July 11, 2008

Water Project Offers Chance to Better Manage River, Official Says

By Greeley Tribune, Colo.

Jul. 11--The Northern Integrated Supply Project has a potential of putting more water in the Poudre River during winter months and will provide an opportunity to manage the flow of the river from north of Fort Collins to where it flows into the South Platte River east of Greeley.

That's contrary to what objectors of the project have been saying since the environmental impact statement was released on the project earlier this year, said Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Werner was the guest speaker at the quarterly meeting of Upstate Colorado Economic Development which drew about 100 people to the Evans City Complex over noon Thursday.

The project, commonly called NISP, would feature two new water storage reservoirs -- the Glade Reservoir northwest of Fort Collins that will hold 170,000 acre-feet of water, and the Galeton Reservoir, east of Ault, which would hold 40,000 acre-feet. One acre foot of water is enough to supply two families with a year's supply of water.

NISP is being built by the 15 cooperating entities that are looking at their future water demands. Of those, 11 are cities and towns, the others are water districts. To date, they have spent about $5 million for the environmental assessment. The project is expected to cost $400 million, but will probably be more than that by the time it is complete, Werner said.

Upstate Colorado has endorsed the project, along with most of the state's agricultural groups. The majority of the opposition comes from Fort Collins and Larimer County.

Werner said because of a junior water right, water will be taken from the Poudre River as it comes out of the canyon on average only four years out of 10 to fill Glade. But once complete, the advantages of the project are many.

"It will present the opportunity to better manage flows in the (Poudre) river and we will be able to put water in the river that has never been there before, particularly in the winter months," Werner said. "We are not going to dry up the river with this project."

But the river, he said, will continue to go dry at certain times of the year, especially during dry years. That's been happening for the past 120-130 years or ever since diversions have been taken from the river by Fort Collins, Greeley, irrigation companies and other entities, he said.

If the project is not built, cities will turn to agriculture for additional water supplies, Werner said, and the environmental impact statement developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicts that would lead to between 40,000 and 60,000 addditional acres of prime irrigated farmland going dry.

Werner said he and other officials are confident the project will be approved and has set a goal of getting a permit issued by early next year and having Glade online ready to take water by 2015, with Galeton to follow about five years later.

"We are very confident that we are going to move forward on this project," Werner said.

To comment

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has extended the comment period on the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project to Sept. 13. Written comments may be sent to Chandler Peter, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Denver Regulatory Office, 9307 S. Wadsworth Boulevard, Littleton, CO 80128-6901 or by fax to (303) 979-0602 or by e-mail to [email protected]


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