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This page updated August 13, 2021

Overview#

The Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) is a multifaceted water supply and storage project proposed for Northern Colorado that is currently nearing the end of a complex 16 year permitting process.  NISP includes two reservoirs and a series of pipelines and other infrastructure.  The primary reservoir called “Glade” is to be located northwest of Fort Collins near the base of the Poudre Canyon.  To fill this reservoir NISP has water rights allowing it to divert water from the Poudre River in the spring and summer. 

NISP General Map

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.  The area includes the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District that serves portions of southeast Fort Collins and the City's Growth Management Area. 

NISP Participants Map

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. For a synopsis of the permits received and those still anticipated please see below. At this time, NISP has completed or is near completion on the majority of their permits and it appears likely the project will soon have all its necessary permits.

Impacts to City Assets and the Poudre River Corridor#

Since 2008 the City has engaged with the various NISP permitting processes and with the Northern Water Conservancy District directly to protect City assets and the health of the Poudre River corridor through town. Please find City’s previous comments below. 

In 2021, the City remains concerned that the current configuration of NISP is not sufficiently mitigated.  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.

Another direct impact of concern is the NISP proposed diversion structure on the river near Mulberry Avenue and the installment of several miles of pipes causing permanent and temporary impacts to wetlands, natural areas and other natural habitats.  

For these reasons the City continues diligent efforts towards finding collaborative solutions in order to assure long term sustainability of Poudre river health as it responds and adapt to future post-NISP conditions.

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 changing the City’s position on NISP from “cannot support in the current configuration” to “oppose.” 

Resolution 2020-075 directs City staff "to continue diligent efforts to negotiate and work with Northern Water to address the City's concerns regarding NISP and its impacts, including potential impacts to City-owned natural areas and development of a sustainable, long-term approach to avoidance, minimization, management and mitigation of impacts."

For more context on the City's negotiations with Northern Water see FAQs.

What's Next?#

For the remainder of 2021 the City is anticipating:

  • the release of the Record of Decision (ROD) for the federal 404 permit,
  • a possible easement application for NISP infrastructure on Natural Areas.

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. 

Easement Applications#

An application for right-of-way easements may be submitted later in 2021. These easements will be required for the diversion and pipe near Mulberry Avenue. The easements will potentially impact four natural areas: Homestead, Williams, Kingfisher Point, and Riverbend Ponds.

NISP Permits: Process, Purpose, and Progress#

Jurisdiction Permit Purpose of the permit Process or milestones
Federal (Army Corps of Engineers) 404 An Analysis of wetland and environmental impacts and mitigation to offset identified impacts. Process 90% complete. The Army Corps of Engineers released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) and a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FDEIS). The Record of Decision required for NISP to complete its 404 permit has not yet been released.
State (Colorado Department of Health and Environment) 401 A water quality analysis and certification.  Includes mitigation specific to water quality impacts Received in 2020. Extensive conditions and adaptive management components are described in the permit decision.
State (Colorado Parks and Wildlife) Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan A permit required by Colorado state statute to protect fish and wildlife habitat. This permit was received in 2017.  It describes the majority of the mitigation program for NISP and is the responsibility of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.  It will serve as the nexus for all adaptive management components of NISP.
County (Larimer County) 1041 This permit gives Larimer County the authority to regulate components of NISP infrastructure proposed within Larimer County. Approved in 2020. With conditions for the approved 1041 permit are described in the “Findings and Resolution.” 
Municipal (City of Fort Collins) Site Plan Advisory Review  A process that stands in lieu of the City’s typical development review process for activities of state interest, such as a water project. This review considers three criteria of location, character, and extent. Application (see FAQs) recently denied (June 2021) by the City Planning and Zoning Board. On August 12th, the Northern Water Conservancy District Board voted unanimously to overrule the SPAR decision.  
Municipal (City of Fort Collins) Natural Areas Easement A process for City Council to grant easements or Rights-of-Way permission prior to any work on/access to the City’s natural areas or conserved lands. Application not yet received. The general policy is to avoid, to the maximum extent feasible, granting easements or rights-of-way for activities that will adversely affect the City’s ability to meet the community's goals for natural area protection.
Municipal (City of Fort Collins) Utilities Several other permits will be required prior to the installment of infrastructure within the city. Not yet begun.

 

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:

Frequently Asked Questions#

Please explain the negotiations with Northern Waterhighlight_off

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. 

What is the Poudre Intake Pipeline?highlight_off

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. 

Please describe the SPAR process.highlight_off

A SPAR application for the Poudre Intake Pipeline was submitted in 2021. The process is advisory in nature. Therefore, the application was 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: 

  1. Conceptual Review Meeting: High level plans for initial review and comment by City Departments.
  2. 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. 
  3. Development Application Submittal: Northern Water will submit SPAR application and documents. Submittal of the SPAR application begins a 60-day processing window. 
  4. Staff recommendation to Planning and Zoning Board. 
  5. 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.  

Please describe the NISP SPAR application and City response.highlight_off

The NISP completed the Site Plan Advisory Review (SPAR) in 2021 for the portions of the project that occur within City limits.  The focus was on the Poudre River Diversion Structure at the northwest corner of Mulberry St. and Lemay Ave., and portions of the Poudre Intake Pipeline.

NISP SPAR Project maps:

Project Map by Applicant, Northern Water  

Project Map showing intersection with Natural Areas Map 

The Planning and Zoning Board held a hearing on June 30, 2021 and voted to deny the NISP SPAR application.

2021 City Development Review Staff Report

Resources#

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

https://cdphe.colorado.gov/wq-nisp-401

 

For notices related to the 1041 permit

https://www.larimer.org/planning/NISP-1041

 

For comprehensive information regarding the NISP project please visit:

https://www.northernwater.org/nisp

 

For a high-level description of the final 1041 permit decision, please see:

https://www.reporterherald.com/2020/12/29/larimer-county-approves-development-agreement-for-nisp/