Save The Poudre took an official position May 11 against the “new plan” for the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) which STP has been fighting for 12 years. Northern Water recently announced the “new plan,” and STP met with Northern Water two weeks ago to fully understand the proposed changes as well as discussed the new plan at length at a recent board meeting.
“After 12 long years of fighting about NISP, Northern Water has finally agreed with us that their old plan would have drained and destroyed the Poudre River,” said Gary Wockner, executive director of Save The Poudre. “But they still don’t get it – this ‘new plan’ would still drain the Poudre and would also turn the river into a year-round irrigation ditch.”
The “new plan” is the same as the “old plan” with one change related to flows in the Poudre River – one-third of the water that the massive scheme proposes to divert out of the river would then be re-diverted back into the Poudre River through a portion of Fort Collins. While the idea sounds good at first blush, the most damaging aspects of NISP would remain. The proposed diversion would still drain an average of 42,000 acre feet – that’s over 13 billion gallons – of water out of the Poudre River every year during the ecologically critical “June Rise” which are the peak flow weeks in May, June, and July.
The peak flows during May, June, and July provide the important pulse of water for the ecological health of the river. As the snow melts, the river rises up and spreads its life-giving water downstream. These peak flows scour the riverbed of sediment and weeds, make new habitat for spawning fish, flow out into the cottonwoods and willows, provide nourishment for the streamside wetlands and wildlife, recharge the water table, and provide whitewater sporting opportunities for rafters and kayakers.
These incredibly important peak flows are occurring right now on the Poudre River and are exactly what the “new plan” for NISP would drain out of the river.
“This new plan cuts off part of the beautiful life-giving June Rise in the Poudre River and trades it for a very small year-round flow,” said Wockner. “That would be like taking all of those bursting beautiful tulips out of your yard in the late spring and trading them for a small potted geranium in your windowsill the rest of the year.”
In addition to draining out the peak flows in the river, the “new plan” also involves building a massive pipeline from Glade Reservoir, across Larimer County out to I-25, and then south to the Denver suburbs to further drain the Poudre by connecting it to the water delivery system along the whole Front Range.
“We stridently oppose this ‘new plan’ for NISP and we will fight to stop it for as long as it takes,” said Wockner. “We will continue to oppose any project that takes more water out of the already depleted and endangered Cache la Poudre River. Northern Water and the NISP towns need to go back to the drawing board. This new plan would violate federal environmental laws and we will enforce those laws to the fullest extent possible.”