Everything about the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP, and Glade Reservoir is big.
The scale is massive, from its estimated cost — more than $1.1 billion — to the amount of water Glade could hold — 170,000 acre-feet — to the $53 million earmarked to mitigate its impacts to Northern Colorado’s wildlife and environment.
NISP would provide 40,000 acre-feet of water to the 15 regional municipalities participating in the project, including the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District and Windsor. An acre-foot is enough water to meet the annual needs of three to four urban households.
The Larimer County Planning Commission on Wednesday heard details of plans for constructing and operating the project, which would include building Glade northwest of Fort Collins and laying 35.6 miles of pipeline to carry NISP water out of the county.
The information packet given to commissioners, including staff reports, environmental impact statements and comments from numerous government agencies, is 3,242 pages.
The packet includes more than 500 comments from members of the public, including groups and individuals who have been fighting NISP since it was proposed in 2004.
Concerns about the project and its impact to the Poudre River during federal and state permitting processes were raised again along with new issues on the county level by environmental group Save the Poudre and others.
Larimer County plans several hearings
Wednesday’s meeting was the first of three planned by the planning commission on NISP. It consisted of presentations by county staff members and representatives of Northern Water, the main proponent of NISP.
No public comment was taken. That will happen during hearings scheduled July 8 and 15. An additional meeting would be scheduled if needed to allow Northern Water time for rebuttal following the public comment, county officials said.
Northern Water is seeking a 1041 permit — named for the state law giving authority to local governments to make decisions on certain types of infrastructure projects — for NISP. The planning commission will make a recommendation on the application to the Board of County Commissioners, which will decide whether to grant a permit.
Three of the nine planning commission members recused themselves from the proceedings citing the potential appearance of impartiality or conflicts of interest: Anne Best Johnson, community development director for the city of Evans, which is a participant in NISP; Bob Choate, an attorney who might be called upon to give legal advice on the project to the Weld County commissioners; and Sean Dougherty, a Realtor who represents a landowner who might be affected by the project.
With Dougherty, who is chair of the commission, and vice chair Choate excused from the hearing, commission secretary Nancy Wallace chaired the hearings. Wallace has served 14 years on the planning commission.
Under the county’s 1041 regulations, the county’s purview of NISP is limited to the siting of Glade and associated recreational facilities and the locations of four large pipelines that would carry NISP water through Larimer County.
The project must meet 12 criteria for approval, including that the project would not negatively impact public health and safety and the “proposal demonstrates a reasonable balance between the costs to the applicant to mitigate significant adverse (effects) and the benefits achieved by such mitigation,” according to the land-use code.
County development review staff members said the proposal meets the criteria and recommended approval of the permit with 82 conditions, including requirements for several reports and plans for addressing issues such as noise and dust during construction.
Building the reservoir would require relocating about 7 miles of U.S. Highway 287 east of its current route. The new highway roughly would follow the route of a haul road on the former Holcim quarry property.
The highway would cut through a hogback and connect with the existing roadway south of Owl Canyon Road, which runs between U.S. 287 and Interstate 25 north of Wellington.
While the impacts on roads associated with Glade are part of the county’s review criteria, the highway relocation is not covered under the county’s 1041 powers. The Colorado Department of Transportation has authority over the highway project.
What NISP would do for Larimer County
NISP would draw water from the Poudre River and convey it about 2 miles through the existing Poudre Valley Canal to a 2,000 acre-foot forebay reservoir. Water would be pumped into Glade, which would be built about a mile north of the intersection of Colorado Highway 14 and U.S. Highway 287.
Glade’s dam would be 275 feet high and about a mile wide. The reservoir would be 5 miles long and 250 feet deep. With a surface area of 1,600 acres, it would be a bit smaller than Horsetooth Reservoir.
As part of the project, Northern would build recreational facilities that would be managed by the Larimer County Department of Natural Resources. The department manages recreation at Carter Lake and Horsetooth, Pinewood and Flatiron reservoirs.
Facilities at Glade would include a visitor center, campgrounds, hiking, fishing and boating. A four-lane boat ramp would be built on the southeast side of the reservoir.
The facilities would increase recreational opportunities as envisioned in county master plans, said Daylan Figgs, Natural Resources director.
Demand for access to recreation will likely increase as the county grows in the years to come, Figgs said. The facilities proposed by Northern would cost about $21.8 million. NISP would cover 75% of the cost, with the rest coming from the county directly or through partnerships.
Wallace said she was “struck” that the county might have to contribute to the cost of recreational facilities. NISP doesn’t appear to “give much to the county” other than its recreation components and water for Windsor and the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District, she said.
“We’re taking the burden, but not too many of the benefits,” she said.
Christine Coleman, a water resources engineer with Northern, told the commissioners $49 million in NISP environmental mitigation work would be done in the county.
The final environmental impact statement for NISP estimated development of the reservoir could bring in $13 million to $30 million a year in economic benefits, Coleman said. The project would contribute $16.35 million to recreation facilities at Glade.
“This funding is a substantial commitment by the NISP participants and represents a guarantee to share the benefits of the project with Larimer County and the people of Larimer County,” she said.
NISP includes building Galeton Reservoir east of Ault in Weld County. The 45,600 acre-feet reservoir would draw South Platte River water and deliver it to ditch companies for agricultural use in exchange for the companies’ Poudre River water.
Pipelines will deliver Poudre River water
Opponents of NISP say the project would irreparably harm the Poudre’s ecosystems by diverting too much of its already diminished flows.
To keep water flowing in the Poudre, which can dry up in spots under certain circumstances, NISP would release water from Glade back to the river through a 1.3-mile pipeline.
The added water would flow 13 miles through Fort Collins before it is picked up by another pipeline upstream from the city’s wastewater treatment plant on Mulberry Street. The guaranteed flow through the city would be between 18 and 25 cubic feet per second.
“This will increase flows at the Lincoln (Street) gauge in Fort Collins and the Poudre River in eight out of 12 months in average years and 10 out of 12 months in dry years,” said Stephanie Cecil, a water resources engineer with Northern.
Water would be pumped into a pipeline running east to a pipeline along County Road 1 running south. The pipeline would affect some city-owned natural areas.
A fourth pipeline would carry water from Glade along a route known as the “northern tier” and connect with the county line pipeline.
The pipe would run through the Eagle Lake subdivision, sparking resistance to the proposal from local residents.
The group No Pipe Dream, which fought the city of Thornton’s plan to run a massive water pipeline along Douglas Road, is part of a coalition opposing NISP.
The county commissioners rejected Thornton’s proposed pipeline route last year. Thornton has sued the county in District Court over the decision.
Cecil said the pipelines would require 100-foot easements, of which 60 feet would be permanent and 40 feet would be temporary for constructions. Property owners would be paid fair market value for easements, and surface disruptions would be reclaimed to pre-existing conditions or better.
NISP’s pipelines would range from 32 to 54 inches in diameter. The northern tier pipeline would carry about two-thirds of the water going to NISP participants, Cecil said.
“For redundancy and resiliency and in case of an emergency, we need to be able to deliver water year-round,” she said. “In the case of a flood, fire, oil spill, we can’t stop delivering water to the municipalities and their citizens that require it.”
What’s next for NISP in Larimer County
The Larimer County Planning Commission is scheduled to take public comment on NISP during hearings schedule July 8 and July 15 at the County Courthouse Offices Building, 200 W. Oak St. in Fort Collins.
Both meetings will begin at 6 p.m. Attendance will be limited to 50 people because of COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings.
Comments will be limited to 2 minutes per person. Borrowing, lending or grouping time will not be allowed. Groups and individuals who wish to speak in person or remotely must register at larimer.org/planning/NISP-1041.
The planning commission will make a recommendation on a permit for NISP to the Board of County Commissioners, which will decide on the application.
Hearings by the commissioners are scheduled:
- 6 p.m., Aug. 17 – Presentations only; no public testimony.
- 2 p.m. Aug. 24 (break from 5:30-6:30 p.m.)
- 3 p.m. Aug. 31 (break from 5:30-6:30 p.m.)
- 6:30 p.m. Sept. 2 – questions, final deliberation and decision
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