Conservation organizations warn against Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project’s ecological effects on the Fraser River and Upper Colorado River

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Here’s a release from Colorado Trout Unlimited:

Trout Unlimited, the Colorado Environmental Coalition and a broad group of conservation organizations warned today that a proposal to divert more water from a tributary of the upper Colorado River poses a serious risk to the ecological health of the river system.

“Multiple water diversions have pushed the Fraser River to the brink of collapse,” said Kirk Klancke, President of the Colorado Headwaters Chapter of TU, based in Grand County. “This is a river on life support.”

At present, Denver Water’s Moffat Tunnel and other diversions take about 60 percent of the Fraser’s stream flow. The Moffat pipeline carries most of it under the Continental Divide to supply water for the Denver metro area. Under a proposed expansion of the Moffat tunnel pipeline, Denver would take even more of the river’s native flows.

In 2005, the Fraser was listed as one of the most endangered rivers in America by American Rivers, a national conservation group.

The statement from TU and the Colorado Environmental Coalition came in response to the Friday release of the draft environmental impact statement for the Moffat Tunnel proposal—the first step in a public review of the project by the Army Corps of Engineers.

“We are looking forward to digging deeper into the DEIS, and are hopeful that we can have a substantive conversation with Denver Water in the coming months about how we can ensure our resources are protected,” said Becky Long of Colorado Environmental Coalition.

Looking ahead, the conservation groups identified several broad environmental goals that should be included in the project’s mitigation plan, including:

–Adequate baseline flows in the Fraser throughout the year to sustain fisheries and recreation.

–Sustained peak flows at key times of the year to mimic a natural flow regime and ensure the health and resilience of the river ecosystem.

–Aggressive urban water conservation and efficiency measures to save more water, such as incentives for homeowners to replace Kentucky bluegrass with drought-tolerant landscaping. More than half of residential water use goes to watering lawns.

–Ongoing monitoring of the river’s health and a mitigation plan with the flexibility to adapt to changing conditions.

“We have already met with Denver Water’s staff, and they seem open to discussing some of these concepts,” said Mely Whiting, Legal Counsel for TU’s Colorado Water Project. “We hope the Denver Water Board seizes this opportunity to create a legacy, where water development and environmental protections can go hand in hand.”

“Front Range residents must recognize the connection between our water use and the health of our rivers and streams, fisheries and wildlife habitat,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “We can’t continue to take and take from these rivers without accounting for our impacts. The glass is not even half full—it’s almost drained dry.”

Mely Whiting, (720) 470-4758
David Nickum, (303) 440-2937, x 101
Kirk Klancke, (970) 531-2199
Becky Long, (303) 405-6714

More coverage from the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

…the public is invited to comment on the project starting Friday, Oct. 30, when The Denver Water Moffat Collection System Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement is planned to be released. Similar to the recent process of the Windy Gap Firming Project, the public will be able to comment on the Moffat document for 90 days, until Jan. 28, 2010.

In essence, Denver Water has identified a shortfall in supply beginning in 2016. According to its statements, Denver Water plans to address about 16,000 acre-feet through “additional conservation,” leaving Denver Water with a remaining annual shortage of 18,000 acre-feet. Denver Water maintains that unless it expands one of its existing reservoirs — particularly the one near Golden, which sits 340 feet above the South Boulder Creek streambed — it may be forced to shut down one of its three treatment plants in the future and would not meet the water demands of Arvada, Wesminster, and the water company that services Lakewood, Wheat Ridge and eastern Jefferson County, among others.

But securing more of its prior-claimed water means additional water would be carried from the Fraser River basin and Williams Fork River basin in Grand County through the Moffat Tunnel…

The Moffat water project became a catalyst for various West Slope water users — including river districts, water districts, counties and irrigators — to start serious water negotiations with Denver Water, to “settle a number of outstanding issues with Denver,” Underbrink Curran said…

Public meetings on the draft environmental impact statement are set for 4 p.m. (open house) and 6 p.m. (public comments) on Dec. 1, Dec. 2 and Dec. 3 in Grand County, Denver and Boulder to allow interested parties to ask questions and make a comment. The meetings will end when all participants have had the chance to make their comments. Of the five alternatives listed in the draft environmental impact statement, Denver Water prefers the Moffat Collection System Project, the alternative that details enlarging the existing Gross Reservoir by 72,000 acre-feet.

More Denver Water Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.

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