Government & Politics

BERTHOUD — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment gave approval to efforts to build the Northern Integration Supply Project (NISP), securing one of three final permits the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District needs before it can start on the $1.1 billion water project.

In a letter to Northern Water earlier this week, state officials said it has “reasonable assurance” that the project would comply with all required water quality standards at the state levels. 

The letter said while the project wouldn’t directly discharge pollutants into water sources, it has “the potential to cause or contribute to long-term water quality impacts.” It is requiring member cities to monitor 21 locations along the NISP for water conditions needed to sustain healthy aquatic ecosystems, and to watch for bacteria, sediment and runoff material that could harm humans in contact with the river.

The NISP would store 215,000 acre-feet of water between the Glade Reservoir north of Fort Collins and the Galeton Reservoir northeast of Ault and transfer it to 15 cities on the Front Range by 2050. The $1.1 billion project would also shift several miles of U.S. Highway 287 to make way for the Glade Reservoir.

Supporters say that water is critical for supporting the region’s expected population growth over the next several decades, but its opponents argue it would diminish the flow of the Poudre River and cause harm to ecosystems downstream.

Gary Wockner, executive director of the advocacy group Save The Poudre, said the group has “serious concerns” about the certification and has attorneys and scientists reviewing the document over the next several weeks.

Northern Water spokesman Jeff Stahla said the state’s approval is a major milestone for the project as it approaches the final few months of getting required permits.

“This is something we’ve been working on for years to submit the required data, and we’re pleased to see this response from the state,” he said.

Northern Water requires two more permits before it can start construction on the project. A final decision from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected by June, while the utility plans to file for a “1041 local powers” permit with Larimer County next month. Residents would then have 90 days to offer feedback before the county board of commissoners makes a decision.

Editor’s note: This story was edited to correct the number of acre feet of water to be stored in the two reservoirs.