Apr 302008

The proposed Glade Reservoir north of Fort Collins has heightened in debate among citizens, municipalities and cities along the Front Range after the Poudre River became ranked third in a top 10 list of endangered American Rivers.

Construction is projected to begin in 2009, and the reservoir is slated to be operational by 2012, according to the Northern Integrated Supply Project, which supplies water to communities in northern Colorado.

Its capacity would be 170,000 acre feet and surpass the size of Horsetooth Reservoir. Annually it will yield an extra 40,000 acre feet of water, which would provide water to an estimated 80,000 additional households, Carl Brouwer, a project manager for NISP, said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a draft statement Wednesday, providing an in-depth analysis of the potential effects the reservoir may have on areas surrounding the Poudre River.

Over the next 90 days, a draft of the proposal will be open to the public for review. Concerns and additional suggestions can be addressed to the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

Water providers from Larimer, Weld, Boulder and Morgan counties will fund the nearly $400 million project, which many say will not be the only cost.

John Stednick, a watershed science professor, said there are alternatives to building the Glade Reservoir that will meet the demands of municipalities and the community without sacrificing the Poudre River and ecosystems surrounding it.

He said conservation and better water management are two areas that need to be improved.

Stednick said NISP’s current argument for building Glade Reservoir is if they don’t, someone else will take the water.

“There’s a fear that if you don’t use your water rights that someone else will use them,” Stednick said.

Stednick said, there needs to be more incentive for water right holders to keep water in the stream, adding that under the current appropriation doctrine, water rights can be lost by abandonment if water right holders do not use enough water. He said there needs to be better schedules for water rights withdrawals and water right holders should not be penalized for not taking out water.

Stednick said improved water treatment in rivers like the waste-dominated South Platte, would help spare the Poudre of water loss. Instead of spending money on costly water treatment, he said municipalities have chosen to pay to pump water to a reservoir even at the expense of the Poudre.

While Stednick points to alternatives such as water treatment and conservation as better solutions, NISP leaders say those efforts will not suffice and action needs to be taken to meet demand of a growing population and to prevent the loss of and estimated 62 to 100 square miles of agricultural land.

Carl Brouwer, a project manager for NISP, said water infrastructure is necessary to meet the needs of growing towns, and cooperation among the community members could lead to commonly agreed solutions.

“We can’t just wish our way into a new water supply,” he said. “We haven’t built anything for a quarter century . you do need new water infrastructure.”

Brouwer added that it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing project, and that collaborative input from the community could improve the condition of the river while still building the reservoir.

“Let’s talk about ideas and see if we can pull something together,” he said. “I don’t think it has to be all or nothing.

“I understand the concern.on the other hand, let’s wait to see what the real results are,” Brouwer said.

John Metten, a senior Natural Resource management major, said conservation is key and economic, social and environmental costs associated with the Glade Reservoir far outweigh the benefits. Metten reiterated concern and said the reservoir would pull peak flows out of the river, which revitalize wetlands and help clean out high levels of selenium and bacteria that accumulate in the river.

“Those (peak flows) are really important for the ecosystem,” he said. “The health of these natural areas are intertwined with the river. Why spend money on natural areas and then spend money on the reservoir, which will degrade those areas?”

Senior Reporter Kaeli West can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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