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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.

**end**

 

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.

***end***

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: We’re Back in Court Against NISP!

Hi Friends of the Poudre,

First, yesterday we filed a lawsuit “appeal” with the Colorado State Court of Appeals in Denver against the former Larimer County Commissioners and the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP). Last month, a district court judge in Larimer County ruled against us, and because we strongly disagreed with the judge’s decision, we are now appealing the decision in the state court system in Denver.

In the lawsuit appeal, we principally claim that:

  1. Former Larimer County Commissioners Steve Johnson and Tom Donnelly were biased in their support of NISP and never should’ve been allowed to make a decision about the County permit in 2020.
  2. In the Larimer County permit process, NISP should’ve been required to analyze and use the “Poudre River Alternative” to send all of its water down the Poudre River rather than put the water in a pipeline north of Fort Collins.

This State Court of Appeals lawsuit will play out over the next 6 – 18 months in Denver, and so you’re support will keep us running through the tape!

Second, in addition to this State lawsuit, we are still preparing our Federal lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for giving a permit to NISP. In fact, the ‘statute of limitations’ to file that lawsuit doesn’t end for 5 more years, and if we move that case forward it could take several more years in court after that. As such, we are taking our time and being very careful and deliberate in our preparation of that lawsuit.

Finally, NISP also has to get a permit from the City of Fort Collins, a process that hasn’t even started yet. When that process does start, likely in early 2024, it will play out over 6 – 12 months within the City, and then if we don’t agree with that decision, we can also challenge it in court.

In summary, it could be YEARS in the future before the final outcome on NISP is decided. Throughout this entire process, we are working STOP NISP or get the best possible outcome for the Cache la Poudre River. In fact, last year we created and publicly supported a “compromise” solution (read about it here) that would allow NISP to be built, but run ALL of its water down the Poudre River instead of putting the River’s precious water in a pipeline. So far, our compromise has not gotten traction.

When NISP started out in 2004, it was supposed to cost $147 million, whereas in 2023, NISP is now supposed to cost $2.25 billion. We will continue to fight as long as it takes to make sure any money that is spent includes the protection and restoration of the Poudre River.

It’s YOUR SUPPORT that keeps us working hard, keeps us in court, and keeps the Poudre River alive!

PLEASE DONATE ONLINE BY CLICKING HERE.

Thank you!

Poudre River Update: We’re Suing in Court, Fighting for Better Regulations, and Countering the Lies and Propaganda!

Hi Poudre River Lovers!

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT. YOU CAN DONATE ONLINE BY CLICKING HERE.

We’re aggressively working to protect and restore the Cache la Poudre River by suing in court, fighting for better regulations, and countering the lies and propaganda.

First, we are actively in the ‘briefing’ schedule in our state district court case against the proposed, massive, river-destroying reservoir called the “Northern Integrated Supply Project” (NISP). Recall, the former Larimer County Commissioners, Steve Johnson and Tom Donnelly, gave a permit to NISP over 2 years ago and we immediately sued the County.

That case is playing out in court and we may have a decision by the district court judge in the next 6 months. We’re arguing tenaciously that NISP would irreparably damage the Poudre River by diverting so much water out of the river through Fort Collins. Win, lose, or draw, we will keep fighting and take the case all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court if we have to!

We’re also continuing to prepare our lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for giving a permit to NISP. That case will play out in federal court in Denver, and who knows, the Poudre River may get its day in court with the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C. as well.

Second, the Fort Collins City Council recently considered new “1041 regulations” that would be required of NISP, and we testified to the Council to make sure the regulations are as strong as possible. Recall, the City has voted to “OPPOSE NISP”, which was great news two years ago, and we are keeping the river’s health front and center in the minds and eyes of the City Council. NISP would further degrade the Poudre River through Fort Collins as well as partially ruin the new $20 million Whitewater Park by removing so much water out of the river. We will do everything we can to protect the river in Fort Collins and get as strong of regulations from the City as possible.

Finally, at that same Fort Collins City Council meeting on Feb. 8th, proponents of NISP stood up and told their tired, false story about how they think NISP would “improve the health of the Poudre River”. This propaganda is ridiculous, and we continue to confront it at every turn. Take a look here on our Facebook page (click here to read it) for our rebuttal to this propaganda. NISP has one single purpose — to drain the river before it reaches Fort Collins and send the Poudre’s precious water out to sprawling towns mostly in Weld County. We will counter the lies and propaganda at every turn.

Thank you for your support!  It’s your support that keeps us in court, keeps us testifying, and keeps us rebutting the propaganda.

You can donate online by clicking here.

Gary Wockner and Mark Easter, Save The Poudre

Poudre River Update: Save The Poudre Will Sue The Army Corps To Stop NISP

Hi Amazing Poudre River Lovers!

We all knew this day would come, and come it has. Last Friday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sent out a press release saying they had signed the Record of Decision and 404 Permit for the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP). As we always do, we jumped into action to learn as much as possible and stay on top of the swirl of media. We had quotes in stories in the Denver Post and Colorado Sun over the weekend, and more are coming.

While one phase of the battle to save the Poudre has almost ended, another begins. We will soon have two active lawsuits against NISP: 1) against the former Larimer County Commissioners who gave a permit to NISP. This lawsuit will play out in 2023. And 2) against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for giving a permit to NISP. We will file that lawsuit against the Army Corps in the coming weeks as soon as we are able to read and analyze the permit. This federal permit court fight could take 2 to 3 years in federal district in Denver.

In both lawsuits, we are thrilled to have a Great Legal Team. Further, our attorneys have their minds and pens ready as the briefing schedules play out. We have worked with them for years preparing for this day and for the next year. Further, NISP still needs a 1041 permit from the City of Fort Collins which is a whole different permitting process and arena, and we are 100% engaged in this Fort Collins permit as well which could take another year to play out.

Here’s what we know in our hearts — the Cache la Poudre River is the heart and soul of Fort Collins, and the people of Fort Collins want the river protected and increasingly restored. YOU have given us our marching orders and we intend to march into court to make sure the Poudre River gets its day in court. At the same time, we continue to communicate with anyone who will listen — NISP, Fort Collins, Greeley, Thornton, Larimer County — about finding some sort of solution that meets everyone’s needs, not just the narrow needs of water suppliers. We are working on every level to protect and restore the Poudre, and 2023 will be busier than ever.

YOUR SUPPORT IS WHAT WILL KEEP US CHARGING FORWARD IN 2023!

You can donate online by clicking here.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT

Gary Wockner, Mark Easter, and the STP Board/Team

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