April 13, 2020 For Immediate Release Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Colorado and Save The Poudre, 970-218-8310 Will Colorado's Cratering Economy Impact Ponzi Growth-Scheme Dam Project Financing? Fort Collins: Last week, due to the cratering of Colorado's economy by the coronavirus lockdown, the City of Broomfield, Colorado, announced that it was "furloughing" about 25% of its City workforce (see Broomfield Enterprise story here). At the exact same time, Broomfield is on the financial hook for a massively expensive proposed dam project that would further drain the Colorado River called the "Windy Gap Firming Project". The Windy Gap Firming Project proposes to drain a new 9 billion gallons of water every year out of the Upper Colorado River, and pipe that water to rapidly growing suburbs north of Denver, with Broomfield being the biggest participant in the project. Broomfield's share is 29.4%, wanting 26,464 acre feet of the proposed 90,000 acre feet of water storage in the project (see participants' shares here). Recently, the Longmont Observer (see story here, Longmont is also a participant in the project) reported that the Windy Gap Firming Project applicant, Northern Water, announced that the total cost of the project has now soared to $575 million, which would bring Broomfield's share to $169.05 million. Many of the project participants intend to issue debt, via revenue bonds, that would be paid back by future growth and ever-rising water rates on residents. "The debt financing for this and other dam projects in Colorado is all based on a ponzi scheme of growth," said Gary Wockner, Director of Save The Colorado. "With the cratering of the economy, and a likely recession with stalled growth, all of these projects may face huge financial headwinds as well as continued legal challenges." The Windy Gap Firming Project is currently being litigated and still pending in federal district court in Denver. Back in October of 2017, six conservation organizations, led by Save The Colorado, filed a lawsuit against the agencies that gave the project permits -- the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. One of the claims in the lawsuit is that the cost of water conservation and alternatives to the dam project were not adequately considered in the federal Environmental Impact Statement process. "Water conservation, reuse, and recycling is cheaper, easier, and faster than any new dam project," said Wockner. "And, those alternatives require little or no debt financing, aren't subject to boom-and-bust ponzi growth-schemes, and don't get challenged in court by environmentalists because they don't drain and destroy rivers." Other dam projects in Colorado may be at even more risk. The proposed "Northern Integrated Supply Project" (NISP), which would further dam and destroy the Cache la Poudre River through Fort Collins, is even more expensive -- estimated to be at least $1.2 billion -- and would serve small towns mostly in Weld County which has experienced a complete economic meltdown because of the crashing of oil prices. Weld County is the most heavily drilled and fracked…
Hi Poudre River Lovers!
2020 is the year that it all comes to a head, and Save The Poudre is in the fight!
First, last week the State of Colorado gave a “401 Water Quality Certification” (401 Cert) to the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP). We have unleashed our scientists and attorneys on the documents and are preparing for legal battle. The 401 Cert for NISP is one of the worst we’ve ever seen, with almost no actual safeguards or conditions that ensure the protection of the river’s health. We have now asked the State Water Quality Control Commission for a time extension to review it — they initially gave us only 30 days — because the documents are over 1,000 pages of technical and legal details that our team is digging through. This permitting fight will be a legal and scientific battle that is not open to the public, but it is YOUR SUPPORT that has given us the financial ability to hire attorneys and scientists. We are digging in for the fight.
Second, Larimer County will soon start its permitting process for NISP. As of this writing, NISP has not yet submitted their application to the County, but it is expected in the next few weeks. As soon as the application is submitted, we will dig into that document — also likely to be 1,000 pages — and engage in that permitting process. This permitting process WILL BE OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. We will be getting back in contact with you to let you know when you can submit comments to the County Planning Commission as well as atttend hearings of the Larimer County Commissioners.
Finally, NISP continues to be a “Half-Baked Boondoggle”. In 2019, NISP was unable to reach an agreement with farmers to secure more than half the water for the project, and so now NISP has started buying farms in Weld County to get the water from those farms. That farm-buying process is not working out — so far, NISP has only been able to buy three farms, totaling ~160 acres (and ~160 acre-feet of water). NISP needs to buy 22,000 acre-feet of water, which will require them to buy several hundred farms. Not only will NISP further drain and destroy the Poudre River through Fort Collins, it now proposes to be the biggest farm-buying scheme in the history of northern Colorado. Already proposed to cost $1.1 billion, NISP’s farm-buying scheme — if it is successful, which is highly speculative — will drive the cost nearer to $1.5 billion!
It’s patently ridiculous — and we believe, illegal — that the State of Colorado, as well as Larimer County, are both considering permits for a project that doesn’t even have the water rights to allow it to operate. Rest assured, we will be communicating with the State and the County about this ridiculous half-baked process.
Our mission is to protect and restore the Cache la Poudre River! We’ve been at it for 17 years, and it’s your support that keeps us in the fight.
Please consider donating to keep us working hard through the next months of this battle. You can donate online by clicking here: http://www.savethepoudre.org/take-action/donate/
Thank you, and stay tuned for more action!
Gary Wockner, Director, Save The Poudre