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PRESS RELEASE: Save The Poudre Promotes “NATURE-BASED SOLUTION” To End Poudre River Dam Fights

October 4, 2022
For Immediate Release
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Poudre, 970-218-8310

Save The Poudre Promotes “NATURE-BASED SOLUTION” To End Poudre River Dam Fights

Fort Collins: After nearly 20 years of intense battle that has paralyzed water supply planning in Northern Colorado, Save The Poudre has adopted a new United Nations-based model that could both restore the Cache la Poudre River and allow city agencies to meet their water needs.

Called “Nature-Based Solutions”, the model will be a central feature of next week’s United Nations Biodiversity Conference in Montreal (see conference details here). In addition, a new public opinion poll paid for by the Walton Family Foundation indicates that the American public has a strong preference for Nature-Based Solutions to solve environmental problems (see their poll here).

“We are excited to turn the page towards Nature and collaboration in this two-decade long battle to save the Poudre,” said Gary Wockner, director of Save The Poudre. “This United Nations approach that supports working with Nature instead of against it gives everyone involved a path forward.”

Save The Poudre’s plan is to reach out to city water agencies and federal decisionmakers to investigate using federal infrastructure money to use the Poudre River as the conveyance for water (see more details here about using the river as conveyance). To achieve that goal, water treatment plants would need to be built downstream on the Poudre River — likely in Windsor and Greeley —  so that agencies can run water all the way down the Poudre River through Fort Collins before diverting it out for municipal use. Regardless of where water is stored, and regardless of whether the water is stored in above-ground reservoirs or underground aquifers, in the United Nations model all of the water would return to the river and flow downstream to the water treatment plants.

“Using the Poudre River as the conveyance of water is an example of using ‘natural infrastructure’ that restores the river, increases the biological diversity of the river corridor and watershed, makes the river cleaner and healthier for humans and wildlife, helps address climate threats, and creates immense recreational opportunities for boaters and the public from the mouth of Poudre Canyon all the way to Greeley,” said Gary Wockner. “The Walton Family poll revealed that 76% of the American public prefers Nature-Based Solutions that use natural infrastructure.”

The battle on the Poudre began over 20 years ago when Northern Water, the City of Greeley, the City of Fort Collins, and the City of Thornton all proposed new dams, diversions, and pipelines to further drain the Poudre River before it reached Fort Collins. Altogether, the cities’ approach would be a final death blow to the Poudre River, further draining it and turning the river into a muddy, stinking ditch through Fort Collins. Save The Poudre has fought the cities’ plans every step of the way. The Nature-Based Solution approach would allow almost all of the municipal water to flow downstream in the Poudre River through Fort Collins before the water is diverted out in either Windsor or Greeley at water treatment plants and then placed into the cities’ water supply infrastructure.

Save The Poudre is currently in court against Northern Water’s proposed massive dam project called the “Northern Integrated Supply Project” (NISP), and is in court against the City of Thornton’s proposed massive water pipeline project. Save The Poudre will continue and escalate these court battles, and foresees more court battles against NISP, the City of Greeley, and potentially the City of Fort Collins. At the same time, Save The Poudre encourages these cities to change direction and support Nature-Based Solutions and collaboration.

“We’re now reaching out to Northern Water and the cities of Greeley, Fort Collins, and Thornton with our plan to support collaborative Nature-Based Solutions that use the Poudre River as the natural infrastructure for conveyance of water,” said Wockner. “Our next steps will reach out to federal decisionmakers about using federal infrastructure money that will create a United Nations-based approach here in Northern Colorado that sets up the region as a leader of environmental conflict management.”

Save The Poudre will soon make a video to describe and explain the new Nature-Based Solution plan.

This press release is posted here.

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Colorado Rivers Press Release: Thornton Water Pipeline DENIED by Colorado State Court of Appeals

9/1/2022

For Immediate Release

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

Colorado Rivers Press Release: Thornton Water Pipeline DENIED by Colorado State Court of Appeals

Fort Collins: Today, the Colorado State Court of Appeals in Denver upheld a lower court’s ruling that denied the City of Thornton the right to build a water pipeline across northern Larimer County north of Fort Collins.

The ruling is posted here.

For several years, Thornton has tried to build a water pipeline across northern Larimer County to transfer water from over 20,000 acres of farms down to the City of Thornton. In 2018, the Larimer County Commissioners denied a permit for the pipeline, and Thornton sued the County. Save The Poudre, which has about 1,000 members in Larimer County, and another neighborhood group, No Pipe Dream, both intervened in the case to support Larimer County which was sued by Thornton. The pipeline proposes to transfer over 14,000 acre feet of water from farms down to Thornton.

Pipeline opponents, Save The Poudre and No Pipe Dream, argued that Thornton should run the water down the Cache la Poudre River through Fort Collins until it reached the Town of Windsor and then divert the water into a pipeline, thus restoring flows to a critically endangered 12-mile section the Poudre River.

“We’ve told Thornton for over 10 years that the water should flow down the Poudre River through Fort Collins,” said Gary Wockner of Save The Poudre. “This is potentially a win-win project, but Thornton refuses to use the River as a conveyance and continues to waste everyone’s time and money in court.”

Thornton must now decide if it will appeal the ruling to the Colorado Supreme Court, or propose a new pipeline route in Larimer County, or simply let the water flow down the Poudre River to Windsor which is an outcome that doesn’t even require any kind of permit in Larimer County.

“Once again, we offer to collaborate with Thornton rather than litigate,” said Wockner. “By working together, we can restore the Poudre River and Thornton can get the water.”

Save The Poudre’s mission is to protect and restore the Cache la Poudre River of northern Colorado.

This press release is posted here.

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PRESS RELEASE: Fort Collins Planning Commission “DISAPPROVES” NISP Pipeline

July 1, 2021
For Immediate Release
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Poudre, 970-218-8310

Fort Collins Planning and Zoning Commission “DISAPPROVES” NISP Pipeline

Fort Collins: Last night, after three hours of testimony and deliberation, the Fort Collins Planning & Zoning Commission voted 3 – 2 to “Disapprove” the Northern Integrated Supply Project’s (NISP) Site Plan Advisory Review (SPAR) application.  NISP proposes to build a massive pipeline across city-owned and protected Natural Areas, and divert over 4 billion gallons of water per year out of the Poudre River, both on the eastern side of Fort Collins.

“We’re pleased with the Planning Commission’s vote,” said Gary Wockner of Save The Poudre. “NISP has no right to march into Fort Collins and cause huge damage to much-loved Natural Areas along the Poudre River that were bought and protected by and for the people of Fort Collins.”

With the Commission’s disapproval now hanging over NISP, the entire project and its convoluted 18-year history is increasingly in limbo. The Commission’s disapproval adds to the City’s formal “opposition” to NISP that was codified by the City Council in a resolution on Aug. 4, 2020.  Further, Save The Poudre has multiple active lawsuits against NISP, including challenging the use of SPAR in the City of Fort Collins. At this point, it’s unclear what the NISP directors will do about the disapproval, and it’s unclear how the courts will rule on Save The Poudre’s lawsuit.

“We will fight to stop NISP as long as it takes,” said Wockner. “The people of Fort Collins have been extremely supportive and generous — they’ve given us their marching orders to protect the Poudre River and we are fighting on every front.”

Save The Poudre put comments into the SPAR process and testified at last night’s hearing.

(This press release is posted here.)

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PRESS RELEASE: Save The Poudre Sues to Stop NISP Damage on Fort Collins Natural Areas

June 10, 2021
For Immediate Release
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Poudre, 970-218-8310

Save The Poudre Sues to Stop NISP Damage on Fort Collins Natural Areas

Fort Collins: Yesterday, Save The Poudre filed a lawsuit in state district court in Larimer County against the Northern Integrated Supply Project’s (“NISP”) attempt to use the SPAR (Site Plan Advisory Review) process for placing a diversion structure, pump station, and massive pipeline across City of Fort Collins’ Natural Areas (the lawsuit is posted here).

The City Land Use Code makes perfectly clear that SPAR can only be used if NISP “owns or operates” the City Natural Area property, which NISP does not.  Further, City Manager Darin Atteberry sent a memo to the City Council on April 16, 2020, telling the Council that NISP had to buy the land, negotiate an easement, or condemn the Natural Areas by eminent domain in order to build the project, but NISP has not done any of those things (the memo is posted here).

“We’re proud to stand up and defend the citizen-owned Natural Areas,” said Gary Wockner of Save The Poudre. “If the whole Hughes Stadium issue taught the City government anything, it’s that the people of Fort Collins want their Natural Areas to be protected, restored, and enhanced, not degraded and diminished.”

The City staff has scheduled a hearing at the Planning and Zoning Commission for NISP on June 30th. Save The Poudre in turn filed a “temporary restraining order” with the court against the City to stop the Commission hearing. Save The Poudre alleges that the City is not enforcing its own land use code and is letting NISP skate by with a bogus review process instead of forcing NISP through a rigorous permit application that must require the review of the full City Council.

NISP would drain water out of Natural Areas along the Poudre River throughout Fort Collins, thereby draining wetlands, drying up the riparian forest, and diminishing wildlife habitat. Homestead Natural Area, Kingfisher Natural Area, and Riverbend Ponds Natural Area would be further degraded by the construction of a water diversion structure, pump station, and massive pipeline.

“NISP is a massively damaging project that would degrade and destroy City-owned Natural Areas that were bought and paid for by City ratepayers and taxpayers. The people of Fort Collins love their Natural Areas and we are excited to stand up and defend the citizens and their property against this environmentally destructive project,” said Wockner.

Save The Poudre is joined in the lawsuit with No Pipe Dream Corporation.

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Save The Poudre Update: “Clean The Poudre” Campaign Would Allow More Water in the Poudre

Hi Poudre River Lovers!

It’s your support that keeps us working hard — thank you, and please click here to donate!

Here’s the updates about the Poudre River you need to know.

First, today, Save The Poudre released a short report about “Cleaning the Poudre River so it can be used as a conveyance for water supply”. The report is posted here.

A background summary: Both the Thornton Pipeline and NISP claim they can’t run all of their water rights down the Poudre River through Fort Collins because the water quality in the river is too dirty due to the City’s stormwater runoff. While that may, or may not, be true, there are engineering solutions that can “clean” stormwater before it runs into the Poudre. These solutions are cost-effective, environmentally sound, and proven in other municipalities around the U.S.

We consulted with AbTech Industries (https://www.abtechindustries.com/) to provide some estimates of technologies and costs for cleaning the City’s stormwater before it runs into the Poudre. Our report, as well as AbTech’s website, provide lots of examples and photographs for you to consider.

Long-story short — all water providers can use the Poudre River as a conveyance, which would provide the following benefits:

  • Increase quality-of-life for City and County residents,
  • Preservation of the environment and natural habitat along the Poudre River corridor,
  • Maintaining or increasing flows for recreation including at the new downtown Fort Collins Whitewater Park,
  • Increase water quality and cleanliness in the Poudre River.

Save The Poudre is requesting that the County and City convene a “Working Group” to examine cleaning the Poudre River so it can be used as a conveyance for water supply.

Second, last week the City of Fort Collins informed NISP that their Site Plan Advisory Review (SPAR) application is “not complete”. Specifically, NISP has failed to describe how their proposal will impact flooding along the Poudre River in Fort Collins. We are continuing to closely monitor this application and process. As we’ve noted before, we strongly believe that SPAR is an illegal use for NISP, and that the City should require a full development review of NISP that covers ALL OF THE DAMAGE NISP would cause to Fort Collins’ Natural Areas. The City has so-far refused to change direction, although they are investigating creating “1041 powers” for NISP. At this time, Save The Poudre is still in strong opposition to the City’s approach.

Third, the Thornton Pipeline continues to suffer serious setbacks, which is good! Last week, the Weld County Commissioners voted unanimously to “deny” Thornton’s 1041 application for their pipeline. Where this will all end, we don’t know, but we continue to intervene in the court case against the Thornton Pipeline, and we continue to work to require Thornton to send their water down the Poudre River through Fort Collins.

Thank you for your support. Again you can donate online by clicking here.

Stay tuned for all the action!

Gary Wockner
Director, Save The Poudre

PRESS RELEASE: Save The Poudre Sues Larimer County Over NISP Decision

For Immediate Release
January 18, 2021

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

Save The Poudre Sues Larimer County Over NISP Decision

Fort Collins: Last week, one day before the new Larimer County Commissioners were sworn in, Save The Poudre and co-plaintiffs No Pipe Dream and Save Rural NoCo served Larimer County with a lawsuit alleging that:

  • First, Commissioners Donnelly and Johnson had publicly advocated for NISP for a decade, and thus they were biased and should not have participated in, or voted on, the NISP 1041 permit. That bias violates both the Larimer County land use code and the Colorado Constitution which requires “unbiased” decision-making on 1041 permits.
  • Second, the decision by the two-member majority of the Commission (Donnelly and Johnson) to give NISP a permit violated multiple criteria of the Larimer County land use code.

The lawsuit is posted here.

Larimer County Commissioner John Kefalas, who was appointed to be “Chair” of the Commission the day after Save The Poudre served the lawsuit, voted against the permit. Further, the new Commission – including Kefalas and newly elected Commissioners Kristin Stephens and Jody Shadduck-McNally – will now manage the County’s response to the lawsuit.

“We are suing Larimer County because Donnelly and Johnson should not have participated in, or voted on, the NISP permit, as well as their final illegal ruling to approve the NISP 1041 permit,” said Gary Wockner of Save The Poudre.

Similar to a change of administrations when a new President gets elected, as is occurring right now in the U.S., the new Larimer County Commission has many options for how it can handle the illegal actions and decisions of the previous Commissioners as well as lawsuits against the County.

“We call on this new Larimer County Commission to reconsider the illegal actions and decisions of the previous Commission,” continued Wockner. “NISP would be the biggest and most environmentally damaging project in Larimer County history, and throughout the County permitting process over 90% of public comments opposed NISP.”

This press release is posted here.

***

Save The Poudre Will Sue To Overturn Larimer County’s Biased NISP Decision

November 4, 2020
For Immediate Release
Contact Gary Wockner, 970-218-8310, Save The Poudre

Save The Poudre Will Sue To Overturn Larimer County’s Biased NISP Decision

Fort Collins: Today the Larimer County Commission finalized its “Findings and Resolution (posted here)” (“F & R”) for the 1041 permit for the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP). On a 2 – 1 vote, the F & R was ratified by biased, lame-duck Commissioners Tom Donnelly and Steve Johnson, with Commissioner John Kefalas opposed.

Also today, Save The Poudre directed its legal team to accelerate the legal battle against Larimer County to overturn this illegal and biased decision by these two commissioners.

First, Save The Poudre will continue pursuing its lawsuit against Commissioners Donnelly and Johnson, arguing their bias in the decision process. In violation of the Larimer County Land Use Code and Colorado Constitution, both Donnelly and Johnson voted on the NISP permit — a quasi-judicial decision process — when they had already and repeatedly stated their biased support for NISP.

Second, Save The Poudre will soon be filing a new lawsuit against the County, arguing that the County’s 1041 permit for NISP violates the Larimer County Land Use Code on multiple grounds.

Third, in the coming weeks and months, Save The Poudre will seek all available remedies to overturn the County’s illegal and biased NISP decision.

“NISP would drain and destroy the Cache la Poudre River through Fort Collins, and is thus the most disastrous and environmentally destructive project in Larimer County history. Any decision about NISP should reflect the future of the County, not the past,” said Gary Wockner, director of Save The Poudre. “We will do everything possible to overturn this illegal, biased decision by these two lame-duck commissioners.”

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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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