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PRESS STATEMENT: Save The Poudre Files Lawsuit Against Thornton Pipeline

July 12, 2024
For Immediate Release
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Poudre, 970-218-8310

Save The Poudre Files Lawsuit Against Thornton Pipeline

Fort Collins: Today, Save The Poudre filed the lawsuit against the Thornton Pipeline.

The complaint is posted here.

Statement from Save The Poudre: 

  • “We’re not thrilled to have to file this lawsuit, but we are happy to fight for the protection and restoration of every inch of the Cache la Poudre River and stand up for the vast majority of citizens of Larimer County who want Thornton to keep the water in the Poudre.” — Gary Wockner

This press statement is posted here.

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PRESS RELEASE: Save The Poudre Will Sue To Stop The Thornton Pipeline

For Immediate Release
June 18, 2024
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Poudre, 970-218-8310

Save The Poudre Will Sue To Stop The Thornton Pipeline

Fort Collins, CO: Today, Save The Poudre notifies Larimer County and the City of Thornton that Save The Poudre will file a lawsuit to stop the Thornton Pipeline. At its administrative matters meeting this morning, June 18th, the Larimer County Commissioners will vote to finalize the 1041 permit with a “Findings and Resolution” (posted here, pages 202 – 249). (The item is on the consent agenda.)

Save The Poudre’s legal comments (posted here) argue convincingly that the County Commissioners should have required that Thornton send the water down the Poudre River in Fort Collins instead of putting it in a pipeline. By not doing so, the Commissioners have violated multiple sections of the County’s land use code, as described in Save The Poudre’s comments.

“It’s insane to divert the water out of the Poudre and put that water in a pipeline that crosses the river 12 miles downstream,” said Gary Wockner who directs Save The Poudre. “Using the river as the conveyance would increase the health of the river in Fort Collins, the riparian corridor along the river, and the recreational opportunity at the new Whitewater Park in downtown.”

Further, as Save The Poudre points out in its legal comment letter, the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) actually changed state law to specifically allow using the Fort Collins Poudre River corridor as the conveyance for about 13,500 acre feet of its water, while the Larimer County Commissioners failed to require Thornton to do the exact same thing for almost the exact same amount of Thornton’s water (14,000 acre feet).

“If NISP can do it voluntarily, Thornton must do it too,” said Wockner. “The legal and policy precedent set by NISP must be applied to Thornton, and we will seek court intervention to enforce it.”

During the 10-year battle over the Thornton pipeline, and throughout the recent hearings in Larimer County, nearly every single public comment from people of Larimer County — over a thousand in the 10-year process, and at least a hundred in the recent hearings — supported using the river as the conveyance for water.

“This decision not only violates the land use code, it violates the will of the people,” said Wockner. “Save The Poudre will stand up for the people of Larimer County and seek a better outcome for the Poudre River and the community.”

Save The Poudre is also in two lawsuits against the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) — in the state court of appeals and in federal district court, both in Denver — in part arguing that NISP should use the river as conveyance for all 40,000 acre feet of its water. The NISP battle has been playing out for 20 years, and may continue for several more. NISP also needs a 1041 permit to run a pipeline across City of Fort Collins Natural Areas, a permit process that hasn’t begun yet.

Save The Poudre is also waiting for the Army Corps Record of Decision to be released for the City of Fort Collins’ proposed large new dam on the North Fork of the Poudre River (“Halligan”), a project that would also drain more water out of the mainsteam of the Poudre northwest of Fort Collins. In addition, Save The Poudre is keeping a close eye on the City of Greeley’s plans to divert more water out of the mainstem of the Poudre.

“We’ve met with, and communicated with, all of these water providers over the last few years trying to reach a collaborative solution,” said Wockner. “Because they refuse to collaborate, litigation is our only choice and we have absolutely nothing to lose.”

Although it is not part of the current and potential lawsuits, Save The Poudre recently described a “Poudre River Mitigation and Enhancement Fund” that would help address the impacts caused by the four proposed dam/diversion/pipeline projects. Save The Poudre estimates that the Fund would need between $100 million and $200 million to be potentially effective.

This press release is posted here.

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Save The Poudre Describes “Poudre River Mitigation and Enhancement Fund”

June 10, 2024

Poudre River Mitigation and Enhancement Fund 

The Cache la Poudre River downstream of Gateway Park in Larimer County is severely degraded and multiple new dam, diversion, and pipeline projects would further degrade it. The current flow regime – peak flows, base flows, and ongoing average flows – is already severely compromised. If all of the dam/diversion projects are built, the degradation will be further compounded. To enhance the ecological and recreational value and uses of the river, and to help address the problems with peak and base flows, a “Poudre River Mitigation and Enhancement Fund” must be established to fund the following types of projects:

  • Establish a “National Water Trail” from Gateway Park to the confluence with the South Platte.
  • Rebuild all diversion structures so that fish can swim upstream and boats can pass downstream.
  • Move diversion points downstream wherever possible so that water can flow farther downstream but still be gravity-fed to established ditches.
  • Develop strategies for water sharing arrangements – including exchanges and trades – between agricultural and municipal users to enhance recreational and environmental uses.
  • Develop a streamflow monitoring system that engages with cities and ditch companies – and the ditch rider – to make sure the river always has a “base flow” adequate for aquatic health, and eliminates dry-ups.
  • Clean the Poudre River – including city stormwater outfalls and agricultural ditch return flows – to allow the river to be used as a conveyance for municipal water and to improve the water quality.
  • Construct “channel enhancement” to narrow the river so that streamflow is deeper and cooler for better health of aquatic life and boating recreation.
  • Re-connect the river to its floodplain to increase the health of the riparian corridor.
  • Improve water quality and natural storage in degraded headwater areas, using nature-based ecological restoration processes.
  • Construct irrigation ditch “pump-up” systems that let water run farther downstream to be pumped back up to the same ditch.
  • Acquire and develop additional water supplies to increase flows in the Cache la Poudre River.

We estimate that between $100 million and $200 million is needed to fully establish an ecological healthy and recreationally functional Poudre River and a National Water Trail.

(This Fund description is a work in progress as of 6/10/2024 and may be changed.)

Poudre River Update: Please Comment or Testify Against Thornton’s ZOMBIE Pipeline

Hi Poudre River Lovers,

We killed it once, but Thornton’s ZOMBIE pipeline is back again!

Next week on April 10th, there will be a hearing at the Larimer County Planning Commission. On April 22nd, there will be a final hearing in front of the Larimer County Commissioners.

We have dissected the application and provided comments to the Planning Commission. Our comments are posted here.

A summary of our comments:

  1. This new application has changed very little from the previous application in 2018. It’s a waste of Larimer County’s time to even consider this application when there is no significant benefit to the County. Further, the former Larimer County Commissioners denied the application, and then Thornton lost in court, twice. This new application should meet the same demise.
  2. Larimer County’s Land Use Code requires that applicants must “FIRST AVOID” negative impacts to the County, its citizens, and its natural resources. Instead of avoiding those impacts, Thornton’s application tries to “mitigate” impacts.
  3. Using the “Poudre River Option,” Thornton must send its water down the Poudre River instead of putting the water in a pipeline, an option that would AVOID all impacts in Larimer County.
  4. Thornton could’ve sent its water down the Poudre River 10 or 20 years ago WITHOUT even needing a permit from Larimer County, and so its not Larimer County’s fault, or Save The Poudre’s, that Thornton doesn’t already have this water.
  5. The application provides almost no material benefit to the County and its residents which is required by the Land Use Code. Thornton must choose the “Poudre River Option” which sends the water down the Poudre and would provide the following benefits to help restore and heal the Poudre River:
    • The river water would be cooler which would benefit native fish and people recreating in the river.
    • The higher flow would help flush sediment and mud out of the river channel.
    • Trout could more easily spawn in a cleaner riverbed of sand and gravel.
    • Less algae would grow on the riverbed and on rocks, making the river safer for people.
    • Less water treatment and expense might be needed by the City’s wastewater
      treatment plant, and city-wide stormwater runoff would have less negative impact
      on water quality in the river.
    • Wetlands would be helped to flourish along the river providing more bird and wildlife habitat.
    • Cottonwoods and willows would be helped to flourish along the river.
    • Recreational opportunities, including those at the new Whitewater Park, would be
      enhanced.
    • Flooding impacts may decrease.
    • The river would be more beautiful.

Hearing dates with the Planning Commission and County Commissioners:

Sign up to speak through the Larimer County website here.

Planning Commission – Wednesday April 10
Board of County Commissioners – Monday April 22
All meetings will start at 6 p.m. and will have a hybrid format.
In person: 200 W. Oak St. and via Zoom (link to be provided)

In addition to showing up for the Hearings, writing letters to the Planning Commission and the County Commissioners is important! Write letters to John Barnett in the Planning Department using this email: barnettjl@co.larimer.co.us, and/or write letters to the Larimer County Commissioners using this email: bocc@larimer.org

Let our Commissioners know exactly how you feel about a destructive pipeline running through our properties, and how the Poudre River Option is the answer to Thornton’s water needs.

Let’s Kill The Zombie Pipeline Again!

Thank you!

PRESS RELEASE: Save The Poudre Opposes House Bill 24-1107, “Judicial Review of Local Land Use Decision”

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***

Poudre River Update: A FLURRY of Media Stories About Our Lawsuit Against NISP!

Hi Friends of the Poudre,

We received a wild flurry of media attention about our lawsuit against the Northern Integrated Supply Project.

First, the prominent D.C. publication, The Hill, highlighted our lawsuit to their national audience. We happy to get this national attention for the Poudre River as well as our work to protect it. The Hill noted that we tried to reach a compromise with NISP, but NISP refused, and so we had no choice but to sue them.

You can read The Hill story here.

Second, CBS TV News in Denver ran a wonderful video segment about the lawsuit that interviewed our amazing Board Chair, Mark Easter, who point-blank told CBS that “If we lose the peak flows, we effectively lose the river.” Indeed, NISP is purposely designed to steal the peak flows out of the river which would harm the fish, wildlife, riparian ecosystem, and the new whitewater park in downtown Fort Collins.

You can watch the CBS TV News story here. 

Third, the Colorado Sun broke the story and did a good job (as they always do) highlighting our work to protect the river. The Sun probably does the best work in the state telling water and river stories, and we were happy to work with them to break the story. The Sun reporter, Michael Booth, used to work for the Denver Post many years ago and is the same reporter that put our story on the entire front page of the Denver Post back in 2008. We are always happy to work with Booth to highlight Poudre River stories.

You can read The Colorado Sun story here. 

The story appeared in other publications as well, including the Fort Collins Coloradoan. Unfortunately the Coloradoan put a false title on the story and so we’re not going to share it. The Coloradoan has done a lot of great work in the past highlighting our work and the Poudre River. In fact, we’ve been on the front page of the Coloradoan numerous times over the years, and we look forward to being there again along with headlines that are not false.

WE DO THE WORK AND WE GET PUBLIC ATTENTION!

And, of course, it’s your financial investment in our organization that gets all of this work done.

You can invest in Save The Poudre by clicking here.

Gary Wockner, director, Save The Poudre

PRESS RELEASE: With Compromise Denied, Save The Poudre Files Federal Lawsuit Against Army Corps For Giving Permit To NISP

1/26/2024
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.

***

Poudre River Update: 2024 Will Be Our 20th Year, and We Will Have A Big Announcement!

Hi Friends of the Poudre River!

What an adventure this has been! To keep the most amazing river in Colorado alive, beautiful, and flowing through Fort Collins,  we started Save The Poudre in 2004. Next year, 2024, will be our 20th year. Throughout that time, we’ve gotten quite an education in water, politics, money, and power in the state of Colorado.

We started Save The Poudre in 2004 to fight the massive proposed dam, the “Northern Integrated Supply Project” (NISP). As the director of Save The Poudre, I’ve had some crazy experiences fighting this massive dam project. I’ve been called into the offices of U.S.  Senators, Governors, Members of Congress, State Senators and State Representatives, County Commissioners, and City Councilmembers, all of whom has asked me to “compromise” and let NISP be built. I’ve had rich and powerful people ask me to compromise. In public meetings, in the newspaper, and in person, I’ve been called just about every name in the book, from “radical” to “eco-terrorist.”

My response has always been the same — the Poudre River is already severely compromised and NISP would make it worse by damming and draining the river, turning it into a muddy stinking ditch through Fort Collins. There’s nothing “radical” about trying to keep a river alive. In fact, saving a river is a sane, reasonable, sustainable response to the chaos in the world around us.

For 20 years, we have not blinked.  For 20 years, not one ounce of river-destruction concrete has been poured into the Poudre River. For 20 years, NISP has not been built. TWENTY YEARS!

In 2004 when we started fighting NISP, the project was estimated to cost $146.9 million; now it’s estimated to cost $2.25 BILLION. We are fighting the POWER and MONEY and THE POLITICAL MACHINE in northern Colorado and all the craziness that goes along with it.

And it is solely your support that keeps our organization alive and moving forward. It is solely your support that keeps us focusing on the health of the Poudre River. It is solely your support that keeps us not blinking.

We are simply trying to keep this amazing river alive — for you, for future generations of people, and for all of the non-human critters that depend on the Poudre River for survival.

In early 2024, we will have a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT. Rest assured, it is SOLELY YOUR SUPPORT that will make this announcement possible.

Please help us Save The Poudre and race into our 20th year by making a generous, tax-deductible, year-end donation today.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

You can donate online by clicking here.

— Gary Wockner

 

PRESS RELEASE: U.S. EPA Invites Massive Loan to Bail Out Poudre River Dam Boondoggle

11/28/2023
For Immediate Release
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Poudre, 970-218-8310

Fort Collins, CO: Yesterday, Save The Poudre was informed that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has “invited” the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) to apply for a massive loan of U.S. taxpayer money to try and bail out the $2.25 billion NISP boondoggle (see page 4 on the EPA’s website here). NISP — the massive proposed Poudre River dam project  which has limped along for 20 years in permitting and in court — was originally proposed to cost $140 million in 2004, and now is proposed to cost $2.25 billion (see our previous press release here about the cost of NISP).

Two years ago, NISP sent a “letter of interest” to the EPA, asking for a $484 million loan from the U.S. taxpayer through the EPA’s “Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act” (WIFIA) program to bailout the project.  After NISP sent its letter of interest, Save The Poudre sent lengthy comments to the EPA about how the project should not receive a taxpayer loan (our comment letter to EPA is posted here). The EPA completely ignored Save The Poudre’s comments and has now invited NISP to apply for a loan.

“As our comments made clear, the EPA should be investigating NISP for the criminal violation of lying in its letter of interest, not asking NISP to apply for a loan,” said Gary Wockner of Save The Poudre. “NISP purposely used ‘falsification and misrepresentation’ in its letter about the environmental impacts of NISP which is a criminal violation.”

In addition to ignoring Save The Poudre’s comments, the EPA has also ignored the City of Fort Collins. As our 12/4/2021 press release points out, the City of Fort Collins has grave concerns about the impact of NISP on the Poudre River’s water quality and the City’s Natural Areas. To this day, the Fort Collins City Council has voted to be 100% opposed to NISP.

“If the Biden Administration moves this loan forward, they will have effectively turned the EPA into the ‘Environmental Destruction Agency,'” said Wockner. “NISP is lying to the federal government to try and get taxpayer money to bailout a massive river-destruction scheme which violates every ethical standard of the WIFIA program and what the EPA should be doing.”

This press release is posed here.

***end***

PRESS RELEASE: Fort Collins Refuses To Implement Water Conservation Measures To Save Ratepayers’ Money

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

Fort Collins Refuses To Implement Water Conservation Measures To Save Ratepayers’ Money
Legal Battle Over Massive Halligan Dam Looms

Fort Collins, CO: Today, Save The Poudre sent its comments on the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the proposed massive new Halligan Dam on the North Fork of the Poudre River to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The massive new dam is proposed to be built by the City of Fort Collins Water Utility to meet so-called “drought protection”.

Save The Poudre’s comments are posted here.

Specifically, Save The Poudre points out in its comments:

  1. The City and the Army Corps completely fail to provide a cost comparison of the alternatives which makes the FEIS meaningless.
  2. The City Water Utility completely fails to discuss water conservation measures that would replace the need for the over $300 million new dam.
  3. The City Water Utility’s water use has been going down, not up, for the last 20 years, but the FEIS relies on water-use data that is now 10 years old while predicting that the higher 10-year old water use will persist for the next 25 years.
  4. The City Water Utility claims it needs more water to also lease water to farmers in northern Larimer County, but completely ignores the fact that the Utility’ charter is legally disallowed from raising rates on ratepayers to serve water to farmers outside the Utility boundary.

“Nearly 20 years ago when this big dumb dam project was supposed to only cost $35 million, I stood in front of the City Council and told them that water conservation was faster, easier, cheaper, and more environmentally sustainable than a massive new dam,” said Gary Wockner of Save The Poudre. “Now here we are two decades later when the cost of the dam is 10 times higher and the City still refuses to implement aggressive water conservation.”

“This project is an extreme waste of ratepayers’ money, and the Environmental Impact Statement appears to violate the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act,” said Wockner. “We urge the Corps to deny the permit and force the City to implement aggressive water conservation.”

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