Environmental Overview

Northern Colorado wildlife

 

The NISP participants and Northern Water are committed to building an environmentally responsible project. Northern Water prepared a Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan that was approved by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission and the Colorado Water Conservation Board in 2017.

Additionally, in the summer of 2018, officials from the Army Corps of Engineers released a Final Environmental Impact Statement outlining the impacts of the Northern Integrated Supply Project, as well as three alternative projects. It also looks at the effects to the environment if no action alternative is approved. In addition to marking yet another step in a 15-year federal permitting process, the Final Environmental Impact Statement showed that no new significant issues have popped up and that the impacts can and will be mitigated.


Environmental Permitting

Northern Water is required to obtain a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit from the Army Corps of Engineers for NISP. Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is required to obtain this permit.

The Army Corps of Engineers is the lead federal agency for preparing an Environmental Impact Statementto comply with the NEPA. See the Corps' website for additional information regarding the 404 Permit, NEPA and the Environmental Impact Statement.

In 2008, a Draft Environmental Impact Statement was released for public review. Following public comment and agency review, the Army Corps of Engineers announced in February 2009 they would move forward with a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement to include additional studies primarily centered around hydrologic and flow modeling.

The Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement was released on June 19, 2015, prior to the Army Corps of Engineers releasing the FEIS in 2018. 

Northern Water has developed NISP to be the most cost-effective and least environmentally impacting alternative to help meet our region's future water needs.

Without pooling resources to build NISP, the 15 participants likely would pursue separate projects and/or accelerate their dry up of agricultural lands. Both are more environmentally damaging alternatives.


Public Process

The public has had a number of opportunities to participate in the environmental review process. In 2004, Northern Water held informational open houses in several Colorado Front Range communities, and the Army Corps of Engineers also held three formal public scoping hearings on the NISP proposal.

The Army Corps of Engineers received more than 700 comments on water quality, population growth, endangered species, economics, and other topics. A summary of those comments is on the Corps' NISP Scoping Documents Web page.

An additional opportunity for public comment is planned following the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement in the summer of 2018.


Protecting the Poudre River

NISP includes several features that will protect the Poudre River and our environment:

• NISP will prevent the permanent dry-up of approximately 60,000 acres of agricultural lands by providing municipal users with an alternative source of supply. Dry-up can have enormous impacts on river ecosystems, wetlands, and local economies. The State of Colorado predicts the South Platte watershed may lose up to 225,000 acres of irrigated farmland by 2030 due to water transfers.

• NISP will honor several instream flow requirements on the Poudre River, which will help to protect flows through Fort Collins. The project will not dry up the Poudre River.

• Northern Water has refined the delivery component of NISP to improve flows through Fort Collins by using the Poudre River to convey a portion of the water delivered from Glade Reservoir to NISP participants.

• Northern Water has committed to bypass diversions that NISP is legally entitled to during peak flow conditions to benefit stream geomorphology and ecology.

• NISP will not affect habitat and recreation within the wild and scenic Poudre Canyon. Glade Reservoir is located off-stream on undeveloped land already primarily owned by Northern Water. The reservoir will be filled use an existing diversion structure near the canyon mouth, which will be modified and improved, negating the need to build new structures on the Poudre River.

• Half of the water stored in Glade Reservoir will come from agricultural water sharing partnerships. The reservoir will fill primarily with water that has been diverted from the Poudre River for more than a century.

• NISP's impacts to the Poudre River will be mitigated through channel improvement and habitat restoration.


NISP Alternatives in the Supplemental
Draft Environmental Impact Statement

After starting with as many as 215 potential alternatives of the project, the Army Corps of Engineers evaluated the potential impacts of four NISP alternatives on a host of resources, including water quality, wildlife, socioeconomic factors, hydrology, wetlands, and others.

The Army Corps of Engineers selected three action alternatives that are practicable, meet NISP's purpose and need, and minimize environmental impacts, including Northern Water’s preferred NISP configuration. A description of the three action alternatives can be found in the Final Environmental Impact Statement.

The Army Corps of Engineers is also analyzing a no action alternative: what the 15 project participants would do to meet their future water needs in the absence of NISP. This no-action alternative study was updated in April 2010 and can be found in these documents:

NISP No Action Alternative Evaluation

NISP No Action Alternative Evaluation Executive Summary