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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
    • 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:, and/or write letters to the Larimer County Commissioners using this email:

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”

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.


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.


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

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!


Thank you!

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

Hi Poudre River Lovers!


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.


You can donate online by clicking here.


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

PRESS RELEASE: NISP Record of Decision Issued; Save The Poudre Says, “We’ll See You In Court”

For Immediate Release

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

NISP Record of Decision Issued; Save The Poudre Says, “We’ll See You In Court”

Fort Collins, CO:  Today, after nearly 20 years, the Army Corps of Engineers issued the 404 Permit and Record of Decision for the proposed $2 billion “Northern Integrated Supply Project” (NISP) near Fort Collins, CO. The permit is posted here:

Save The Poudre response:

“We’ve fought this river-destroying project for nearly 20 years, girding for this final battle. Our attorneys’ pens are sharpened and we will sue to stop this project and protect the Poudre River as soon as possible. We’ve given the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (“Northern”) every chance to find a compromise solution, but instead they’ve chosen to compromise the Cache la Poudre River. Northern proposes to spend $2 billion on a project that has one massive environmental impact in Larimer County — further draining and destroying the Cache la Poudre River through Fort Collins. We are happy to keep a dialogue open with Northern Water as the lawsuit plays out, but for now it’s a court battle they want, and it’s a court battle we will give them.”

Save The Poudre is also in state court against NISP, suing the former Larimer County Commissioners who gave a 1041 permit to NISP. That lawsuit is just beginning its briefing schedule after the beginning of 2023 and will play out in 2023. Federal court battles generally last 2 – 3 years for the first round in federal district court.


Poudre River Update: Thank you for your support on Colorado Gives Day!

Hello Poudre River Lovers! Thank you for your support!

We are pushing hard on every single lever to protect and restore the Cache la Poudre River.

First, we WON in court against the City of Thornton, and now we’re making news about it on the Front Page of the Denver Post!

For 12 years, we’ve been telling the City of Thornton they should send their water down the Poudre River, all the way through Fort Collins, before taking it out near Windsor. And for 12 years, Thornton has refused to do so.

Now the media is really starting to take notice. The Denver Post, Colorado Sun, Fort Collins Coloradoan, and other publications are all writing about the debacle Thornton has tangled itself in, and writing about our simple solution to untangle them: RUN THE WATER DOWN THE POUDRE!

Further yet, we’ve now expanded the concept to include the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP), the City of Greeley’s proposed storage project, and the City of Fort Collins’ proposed expansion of Halligan Reservoir.

All of these municipalities should use the “river as the conveyance” for their water rather than building massive pipelines that take the water out of the river.

The river is “natural infrastructure,” and using the river as conveyance is a “Nature-Based Solution” to these water supply problems. Further yet, our concept of using Nature-Based Solutions is resonating across the U.S. and the planet. At COP27 recently in Cairo, Egypt, the Asst Secretary for the U.S. State Dept., Monica Medina, spoke about “Nature-Based Solutions” for climate change and environmental problems.

We’ve reached out to all of the stakeholders who are trying to build new projects on the Poudre including Larimer County, the City of Fort Collins, the City of Greeley, the City of Thornton, and Northern Water to begin discussions about using the river as the conveyance for the water.

Further, we are reaching out to our federal elected officials including Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper, and Congressman Neguse, to discuss the concept. We’ve also reached out to the Biden Administrations’ U.S. EPA.

If the status quo continues – which includes building multiple dams and pipelines – the river through Fort Collins will be increasingly drained. We believe we owe it to the people of Fort Collins and Larimer County, as well as to the river itself, to try to negotiate a better outcome. Over $2 billion dollars is proposed to be spent by the municipal water agencies to build dams and pipelines designed to get the water out of the Poudre River before it reaches Fort Collins. We’re working to change that trajectory.

While we attempt to negotiate, we’re also keeping our foot on the pedal of law enforcement! Recall that we sued the former Larimer County Commissioners for giving a permit for NISP, and that lawsuit is still playing out in state court in Larimer County. We believe we have a strong case and our legal team is fighting hard to get the best outcome. If the Army Corps gives a permit to NISP, we will also likely sue the Corps.

Finally, we continue to be engaged in the preparation of the City of Fort Collins’ new “1041 regulations” that will apply to NISP. We’ve provided many comments to the Council and the staff, and we are waiting for a final draft that will be on the City Council agenda in early 2023. These regs are very important to protect the Poudre River as well as the Natural Areas all the way through Fort Collins.

PLEASE KNOW – Your past support has made all of the difference in our ability to fight these battles, and your current and future support is what will keep us fighting. We’ve been girding for this legal action for 19 years.

Every $25 or $50 makes a real difference.  If you can afford $100 or $250 or more, that’s great too! All donations are tax deductible

Please donate on our website at:

Thank you for your support!


MEDIA STATEMENT: Save The Poudre Statement on Home Builders Association Letter to Larimer County Commissioners

Hi Colorado Environmental Media,

Yesterday, the “Home Builders Association of Metro Denver” and the “Colorado Association of Home Builders” sent a comment letter to the Larimer County Commissioners about the proposed “Thornton Pipeline”. The Home Builders’ letter, pasted in below and posted here, is uninformed, harasses the Commissioners, and is filled with false information.

Statement by Gary Wockner, Director of Save The Poudre:

  • “The Home Builders are uninformed and spewing false information to the County Commissioners and the public. It is Thornton, not Larimer County, who is refusing collaborate and delaying the delivery of water. We’ve been in contact with Thornton for 14 years about this issue, and it was Thornton who originally planned to send the water down the Cache la Poudre River, not put it in a pipeline. It is Thornton, not Larimer County, who changed its mind and spent more than a decade and millions of dollars trying to get a permit to build a pipeline in Larimer County. It is Thornton, not Larimer County, who filed a lawsuit, spending more millions of dollars, which further delayed the delivery of water and refused to collaborate.
  • In fact, if Thornton simply would’ve collaborated with us and stuck to their original plan and sent the water down the Poudre River — using the River as a conveyance — and then diverted the water in Weld County near Windsor, Thornton would not have even needed a permit in Larimer County and Thornton would’ve had its water 10 years ago.
  • We encourage the Home Builders to get their facts straight and stop harassing elected officials and the public in Larimer County.”

I’m happy to chat with any media on the phone about this.


— 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


Home Builders Association of Metro Denver and Colorado Association of Home Builders Comments Letter – Thornton Water Pipeline Project

Morgan Cullen

to kefa…, kste…, JShadduc…, vol…, fri…, Ted Leighty, t…

Dear Commissioners Kefalas, Stephens and Shadduck-McNally:


I am writing to submit formal comments on the ongoing legal challenges surrounding the Thornton Water Project. These comments are being provided on behalf of the Home Builders Association of Metro Denver and the Colorado Association of Home Builders.

The HBA of Metro Denver represents over 500 homebuilders, developers, remodelers, architects, mortgage lenders, title companies, subcontractors, suppliers, and service providers in the eight metro-area counties we serve. The Colorado Association of Home Builders has over 2,000 members across the state, representing over 40,000 jobs that play a crucial role in providing housing for Coloradoans.

For many years, Colorado has established itself as one of the best places to live, work and raise a family. Colorado has a proud history of communities working together to tackle tough issues, solve problems and improve the prosperity of all its residents through collective reciprocity and regional collaboration. Be it in politics, business or our shared civic responsibilities, we have always prospered because of that reason – We work together.

However, we have grown concerned that this spirit of regional collaboration and problem solving is being threatened over a critical issue in northern Colorado. By refusing to allow Thornton to access the water it has owned for nearly forty-years, Larimer County is impacting the livelihood and ability for families and individuals to live closer to where they work and inadvertently exacerbating Colorado’s housing attainability crisis along the front range.

The HBA of Metro Denver and the Colorado Association of Home Builders has included the attached letter to this email, outlining our concerns regarding these ongoing delays and the need reconcile the situation in an expedited manner. In the spirit of regional cooperation and housing attainability in Colorado, we respectfully request that Larimer County work in earnest with the City of Thornton to come to an agreement on this issue that has gone on for too long.

Thank you for your time and consideration of our concerns.


Morgan Cullen
Director of Government Affairs

Home Builders Association of Metro Denver


cell:  303-217-6858

9033 E Easter Place | Suite 200 | Centennial CO  80112

National Discounts, Local Member Savings available at


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