Denver Water: Corps Moffat Collection System Project Boulder public hearing recap

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From Colorado Trout Unlimited (David Nickum):

[One citizen, Derek Turner] also noted that the EIS indicates that Denver will completely divert 100% of the flow from eight different streams in Grand County, and called for at least SOME protection of those resources.

Numerous residents of the Magnolia and Coal Creek Canyon areas – which would be impacted by the proposed multi-year constructon of the enlarged dam for Gross Reservoir – raised concerns about effects on the community, including heavy construction traffic on small rural roads, noise, and development of numerous quarries.

Several individuals highlighted the need to look beyond large engineering solutions for water supply and to instead look at options for conservation and water marketing opportunities including further leases of agricultural water. One witness emphasized that the rationale for the project was not based on basic water supply needs, but rather was based on the reliability standard – in other words, how severe of a drought should supplies provide for without the need for customers to go under restrictions (such as those that were used in the 2002 drought)? He noted that Denver planned to have far more water (and rarer need for restrictions) than did the City of Boulder, and suggested that the entire project supply might be unnecessary if Denver simply adjusted its planning expectations on this point…

Overall, the evening included a wide range of concerns expressed by citizens coming from a variety of different perspectives. There were no major supporters/champions for the project who spoke during the public hearing.

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

… the plan requires federal approval, and at public hearings, opponents concerned about environmental harm have argued that Denver must rely more on using less water — not pump more from the mountains. “We need a paradigm shift. We need to start living within our means,” said Steve Paul, president of a Grand Lake homeowners group on the Western Slope and one of dozens who have testified before federal engineers.

Denver Water officials counter that their 1.3 million customers already have been cutting consumption — currently 87 gallons a day per person — by about 18 percent a year since 2005. They say nearly half the annual water-supply shortfall they project by 2030 — 34,000 acre-feet — will be met through further cuts. “We’re doing everything we can with conservation,” supply project manager Travis Bray said…

The battle promises to intensify in coming months as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a federal agency that oversees water projects, reviews public testimony and Denver’s submissions. Denver has not managed to push through a project on this scale since construction of Dillon Reservoir in 1963. The Environmental Protection Agency’s 1990 veto of Denver’s proposed $1 billion Two Forks Dam still looms in water-authority boardrooms. That project, backed by developers and opposed by environmentalists, also was aimed at preventing shortages.

Denver already owns rights to the water it would divert from the upper Colorado River basin — from the Blue River in Summit County and from the Fraser and Williams Fork rivers and dozens of streams in Grand County. But Trout Unlimited sportsmen’s advocates said that stream flows there already are dangerously low, threatening aquatic life, with algae increasing and once-clear Grand Lake turning cloudy. Boulder-area residents warned of harm to wildlife and lifestyle disruptions during construction to raise the dam and clear trees in expanding Gross Reservoir.

Some 350 advocates and community leaders have attended hearings in Boulder, Denver and Granby. The Army Corps of Engineers is now accepting public comments.

Learning how to live on less water “is a reality we’re going to have to face,” said Becky Long, water-caucus coordinator for the Colorado Environmental Coalition. “So why keep putting it off? . . . While Denver deserves credit for what they’ve done on conservation, we have a lot farther to go.”

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.

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