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New Reservoir for Colorado's Front Range

Posted: 02/12/2008
by Nathan Fey

In response to the ever-increasing demand for water in Colorado, water managers are moving forward with projects aimed at developing new water supplies for Denver and the Front Range. Several of the proposed projects involve billion-dollar schemes to move water across the continental divide, from the Upper Colorado River Basin to the S. Platte basin.
While these larger proposals are several years from realization, smaller water projects are moving closer to implementation.
One such project, the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP), will provide 16 Front Range cities with 40,000 acre-feet of new water to meet increased demand over the next 50 years. NISP, coordinated by Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, must undergo an environmental review by the US Army Corps of Engineers as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

After review, the US Army Corps of Engineers identified three potential alternatives to no-action.  Of the three, the 16 NISP participants preferred the Glade Reservoir and the South Platte Water Conservation Project.  The preferred alternative includes building a new reservoir to store water underutilized in the Poudre River, a larger tributary to the South Platte River basin.

When Instream supplies are legally available, NISP will divert water from the Poudre River near the mouth of Poudre Canyon, into Glade Reservoir inundating the valley one mile north of highways 287 and 14. NISP’s conditional water right for Glade Reservoir will be in priority usually in periods of peak spring run off or large rain events, and will divert a maximum of 1000 cubic-feet per second. Water stored in Glade reservoir will be delivered to the 16 participants via new pipelines or water exchanges.

In addition to Glade Reservoir, NISP will create Galeton Reservoir Northeast of the City of Greeley. For NISP to take full advantage of Northern’s year-round water rights and meet consumptive needs, both reservoirs are necessary. Over the winter and spring, Northern will fill Glade and Galeton Reservoirs with water from both the Poudre and South Platte Rivers.  In the summer months, Galeton Reservoir will release water to meet agricultural needs in the South Platte Basin, while Glade Reservoir pulls the same amount of water from the Poudre River- delivering it for municipal and Industrial needs.

Complex water delivery systems can have multiple impacts on Recreational and Environmental attributes. NISP will certainly impact the Poudre River, as water that historically flowed down the system to points of diversion both upstream and downstream of the city of Fort Collins, is diverted into Glade reservoir.  While Northern does not plan on de-watering the Cashe La Poudre River, significantly less water will be flowing through the City of Fort Collins. The Poudre River is Colorado’s first congressionally designated Wild and Scenic River.  Almost 90% of the Poudre River’s mainstem, above the mouth of Poudre Canyon, is protected from new development. The Poudre River Canyon is one of Colorado’s most popular rivers for private and commercial boating.  It is speculated that impacts to the river, and to river  recreation, from the Northern Integrated Supply Initiative are consistent with de-watered rivers.

Late this year, the full Environmental Impact of NISP’s Glade Reservoir and South Platte Water Conservation Project will be published for public review.  For more information:
Colorado Stewardship Director
Nathan Fey
1601 Longs Peak Ave.
Longmont, CO 80501
Phone: 303-859-8601

Associated News