Northern Colorado dam opponents buoyed by still more federal delays

U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner.

Opponents of proposed dams and reservoirs on the Poudre River along Colorado’s northern Front Range on Monday celebrated more federal permitting delays for the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP), Halligan and Seaman water projects. But U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, a Republican who represents the area in Congress, continues to rally business interests.

The U.S. Army Corps on Monday confirmed that a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) for the NISP, originally slated for release last summer, has now been pushed back to next year.

U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner.
“Every delay and corresponding cost escalation is yet another opportunity for NISP communities to invest in alternatives,” Gary Wockner of Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper said in a release. “We believe that water conservation, cooperating with farmers, and projects that don’t dam or drain the Poudre River would be cheaper, faster, and easier, and would help guarantee water supply security for northern Colorado.”

But Gardner, in his home district during a congressional recess last week, met with nearly 300 NISP supporters in Loveland Thursday – many of them local business owners — to continue to push for the controversial project that he says is in the “homestretch.”

“My number one goal is to get our economy moving again — to start creating jobs and build lasting economic growth that puts Americans back to work,” Gardner said in his weekly newsletter Sunday.

“To do that in Colorado we have to recognize that jobs and economic development across the state are tied to our ability to store and deliver clean, affordable water. If we are going to move toward a stronger economy, the only way to sustain it long term will be with enough water for our future.”

Draft Environmental Impact Statements (DEIS) for the Halligan (Fort Collins) and Seaman (Greeley) dams and reservoirs on the North Fork of the Poudre were supposed to be released this summer but now have been pushed to 2012 or 2013, according to the Army Corps.

Wockner says that the NISP is now more than six years late and at least $150 million over budget. Alternatives (pdf), he said, would be much cheaper at this point – and far less environmentally destructive.

“NISP would drain over half of the water out of the Poudre River through Fort Collins,” Wockner said. “And that is in addition to the 60 percent of water already drained by current diversions. If NISP is built, less than 25 percent of the native flow of the Poudre would still flow through town. NISP would turn the Poudre into a muddy, stinking, polluted ditch.”

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