Colorado environment group sues Army Corps of Engineers over $2B river diversion plan

A Colorado environmental group is inquiring a federal judge to strike down a $2 billion program that would reroute river drinking water to the state’s increasing northern communities.

The nonprofit Help save the Poudre very last week filed a lawsuit in a federal district court docket in Denver, arguing the U.S. Military Corps of Engineers really should not have issued a permit for the venture, to be carried about by Northern Water.

The project, identified as the Northern Built-in Offer Job, would entail making two new reservoirs and piping 40,000 acre-ft of additional h2o to 15 providers in Northern Colorado. For reference, a standard U.S. family takes advantage of about 1 acre-foot of drinking water every 12 months.

Estimating that the region’s population could double by 2050, the utility stressed a want to boost the region’s drinking water offer and be certain “a large-quality way of life” for these future residents.

The initially of the two prepared reservoirs, the Glade Reservoir near Fort Collins, would retail outlet water diverted from Cache la Poudre River — the aim of the environmental group’s lawsuit.

The Galeton Reservoir, meanwhile, would consist of h2o rerouted from the South Platte River and would be situated adjacent to the town of Greeley.

Past week’s lawsuit, in accordance to the plaintiffs, is occurring “in the 20th 12 months of bungled and massively delayed permitting for the NISP boondoggle.”

Their submitting accused the Army Corps of Engineers of violating the National Environmental Plan Act (NEPA) and the Clear H2o Act when it granted the permit to Northern Drinking water.

The authorization in problem, for every the lawsuit, associated the construction and operation of “a significant dam,” the reservoirs and the diversions via Section 404 of the Cleanse Drinking water Act.

This clause regulates the discharge of dredged or fill material into the waters of the U.S. and involves a allow just before any this kind of action takes place, according to the Environmental Defense Company. The Army Corps of Engineers is accountable for administering Section 404 permitting conclusions and for enforcing relevant provisions, per the clause.

The lawsuit accused the Military Corps of Engineers of failing to conduct a ample environmental impact assertion (EIS), while alleging the business “moved entire steam ahead” without considering a compromise remedy proposed by the plaintiffs.

That resolution, proposed by Conserve the Poudre in 2022, offered support to a plan that would mail all the drinking water downstream in the Poudre River fairly than diverting it via pipelines.

The plaintiffs expressed worry that the present model of the job could “degrade the Cache la Poudre River” and threaten wetlands — adversely impacting recreational things to do and degrading drinking water high quality.

“The ecological impacts will be astounding,” the lawsuit mentioned.

The case estimated that the job would divert about 35 % of the river’s drinking water every single yr as it flows through Fort Collins. In some months, that figure could be as large as 65 percent of the city’s remaining circulation, the plaintiffs observed.

“After 20 several years, we now have no choice but to file this lawsuit and permit it participate in out in court docket which will very likely choose numerous a lot more decades,” Gary Wockner, director of Preserve the Poudre, said in a assertion.

Northern Drinking water very first embarked on the permitting process for the Northern Integrated Source Venture in August 2004 — publishing a draft EIS in April 2008, a supplemental draft EIS in June 2015 and a ultimate EIS in July 2018.

In total, the environmental assessments evaluated much more than 200 h2o storage services and 16 prospective offer sources, with 4 job alternate options eventually viewed as in the EIS, according to the Military Corps of Engineers.

Soon after years of pushback from environmental groups and infrastructural delays in adjacent municipalities, the Military Corps at last issued the Portion 404 permit in December 2022.

“Northern Water has not experienced the chance to discover the issues brought forth in the action from the federal authorities,” Jeff Stahla, a spokesperson for the remark, mentioned in an emailed statement. 

The assertion expressed confidence, having said that, in the Military Corps’s in depth function and that the permit issued to the venture “will be affirmed primarily based on the detailed operate carried out around the yrs and in depth mitigation currently being included.”

In a “Points and Fiction” segment of the project’s website, Northern Water pressured that h2o strategically discharged from the prepared Glade Reservoir “will aid enhance flows in the Poudre River even for the duration of droughts.”

The Hill has attained out to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for remark.

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