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Environmental and Science Advisory Board Meeting 12/12/23

by Kevin Stearns

For more information (including members in attendance) see the full notes document here.*

View the meeting agenda.

Key Points

  • Roger Ames and Shelby Sommer were re-elected as officers of the board.

  • The board discussed their role and responsibilities regarding 1041 regulations and the expense of expanding Halligan Reservoir.

  • The goals for Larimer County's next 5 year plan were discussed.

Environmental Concerns over the Halligan Expansion Project

According to John Kefalas, the city of Fort Collins is considering a 1041 permit for the Halligan Water Supply Project. Jim Gerek wanted to know if the 1041 decision could be informed by the board, stating that they have been prohibited from doing so in the past due to legal concerns.  The original goal of 1041 was to protect Colorado's natural environment. Kefalas said that he will look into it, but the Halligan project won't come until 2025.

Barry Noon asked the board to familiarize themselves with the 1041 regulations, explaining that the most threatened ecosystems in the world are freshwater ecosystems and the most threatened group is fish, according to the most recent climate summit in Dubai. Once the new infrastructure is built, its effects are fundamentally irreversible within any meaningful human timeline. Also, when this expansion was proposed 20 years ago, its cost was $300 million. Now it's a $2.2 billion project.

The 1041 decision will be a discussion item for January.

The County Prepares for the next Five-Year Plan

Larimer County's 2024-2025 Strategic Plan is being prepared, according to Kefalas. This will be the county's third 5-year plan. It' s goals are being worked out. Those goals have been refined from 13 down to 4, and they thus far include the natural and built environment, resilient, equitable, and engaged community (a new goal), quality of life, and county operations.

The county has a new priority to better communicate with the public. A community survey was  conducted that covered 1200-1500 households. Its results will be available in January. 

According to Kefalas, The county budget had to be adjusted due to the failure of Proposition HH. Nonetheless, there will still be $13 million in excess revenue. Because FEMA dollars can take up to 10 years to receive from the government, the county has put $8 million of that into a disaster contingency fund. FEMA still owes Larimer County millions due to the flood in 2013. Also, $8 million for the new landfill was moved into the 2024 budget.

Re-Election of Officers

Roger Ames and Shelby Sommer announced that they would both be happy to continue their roles as chair and co-chair of the board. Natalie Walsh moved to nominate them for those positions and Barry Noon seconded the motion. No other nominations were made and the motion was passed.

Other Updates

The board prepared its annual report, which summarizes  its activities of the previous year. The report includes the status of the board's recommendations (including the board's bylaws, the Pollinator Species Protection Policy, and the Climate Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Policy), ongoing projects (such as ozone and air quality monitoring, phase 3 of the Climate Smart and Future Ready plan, and Larimer County Water Master Plan). The annual report has evolved a lot over the years and represents the board's desire to be more proactive.

Kefalas announced that the Front Range passenger rail has good momentum. A route was approved along the BNSF / Union Pacific tracks. Also, as coal plants are phased out, this frees up additional tracks currently used to transport coal which can be instead used for passenger trains. $250,000 is being set aside for consultants to revisit the Transportation Master Plan.

Shelby Sommer updated the board on state level environmental issues. 

  • First, the state of Colorado released its first Climate Preparedness Roadmap. The board is interested in its overlap with the county's Climate Smart and Future Ready plan. 

  • Second, the Colorado Legislature is pushing for a ban on non-functional turf grass as a water conservation strategy. Nicole Poncelet-Johnson is hoping that the state is also looking to avoid artificial turf.

Followup Questions:

How can citizens get involved in the 1041 process relating to the Halligan project?

What are alternatives to a new reservoir? 

*Citizen Observers further the commitment of the League of Women Voters to its principle of Citizens Right to Know, however, we are not acting as journalists. Omissions and errors are possible. It is assumed that users of this information are responsible for their own fact-checking. This could include contacting a government clerk, conversing with an elected official or staff, and/or asking us to speak to the Observer who attended.

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