July 30, 2010

Bumper stickers raise ire of NISP opponents

ERIE – Brats, burgers and beans – and bumper stickers – were on the menu July 15 as an estimated 200 farmers, ranchers, elected officials and office seekers, and water district supporters turned out for the second annual water rally for the Northern Integrated Supply Project.

The gathering of true believers at Anderson Farms north of Erie – at times resembling a high school pep rally on a hot summer day – was to reaffirm once again Northern Colorado agriculture’s support for NISP, which would include two new reservoirs to store water from the Poudre and South Platte rivers for agricultural and municipal use.

Enjoying the barbecue and lemonade at a shaded picnic table, Fort Morgan water resource director Gary Dreesen said his town’s support for NISP was rock solid. “There’s so much water going out of state it’s a no-brainer,” he said. “Without it, the city would have to build some kind of expensive treatment plant.”

Fort Morgan, along with 10 other towns and four water districts, have signed up to buy water from the estimated $490 million NISP project if it gets long-sought final approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A final report on potential environmental impacts is expected within the year.

But the highlight of this year’s rally was the free distribution of 500 bumper stickers proclaiming “Save the Poudre: Store It In Glade.” Glade Reservoir would store about 170,000 acre-feet of Poudre River water at the mouth of Poudre Canyon northwest of Fort Collins as part of NISP.

The stickers were printed and distributed by Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. They clearly poked fun at the Save the Poudre coalition, a collection of environmental groups opposed to NISP that has been using “Save the Poudre” as their rallying cry to stop the project. And while the stickers flew off tables and onto vehicles, their distribution at the rally was excoriated by Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper director Gary Wockner.

Wockner fired off a press release on July 14 – the day before the rally – threatening possible legal action over what he saw as “trademark and copyright theft” of the name Save the Poudre.

“We’ve been so successful at stopping their project, they now are desperately resorting to stealing our name,” he said. “It’s sad and stupid.”

NISP opponents claim the project would destroy the Cache la Poudre River.

On July 21, Wockner and his allies sent a “cease-and-desist” letter to the water district demanding that it immediately stop using the offending stickers and other materials or face a possible lawsuit. Wockner said NISP opponents registered the Save the Poudre tradename with the Colorado Secretary of State in January and have applied for a trademark from the U.S. Patent Office. 

Brian Werner, district spokesman, said the entire batch of 500 stickers have been given away and there are no plans to print any more even though he’s still getting calls for them. But it’s not because of any threat, he said.

“We don’t have any more bumper stickers – they’re all gone,” he said. “They may become collector’s items, I don’t know.”

Werner said the stickers were a response to Save the Poudre bumper stickers and were printed with the approval and funding of the NISP participants. “The NISP participants said, ‘Let’s let the public know there’s another side to it,'” he said. “That’s why we did it.”

Luke Santangelo, a Fort Collins attorney specializing in intellectual property law, said the Save the Poudre Coalition – even if it had an official trademark – probably couldn’t prevail in a civil suit because Save the Poudre is too generally descriptive and not unique enough to guarantee protected use.

Werner said the sticker episode injected a note of humor in what has become an expensive and protracted battle over NISP. “But we’re serious when we say ‘save,” he said. “Save means to store it. It’s about (wet) years like this when we could have had Glade Reservoir half to two-thirds full.”

Steve Porter covers agribusiness for the Northern Colorado Business Report. He can be reached at 970-232-3147 or at sporter@ncbr.com.

ERIE – Brats, burgers and beans – and bumper stickers – were on the menu July 15 as an estimated 200 farmers, ranchers, elected officials and office seekers, and water district supporters turned out for the second annual water rally for the Northern Integrated Supply Project.

The gathering of true believers at Anderson Farms north of Erie – at times resembling a high school pep rally on a hot summer day – was to reaffirm once again Northern Colorado agriculture’s support for NISP, which would include two new reservoirs to store water from the Poudre and South Platte…

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