Monday, May 12

Some dam(n) compromise

Last week I received a statement from former CD-4 Congressman (and past CU president) Hank Brown, affirming his support for Glade Reservoir and NISP. The piece doesn't seem to have appeared in any of the local newspapers (although I could be wrong) so I'm posting it here:
Hank Brown Statement in support of the Northern Integrated Supply Project

Hank Brown served as a Colorado state senator from Larimer, Weld and Morgan Counties from 1972 to 1976, as the 4th Congressional District congressman from l980 to l990 and as a U.S Senator from l990 to l996. Brown was the prime sponsor of Colorado's Conservation Trust Fund and one of several prime sponsors of Colorado's minimum stream flow bill. In Congress Brown was the author and prime sponsor of the legislation designating the Cache La Poudre as Colorado's first and only Wild and Scenic river and of the Poudre National Water Heritage bill.

In considering the request to permit off-stream storage on the Cache La Poudre, I thought you might be interested in some of the background that brought about the designation. By 1982 negotiations on the designation of the Poudre had been at a standstill for about a decade. Both the environmental groups and the water users had the ability to stop a bill, but to achieve a designation required them to work together. Our negotiations require 4 years to complete, but agreement was finally reached allowing the designation to go through.

The negotiations involved Larimer and Weld Counties as well as Ft. Collins and Greeley. In addition all of the agricultural, water users and environmental groups were part of the negotiators as well. The compromise had the support of all of the environmental groups and most of the agricultural groups as well as the cities and counties. The designation of parts of the river forced the water users to surrender several of their most economical sites for water storage in the main channel of the river. They finally agreed to this because they were assured that off-channel sites and other less economical on channel sites would be preserved for water storage. Everyone involved clearly knew that future water storage was needed and was part of the compromise.

To deny the permits for a reasonable off-channel storage site in an area that was not designated would clearly violate the compromise. It is possible that some of those voicing concern about an off-channel site were not aware of the commitments of the cities and environmental groups made in the negotiations. If permits are denied for the water storage it will make it far more difficult in the future to achieve agreements that will benefit the environment.

In considering the need for more storage you may also wish to take note that the additional storage will enhance Ft. Collins and all of northern Colorado's ability to maintain minimum stream flow and assist us from forfeiting Colorado water to Nebraska.
The "compromise" complaint from the water-development industry has been frequently invoked since talk about NISP/Glade started. Northern Water and its backers claim that a decision to not build Glade means enviros are reneging on a past agreement.

Here's one example from a December 13, 2006 Chronicle article, "Ship of Fools:"
Northern spokesman Brian Werner says the real battle over a dam on the Poudre River ended two decades ago, and resident environmentalists don't understand the terms of the treaty.

In the mid '80s, Northern clashed with conservation groups over a dam that would have been located on the mainstem of the Poudre and submerged the lower end of the canyon. The foes struck a deal in 1986: A federal law protected 75 miles of the river in the Poudre Canyon as Wild and Scenic. It included no stipulations about the mouth of the canyon, in order to allow for a future dam, says Werner.

"Most of these people that are here now weren't here 20 years ago, and they don't understand the compromise that went in to the Poudre becoming Colorado's only Wild and Scenic River," says Werner, sitting in a high-back leather swivel chair inside the district's ag-chic headquarters, located outside Berthoud.
The catch is that the compromise was more of a wink-and-a-handshake toward consideration of a future dam (Glade), rather than being anything that green-lighted water development on the Cache la Poudre. The law that named the Poudre a Wild and Scenic River states that the protection is "not incompatible" with a project, such as NISP. One of the wrinkles for Northern Water, however, is Glade opponents have evoked a whole other number of concerns, besides (and almost regardless of) impacts to the Wild and Scenic-designated stretch.

And here is the take of one long-time river advocate on the supposed terms of the compromise, again from "Ship of Fools:"
Gary Kimsey was among the environmentalists who fought Northern's plan for a dam on the Cache la Poudre 20 years ago. As a member of the non-profit Friends of the Poudre, he helped hammer out the compromise deal back then and says the construction of Glade Reservoir was never guaranteed.

Kimsey continues to sit on the board of Friends of the Poudre, and says he wavers daily about NISP and the consequences for the Poudre River. The conflicted feelings of conservation warriors like Kimsey underscore the difficulty of the dam opponents' mission this time around.

"Pure environmentalists believe that if [Front Range towns] don't have the water supply, it will help limit growth," he says, "But I'm like many people in this community: I'm lukewarm about NISP. I don't support it, but I think it needs to go through the public planning process."
That's exactly where we're at now -- in the public planning process, with the project getting consideration through a draft environmental impact statement. Whatever a person's temperature toward the reservoir project, now is the time to sort through the rhetoric, the laws and the statistics. Compromise or no compromise, the future of the Poudre River and NISP is still very undecided.

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