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Save The Poudre Action Alert: NISP Needs City of Fort Collins Permit, and Your Voice Matters!

Hi Poudre River Lovers!

It’s time for action! The massive proposed Poudre River-destroying Northern Integrated Supply Project needs a permit from the City of Fort Collins, and your voice matters.

NISP is having a “neighborhood meeting” on Zoom on Wednesday, April 21st, at 6:00pm, and all members of Save The Poudre — that’s you! — are “neighbors”. We need you to do two things:

First, stay tuned for the link to sign up for the neighborhood meeting. The City’s website (here) says they will provide a zoom link 48 hours ahead of the meeting so ALL OF YOU can join the meeting. We will send you another email as soon as the link is posted on Monday.

Second, please send an email to the Fort Collins City Council  telling them you are opposed to NISP and you want a full, public “development review” for NISP, not just a “Site Plan Advisory Review” that the City is proposing now. We’ve made a simple link for you to send an email to the City Council (click here).

Thank you for TAKING ACTION, and stay  tuned for more information about you can help stop NISP in the City of Fort Collins.

And of course, thank you for donating to Save The Poudre (you can donate by clicking here). If you can’t show up to the Zoom meeting, your financial support makes sure that we will.

Gary Wockner, Director, Save The Poudre

Save The Poudre Update: We’re in the heat of battle — thank you for your support!

Hi Poudre River Lovers!

Thank you for your support!! It’s your support that keeps us working hard. Please donate online by clicking here

Good News First! In February, State District Court in Larimer County ruled in support of our fight to stop the Thornton Pipeline. The court ruled that the Larimer County Commissioners were legally justified to deny Thornton’s permit, a denial we intervened to support in the lawsuit. Thornton has now appealed that decision, and we are counting on this new Larimer County Commission to defend itself in the State Court of Appeals.

If Thornton would simply do the right thing – which is run the water down the Poudre River through Fort Collins – they wouldn’t even need a permit at all! Thornton would have saved millions of dollars in court costs, planning, and permitting by simply taking Save The Poudre’s advice TEN YEARS AGO and keeping the water in the Poudre. We will remain vigilant and engaged in this battle – stay tuned for the action!

Second, our ongoing battle to stop the Northern Integrated Supply Project continues to work its way through the court system. We now have two lawsuits against the FORMER Larimer County Commissioners, Steve Johnson and Tom Donnelly, for their illegal decision to support NISP. First we argue that Johnson and Donnelly were biased due to their decades of support for NISP. Second, we argue that Johnson and Donnelly’s decision violated the Larimer County land use code in multiple ways.

NISP would have dramatic negative impacts on the Poudre River, on neighbors around the proposed reservoir, and on neighbors along the pipeline route. We have worked in close coalition with two local neighborhood groups – “Save Rural NoCo” and “No Pipe Dream” – to fight the project and influence the court’s and the County’s decision.

The NISP battle now turns to the City of Fort Collins!

NISP has applied for a “Site Plan Advisory Review” for the project, including for the massive environmentally destructive pipeline through the City’s Natural Areas on the east side of Fort Collins. The City has scheduled a “neighborhood meeting” on April 21st at 6:00pm, and ALL SAVE THE POUDRE MEMBERS are invited as neighbors!

We are encouraging all of you to sign up for this “Zoom” neighborhood meeting – let’s show the City how much we care about the Poudre River and its Natural Areas, and how much we OPPOSE NISP. We’ll keep you posted on how to zoom attend the neighborhood meeting – make sure and sign up for our newsletter on SaveThePoudre.org.

Finally, Save The Poudre is awaiting the final “Record of Decision” from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is expected to be released this year. Our legal and scientific team is ready for battle when this permit is released. We have a great attorney lined up to fight this permit if needed, and we are prepared to do everything we can to stop NISP.

In other Big News, we’re excited to have launched a new “Rights of Nature” program for the Poudre River. The “Rights of Nature” concept is accelerating rapidly across the U.S. and the planet. With our sister organization, Save The Colorado, we are engaging here on the Poudre River. We’ve had our first community meeting about the new program, and we are working together with the “Earth Law Center” based in Boulder to create this program. Ultimately, we hope to pass a resolution with the City of Fort Collins giving the Poudre “Rights of Nature” that will create a legal “guardian” body to represent the river in all City decisions and processes. Stay tuned for more about this exciting program!

PLEASE KNOW – Your past support has made all of the difference in our ability to engage in these battles, and your current and future support is what will keep us fighting hard. We’ve been girding for this battle for 18 years.

Every $25 or $50 makes a real difference.  If you can afford $100 or $250 or more, that’s great too! If you’d like to discuss a larger donation, feel free to call Gary Wockner at 970-218-8310. All donations are tax deductible

Please donate on our website by clicking here:
http://www.savethepoudre.org/take-action/donate/

Thank you for your support!

Mark Easter, Chair of the Board; Gary Wockner, Executive Director

TAKE ACTION: Ask The Larimer County Commissioners to “Reconsider” the Biased, Illegal NISP Permit

Hi Amazing Poudre River Lovers!

It’s time to take ACTION!

The new Larimer County Commissioners have many options for how to handle the biased, illegal NISP permit — and the lawsuits against it — that was issued by the previous Commissioners (Donnelly and Johnson) just weeks before they left office.

We need you to reach out to the new amazing Larimer County Commissioners — John Kefalas, Kristin Stephens, and Jody Shadduck-McNally — and very respectfully and professionally ask them to “RECONSIDER” the biased, illegal permit issued by the former Commissioners. Recall, Commissioner Kefalas — now the “Chair” of this new Commission — voted against the NISP permit.

We’ve made a simple form, with a friendly letter, for you to send them a quick email. Click here: http://www.savethepoudre.org/take-action/send-action-alert-email/

Let’s do it, team! It’s a new year, a new world in Larimer County, and it’s time to take action!

Thank you!

Gary Wockner, Director, Save The Poudre

PRESS RELEASE: Save The Poudre Sues Larimer County Over NISP Decision

For Immediate Release
January 18, 2021

Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Poudre, 970-218-8310

Save The Poudre Sues Larimer County Over NISP Decision

Fort Collins: Last week, one day before the new Larimer County Commissioners were sworn in, Save The Poudre and co-plaintiffs No Pipe Dream and Save Rural NoCo served Larimer County with a lawsuit alleging that:

  • First, Commissioners Donnelly and Johnson had publicly advocated for NISP for a decade, and thus they were biased and should not have participated in, or voted on, the NISP 1041 permit. That bias violates both the Larimer County land use code and the Colorado Constitution which requires “unbiased” decision-making on 1041 permits.
  • Second, the decision by the two-member majority of the Commission (Donnelly and Johnson) to give NISP a permit violated multiple criteria of the Larimer County land use code.

The lawsuit is posted here.

Larimer County Commissioner John Kefalas, who was appointed to be “Chair” of the Commission the day after Save The Poudre served the lawsuit, voted against the permit. Further, the new Commission – including Kefalas and newly elected Commissioners Kristin Stephens and Jody Shadduck-McNally – will now manage the County’s response to the lawsuit.

“We are suing Larimer County because Donnelly and Johnson should not have participated in, or voted on, the NISP permit, as well as their final illegal ruling to approve the NISP 1041 permit,” said Gary Wockner of Save The Poudre.

Similar to a change of administrations when a new President gets elected, as is occurring right now in the U.S., the new Larimer County Commission has many options for how it can handle the illegal actions and decisions of the previous Commissioners as well as lawsuits against the County.

“We call on this new Larimer County Commission to reconsider the illegal actions and decisions of the previous Commission,” continued Wockner. “NISP would be the biggest and most environmentally damaging project in Larimer County history, and throughout the County permitting process over 90% of public comments opposed NISP.”

This press release is posted here.

***

Save The Poudre Update: We Are Taking Action — the Poudre River Needs Your Support!

Hello Poudre River Lovers! 

THIS IS IT! Today is Giving Tuesday — Thank you for your support!

Please donate on our website at:
http://www.savethepoudre.org/take-action/donate/

In the next few months, we will make our final decisions about challenging the permits for NISP at the local, state, and federal level, and YOUR financial support will make those decisions for us.

For 18 years, we’ve been fighting to stop the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) because it would further dam/drain/divert the Poudre River through Fort Collins.

Here’s an update on where the battle is right now.

First, 2 of 3 Larimer County Commissioners voted to approve NISP, a decision that was finalized in early November 2020. We’ve pulled out all the stops in our effort to reverse this decision. So far, we’ve:

  • Filed a lawsuit arguing that two of the County Commissioners are biased due to their decades of support for NISP.
  • Will be filing another lawsuit against Larimer County specifically for the NISP decision.
  • Worked in close coalition with two local neighborhood groups – “Save Rural NoCo” and “No Pipe Dream” – to fight the project and influence the County’s decision.
  • Continued to make news arguing that NISP should use the river as a conveyance. The Denver Post (above left) highlighted our work to fight both NISP and the Thornton Pipeline on Sunday, Nov. 15th. And, the Fort Collins Coloradoan (right) accurately covered the Larimer County hearing process extensively.

The County permit process completely ignored many issues, and completely ignored 95% of all public comment opposing NISP. The outrageous decision to support NISP by two term-limited Commissioners can and must be overturned. We have a strong case in the courts to overturn this decision and we are aggressively pursuing it. We are fighting every step of the way in this County permit debacle.

It ain’t over yet!

Second, our legal action against the State of Colorado is moving forward with a final decision occurring while this letter goes to press. The state gave a “401 water quality permit” to NISP. Save The Poudre’s appeal alleges thirteen violations of State regulations when the State gave its permit. The Top Five violations are:

  • No water rights – the plan to fill Glade Reservoir requires buying hundreds of farms in Weld County, whereas only two farms have been bought.
  • Fails to take into account climate change and its reduction in streamflow in the Poudre River.
  • Mitigation won’t occur until full build-out, maybe 30 years in the future.
  • Mitigation doesn’t allow for peak flows to clean out the river and restore the riparian forest through Fort Collins.
  • Fails to quantify any requirements to meet state water quality standards and relies on nebulous “adaptive management”.

The State permit was given by the staff at the Water Quality Control Division. The appeal is to the “Water Quality Control Commission” appointed by Governor Polis. If the “Commission” votes against the Poudre River, we can file a lawsuit in Larimer County District Court.

Finally, Save The Poudre is awaiting the final “Record of Decision” from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is expected to be released any day now. Our legal and scientific team is ready for battle when this permit is released. We have a great attorney lined up to fight this permit if needed, and we are prepared to do everything we can to stop NISP.

Here’s the bottom line – THIS IS IT! Your past support has made all of the difference in our ability to engage in these battles, and your current and future support is what will keep us fighting hard. We’ve been girding for this battle for 18 years. We intend to run through the tape in a full sprint to keep the Poudre River healthy and flowing.

Every $25 or $50 makes a real difference.  If you can afford $100 or $250 or more, that’s great too! All donations are tax deductible

Please donate on our website at:
http://www.savethepoudre.org/take-action/donate/

Thank you for your support!

Gary Wockner, Director, Save The Poudre

Save The Poudre Will Sue To Overturn Larimer County’s Biased NISP Decision

November 4, 2020
For Immediate Release
Contact Gary Wockner, 970-218-8310, Save The Poudre

Save The Poudre Will Sue To Overturn Larimer County’s Biased NISP Decision

Fort Collins: Today the Larimer County Commission finalized its “Findings and Resolution (posted here)” (“F & R”) for the 1041 permit for the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP). On a 2 – 1 vote, the F & R was ratified by biased, lame-duck Commissioners Tom Donnelly and Steve Johnson, with Commissioner John Kefalas opposed.

Also today, Save The Poudre directed its legal team to accelerate the legal battle against Larimer County to overturn this illegal and biased decision by these two commissioners.

First, Save The Poudre will continue pursuing its lawsuit against Commissioners Donnelly and Johnson, arguing their bias in the decision process. In violation of the Larimer County Land Use Code and Colorado Constitution, both Donnelly and Johnson voted on the NISP permit — a quasi-judicial decision process — when they had already and repeatedly stated their biased support for NISP.

Second, Save The Poudre will soon be filing a new lawsuit against the County, arguing that the County’s 1041 permit for NISP violates the Larimer County Land Use Code on multiple grounds.

Third, in the coming weeks and months, Save The Poudre will seek all available remedies to overturn the County’s illegal and biased NISP decision.

“NISP would drain and destroy the Cache la Poudre River through Fort Collins, and is thus the most disastrous and environmentally destructive project in Larimer County history. Any decision about NISP should reflect the future of the County, not the past,” said Gary Wockner, director of Save The Poudre. “We will do everything possible to overturn this illegal, biased decision by these two lame-duck commissioners.”

***end***

PRESS RELEASE: Save The Poudre Will Sue To Overturn Illegal Larimer County Permit For NISP

September 2, 2020
For Immediate Release
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Poudre, 970-218-8310

Save The Poudre Will Sue To Overturn Illegal Larimer County Permit For NISP

Fort Collins, CO: Tonight after 17 years, the Larimer County Commissioners voted 2 – 1 to “approve” the 1041 application for the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP). The Commissioners’ vote defies over 95% of public comments opposing NISP and requesting a denial, and defies all the science and scientists engaged around the Poudre River weighing in against NISP. Further and most importantly, the vote occurred under clear and compelling evidence that the application violated the Larimer County Land Use Code.

Further yet, the two Commissioners who voted for the project — Johnson and Donnelly — had already been asked to recuse themselves, and were sued when they refused to recuse themselves, because they had publicly and loudly supported the project for at least a decade while sitting as elected Larimer County Commissioners. (The court ruled that the lawsuit should take place after tonight’s vote.) Both the Larimer County Land Use Code and the Colorado Constitution require that County Commissioners sit in a “quasi-judicial” position (as judges) during 1041 permit process and are thus not allowed to publicly take a position about a project.

Commissioner John Kefalas voted to deny the permit.

“The Poudre River will be irrevocably damaged if NISP is built,” said Gary Wockner. “In addition, the Commissioners were given clear evidence that the NISP application violates the land use code, including several of the 12 criteria, and as such this application absolutely should have been denied.”

“Further,” continued Wockner, “it’s also clear that Commissioners Johnson and Donnelly should not have voted at all, because doing so violated the Colorado Constitution as well as the Larimer County Land Use Code, given their prejudice and bias in favor of the project over the past decade.”

“Finally, because it violates the land use code, this decision to throw the public, the science, and the Poudre River under the bus is subject to ‘judicial review’,” said Wockner, “and as such, we fully expect to challenge this illegal decision in state district court as soon as possible.”

This press release is posted here.

***end***

-- 
Gary Wockner, PhD, Director 
Save The Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper
Author: "River Warrior: Fighting to Protect the World's Rivers" (2016)
PO Box 20, Fort Collins, CO 80522
http://savethepoudre.org
http://www.facebook.com/SaveThePoudre

970-218-8310

 

 

PRESS RELEASE: Citizen Groups Say Commissioners Donnelly and Johnson Must Recuse From NISP Vote

August 14, 2020
For Immediate Release
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Poudre, 970-218-8310

Citizen Groups Say Larimer County Commissioners Donnelly and Johnson Must Recuse From NISP Vote

Fort Collins, CO: Today, citizens groups including Save The Poudre, No Pipe Dream, and Save Rural NoCo informed the Larimer County Commissioners that Commissioners Donnelly and Johnson must recuse themselves from the hearings for the 1041 permit for the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP). The hearings are set to commence on August 17th.

The 1041 permit process is “quasi-judicial” and as such both the Larimer County land use code and the Colorado constitution prohibit sitting commissioners from taking a position on NISP prior to the hearings because they have to “judge” the permit application from an unbiased viewpoint. Both Donnelly and Johnson have supported NISP in public statements, attended NISP rallies, and endorsed the project for at least a decade.

The citizens groups filed a “petition” with the commissioners that included a letter, a formal listing of the legal background including a lawsuit filed in Larimer County district court, and 26 exhibits where Commissioners Donnelly and Johnson made statements supporting NISP. One exhibit includes a post from Commissioner Donnelly’s facebook page where he’s speaking at a NISP rally and commenting in support of NISP (left).

“Both the Larimer County land use code and the Colorado constitution require that county commissioners not have taken a position prior to a hearing and quasi-judicial 1041 permit,” said Gary Wockner, director of Save The Poudre. “Both Commissioners Donnelly and Johnson have public supported, and been listed as endorsers for, NISP for at least a decade, and therefore are biased. As such, they must recuse themselves from the hearings.”

The citizen groups argue that when the hearings commence on August 17th at 6:30pm, the first order of business will be to address the petition that requires the recusal of both Donnelly and Johnson. The groups also argue that the County should delay the hearing process until after the 2020 election when two new commissioners on the 3-member board are seated replacing both Donnelly and Johnson who are term-limited.

This press release is posted here.

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NATURE UNDER ATTACK? State of Colorado Argues That “Cache la Poudre River” Doesn’t Legally Exist

July 30, 2020
For Immediate Release
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Poudre, 970-218-8310

NATURE UNDER ATTACK? State of Colorado Argues That “Cache la Poudre River” Doesn’t Legally Exist

Cache la Poudre River, CO: Today, our local river-protection organization, Save The Poudre, which has about 1,000 members in and around Fort Collins, filed a stinging legal brief against the Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) after CDPHE filed a brief two weeks ago trying to kick the “Cache la Poudre River” out of a legal challenge against a huge environmentally destructive dam project.

The Cache la Poudre River begins in the pristine mountain peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park and flows down an 80-mile canyon before it reaches the town of Fort Collins in Colorado. The Cache la Poudre is the only “National Wild and Scenic River” in Colorado as designated by an Act of Congress. Just west of Fort Collins, a regional government dam-building agency has been trying to build a huge dam for the last 20 years that would further drain and deplete the river through Fort Collins. Our organization, Save The Poudre, has been in a bitter and long-term fight against the proposed dam — called the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) — as we try to protect the river’s flow of water for the benefit of people and environment.

Earlier in 2020, the CDPHE — whose director is appointed by Governor Jared Polis — gave a “401 water quality certification” to NISP arguing that the massive dam-and-diversion project would not impair the water quality in the Poudre River. We are challenging that permit through the legal process, and now we are fighting for the legal life itself of the Cache la Poudre River against this state agency.

Our “administrative appeal” argues that both our group, “Save The Poudre”, and the “Cache la Poudre River” are legally entitled to challenge the state 401 certification. Both legal entities are adversely affected by NISP.  The river would be severely drained and depleted by NISP — the list of negative impacts include the degradation of fish habitat, an increase in pollution including E coli bacteria, an increase in algae due to lower flows and warmer water, the drying up of water-cleansing wetlands, and others.

Obviously it’s the river’s health and water quality that we are arguing about — the State of Colorado and the U.S. government both have laws protecting the water quality in the river under the Clean Water Act — and so it’s clear that the river itself should be a named plaintiff in this legal action in addition to our organization, Save The Poudre.

The State of Colorado, joining with the dam-building agency, is trying to “dismiss” the river out of the legal fight altogether. Using obscure internet definitions of the word “entity”, the State argues in its Motion to Dismiss on July 16, 2020, that the Cache la Poudre River is a “watershed” but is not an “entity” and has no legal standing in the fight.

We fired back in our Response Brief today that the Cache la Poudre River is an “entity” by any reasonable definition of the word. Further, the Cache la Poudre obviously has legal rights because state and federal law regulate the water quality in the river as well as the existence of the river itself — in fact, several pollutants in the river are monitored and regulated, the City of Fort Collins’ wastewater treatment discharge into the river is meticulously regulated, the river has been given legal standing as “Wild and Scenic” by an Act of Congress, and sections of the river are listed as legally “impaired” by the CDPHE (see report here, slide #14). Finally, we argue that the City of Fort Collins makes repeated and significant claims that the Cache la Poudre River is important for the “social, environmental, and economic vitality” of the community, and thus the river itself has every legal right to participate in this battle as well as any court of law.

This battle is not the same as the “Rights of Nature” court battle that occurred back in 2018 over the Colorado River (see story here). In that battle, plaintiffs were trying to confer new legal standing to the Colorado River that never before had been recognized by courts, although a past U.S. Supreme Court ruling mentioned that “Rights of Nature” are needed. Our legal battle on the Cache la Poudre River is simply trying to name the river itself as an injured party that can defend itself. Obviously, the Cache la Poudre River is an injured party in this entire debacle.

The State of Colorado and the dam-building agency are not trying to dismiss our organization, “Save The Poudre”, from the legal battle, and so there’s no risk that our challenge to the state permit won’t continue. The legal challenge over the state permit is playing out this Fall with a final hearing before the governor-appointed “Colorado Water Quality Control Commission” in November. Further, if the Commission rules against us in the broader state permit appeal, we can then file a lawsuit in state court — thus, the battle to fight the dam and save the Poudre will continue whether the “Cache la Poudre River” is named or not.

There’s no doubt that government agencies at all levels are working to undermine environmental laws to allow more and more dams and destruction of our environment and rivers. Federal attacks against the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act are playing out right now. But, this effort by the State of Colorado to disallow the naming of the Cache la Poudre River as an injured party in a legal proceeding seems to represent a new cudgel against protecting the natural world. In our Response Brief, we point out that the Cambridge dictionary defines an “entity” as “something having its own independent existence.” The State of Colorado CDPHE is trying to set a legal precedent that nature — and especially rivers in Colorado — do not independently exist.

The Cache la Poudre River is in the fight of its life against this proposed dam, and now is in a fight against the State of Colorado to legally exist at all.

****

This press release is posted here.

 

Press Release: City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Board Advises Council: “Urgently Oppose NISP”

June 11, 2020
For Immediate Release
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Poudre, 970-218-8310

Fort Collins: Last night, the City of Fort Collins “Land Conservation and Stewardship Board” (LCSB), which advises the City Council on the management of the City’s thousands of acres of protected Open Space and Natural Areas, sent a tersely worded memo (link here) to the City Council advising the Council take urgent action to oppose the massive proposed dam called the Northern Integrated Supply Project (“NISP”).  The memo describes staggering negative impacts that NISP would cause to the Natural Areas along the Poudre River including:

  • “NISP’s removal of water from the river will, quite simply, dehydrate our Natural Areas’ ecological resources and degrade them; hundred-year-old trees will die, understory plants will shift to more drought tolerant species, biodiversity will decrease, and forest- and wetland-dependent animals will disappear.”

The memo reminds the City Council that the citizens of Fort Collins tax themselves to buy these Natural Areas, most recently by a city-wide vote in 2014 with 82% supporting the taxation. The memo further states:

  • “The citizens of Fort Collins, as they have invested in Natural Areas, have believed that those areas and their ecological resources and recreational opportunities would be protected in perpetuity. In the opinion of this Board, perpetuity ends on the day that NISP bulldozers arrive to divert water from the Poudre River.”

Finally, the memo calls for “urgent” action by the City Council to “actively oppose NISP”:

  • Active opposition, led by City Council, is urgently needed. If there is no change in position, and if NISP is implemented, then ecological and recreational treasures will be injured beyond repair. Fort Collins can join other entities in opposing NISP under Federal and State permitting processes, and this Board urges Council to do so without delay.”

“The Land Conservation and Stewardship Board is entrusted to manage and watchdog these great resources for the future of all citizens,” said Gary Wockner, Director of Save The Poudre. “Active opposition to NISP is needed right now — through the County, State, and Federal permitting processes — and we strongly urge the Fort Collins City Council to take the Board’s advice.”

Permit Status Update:

  1. The Colorado State permit was given to NISP in January 2020. Save The Poudre has appealed that decision to the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission. The final hearing is scheduled for November.
  2. Larimer County has begun its permit process with hearings in June, July, and August (see hearing schedule here).
  3. The Record of Decision from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permitting process is expected in later 2020.

“We’ve been fighting to stop NISP for 17 years and we’re going to sprint through the finish line with enormous support from the people of Fort Collins and Larimer County, with a great team of scientists and attorneys, and with the vision for protecting the river in perpetuity for the entire community to enjoy,” said Wockner

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