By Steven Bonifazi
North Forty News
Fort Collins residents and water groups are clashing over what to do to preserve and distribute water for their state as a decade-old plan to build a reservoir is underway.
The project referred to as The Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP), initially began around 2004 and is dated to end in 2027 — 2028, making it a 24-year project. It plans to provide 15 northern front range water providers including Windsor, Eaton, and Firestone with 40,000 acres of new, reliable water supplies and ultimately supply water to half a million Northern Colorado residents by the year 2050.
The project consists of two reservoirs, Glade (to be located north of the river with water diverted to from the dam) and Galeton (northeast of Greeley). The overall goal of these two reservoirs is seemingly that of a bank account of water for the participating 15 communities according to Jeff Stahla, Public Information Officer for Northern Water.
“When the project is up and running, there is going to be an amount of water we can release every year that will satisfy the 15 communities participating,” said Stahla. “Right now, they cannot depend on that amount of water cause there’s no place to store it.”
A project like this has required many permits such as an Environmental Impact Statement. At this point in the process, NISP is awaiting federal permit approval. However, many are disturbed by the volume of water this project would take from the Poudre River, a 126-mile long river running through Fort Collins and Greeley.
With the current drought in the West causing communities to preserve as much water as possible as their cities’ populations grow, concerned landowners and local activist groups such as Save the Poudre and NO Pipe Dream are joining forces in hopes to find alternatives to building a reservoir north of Fort Collins.
“Aquifer storage and recovery systems can put water in and hold it until they need it,” said Jan Rothe, resident landowner, and retired wildlife ecologist. “The aquifer store and recovery is something they can do around reservoirs and is so much cheaper than the 1.2 billion dollar price tag for this thing,” said Rothe.
Save Rural NoCo, a group of concerned landowners spread across the Northern Colorado area from the base of Horsetooth Reservoir into the foothills and towards the Wyoming border in towns like Bonnor Peak and Cherokee Meadows carries a multitude of concerns including land issues and recreational impacts from noise to trespassing.
A key component to the NISP and the Glade Reservoir is recreation. At this very moment, there is recreation at Horsetooth Reservoir. Therefore, the county must decide whether or not Glade is appropriate and if it should offer recreational activities. Landowners, who are concerned about the impact can ask the County Commissioner for restrictions regarding recreation. These rules include things like where boats are allowed to go, size restriction, and perhaps engine size in regard to noise levels.
“Noise impacts from recreation are given two sentences saying impacts will be minor. There’s no analysis to support that claim in the EIS,” said Karyn Coppinger, resident landowner and member of Save Rural NoCo.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has sent its approval along with a letter to the Northern Water earlier this week in regard to building NISP. The letter has state officials saying they have “reasonable assurance” that NISP would act in compliance with all of the required water quality standards at levels required by the state. This approval secures a final permit (one of three needed) for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District prior to beginning the $1.1 billion water project.
Activist group Save The Poudre aims to stop NISP, envisioning a future that involves the development and implementation of a community-based cooperative river restoration plan that will be monitored. The groups put an emphasis on community input for this plan, urging Poudre River stakeholders to be involved in the developmental and implementational process.
“We need to be thinking about not just NISP, but as a society, we need to be thinking about how we live within our means with regards to our limited resources, in this case, water,” said Coppinger.
Dates for the next pubic meetings on the proposed Glade Reservoir and NISP have yet to be determined but will most likely be scheduled for the months of March and April according to Larimer County officials.