2/22/2024 For Immediate Release Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Poudre, 970-218-8310 Save The Poudre Opposes House Bill 24-1107, "Judicial Review of Local Land Use Decision" Fort Collins: An extremely dangerous, anti-democratic bill has been introduced into the Colorado State Legislature titled, "Judicial Review of Local Land Use Decision." HB24-1107 would allow defendants in lawsuits -- including developers, quasi-governmental agencies, and local/state govt -- to obtain their attorneys fees against plaintiffs -- including citizen and non-profit groups -- if the defendants won in court in so-called "Rule 106" conflicts. Forcing local citizen groups and non-profits to pay the attorneys fees of developers and agencies would hamstring the enforcement of local and state laws. In fact, right now Save The Poudre is in court in a Rule 106 lawsuit against the former Larimer County Commissioners, and Northern Water, for giving a permit to the Northern Integrated Supply Project, a massive proposed dam that would further drain the Poudre River in Fort Collins. Save The Poudre has already lost in district court and is currently in the state court of appeals with the lawsuit. If Save The Poudre was required to pay attorneys fees of defendants Larimer County and Northern Water, it could easily eclipse Save The Poudre's entire yearly ~$100,000 budget. "This bill is an extreme pro-developer bill intended to squash public dissent and squash local non-profits fighting to protect the environment," said Gary Wockner of Save The Poudre. "We strongly encourage the legislature to kill this bill and find ways to raise the voices of citizens instead of trying to change state law to silence dissent." HB24-1107 is scheduled to be heard in the House Transportation, Housing, and Local Government Committee at 1:30 on Thursday, February 27th. ***end***
For Immediate Release
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Poudre, 970-218-8310
With Compromise Denied, Save The Poudre Files Federal Lawsuit Against Army Corps For Giving Permit To NISP
Fort Collins: Yesterday, Save The Poudre filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Denver against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) for giving a 2023 permit to the Northern Integrated Supply Project (“NISP). The lawsuit comes in the 20th year of bungled and massively delayed permitting for the NISP boondoggle which was proposed to cost $143.9 million in 2005 permitting documents, but was recently revealed to cost $2.25 billion in a 2023 Colorado Open Records Act filing.
NISP proposes to divert a very large amount of water out of the Cache la Poudre River in Larimer County which would cause severe damage to the River, the aquatic life in the River, the new Poudre River Whitewater Park in downtown Fort Collins, as well as to the riparian corridor through Fort Collins and downstream. In some months and years, NISP would divert 65% of what water is left in the River which is already heavily diverted by farms and cities.
The lawsuit alleges that the Army Corps violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Clean Water Act when the Corps gave a permit to NISP. Throughout the nearly 20 years of the federal permitting process, NISP claimed that it required 40,000 acre feet of water, and thus screened out many smaller and less environmentally damaging alternatives that could’ve met the needs of the participants, including conservation alternatives proposed by Save The Poudre.
The lawsuit is posted here.
And then, in a 2021 hail-Mary attempt to get a massive $464 million bailout from the U.S. taxpayer through a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) loan program, NISP revealed in the application that it only needed 20,000 acre feet of water and could get by building only half of the project for now. A smaller half-sized project would’ve required a completely different NEPA analysis revealing smaller and much less environmentally damaging alternatives, including more conservation options.
The half of the project that would be built with the EPA loan was the Glade Reservoir complex in Larimer County, while the other half of the project, the Galeton Reservoir complex in Weld County, would be put on hold due to the exorbitant cost overruns. The cost overruns that catapulted NISP to $2.25 billion didn’t even include the cost of buying, or buying out, thousands of acres of irrigated farms in Weld County for Galeton Reservoirs’ so-called “water secure” program. The loan application to the EPA was filled out and signed by the NISP project manager, and it included declaring that any false information in it was subject to criminal prosecution.
In 2022, Save The Poudre publicly announced a “compromise” that would allow NISP to be built if it sent all of its water downstream in the Poudre River in Larimer County instead of draining the river and diverting the water out into pipelines. Save The Poudre deemed the compromise a “nature-based solution” that would protect the River in Larimer County but allow the water to be diverted out of the River in Windsor and/or Greeley. NISP refused to compromise and stuck to its 20-year old plan to further drain and destroy the Poudre River in Larimer County.
“It’s outrageous that NISP refuses to compromise to benefit the River and the vast majorities of people of Fort Collins and Larimer County who love the River,” said Gary Wockner, director of Save The Poudre. “After 20 years, we now have no choice but to file this lawsuit and let it play out in court which will likely take several more years.”
NISP still needs a 1041 permit from the City of Fort Collins to run a massive pipeline through the City’s Natural Areas, a permit that was denied back in 2021 by the City’s Planning Commission. The City’s 1041 permit process hasn’t even started yet. The Fort Collins City Council has voted to oppose NISP several times, most recently in 2020. Save The Poudre is also in state court against the former Larimer County Commissioners who gave a 1041 permit to NISP in 2020.
Save The Poudre is represented in this case by the public interest law firm Eubanks & Associates, PLLC.
This press release is posted here.