Poudre River Dam Project Seeks Half-Billion Dollar Fed Bailout from Infrastructure Act

Cache La Poudre River flowing through northern Fort Collins (taken Oct. 14, 2004) © 2004 Matthew Trump

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced that it is potentially inviting the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) to seek a half-billion-dollar bailout from money provided in the federal Infrastructure Act. In the announcement, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the money would go to projects that would “safeguard public health, especially in underserved and under-resourced communities.”

Addressing those two points (according to Save The Poudre):

First, about public health, NISP would severely impact the health of the Cache la Poudre River through Fort Collins by draining up to half of its water during the late spring and early summer. This fact has caused the City of Fort Collins — which would bare all the negative impacts of NISP — to vote to oppose NISP on several occasions. About NISP, the City of Fort Collins’ website right now states:

“The loss of springtime flows is likely to: 

  • cause fine sediment to clog riverbed habitat adversely impacting fish and insect health in the river
  • lead to vegetation growing into the river channel, shrinking the size of the river, and possibly rising flood levels
  • dry out riverside vegetation and cause a narrowing of the cottonwood forests and wetlands

These potential impacts to river health may have a cascading impact on recreation opportunities on the river.”

Second, on the “underserved and under-resourced” communities issue, as just two examples of NISP participants’ privilege, right now on Realtor.com, the “median sold home price” in Erie, CO, is $710,000 and in Lafayette, CO, it’s $677,000.

“Apparently, Administrator Regan has never been to northern Colorado,” said Gary Wockner of Save The Poudre. “NISP is designed to destroy the health of the Cache la Poudre River and send its precious water to some of the fastest-growing, suburban, and most privileged communities in northern Colorado.”

NISP has been in federal, state, and local permitting processes for 18 years. In the past two years, Save The Poudre has filed 3 lawsuits against the project, one of which Save The Poudre won in the State Court of Appeals, and two of which are still pending in State District Court in Larimer County. Save The Poudre is waiting for the final permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and if the Corps green-lights NISP, Save The Poudre is prepared to challenge that decision in court.

When NISP was proposed in 2004, it was estimated to cost $350 million; that price has ballooned to at least $1.1 billion as most recently stated in 2018. Further, NISP has to buy at least 20,000 acres of farms in northern Colorado to obtain the water for the project, a cost that has not yet been publicly revealed.

“NISP is the most controversial, most environmentally damaging, and most expensive project in northern Colorado history,” said Wockner. “The EPA absolutely should not try to bail out this ridiculous river-killing boondoggle.”

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