The Northern Water Municipal Subdistrict has voted to approve a settlement of a federal lawsuit over Chimney Hollow Reservoir.
In a meeting April 21, 2021, the Municipal Subdistrict Board voted 10-1 to authorize its participation in the settlement.
The settlement means construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir will begin this summer and the Colorado River Connectivity Channel in Grand County next year. In return, the Municipal Subdistrict will contribute $15 million to a foundation to pay for projects that enhance the Colorado River and its many watersheds in Grand County.
“This settlement shows there is an alternative to costly litigation that can provide benefits both to the environment in Grand County and the Colorado River, as well as acknowledging the need for water storage,” said Northern Water General Manager Brad Wind.
The compromise will bring to a close a lawsuit in federal court filed by Save the Colorado, Save the Poudre, WildEarth Guardians, Living Rivers, Waterkeeper Alliance and the Sierra Club in October 2017. The suit challenged the permit issued by the Bureau of Reclamation and Army Corps of Engineers for the construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir. On Dec. 19, 2020, the federal court ruled against the environmental organizations. The ruling was then appealed in February, and as part of the appeals process, both sides were required to engage in court-ordered mediation, which resulted in this settlement.
The Windy Gap Firming Project has committed to many environmental improvements in Grand County already, including the creation of a new channel to connect the Colorado River above and below Windy Gap Reservoir. Also, commitments have been made to improve wastewater treatment in Grand County communities and robust monitoring of water quality in the watershed.
Northern Water Increases C-BT Quota to 70 percent
Adequate native water supplies coupled with improved Front Range soil moisture from March snowstorms prompted the Northern Water Board of Directors to increase its 2021 quota allocation for the Colorado-Big Thompson Project from 50 to 70 percent.
The Board unanimously approved the allocation at its meeting Thursday, April 8, 2021, with several Board members participating remotely because of the ongoing pandemic. The Board also requested Northern Water staff update Directors in May and June to determine whether an additional allocation would be advisable during the peak demand season.
Emily Carbone, Water Resources Specialist at Northern Water, outlined snowpack and forecasted streamflows, and the Board also heard about the available native water supplies in regional reservoirs. In addition, Directors heard a presentation about the potential water resources impacts caused by the 2020 East Troublesome Fire. Public input was also considered.
The Board has been setting C-BT quota since 1957 and 70 percent is the most common quota declared. It was also the quota set for the 2019 water delivery season, while the 2020 quota was set at 80 percent. The quota reflects the amount of water to be delivered through the C-BT Project each water year.
Kiewit Chosen as NISP Construction Manager and General Contractor
After a rigorous selection process, the Northern Water Board has chosen multinational construction company Kiewit Corp. to serve as the construction manager/general contractor for the Northern Integrated Supply Project.
Kiewit Corp. is no stranger to major infrastructure projects in the region. After the 2013 Front Range flood, the company took on the task to rebuild U.S. Highway 34 in the Big Thompson Canyon to a higher standard of resilience. The company has also successfully built dams in California and across the country.
The construction manager/general contractor model for project development is becoming common in the industry, but it marks Northern Water’s first use of it for a large project. Having a construction manager on board during design and planning phases can help to streamline the building process and identify problems that might have resulted in costly change orders under traditional design-build contracts.
NISP anticipates receiving a federal Record of Decision in the second quarter of 2021, with design of the project features such as Glade and Galeton reservoirs continuing through 2022. Learn more at the NISP website.