Milton-Seaman Reservoir expansion update

From The Greeley Tribune (Tyler Silvy):

Expanding the 5,000-acre-foot capacity reservoir has been on Greeley officials’ to-do list for more than a decade. But the type of work the city is planning takes a lot of time, mainly because it involves the federal government.

If everything goes without a hitch, Greeley officials have circled 2030 as the year they’ll increase Seaman to 10 times its current capacity…

Here’s why:

» Greeley has never expanded any of its six reservoirs, and most have been around for nearly a century.

» Increasing Seaman to 53,000 acre-feet of water from 5,000 acre-feet will put Greeley in position to satisfy the city’s water needs for decades. (An acre foot of water is enough water for two families to use for a year). The city uses between 25,000-30,000 acre-feet of water per year: That’s expected to reach 40,000 acre-feet by 2030.

Harold Evans, chairman of the water and sewer board in Greeley, likens the Seaman’s expansion to the kind of planning that has kept water flowing from the city’s Bellvue Treatment Plant area since 1907…

Right now, Greeley is working with a consultant and in conjunction with the Army Corps of Engineers to develop an environmental impact statement.

Greeley is still about two years away from having a draft of that statement.

In the meantime, Greeley officials are working to secure more water rights. The city doesn’t have enough rights to fill the expanded Seaman Reservoir. They’re 40 percent there, and as Reckentine said, it’s an everyday process. Every year, in fact, Greeley commits millions toward purchasing water rights.

Expanding the reservoir could cost $95 million more just in construction costs, according to an estimate provided in a Colorado Water Conservation Board document.

Water rights come from a variety of places, including retiring farms.

Today, Greeley typically uses its reservoirs as drought protection.

Basically, Greeley has water rights from the Colorado, Poudre, Laramie and Big Thompson rivers. But whether Greeley is able to get all of the water it’s owed depends on the rivers’ flow levels.

In drier years, Greeley would have to do without some of that water. That’s where reservoirs come in. Evans said the first reservoirs were used to finish Greeley area crops when river flows weren’t strong enough to do so in late fall.

Snowmelt and water diverted into reservoirs could be tapped for that purpose. Evans said it’s like putting money in the bank. Pound-for-pound, water’s worth more than money, though.

If and when the Seaman Reservoir expansion is complete, Greeley will likely use some of the water from that reservoir every year.

For Evans, that’s a perfect example, among many, of an investment in the future.

Evans mentions the new pipeline from the Bellvue Water Treatment Plant being installed now, with a lifespan of 75-100 years. The Seaman Reservoir has been around since the 1940s.

ABOUT MILTON SEAMAN RESERVOIR

» Built 1941

» Storage: 5,008 acre-feet

» Elevation: 5,478 feet

» Dam height: 115 feet

» Proposed enlargement date: 2029

» Proposed storage: 53,000 acre-feet

SET FOR LIFE?

The Seaman Reservoir expansion will put Greeley in a good position, but Deputy Director of Greeley Water Eric Reckentine hesitates to call it the final answer.

Greeley has a four-point plan when it comes to water:

» Maintain what you have — Greeley has reinforced water lines with concrete and fiberglass to reduce leaks.

» Secure supply to stay ahead of demand — The Windy Gap Project, which ensured water during lean times, is an example of this.

» Build storage for the lean times — The Milton Seaman Reservoir expansion project is the best example of this.

» Conserve the water you have — Greeley has a state-approved water conservation plan, and the new water budgets are another example of conservation.

THE OTHER RESERVOIRS

Here’s a quick look at Greeley’s other five reservoirs:

» Barnes Meadow Reservoir — Built in 1922 and located across Colo. 14 from Chambers Lake in the Roosevelt National Park, Barnes Meadow Reservoir holds 2,349 acre-feet of water.

» Peterson Lake Reservoir — Built in 1922, and located southwest of Chambers Lake and adjacent to Colo. 156, Peterson Lake Reservoir holds 1,183 acre-feet of water.

» Comanche Reservoir — Built in 1924, and located along Beaver Creek and west of the Colorado State University Mountain campus, the Comanche Reservoir holds 2,628 acre-feet of water.

» Hourglass Reservoir — Built in 1898, and also located along Beaver Creek and west of the Colorado State University Mountain campus, the Hourglass Reservoir holds 1,693 acre-feet of water.

» Twin Lakes Reservoir — Built in 1924, and located southwest of Pingree Park off Colo. 14, Twin Lakes Reservoir holds 278 acre-feet of water.

From The Greeley Tribune (Tyler Silvy):

Doug Billingsley doesn’t know what he’s going to do to replicate the peace and quiet of his work when he retires and re-enters the hubbub of normal life. Greeley pays Billingsley to live at Milton Seaman Reservoir, about 15-20 minutes from the mouth of the Poudre Canyon. Billingsley lives in a city-provided house, and has lived there for the past eight years with his wife, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, and her caretaker.

Billingsley monitors the Seaman Reservoir. The reservoir is Greeley’s largest, and its water levels can rise and fall quickly. He must ensure the banks and dams are sound and functioning properly, and he’s charged with releasing water down the Poudre Canyon when necessary. Call him the water shepherd.

He’s used to the solitude, if not the quiet.

“I drove over the road truck for 18 years, and was by myself for up to 30 days at a time — I lived in a truck,” Billingsley said. “This is no biggie; this is heaven.”

The city pays him a salary as well as his living expenses. But there’s a catch: He’s on call 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

The floods of 2013 are a prime example. And Billingsley spent the better part of a week stuck at home after a bridge went out, trapping folks up the canyon. Of course, he had to monitor Seaman’s water levels during the flood, as well.

Billingsley’s wife loves having him at home every night, and he loves being there.

Apart from animals there’s nothing to bother a Seaman Reservoir caretaker. They’ve seen elk, mountain lions, bears, but none of them hurt anybody, he says.

Halligan Reservoir DEIS likely delayed until 2017

Halligan Reservoir
Halligan Reservoir

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

City officials say additional water-quality studies required by federal and state agencies are likely to delay release of a draft Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, for the proposed Halligan Reservoir expansion until 2017. The document was expected to be released this year.

The studies are expected to cost about $475,000 on top of the $8.2 million already spent as part of the environmental review process, said Adam Jokerst, water resources engineer with Fort Collins Utilities.

Halligan Reservoir is on the North Fork of the Poudre River northwest of Fort Collins. The expansion project would more than double the capacity of the reservoir.

The project is entering the 10th year of an EIS process that’s being overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The highly detailed water-quality studies will include monitoring water temperatures along the North Fork and main stem of the Poudre from below Halligan past Fort Collins, Jokerst said.

“It’s quite an effort,” he said.

Aquatic life is sensitive to water temperature, he said. Some types of fish cannot thrive if temperatures are too warm or too cold.

Methodology used in the studies will be consistent with that used to analyze the impact of other water storage projects proposed along the river, including the controversial Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP, which would build Glade Reservoir north of Fort Collins.

The need for the more research was raised by various entities and the public through comments directed to the Corps regarding the draft supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for NISP, Jokerst said.

The Halligan EIS process is being directed by the Corps, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state health department, Jokerst said.

“They desire, as do we, to have consistent methods between NISP and the Halligan project,” he said. “As the NISP methods were established, then we had to follow suit.”

Halligan Reservoir is about 100 years old. Its capacity is about 6,400 acre feet of water. The city has proposed enlarging by 8,125 acre feet by raising its dam about 25 feet…

Fort Collins has requested the expansion as a way to shore up its water supply and protect against drought…

The Halligan project “makes a lot of sense” for the city, Jokerst said. It makes use of an existing reservoir and could potentially improve flows along the North Fork of the Poudre.

“We still feel it’s a smart project,” he said. “The cost per acre-foot of water development … is very competitive.”

Planning for Fort Collins’ future water needs — Kevin Gertig

Halligan Reservoir
Halligan Reservoir

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Gertig):

Fort Collins is located in a semi-arid region where the amount of water available from month to month and year to year varies, especially during dry years and drought. Fort Collins Utilities has a responsibility to provide an adequate supply of water to existing and future customers; we made long-term water supply an essential element of our planning efforts decades ago.

For more than a century, Utilities has used an integrated approach to manage our water supply, including:

•Securing senior rights on the Poudre River,

•Purchasing and improving an existing storage facility on the upper Poudre (Joe Wright Reservoir),

•Acquiring nearly 19,000 units of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, and

•Establishing water conservation programs beginning in the late 1970s.

Recent updates to the Water Supply and Demand Management Policy, which provides direction to meet our community’s future water demands, identified the need for additional long-term water storage. Though the community actively conserves water year-round, storage is a valuable tool in water resources planning. Adequate storage helps meet projected demands and provides reserves for unexpected events, including pipeline failure, fires in the watershed or issues with Horsetooth Reservoir.

This policy also references Utilities’ Water Conservation Plan, which lays out a significant expansion of the water conservation program and targets residential and commercial customers, as well as indoor and outdoor water use.

Water conservation helps ensure the wise use of available water, especially during dry, hot summer months when little moisture is available. Although conservation helps stretch our water supply, Utilities’ current limited storage capacity means conserved water cannot be stored for future use.

If the Halligan Water Supply Project is permitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and approved by City Council, it will help meet Fort Collins’ future water needs. Careful planning and analysis determined that enlarging Halligan Reservoir is one of the most cost-effective solutions that minimizes environmental impacts compared to constructing a new one. The project also will provide storage of mostly existing water rights and be tailored in size and operations for our specific needs.

Fort Collins Utilities is proud of its strong conservation ethic, which provides a solid foundation for the management of our current and future water use in the Poudre River Basin. Through continued conservation efforts, smart water management and additional storage capacity, such as the Halligan Water Supply Project, Utilities will be prepared to meet the future water needs of our community.

For more information, visit http://fcgov.com/halligan.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

Halligan and Seaman reservoirs expansion update

Halligan Reservoir
Halligan Reservoir

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Dougan):

An environmental review of the proposed expansion of a Fort Collins reservoir is moving forward with its separation from a Greeley water project.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to consider the city’s proposal to more than double the storage capacity of Halligan Reservoir as a separate project rather than in combination with Greeley’s proposal to enlarge its Seaman Reservoir.

Both reservoirs are on the North Fork of the Poudre River. The projects have been combined under the Corps’ review process since 2006, when the cities formally proposed enlarging the reservoirs to meet future water demand.

The projects were combined because their operations were expected to be coordinated in order to impact on the river as little as possible, said Donnie Dustin, water resources manager with Fort Collins Utilities.

As part of the environmental impact statement, or EIS, process required by federal regulations, alternatives to the proposed expansions must be considered by the Corps.

Fort Collins has its alternatives lined up and ready while Greeley needs more time to develop its alternatives, Dustin said.

“The benefit of separation is Fort Collins gets to move forward without waiting for Greeley,” he said. “And Greeley gets to take their time to reassess alternatives with the Corps for their project. Both projects benefit.”

A draft EIS for the Halligan is expected to be released in spring 2016, Dustin said.

Halligan Reservoir is about 100 years old. Its capacity is about 6,400 acre feet of water…

The city’s current request is to add 8,125 acre feet to the reservoir by raising its dam about 25 feet, Dustin said.

Fort Collins has requested the expansion to shore up its water supply to protect against drought.

The city needs the increased storage capacity “now,” Dustin said. Greeley does not plan to expand Seaman Reservoir for several years.

“Just given where we are right now, it just didn’t make sense to stay together,” he said.

The Halligan-Seaman project initially included the cities in partnership with the North Poudre Irrigation Co. as well as the Fort Collins-Loveland, East Larimer County and North Weld County water districts, also know as the Tri-Districts.

The water providers proposed expanding Halligan by 40,000 acre feet. The Tri-Districts withdrew from the project in 2009 citing mounting costs and a lack or progress on the environmental studies.

North Poudre withdrew in 2014 for the over the same concerns.

So far, costs related to the permitting process have reached $7.7 million, with Fort Collins paying about $4.5 million, officials said.

More Cache la Poudre River coverage here.

NISP EIS delayed until spring


From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

…the modern struggle over Glade Reservoir — which would divert Poudre water into a lake larger than Horsetooth Reservoir — might not inspire a musket-bearing militia, it could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and has already sparked two complex environmental studies and angered Poudre River advocates.

Glade Reservoir may be just a plan on paper, but some say it is key to keeping Northern Colorado from drying up in the next few decades. Others contend that the highly controversial reservoir will damage the Poudre, not to mention swallow up acres of land, displace a federal highway and transfigure northern Larimer County’s landscape.

But release of a long-awaited environmental study that could pave the way for construction of two new Northern Colorado reservoirs — including Glade — has been postponed until next spring. The delay is the latest stall in an already yearslong battle over expanding Colorado’s water storage.

“We need this project and we need it soon,” said Carl Brouwer, who has been spear-heading the reservoir project, known as the Northern Integrated Supply Project, for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “We need this project today.”..

Now, the study won’t be released until possibly spring 2015, said Northern Water spokesman Brian Werner. That means the plan that would add millions of gallons to Northern Colorado’s reservoirs to stave off inevitable water loss remains years from realization. Meanwhile, Front Range cities are forced to lease water rights from agriculture in order to make up for water shortages, which continue to grow each year.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been studying the environmental impacts of the Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP, for more than a decade and, in 2008, began a second study into the project after public outcry demanded it. The supplemental study has now taken more time to complete than the first draft released in 2008.

But the future of NISP is not entirely dependent on the results of that study — the project is tied to the fates of several other proposed reservoirs in Northern Colorado, all of which are snarled in years of environmental study.

The Army Corps would not confirm that it had officially changed the deadline for the next environmental impact statement but said it is “continuing to work through a deliberative process on the NISP schedule,” said spokeswoman Maggie Oldham.

But those in the Colorado water community believe the study won’t be released in December or January, as the Corps initially planned. The delay is likely due to the overlap of multiple projects along the Poudre River and their different deadlines…

Regardless, the way forward for NISP will not be simple, as the project’s success depends on the approval of two other potential reservoirs, Halligan and Seaman, both still years away from realization, said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute.

Northern Water has also yet to acquire all the land necessary to build Glade Reservoir, which would also require the relocation of 7 miles of U.S. Highway 287 north of Fort Collins. But all other elements needed to pull NISP together still await approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Waskom thinks delays on the NISP study can be explained by the complex overlapping of the two water storage projects and a series of staggered deadlines for each.

“You can see why they are having trouble,” he said Tuesday. But while the Corps grapples with balancing decisions on NISP and another reservoir project, the gap between Colorado’s water availability and water use continues to grow, said Waskom.

Decades of challenges

While Brouwer believes he can see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel for Glade, there are myriad obstacles that stand between the project and completion. In addition to years of environmental studies and public comment, Wockner has vowed to prevent the construction of Glade at any cost by invoking the public right to challenge Army Corps decisions in court.

All these things have kept Glade and NISP wrapped up in years of controversy, to the point that proponents of the project have joked they will never see it completed in their lifetime.

But Colorado might not have a lifetime to wait for more water, according to draft versions of the Colorado Water Plan completed this summer.

The state is on track to be short 500,000 acre-feet of water by 2050 — enough to cover half a million football fields in one foot of water. The Fort Collins-Loveland Water Conservation District has already passed its water shortage date: By 2005, the district was short 1,100 acre-feet of water, an amount that could grow to 7,500 acre-feet by 2050, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

The NISP project is projected to bring an extra 40,000 acre feet of water to Northern Colorado, to satisfy shortages in cities from Fort Collins to Fort Morgan.

The Northern Integrated Supply Project, of which Glade is a part, is just one of a few solutions offered by the in drafts of the state water plan for the South Platte River Basin, the most populous in the state. While Northern Water can’t begin work until the Army Corps finishes the supplemental study the project remains in limbo.

“We have our good days and our bad days, in terms of ‘is this ever going to end,’ ” said Werner.

The supplemental environmental study will not be an end to the NISP process, but instead just another step in many years’ worth of approvals and studies, not to mention potential court challenges from groups such as Wockner’s. Thanks to a 1980s purchase, Northern Water owns roughly 75 percent of the land needed to build Glade, but the district has yet to acquire land from Colorado State University, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, said Werner.

The cost of that land acquisition is unknown, Werner said. But the entire project has been given an estimated price tag of $490 million.

Glade Reservoir would begin just north of Ted’s Place, a Country Store gas station at the junction of U.S. Highway 14 and Highway 287. The reservoir, larger than Horsetooth, would fill 7 miles of highway with Poudre River water, and swallow land north of Ted’s Place and south of Owl Canyon. Only a handful of private property owners will be displaced Werner thinks, but the new reservoir would likely transform a few adjacent properties into lakeside real estate…

Meanwhile, the inevitability of greater water shortages looms. An executive order from Gov. John Hickenlooper required that the state start preparing a state water plan to reconcile water conflicts between the Western Slope and the Front Range, as well as plan for the next several decades. But that plan, the first draft of which is due to the governor by Dec. 10, will also be subject to a year of public comment.

In Fort Collins, which has been experiencing water shortages for almost 10 years, the gap between water needs and availability will grow steadily every year unless something is done.

“The gap only grows if the projects don’t get built,” said Waskom.

From the Associated Press via The Denver Post:

Plans for two new reservoirs in northern Colorado are facing more delays as a key federal review is not expected until next spring. The delay is the most recent turn in a long battle over expanding Colorado water resources.

The release of a long-awaited environmental study that could pave the way for construction of the two new reservoirs could be postponed until next spring, according to advocates and opponents.

The plan by the Northern Colorado Conservancy District to build Glade and Galeton reservoirs in northern Colorado was supposed to take a step forward this winter with the release of a second environmental impact statement. The statement has been postponed twice.

The reservoirs are part of North Colorado Water’s Northern Integrated Supply Project to create 40,000 acre-feet of new supplies.

The Army Corps of Engineers has been studying the environmental impacts of the NISP for more than a decade.

In addition to the two reservoirs, the project calls for two pump plants, pipelines and improvements to an existing canal, according to a Northern Water summary.

Northern Water distributes water to portions of eight counties in northern Colorado and a population of 860,000 people.

In 2008, the corps began the second study into the project after public outcry demanded it. The supplemental study has now taken more time to complete than the first draft, released in 2008.

The Corps of Engineers said it is reviewing the schedule for the new report, but no official date has been set.

The study will not end the process, but instead is just another step in the approvals, studies and potential court challenges.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here.

North Poudre pulls out of the Halligan Reservoir expansion project, @fortcollinsgov last partner standing

Halligan Reservoir
Halligan Reservoir

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

City officials learned this week that North Poudre Irrigation Co., which owns the storage capacity of the existing reservoir, is backing out of the permitting process for the proposed enlargement of the reservoir northwest of the city. The move likely will increase Fort Collins’ costs for building the project, if it is approved by federal regulators, by about $1 million to an estimated $31 million, said Donnie Dustin, water resources manager with Fort Collin Utilities.

The irrigation company has seen little progress on the project during the nearly 10 years it has been going through an environmental review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Scott Hummer, general manager of North Poudre.

“For as much money as the company was putting into the project, the board came to the opinion that some of that money could be going to some of our infrastructure needs and upgrades,” Hummer said. “It was a business decision.”

The Fort Collins-Loveland, East Larimer County and North Weld County water districts, also known as the Tri-Districts, cited the same reasons when they withdrew from the project in 2009…

North Poudre has put $1.8 million toward the permitting process over the years, said Nels Nelson, president of the irrigation company’s board of directors.

Initially, the cost of the environmental review, which covers the proposed Halligan expansion and a proposal by Greeley to expand Seaman Reservoir, was expected to be $4 million. Costs related to the process have reached $7.3 million, with Fort Collins paying about $3.7 million, officials said…

Halligan Reservoir is on the North Fork of the Poudre River. The 6,500-acre foot reservoir is about 100 years old.

Originally, partners in the project were seeking to expand the reservoir to 40,000 acre feet. But the size of the project has been reduced to about half after the Tri-Districts withdrew and Fort Collins’ water use changed with increased conservation efforts.

With North Poudre out of the project, the expansion will be resized again to match the smaller requirement, said Kevin Gertig, city water resources and treatment operations manager.

How the change will affect the review process is not known, he said. A draft Environmental Impact Statement of the Halligan-Seaman project is expected to be released in fall 2015.

“Fort Collin Utilities is committed to moving ahead with the project unless, of course, the City Council directs us otherwise,” Gertig said.

The city needs to acquire 8,125 acre feet of water storage capacity to meet its needs and protect against drought, Gertig said.

More Halligan/Seaman expansion coverage here and here.

Fort Collins loses 1985 conditional right for Halligan Reservoir

Reservoirs NW of Fort Collins
Reservoirs NW of Fort Collins

From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

Fort Collins Utilities is working to assess the value of the water right it lost that was meant to expand Halligan Reservoir.

The Coloradoan first reported last week that the city had lost the water right due to failure to file the required paperwork. Utilities officials said Wednesday they did not know the value of a water right canceled by a water court last month.

“It’s not a straight calculation,” Lisa Rosintoski said. “There are a lot of variables involved. Our efforts are to quantify that accurately.”

The city bought the junior water right in 1985 as part of a project to expand Halligan on the North Fork of the Poudre River from 6,400 acre-feet to 21,000 acre feet. The expansion is part of the Halligan-Seaman Water Management Project, which involves expanding Fort Collins’ Halligan Reservoir and Greeley’s Milton Seaman Reservoir…

The utility’s conditional water right amounted to more than 33,000 acre feet…

City officials say, however, that the loss of the water right will not affect the Halligan expansion.

“We have the water rights to support filling the bucket,” Rosintoski said.

Utilities officials will report to City Council on the value of the water right and what impacts the lost water right might have, if any. A date for such a presentation hasn’t been set yet.

“We need to do some internal analysis on how you break out what we spent on the project to try to figure out what the price of the right would be,” said Donnie Dustin, water resource manager for Fort Collins Utilities.

More Cache la Poudre watershed coverage here.