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PRESS RELEASE: Dam To Nowhere? Massive Northern Colorado Dam Project Must Now Buy “100 Or More Farms”

For Immediate Release
March 6, 2019

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

Dam To Nowhere? Massive Northern Colorado Dam Project Must Now Buy “100 Or More Farms”

Fort Collins, CO: Last week, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Northern Water) revealed that they would have to buy “100 or more farms” containing 25,000 acre feet of water to supply the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) and its huge proposed Glade Reservoir. For sixteen years, and through three iterations of federally required Environmental Impact Statements, Northern Water has claimed that farmers in Larimer and Weld County would willingly “exchange” 25,000 acre feet of water for NISP. But on Thursday, Northern Water completely changed their story, announcing that it bought its first farm, and proclaiming in the Loveland Reporter Herald:

  • “We need to tie up 25,000 acre-feet of water however we can do it,” Warner said, adding, “We’re not using eminent domain or anything.” To obtain the 25,000 acre-feet, he estimated it would take about a decade and 100 or more farms, depending on their size.

The massive farm-buying scheme continues to reveal the highly speculative and completely unpredictable nature of the NISP, as well as the continued escalation of cost. In the first Environmental Impact Statement in 2008, NISP was estimated to cost $350 million; in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) in 2018, NISP was estimated to cost $1.1 billion. Further, in the FEIS, NISP said the cost to buy water for their proposed alternative was “0” (zero).  Now, NISP proposes to buy 25,000 acre feet of water with an estimated cost of at least $275 million or more just to have the water to make the project feasible. As of last week, NISP announced that it had so-far bought one 28-acre farm yielding “30 acre feet of water” for $330,000, at the same time that the price of farmland and water continues to skyrocket across northern Colorado over the last decade.

“Everything we said over a decade ago was correct and true,” said Gary Wockner of Save The Poudre. “We said NISP was a billion-dollar boondoggle that would drain the Poudre River and require massive purchases of farm water to fill Glade Reservoir, and to a point, NISP is now well over a billion dollars, would further drain the Poudre River, and is now trying to buy 100 or more farms to fill Glade Reservoir.”

The new farm-buying scheme raises huge legal issues for the permits NISP needs from the Army Corps of Engineers, the State of Colorado, and Larimer County, all of which were predicated on the farmers “willingly exchanging” their water instead of NISP having to buy it.

“This new scheme completely changes the permitting requirements,” said Wockner. “In the coming weeks, we will be communicating with Army Corps about the necessity of a ‘Supplemental EIS’ that examines the new impacts of this scheme on flows in the Poudre River, the cost of the project, and the impact on northern Colorado farms and open space.”

The speculative nature of NISP continues to rapidly escalate. Two years ago, NISP announced that it was going to convey some of its water to Weld County towns by building a huge new pipeline across northern Larimer County. But last month, the Larimer County Commissioners unanimously denied a massive pipeline, proposed by the City of Thornton, along the exact same route as proposed by NISP.

“We are a law enforcement organization,” continued Wockner, “It’s our job to protect the Poudre River and make sure all federal, state, and local laws are followed to protect the environment and ensure sound decision-making.”

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