Hi Amazing Poudre River Lovers! This is the 19th year -- NINETEEN! -- of our fight to save the Poudre River, to keep its healthy water flowing through Fort Collins, to keep the beautiful riparian corridor alive and green, and to support the amazing recreational and holistic lifestyle the Poudre River brings to our community. Here's a summary update of where it all stands: First, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has responded to our requests and has set up a meeting next week where we can air our grievances against their idea of loaning a half-billion dollars to help build NISP. In that meeting we will find out about how all of you can also reach out to the EPA -- so stay tuned on that. We have found out that NISP falsified information in the application to the EPA which may be grounds for a lawsuit -- so stay tuned on that! Second, our lawsuit against the former Larimer County Commissioners continues to move forward. We are optimistic that the state district court will rule in our favor and overturn the permit the Commissioners gave to NISP. Third, our lawsuit against NISP for claiming they had "vested property rights" on City of Fort Collins Natural Areas prevailed -- we won! NISP has now agreed with the City that NISP DOES NOT own City Natural Areas and can't automatically build NISP pipelines without approval from the Fort Collins City Council. Fourth, our legal intervention against the Thornton Pipeline continues to successfully move forward and we are optimistic we will prevail against Thornton. Fifth, we've put extensive comments into Larimer County's proposed revision of its 1041 regulations. The County will be finalizing those regs at the end of January. Sixth, we've been invited to help the City of Fort Collins create its new 1041 regulations over the next few months. We're excited to help the City create strong regs that protect the Poudre River and the amazing beautiful Natural Areas throughout Fort Collins. Finally, our attorneys are actively developing our legal fight against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to be ready if/when the Corps grants a permit to NISP, which could happen any day. As we race into this 19th year of saving the Poudre, we are doing EVERYTHING that realistically can be done to Stop NISP, Stop the Thornton Pipeline, and Save The Poudre. We GREATLY appreciate your support which keeps our nose to the grindstone working hard! You can donate online by clicking here. Stay tuned for all the action!! Gary Wockner Director, Save The Poudre
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.