The Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) is a proposed water supply and storage project that will serve 15 communities and water districts in northern Colorado. This area includes the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District that serves portions of southeast Fort Collins and the City's Growth Management Area. Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Northern Water) is the proponent of NISP on behalf of the 15 participant communities and districts that will receive water from NISP. Project details
NISP requires various federal, state and local permits and approvals before it can be constructed and operated. Northern Water has been in the federal permitting processes for NISP since 2004, including for a “404 Permit” under the federal Clean Water Act. The permitting process for NISP began in 2004. Permitting for NISP is multifaceted and complex as it must follow federal, state, county, and local processes.
The City of Fort Collins will be affected in a variety of ways including impacts to water-related assets, impacts to the Poudre River as it runs through Fort Collins, and direct impacts on City-owned properties. For this reason, Fort Collins has engaged through public comment opportunities with various permitting agencies over the past 14 years. Please find City’s previous comments below.
In 2021 the City is anticipating:
- the City’s local Site Plan Advisory Review (SPAR) for infrastructure proposed within the City limits, and
- the release of the Record of Decision (ROD) for the federal 404 permit,
- a possible easement application for NISP infrastructure on Natural Areas.
NISP Site Plan Advisory Review (SPAR)#
The NISP project is expected to go through a Site Plan Advisory Review (SPAR) in 2021 for the portions of the project that occur within City limits. The focus will be on the Poudre River Diversion Structure at the northwest corner of Mulberry St. and Lemay Ave., and portions of the Poudre Intake Pipeline.
Prior to submitting a SPAR application, applicants must conduct a neighborhood meeting. That meeting was held on April 21st, 2021. If you missed the meeting, you can view a recording or review the meeting notes.
The SPAR process is used when the State or other public entities are the applicants for development. The “A” in “SPAR” stands for “Advisory.” In these processes, the City is providing comments in an advisory capacity rather than checking a project against the standards in the Land Use Code.
The SPAR process has similar steps to other development review proposals, including a neighborhood meeting, review meetings with City staff, and a public hearing with the Planning and Zoning Board. To learn more about the development review process and how community members can get involved, visit https://www.fcgov.com/developmentreview/residentreview.
Comments on SPAR applications are focused on location, character, and extent.
According to the Land Use Code:
(1) The site location for the proposed use shall be consistent with the land use designation described by the City Structure Plan Map, which is an element of the City's Comprehensive Plan (City Plan).
(2) The site development plan shall conform to architectural, landscape and other design standards and guidelines adopted by the applicant's governing body. Absent adopted design standards and guidelines, the design character of the site development plan shall be consistent with the stated purpose of the respective land use designation as set forth in the City's Comprehensive Plan.
(3) The site development plan shall identify the level of functional and visual impacts to public rights-of-way, facilities and abutting private land caused by the development, including, but not limited to, streets, sidewalks, utilities, lighting, screening and noise, and shall mitigate such impacts to the extent reasonably feasible.
Unlike most development projects, the SPAR process has a strict timeline. Once a plan is submitted, the proposal must be heard by the Planning and Zoning Board within 60 days.
The Planning and Zoning Board can approve or disapprove the application, but in the case of disapproval, a governing body can overrule the decision with a 2/3 vote of its membership.
As of early April 2021, the NISP project is preparing for SPAR submittal. The neighborhood meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 21st at 6:00 PM. Neighborhood meetings are designed for residents to see early plans, ask questions, make suggestions, and flag areas of concern. The meeting will include presentations from City staff and applicants, and time for community questions.
This meeting will be entirely remote. Zoom information will be available online at fcgov.com/developmentreview/proposals 48 hours in advance of the meeting. A livestream of the meeting will also be available on YouTube.
Community input is an important part of development review processes like SPAR. In addition to attending the neighborhood meeting, community members can submit questions to City staff or provide official comment to decision-makers by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can sign up to be notified by email of important dates in the NISP SPAR application process, including when new documents are submitted, and when public hearings are scheduled. At the top of this page, click "Newsletters" and enter your email to be added to the list.
Information from the applicants submitted for Conceptual Review (held in March of 2021), and staff responses to that submission are available. Please note that Conceptual Review materials are very early-stage plans. They are not considered official application documents, and can change significantly prior to neighborhood meeting or the submission of a formal application. The NISP project will be eligible to submit a formal application ten days after their neighborhood meeting. All application documents will be available online at fcgov.com/developmentreview/proposals.
Record of Decision#
The Record of Decision (ROD) for NISP’s permit under Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act (404 permit) is expected to be published in the first few months of 2021. It will provide the Army Corps of Engineers’ ruling on the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative (LEDPA) and identify which alternative is awarded a permit. The NISP LEDPA is expected to be Northern Water’s preferred alternative, which includes Glade and Galeton Reservoirs and a series of pipelines and conveyance systems. The 404 permit is expected to accompany the ROD and will describe the physical features/facilities of NISP, an operations plan, and specific criteria outlined by the Corps for mitigation. Mitigation required by the federal permitting process is designed to offset the project’s environmental impacts. Components of the 404 mitigation will likely overlap with other mitigation plans required by NISP.
An application for easements for NISP facilities proposed on four natural areas may be submitted later in 2021. Potentially impacted natural areas include Homestead, Williams, Kingfisher Point, and Riverbend Ponds natural areas.
Current City Council Direction #
NISP was the topic of the August 4, 2020 City Council meeting. Here is a link to the video. A resolution was passed on first reading changing the City’s position on NISP from “cannot support in the current configuration” to “oppose.”
The resolution directs City staff to continue to collaborate with Northern Water to maximize positive outcomes for the City of Fort Collins. The resolution also asked City staff to share the City’s comments at a public hearing. Second reading of the resolution occurred August 18.
City of Fort Collins' Comments#
With the potential for NISP to affect the City’s assets, investments and natural benefits of the Poudre river, the City of Fort Collins has submitted comments at each stage of the permitting process focusing on drinking water, wastewater, river ecology, stormwater, and recreation.
City of Fort Collins Comment Documents:
Direct Negotiations With Northern Water Conservancy District #
The degree to which Northern Water and the City have overlapping business is extensive. Staff continuously have various discussions with Northern Water on both NISP and non-NISP related business. In general, the NISP-related meetings include technical subjects such as water quality City of Fort Collins monitoring and river health assessments, the formation of a NISP adaptive management group to support the prioritization of NISP mitigation projects, and numerous potential other discipline or operations-specific threads.
Staff and Northern Water have agreed to carry discussions related to NISP mitigation and Fort Collins priorities forward in 2021. The City’s priorities for these discussions include NISP’s unmitigated impacts to Poudre river’s flood capacity and ecological functions, impacts to City assets, and efficacy of adaptive management.
Although Fort Collins has extensive investments and reliance on the Poudre River, the City’s role and influence in the various permitting processes is limited. The City has no direct approval authority over NISP. However, the City’s sphere of influence on this project may not be exclusively limited to public participation in the permitting processes.
In 2017, City Council authorized staff to "meet on a regular basis with...Northern Water regarding NISP and the City's concerns, and to explore the City's interests in order to ascertain whether those interests can be met, including through potential solutions to address the City's goals and issues related to NISP..." (Resolution 2017-024)
City Council passed Resolution 2018-053 to allow staff to begin negotiations with Northern Water.
Frequently Asked Questions#
The City is engaged with this public process because the project will reduce flows in the Poudre River and so may affect City assets and the health of the Cache la Poudre River.
The Poudre Intake Pipeline was developed to mitigate NISP impacts to water temperature in the Poudre. The proposal is for Glade Reservoir to contribute 18-25 cubic feet per second to the river from its outlet (near Ted’s Place) downriver to this new diversion location at Homestead Natural Area. Here the Poudre Intake Pipeline facilities would carry this water in a pipe to rejoin the larger NISP conveyance system near Interstate-25 to be delivered to its participants.. By using the river as part of its conveyance system this proposed aspect of NISP operations would create a more consistent baseflow.
In addition to mitigating temperature impacts, this consistent baseflow will improve aquatic habitat and minimize extreme low flow conditions. At the downstream end, to pick up the water, these proposed facilities include a new diversion on the river just upstream of Mulberry and a pipeline buried across four City of Fort Collins natural areas along the Mulberry corridor.
The NISP project added the Poudre Intake Pipeline to their conveyance plan relatively late in the permitting process and thus this component was not evaluated using the LEDPA approach (typical within a 404 permitting process). The Corps can allow late-developing components of a large complex project such as NISP to undergo a different type of alternatives analysis and review process. However, these facilities will be evaluated under the City’s SPAR and Natural Areas easement policy both of which prioritize the minimization of environmental impacts.
A SPAR application for the Poudre Intake Pipeline is expected in the coming months. The process is advisory in nature. Therefore, the application is not reviewed against standards in the City’s Land Use Code but instead per the criteria outlined in the state statute. The three criteria focus on location, character, and extent.
The SPAR process is administered by the Development Review Center in Community Development and Neighborhood Services. It includes the following key steps:
- Conceptual Review Meeting: High level plans for initial review and comment by City Departments.
- Neighborhood Meeting- Held prior to the SPAR application submittal. Applicant presents plan to citizens and answers questions related to development; City staff attends to answer questions related to application review and process. With COVID this will likely be a virtual meeting.
- Development Application Submittal: Northern Water will submit SPAR application and documents. Submittal of the SPAR application begins a 60-day processing window.
- Staff recommendation to Planning and Zoning Board.
- Planning and Zoning board determination (approve/disapprove).
If the Planning and Zoning Board votes to disapprove, the Planning and Zoning Board must request a hearing in front of the applicant’s board. The Planning and Zoning Board’s decision can be overruled by Northern Water’s governing board by a vote of not less than two-thirds of its membership.
There is no decision authority or required interface with City Council for the SPAR process.
Following the SPAR review, staff anticipates an easement application to Natural Areas for temporary and permanent impacts on Homestead, Williams, Kingfisher Point, and Riverbend Ponds natural areas. Under the current proposal for the pipeline facilities, Northern Water will also need to purchase <1 acre portion of Kingfisher Point Natural Area for the development of a settling pond and pump station.
While the exact timing of this application is not clear, the easement and purchase of Natural Areas lands and property rights will go through the typical process as administered by NAD staff, presented to LCSB for a recommendation, and considered by City Council.
Irrespective of the decisions or recommendations made through the SPAR and easement processes, as a water conservancy district, Northern Water has mechanisms by which it likely could ultimately acquire the property rights needed for NISP.
For notices related to the federal Record of the Decision for the 404 permit: https://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory-Program/Colorado/EIS-NISP/
For information related to the 401 water quality certification
For notices related to the 1041 permit
For comprehensive information regarding the NISP project please visit:
Lastly, staff offered to provide the final 1041 ruling and associated conditions. Please see: