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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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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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Save The Poudre: 2020 IS IT – WE ARE TAKING LEGAL ACTION!

Hi Amazing Poudre River Lovers!

For 17 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. All 3 permits NISP needs — State, County, and Federal — will occur in 2020, and we are taking legal action to stop it.

It’s Your Support That Allows Us To Take Action!
Please donate online by clicking here:
http://www.savethepoudre.org/take-action/donate/

First, Save The Poudre took legal action by filing an “appeal” against the State of Colorado which gave NISP a “401 Water Quality Certification” in January. Save The Poudre’s appeal alleges thirteen violations of State regulations. The Top Five violations are:

1. No water rights – the plan to fill Glade Reservoir requires buying hundreds of farms in Weld County, whereas only a few farms have been bought.

2. Fails to take into account climate change and its reduction in streamflow in the Poudre River.

3. Mitigation won’t occur until full build-out, maybe 30 years in the future.

4. Mitigation doesn’t allow for peak flows to clean out the river and restore the riparian forest through Fort Collins.

5. 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 now goes to the “Water Quality Control Commission” appointed by Governor Polis. The appeal process will play out over the coming months.

Second, Save The Poudre and two neighborhood groups – Save Rural NoCo and No Pipedream – filed a formal appeal with the Larimer County Land Use Director requesting a reversal of the County determination that Northern Water’s NISP application is complete. The 10-page appeal lists numerous  issues completely ignored by the NISP application that Save The Poudre and neighborhood groups claim are required by Larimer County’s land use regulations.

Not only did we get the County process postponed through the coronavirus pandemic, our challenge requires that the County Land Use Director respond and either reverse the completeness determination or counter the challenge with justifications, which may also extend the process. This appeal will also play out in the coming weeks and months.

The County permitting process is OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, so stay tuned about how you can get involved, comment, and show up at County hearings!

Third, Save The Poudre is awaiting the final “Record of Decision” from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is expected to be released in the summer of 2020. Our legal and scientific team is ready for battle when this permit is released.

Finally, we are still in court against the proposed Thornton Pipeline. With all of your help, we helped stop the Thornton Pipeline dead in its tracks, and are defending the County’s decision to deny the Pipeline.

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. 2020 is THE YEAR. We’ve been girding for this battle for 17 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! 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 at:
http://www.savethepoudre.org/take-action/donate/

Thank you for your support!

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

Save The Poudre, Neighborhood Groups Challenge Larimer County’s NISP Application

April 20, 2020
PRESS RELEASE
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Poudre, 970-218-8310

Save The Poudre and Neighborhood Groups Challenge Larimer County’s “Completeness” of NISP Application

Fort Collins: On Friday, April 17, Save The Poudre and two neighborhood groups — Save Rural NoCo and No Pipedream — filed a formal appeal with the Larimer County land use director requesting a reversal of the County determination that Northern Water’s NISP application is “complete”.   (the appeal is posted here). The 10-page appeal lists numerous issues completely ignored by the NISP application that Save The Poudre and neighborhood groups claim are required by Larimer County’s land use regulations.

The issues ignored in the application include a broad range of serious violations of regulations, including the evaluation of:

  • the lack of  a permit for the “realignment” of Highway 287,
  • the lack of water rights to operate the project,
  • inconsistency with the County Master Plan,
  • the complete lack of an alternatives analysis,
  • the impact on public health and safety,
  • the inability of the County to fund the project,
  • the impact on the Cache la Poudre River of draining vast amounts of its water,
  • the project relies on a huge farm-buying scheme that the Army Corps said was not feasible and too expensive,
  • noise caused by power boats and recreation at the proposed Glade Reservoir,
  • and the lack of mitigation.

The challenge requires that the County Director of Community Development, Lesli Ellis, respond and either reverse the completeness determination or counter the challenge with justifications.

“Everything NISP does continues to be a half-baked billion-dollar boondoggle,” said Gary Wockner, Director of Save The Poudre. “Larimer County will be held to the strict letter of the law in its own land use regulations if this permit process moves forward.”

Just last week, Save The Poudre challenged and appealed the State’s “Water Quality Certification” for NISP. The 17-year battle over NISP will likely reach its peak in 2020, with potential legal battles at the County, State, and Federal level.

“We’ve been girding for this battle for 17 years,” said Gary Wockner. “We intend to run through the tape in a full sprint to keep the Poudre River healthy and flowing.”

***end***

PRESS RELEASE: SAVE THE POUDRE TAKES LEGAL ACTION TO STOP NISP!

April 15, 2020
For Immediate Release
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Poudre, 970-218-8310

SAVE THE POUDRE TAKES LEGAL ACTION TO STOP NISP!

Fort Collins: Today, Save The Poudre took legal action to stop the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) by filing an “appeal” against the State of Colorado which gave NISP a “401 Water Quality Certification” in February. The State permit is one of three permits NISP needs, the other two have not yet been granted from Larimer County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Save The Poudre’s appeal (posted here) alleges thirteen violations of State regulations. The Top Five violations are:

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

“NISP is a half-baked billion-dollar boondoggle,” said Gary Wockner, Director of Save The Poudre. “We’ve been fighting this project for 17 years and we are proud to take legal action today to stop it.”

A Press Release Video is posted on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=657579431749602

The State permit was given by the staff at the Water Quality Control Division. The appeal now goes to the “Water Quality Control Commission” appointed by Governor Polis. The appeal process will play out in the coming months.

NISP is proposed to drain tens-of-billions of gallons of water out of the Poudre River through Fort Collins, specifically during the peak flow months of May and June where up to 50% of the water would be drained out including at the new Whitewater Park in downtown Fort Colins. The river already has about 65% of its water drained out — if NISP is built, the river would increasingly resemble a slow-moving ditch through Fort Collins.

This press release is posted here.

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PRESS RELEASE: Will Colorado’s Cratering Economy Impact Ponzi Growth-Scheme Dam Project Financing?

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 county in Colorado with over 20,000 active oil and gas wells. Unlike the City of Broomfield, NISP participant towns are all small, nearly completely dependent on debt financing and growth schemes to pay off the debt.

This press release is posted here.

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PRESS RELEASE: Larimer County Unleashes 42-Day Permitting Process For Massive Proposed Dam Amidst Pandemic

For Immediate Release
March 24,2020
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Poudre, 970-218-8310

PRESS RELEASE: Larimer County Unleashes 42-Day Permitting Process For Massive Proposed Dam Amidst Pandemic

Fort Collins: Today, the Larimer County Commissioners created a 42-day permitting process for the biggest, most environmentally destructive, most controversial project in Larimer County history, all amidst the global coronavirus pandemic that has paralyzed Colorado’s government and economy. The first public hearing is set for May 6th.

The permitting documents made publicly available today include 62 highly technical documents totaling 911 pages (see County webpage here), which is the culmination of a 17-year process to create a permit for the proposed “Northern Integrated Supply Project” (NISP), a massive proposed dam and pipeline project that would further drain and destroy the Cache la Poudre River through Fort Collins.

NISP proposes a massive dam and reservoir near homes that adamantly oppose it, a highway relocation near neighbors that oppose it, and two huge pipelines, one of which would go through neighborhoods that vehemently oppose it.

In fact, just last year, hundreds of neighbors and Fort Collins citizens turned out for multiple public hearings against the Thornton Pipeline which would have gone along the exact same route proposed by NISP (Above: a photo of public participants at one of the hearings). The Larimer County Commissioners unanimously denied the Thornton Pipeline and the project is now in court.

The permitting process for NISP — called a “1041 permit” — is proposed exactly when Governor Polis has ordered statewide “social distancing” and the closure of businesses, and when — just yesterday — the Larimer County Dept of Public Health said it was considering a county-wide “shelter-in-home” order (see Coloradoan story today here).

“The Larimer County Commissioners must indefinitely suspend this 1041 permitting process for NISP until the pandemic passes and the public engagement process can be normalized,” said Gary Wockner, director of Save The Poudre. “The public participation window of 42 days is insanely short for this massive technical project, and creating this public process for this extremely controversial project during the coronavirus pandemic violates all standards of government ethics and transparency, and likely violates Larimer County landuse regulations requiring public participation.”

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Save The Poudre Update: The Action Has Begun — NISP is a Half-Baked Boondoggle!

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

 

 

Save The Poudre: Patagonia Matching Grant, $10,000!

Hi Poudre River Lovers!

We have good news. Our wonderful partners at Patagonia, the outdoor gear/apparel company, will match your donation to Save The Poudre, up to $10,000, starting today through the end of 2019.

The donation link is here: 
https://www.patagonia.com/actionworks/grantees/save-the-poudre-poudre-waterkeeper/donate/

Patagonia will securely process your donation and then transfer the money to Save The Poudre.

We are especially excited to partner with Patagonia in this matching grant campaign because they are one of the leading voices on the planet for fighting dams and protecting rivers. Patagonia is also one of our leading funders!

What did Save The Poudre accomplish in 2019?

  1. Helped stop the Thornton Pipeline dead in its tracks!
  2. Intervened in state district court against the City of Thornton to defend the Larimer County Commissioners against Thornton’s lawsuit.
  3. Saw through the construction of the amazing Poudre River Whitewater Park, a project that we initiated back in 2010!
  4. Filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Colorado to stop the proposed Windy Gap Water Project in Colorado.
  5. Intervened with the Larimer County permitting process against the Northern Integrated Supply Project (“NISP”), the massive proposed dam project we’ve been fighting for 17 years.
  6. Intervened with the State of Colorado permitting project against NISP.
  7. Filed more comments with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers against NISP.
  8. Kept the Poudre River’s voice alive to the public, in the media, and throughout the northern Colorado region.
  9. And more!

When you donate to Save The Poudre, we get right to work! Patagonia Action Works is a wonderful partner putting your money into action.

Please donate here through Patagonia Action Works and help us protect this amazing river!

The donation link is here: 
https://www.patagonia.com/actionworks/grantees/save-the-poudre-poudre-waterkeeper/donate/

Thank you for your support!

Gary Wockner, Director, Save The Poudre. 

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