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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.


You can donate online by clicking here.

— Gary Wockner


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.”



PRESS RELEASE: Life or Death of the Cache la Poudre River May Escalate to Colorado Supreme Court

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

Life or Death of the Cache la Poudre River May Escalate to Colorado Supreme Court

Cache la Poudre River, CO: Yesterday, a state district court in Larimer County, CO, ruled against considering the “Poudre River Option” as a conveyance for delivering water downstream to water users, and instead supported a massive 6-foot diameter pipeline that would drain an additional 13 billion gallons of water/year out of the Poudre River before the River reaches Fort Collins.

The court’s decision is posted here.

The ruling sided with former Larimer County Commissioners who supported a 1041 permit for the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) in an October 2020 decision. The ruling didn’t just dismiss the Poudre River Option but completely neglected to discuss it although the lawsuit brought by Save The Poudre, as well as Save The Poudre’s engagement in the permit process back in 2020, extensively argued in support of using the River as the conveyance for water.

Save The Poudre’s response brief in the lawsuit, arguing extensively for the Poudre River Option, is posted here (see pages 19 – 26).

“NISP wants to take 13 billion gallons of water out of the Poudre River every year and put that water in a pipeline that runs near the River and then crosses the River miles downstream near Windsor,” said Gary Wockner of Save The Poudre. “Using the River as the conveyance for this water, rather than a massive pipeline, is a common-sense compromise that protects the Poudre River as well as saves hundreds of millions of dollars on pipeline costs.”

Both NISP and a parallel project, the Thornton Pipeline, propose to divert Poudre River water into massive pipelines upstream of Fort Collin rather than use the river as a conveyance to get the water downstream. The Thornton Pipeline expects to put in a new application to Larimer County in the coming weeks, while NISP likely faces more court battles as Save The Poudre considers its options for appeal. Further, NISP faces a potential court battle over a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, and NISP needs a permit from the City of Fort Collins.

See the image above, as well as page 3 of the court’s ruling, which depicts how NISP would divert a massive amount of water out of the Poudre River into the proposed Glade Reservoir, and then put that water in the “NISP Delivery Pipeline” that would run across Larimer County north of the Poudre River, and then run all the way down along I-25 to Windsor where it would cross the Poudre River.

“We believe that the state’s highest court may need to decide, once and for all, whether the Poudre River lives or dies,” said Wockner. “We are considering our options to appeal this district court decision because Nature created a perfectly good pipeline that runs all the way through Fort Collins and Larimer County — Nature’s pipeline is called the “Cache la Poudre River.”

This press release is posted here.




Poudre River Update: The Cost of NISP

Hi Friends of the Poudre River,

On January 12, 2023, we sent a Colorado Open Records Act request to Northern Water to find out the cost of NISP. Northern responded on January 17, 2023. NISP had ballooned to $2.25 billion according to the spreadsheet Northern Water sent us.

See the spreadsheet by clicking here.

We then calculated the cost per participant, below:

Participant                                                    Acre Feet                     %of Project                 Total Cost

Central Weld Co. W.D.                               3,500 8.75% $             196,866,337.50
Dacono                               1,250 3.13% $               70,309,406.25
Eaton                               1,300 3.25% $               73,121,782.50
Erie                               6,500 16.25% $             365,608,912.50
Evans                               1,200 3.00% $               67,497,030.00
Firestone                               1,300 3.25% $               73,121,782.50
Fort Collins-Loveland. W.D.                               3,400 8.50% $             191,241,585.00
Fort Lupton                               2,050 5.13% $             115,307,426.25
Fort Morgan                               3,600 9.00% $             202,491,090.00
Frederick                               2,600 6.50% $             146,243,565.00
Lafayette                               1,800 4.50% $             101,245,545.00
Lefthand W.D.                               4,900 12.25% $             275,612,872.50
Morgan County Q.W.D.                               1,300 3.25% $               73,121,782.50
Severance                               2,000 5.00% $             112,495,050.00
Windsor                               3,300 8.25% $             185,616,832.50
Total                             40,000 100.00% $               2,249,901,000

Poudre River Update: It’s 2022 and the Fight to Save The Poudre Ramps Up!

Hi Amazing Poudre River Lovers!

This is the 19th year — NINETEEN! — of our fight to save the Poudre River, to keep its healthy water flowing through Fort Collins, to keep the beautiful riparian corridor alive and green, and to support the amazing recreational and holistic lifestyle the Poudre River brings to our community. Here’s a summary update of where it all stands:

First, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has responded to our requests and has set up a meeting next week where we can air our grievances against their idea of loaning a half-billion dollars to help build NISP. In that meeting we will find out about how all of you can also reach out to the EPA — so stay tuned on that. We have found out that NISP falsified information in the application to the EPA which may be grounds for a lawsuit — so stay tuned on that!

Second, our lawsuit against the former Larimer County Commissioners continues to move forward. We are optimistic that the state district court will rule in our favor and overturn the permit the Commissioners gave to NISP.

Third, our lawsuit against NISP for claiming they had “vested property rights” on City of Fort Collins Natural Areas prevailed — we won! NISP has now agreed with the City that NISP DOES NOT own City Natural Areas and can’t automatically build NISP pipelines without approval from the Fort Collins City Council.

Fourth, our legal intervention against the Thornton Pipeline continues to successfully move forward and we are optimistic we will prevail against  Thornton.

Fifth, we’ve put extensive comments into Larimer County’s proposed revision of its 1041 regulations. The County will be finalizing those regs at the end of January.

Sixth, we’ve been invited to help the City of Fort Collins create its new 1041 regulations over the next few months. We’re excited to help the City create strong regs that protect the Poudre River and the amazing beautiful Natural Areas throughout Fort Collins.

Finally, our attorneys are actively developing our legal fight against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to be ready if/when the Corps grants a permit to NISP, which could happen any day.

As we race into this 19th year of saving the Poudre, we are doing EVERYTHING that realistically can be done to Stop NISP, Stop the Thornton Pipeline, and Save The Poudre.

We GREATLY appreciate your support which keeps our nose to the grindstone working hard!

You can donate online by clicking here.

Stay tuned for all the action!!

Gary Wockner
Director, Save The Poudre

PRESS RELEASE: Poudre River-Killing Dam Project Seeks Half-Billion Dollar Fed Bailout From Infrastructure Act

For Immediate Release
Dec. 4, 2021

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

Poudre River-Killing Dam Project Seeks Half-Billion Dollar Fed Bailout From Infrastructure Act

Fort Collins, CO: Yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is potentially inviting the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) to seek a half-billion dollar bailout from money provided in the federal Infrastructure Act (see announcement here). In the announcement, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the money would go to projects that would “safeguard public health, especially in underserved and under-resourced communities.”

Addressing those two points, Save The Poudre points out:

First, about public health, NISP would severely impact the health of the Cache la Poudre River through Fort Collins by draining up to half of its water during the late spring and early summer. This fact has caused the City of Fort Collins — which would bear all the negative impacts of NISP — to vote to oppose NISP on several occasions. About NISP, the City of Fort Collins’ website right now states:

“The loss of springtime flows is likely to: 

  • cause fine sediment to clog riverbed habitat adversely impacting fish and insect health in the river
  • lead to vegetation growing into the river channel, shrinking the size of the river and possibly rising flood levels
  • dry out riverside vegetation and cause a narrowing of the cottonwood forests and wetlands

These potential impacts to river health, may have a cascading impact on recreation opportunities on the river.”

Second, on the “underserved and under-resourced” communities issue, as just two examples of NISP participants’ privilege, right now on, the “median sold home price” in Erie, CO, is $710,000 and in Lafayette, CO, it’s $677,000.

“Apparently, Administrator Regan has never been to northern Colorado,” said Gary Wockner of Save The Poudre. “NISP is designed to destroy the health of the Cache la Poudre River and send its precious water to some of the fastest-growing, suburban, and most privileged communities in northern Colorado.”

NISP has been in federal, state, and local permitting processes for 18 years. In the past two years, Save The Poudre has filed 3 lawsuits against the project, one of which Save The Poudre won in the State Court of Appeals, and two of which are still pending in State District Court in Larimer County. Save The Poudre is waiting for the final permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and if the Corps green-lights NISP, Save The Poudre is prepared to challenge that decision in court.

When NISP was proposed in 2004, its was estimated to cost $350 million; that price has ballooned to at least $1.1 billion as most recently stated in 2018. Further, NISP has to buy at least 20,000 acres of farms in northern Colorado to obtain the water for the project, a cost that has not yet been publicly revealed.

“NISP is the most controversial, most environmentally damaging, and most expensive project in northern Colorado history,” said Wockner. “The EPA absolutely should not try to bail out this ridiculous river-killing boondoggle.”

This press release is posted here.


NATURE UNDER ATTACK? State of Colorado Argues That “Cache la Poudre River” Doesn’t Legally Exist

July 30, 2020
For Immediate Release
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Poudre, 970-218-8310

NATURE UNDER ATTACK? State of Colorado Argues That “Cache la Poudre River” Doesn’t Legally Exist

Cache la Poudre River, CO: Today, our local river-protection organization, Save The Poudre, which has about 1,000 members in and around Fort Collins, filed a stinging legal brief against the Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) after CDPHE filed a brief two weeks ago trying to kick the “Cache la Poudre River” out of a legal challenge against a huge environmentally destructive dam project.

The Cache la Poudre River begins in the pristine mountain peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park and flows down an 80-mile canyon before it reaches the town of Fort Collins in Colorado. The Cache la Poudre is the only “National Wild and Scenic River” in Colorado as designated by an Act of Congress. Just west of Fort Collins, a regional government dam-building agency has been trying to build a huge dam for the last 20 years that would further drain and deplete the river through Fort Collins. Our organization, Save The Poudre, has been in a bitter and long-term fight against the proposed dam — called the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) — as we try to protect the river’s flow of water for the benefit of people and environment.

Earlier in 2020, the CDPHE — whose director is appointed by Governor Jared Polis — gave a “401 water quality certification” to NISP arguing that the massive dam-and-diversion project would not impair the water quality in the Poudre River. We are challenging that permit through the legal process, and now we are fighting for the legal life itself of the Cache la Poudre River against this state agency.

Our “administrative appeal” argues that both our group, “Save The Poudre”, and the “Cache la Poudre River” are legally entitled to challenge the state 401 certification. Both legal entities are adversely affected by NISP.  The river would be severely drained and depleted by NISP — the list of negative impacts include the degradation of fish habitat, an increase in pollution including E coli bacteria, an increase in algae due to lower flows and warmer water, the drying up of water-cleansing wetlands, and others.

Obviously it’s the river’s health and water quality that we are arguing about — the State of Colorado and the U.S. government both have laws protecting the water quality in the river under the Clean Water Act — and so it’s clear that the river itself should be a named plaintiff in this legal action in addition to our organization, Save The Poudre.

The State of Colorado, joining with the dam-building agency, is trying to “dismiss” the river out of the legal fight altogether. Using obscure internet definitions of the word “entity”, the State argues in its Motion to Dismiss on July 16, 2020, that the Cache la Poudre River is a “watershed” but is not an “entity” and has no legal standing in the fight.

We fired back in our Response Brief today that the Cache la Poudre River is an “entity” by any reasonable definition of the word. Further, the Cache la Poudre obviously has legal rights because state and federal law regulate the water quality in the river as well as the existence of the river itself — in fact, several pollutants in the river are monitored and regulated, the City of Fort Collins’ wastewater treatment discharge into the river is meticulously regulated, the river has been given legal standing as “Wild and Scenic” by an Act of Congress, and sections of the river are listed as legally “impaired” by the CDPHE (see report here, slide #14). Finally, we argue that the City of Fort Collins makes repeated and significant claims that the Cache la Poudre River is important for the “social, environmental, and economic vitality” of the community, and thus the river itself has every legal right to participate in this battle as well as any court of law.

This battle is not the same as the “Rights of Nature” court battle that occurred back in 2018 over the Colorado River (see story here). In that battle, plaintiffs were trying to confer new legal standing to the Colorado River that never before had been recognized by courts, although a past U.S. Supreme Court ruling mentioned that “Rights of Nature” are needed. Our legal battle on the Cache la Poudre River is simply trying to name the river itself as an injured party that can defend itself. Obviously, the Cache la Poudre River is an injured party in this entire debacle.

The State of Colorado and the dam-building agency are not trying to dismiss our organization, “Save The Poudre”, from the legal battle, and so there’s no risk that our challenge to the state permit won’t continue. The legal challenge over the state permit is playing out this Fall with a final hearing before the governor-appointed “Colorado Water Quality Control Commission” in November. Further, if the Commission rules against us in the broader state permit appeal, we can then file a lawsuit in state court — thus, the battle to fight the dam and save the Poudre will continue whether the “Cache la Poudre River” is named or not.

There’s no doubt that government agencies at all levels are working to undermine environmental laws to allow more and more dams and destruction of our environment and rivers. Federal attacks against the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act are playing out right now. But, this effort by the State of Colorado to disallow the naming of the Cache la Poudre River as an injured party in a legal proceeding seems to represent a new cudgel against protecting the natural world. In our Response Brief, we point out that the Cambridge dictionary defines an “entity” as “something having its own independent existence.” The State of Colorado CDPHE is trying to set a legal precedent that nature — and especially rivers in Colorado — do not independently exist.

The Cache la Poudre River is in the fight of its life against this proposed dam, and now is in a fight against the State of Colorado to legally exist at all.


This press release is posted here.


TAKE ACTION: Ask Larimer County Commissioners To Suspend NISP Permitting During Coronavirus Pandemic Emergency

Hi Amazing Poudre River Lovers!

We understand and appreciate that this is a difficult time for all of you. First and foremost, do everything you can to stay healthy and take care of yourself and your loved ones. Second — we are working hard and need your assistance. 

During this emergency pandemic that has paralyzed the government and economy, Larimer County actually triggered the permitting process for the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) and we need you to send an email to the Larimer County Commissioners.

You can send them an email by clicking here.

The State of Colorado has declared a “State of Emergency” due to the coronavirus pandemic, and we believe it gives the Larimer County Commissioners broad discretion to suspend the permitting process for NISP until a normal, public process can take place. Right now, the County has unleashed 911 pages of highly technical documents that the public — and Save The Poudre — needs to digest, only given us 42 days to analyze these documents, and set a public hearing date of May 6th. All of this at the exact time when people are supposed to “social distance” and limit public gatherings.

NISP has been in federal permitting processes for SEVENTEEN YEARS. Thousands of comments have been generated, and tens-of-thousands of documents are in the public record responding to NISP. It’s simply ridiculous to rush through this Larimer County permit process when the public is completely engaged in other matters protecting their health and families, and worrying for their financial future.

Please send the Commissioners a respectful email by clicking here asking them to suspend the NISP permitting process.

We have a team of scientists working hard to make sure the Poudre River keeps flowing while almost everything else has been shut off by this pandemic. It is your past support that keeps us working hard.

Thank you, and stay healthy,

Gary Wockner
Director, Save The Poudre

Poudre River Supporters turn out in droves again to fight for the Poudre!

One hundred more people voiced their concerns at the Larimer County Commissioners second hearing on the Thornton Pipeline Proposal this week.  The Commissioners will hold a third meeting on August 1st to hear the rest of the comments.

Attend the meeting on August 1st and add your voice to ours by asking the the Commissioners to “DENY” the Permit For The Thornton Pipeline and tell Thornton to send their water down the Poudre.   

Or, send the Commissioners an Action Alert Email right here.

Find out more about the pipeline proposal at

JUNE 22: John Fielder, 50th Anniversary, Wild and Scenic Rivers Act

June 22, 7:00pm
Lincoln Center, Magnolia Room

Tickets $10 here:

Please join legendary Colorado nature photographer, John Fielder, in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. John will showcase some of this wonderful photography on the big screen in the Magnolia Theater, including photos of the Dolores River, Yampa River, and our own


Cache la Poudre River. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was created by Congress in 1968 and now includes 208 sections of rivers across the U.S. The Cache la Poudre River is the only designated Wild and Scenic River in the state of Colorado. Save The Poudre is hosting John Fielder to celebrate the anniversary and the Cache la Poudre’s unique Wild and Scenic status.

John Fielder has worked tirelessly to promote the protection of Colorado’s environment during his 35-year career as a nature photographer and publisher. His photography has influenced people and legislation, earning him recognition including the Sierra Club’s Ansel Adams Award in 1993 and, in 2011, the Aldo Leopold Foundation’s first Achievement Award given to an individual. Over 40 books have been published depicting his Colorado photography. He teaches photography workshops to adults and children, and his latest books are and Wildflowers of Colorado and A Colorado Winter. He lives in Summit County, Colorado. 30% of proceeds to benefit Save the Poudre. Information about John and his work can be found at

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