleasant Valley Rendezvous on June 2 at Watson Lake.

    The City of Thornton files lawsuit over Larimer County’s denial of 1041 permit

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    Thornton has filed a lawsuit against Larimer County commissioners in protest of their rejection of the Thornton pipeline, kicking off a legal battle on the Poudre River.

    The city is asking the Larimer County District Court to overturn the commissioners’ decision and either approve one of the two proposed pipeline routes or force the county to do so.

    Thornton’s complaint, filed in the Larimer County District Court on Tuesday night, argues the Board of Commissioners’ decision “exceeds its jurisdiction and/or is contrary to law, misinterprets and misapplies its criteria, and was arbitrary and capricious because its findings lack competent evidence to support the Board’s denial of Thornton’s application.”

    In a statement, city spokesman Todd Barnes said Thornton “has taken action to represent the interests and property rights of their constituents.”

    […]

    Thornton’s water plans wouldn’t diminish flows in the Poudre River because the project’s water is already diverted from the river for agriculture. But the “Poudre River alternative,” which would involve running Thornton’s water down the river and nixing the northern segment of the pipeline, picked up considerable public support during a series of hearings on the project.

    “In discussion of Thornton’s proposal during the hearings, it is clear that the Board, contrary to its authority, factored into its decision the notion that Thornton should not build a pipeline but rather send its water down the Cache la Poudre River or down the Larimer County canal,” Thornton wrote in its complaint.

    City of Thornton Larimer County 1041 permit update

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    The city of Thornton plans to sue Larimer County over commissioners’ rejection of the Thornton pipeline proposal, according to the county’s attorney.

    Larimer County attorney Jeannine Haag told the Coloradoan she learned Thornton would be filing a lawsuit when she called the city’s attorney and asked whether the city would pursue legal action contesting the pipeline decision.

    Thornton will file a lawsuit in Larimer County District Court next week, Haag said. Thornton spokesman Todd Barnes told the Coloradoan the city doesn’t comment on issues of potential litigation…

    Thornton officials have kept quiet about their plans since commissioners unanimously rejected their proposal to build a pipeline to carry Poudre River water through Larimer County. Thornton leaders said they wouldn’t decide what to do until they could review commissioners’ written explanation of the vote. Commissioners approved that document March 18…

    It was also possible that Thornton officials would pursue an agreement with the city of Greeley, which has extra capacity in a water pipeline that might have been useful for Thornton. The cities met on the matter last month.

    In the written explanation of their decision on the pipeline, Larimer County commissioners said Thornton didn’t meet eight of the 12 criteria for the 1041 permit required to build the pipeline. The commissioners’ ruling was the county’s first-ever rejection of a 1041 permit.

    Commissioners wrote that Thornton didn’t meet the following criteria:

  • The proposal is consistent with the county’s master plan for land use and development
  • The applicant presented reasonable siting or design alternatives or explained why no reasonable alternatives are available
  • The proposal conforms with county standards and mitigation requirements for environmental impacts
  • The proposal won’t have a significant adverse effect on the land on which it’s situated and adjacent land, or will adequately mitigate significant adverse effects
  • The proposal won’t negatively impact public heath and safety
  • The benefits of proposed development outweigh the losses of any natural resources or resulting reduction of productivity of agricultural lands
  • The proposal demonstrates a reasonable balance between the costs to the applicant to mitigate significant adverse effects and the benefits achieved by that mitigation
  • @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.

    Poudre River Forum recap

    Cache la Poudre River. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs

    From The North Forty News (Gary Ratham):

    It’s important to pick metaphors carefully. Writers try to explain complex subjects in few words and in ways everyone can understand. Metaphors — words or phrases that imply that one thing can symbolically represent another — become one way to accomplish that task. This thought crossed my mind when I attended the 6th Annual Poudre River Forum on Feb. 1. (See http://prti.colostate.edu/forum_2019.shtml)

    Trying to sort out what allows a river to serve human needs while still providing the ecological services that keeps the world over which it flows alive is about as complex a problem as one can imagine. So, I picked my article title carefully. Rivers do not deliver water like a concrete ditch. Instead, like the arteries and veins of a living organism, they convey not only water, but also oxygen, nutrients and host of microbial servants to needed destinations in the biosphere. As we use a river’s resources for human needs, we should take her pulse regularly to ensure the health of the greater body she nourishes.

    MaryLou Smith via the Colorado Water institute.

    After attending the forum last year, I wrote a four-month series in the “North Forty News” that ran from March to June 2018. Please refer to that for background information on some of the basic issues of Poudre River ecology and management. This year I would like to focus on some of the people who make the forum work, and the process of talking TO each other rather than AT each other. That process was largely established under the leadership of MaryLou Smith, policy and collaboration specialist with the Colorado Water Center at Colorado State University. Since she will retire after this year, someone else must replace her leadership — and her optimism.

    John Stokes, head of the Natural Areas Department of the city of Fort Collins, made a special point of highlighting Smith’s optimism. It’s easy to get pessimistic about complex problems with no simple solutions, but Smith manages to stay upbeat. She says she has “devoted her career to encouraging an open dialogue between people.” That was exemplified in 2011 when the concept for the Forum first developed.

    In 2011, Ray Caraway, chief executive officer of Community Foundations of Northern Colorado, invited Smith to host a community forum discussing issues relating to NISP — the Northern Integrated Supply Project (https://www.northernwater.org/sf/nisp/home) — a collection of communities along the Front Range intending to build Glade Reservoir northwest of Fort Collins. Opposed by Friends of the Poudre and other conservation groups, Smith felt that a conference built solely around NISP would tend to create more polarization. She proposed the Poudre River Forum instead, with the intent of bringing together a wide swath of people from agriculture, urban planning, recreation, conservation and business — all with a stake in maintaining “a healthy working river.”

    This year, approximately 360 people met to have that discussion — roughly, a 17 percent increase over last year. Smith said she was gratified that discussions at the various tables seemed earnest and forthright. They listened to water commissioners, city managers, water lawyers, engineers, ecologists, farmers, conservationists, land developers, and others. The keynote speaker, Professor Edward B. Barbier, from the Department of Economics at Colorado State University, tackled the growing problem of water scarcity. (Yale University Press will release his new book about this problem, “Water Paradox,” in February.)

    Another Colorado State researcher, Brad Udall (not in attendance at this conference), highlighted this problem in a 2017 study published in “Water Resources Research.” Colorado River flows in the 21st century are 19 percent lower than those in the 20th. Predicted flows could drop by up to 55 percent by 2100 as a consequence of global warming. (See “Re-engineering the Colorado River” in the February issue of Scientific American.) We can expect similar reduced flows in the Poudre River.

    Ecologist Dr. LeRoy Poff from Colorado State said, “We need to face up to the ecological damage our pioneering spirit has caused to the Poudre River.” To do that requires gathering the data necessary to understand just what makes a river healthy. In an online report (https://natsci.source.colostate.edu/sustainable-dams-possible-csu-expert-weighs/) he said, “As a researcher, I am concerned about biodiversity conservation, and about sustaining rivers at a level of functional integrity that enables them to provide both biodiversity support as well as ecosystem goods and services.”

    @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.