NISP is nearing the final stages of federal permitting with the final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) released for public comment in July, 2018.
City Council conducted a preliminary review and discuss the Northern Integrated Supply Final Environmental Impact Statement on September 11, 2018. View the meeting documents here.
City Council will consider the City's draft comments for submission to the Army Corps of Engineers, at its October 2 regular meeting.
The Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) is a water development and storage project proposed by the Northern Water Conservancy District (Northern) on behalf of 15 municipalities and water providers, mainly south and east of Fort Collins. NISP will draw water from the Cache la Poudre River. One of two proposed reservoirs for NISP, “Glade Reservoir” will be located near Ted’s place north of Fort Collins. Project details
In order to be constructed, NISP needs a variety of permits and approvals from federal, state, and local entities. The primary permit is a Clean Water Act Section 404 Permit (404 Permit) from the Corps. In 2008, the Corps produced a draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the NISP and in 2015 a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) was produced, both are available here. Per state statute, a Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan was developed and approved in 2017.
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
Even though 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)
On May 29th, 2018, City Council passed Resolution 2018-053 to allow staff to begin negotiations with Northern.
Meeting Records of Discussions & Negotiations
City Council directed staff to provide it and the public with a record of meetings and discussions with Northern Water pursuant to Resolution 2017-024.
Agendas and meeting notes:
- NISP Discussion, March 30, 2017 meeting notes
- NISP Discussion, May 22, 2017 meeting notes
- NISP Discussion, June 19, 2017 meeting notes
- NISP Discussion, July 31, 2017 meeting notes
- NISP Discussion, August 31, 2017 meeting notes
- NISP Discussion, October 6, 2017 meeting notes
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the City engaged in NISP?
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 City plans to evaluate and submit comments on the FEIS as it has in previous draft iterations of the EIS’s (in 2008 and 2015). In the process of submitting comments to the supplemental draft EIS 2015, Fort Collins City Council passed a Resolution stating it could not support NISP as it was then described with the understanding that the City Council may reach a different conclusion with respect to a future variant of NISP…if changes addressed the City's fundamental concerns.
- How does the 404 permitting process work?
To best understand the role and potential influence by the City, or by the comments submitted by the public at large, it is helpful to understand the federal permitting requirements for a Federal “404 permit”, the permit Northern needs to acquire and the associated process set forth by the Clean Water Act (1972) and requires compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (1970).
In a 404 permitting process, once a proponent such as Northern establishes the need for the project, the permitting agency, in this case the Corps, must evaluate a handful of possible approaches for achieving the proposed project and develop an environmental impact statement to publicly disclose environmental impacts and alternatives to the project. Environmental impacts of each alternative are analyzed for each resource category (e.g. fish, water quality) to determine a categorical degree of impact. The Corps is then required to identify the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative (the “LEDPA”).
It is important to note that, with this process, it is acceptable for the LEDPA to have environmental impacts, but its impacts must be less than those of other alternatives. The project is also required to identify and develop a compensatory mitigation plan to offset losses to aquatic habitat functions (to the degree practicable). If the requirements described above are met, a Record of Decision is determined (the “ROD”) then the project proponent is issued the 404 permit.
The 404 permitting process is complex and this summary is not an exhausted description of the steps or process.
- At the final EIS stage can the city influence the outcomes?
Public comments to the FEIS may affect details of the project but precedent indicates that at this stage, the Corps is unlikely to pursue major additional analyses, change conclusions, or require major operational changes. Even so, the 404 process requires a science-based approach to evaluating impacts. As such, this summer, City staff will analyze the FEIS for adequacies and accuracies of technical analyses. This technical review will focus on issues related to flood risk and public safety; the ability of City operations to continue to comply with regulatory requirements and deliver high quality services; and sustaining the many social, cultural and ecological benefits a healthy functioning Poudre River provides to our community. The City's comments will also focus on the adequacy of the proposed mitigation (including long-term adaptive management framework) as linked to the type and degree of NISP impacts.
- What is the 401 water quality certification?
To build NISP Northern must also obtain a “401 certification”, a required permit that is managed by the State of Colorado for the purpose of ensuring the project meets all the water quality requirements of Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act. Specifically, a 401 permit defines the water quality limits that a project must maintain for water discharges in order to meet water quality standards for affected water bodies. The 401 permitting process parallels the 404, but in the case of NISP, is occurring later in the process. It is anticipated that Northern will submit an application to the State of Colorado for a 401 permit in the fall of 2018, which will be followed by a 30-day public comment period. Numerous City permits and assets rely on high water quality in the river. Additionally, there has been little information released to the public to-date about NISP-related water quality analyses or impacts. For these reasons, the City intends to conduct a thorough review of the project’s potential impacts on water quality and submit comments regarding areas of deficiency, as necessary.