Folks in Grand County know their water law pretty well. 150 or so showed up to a briefing on the Moffat Collection System Project last Tuesday at Silver Creek. Here’s a report from Tonya Bina writing for the Sky-Hi Daily News. It’s a long article so click through and read the whole thing. Here are a few exerpts:
“What the EIS is proposing to do is take the flows off of the rising level of the hydrograph, and in our wettest times of the year, what our enhancements are proposing to do is to give us water back when our flows are the lowest. Is that an acceptable trade?” she asked.
“There’s skepticism out there, there’s a feeling out there that Grand County has this back-room deal going on,” said Grand County Commissioner James Newberry at the start of the meeting. “And the more I thought about this, yeah. We do. We really do. It’s a separate negotiating process.”
On its team, the county has assembled water attorneys, engineers, NEPA and Clean Water Act specialists and a professional negotiator to aid in deals and to advise on what to ask for. The county has spent some $2.8 million on water protection since 2003.
In the past year alone, county representatives have attended 65 meetings with the Northern Water Conservancy District, Denver Water and West Slope partners regarding water issues, according to county officials. “We’re going to be much better off than before the project happened,” Newberrry said, optimistically. But success is not guaranteed, at which point the county is prepared to litigate. “And even that is not a guarantee,” he said.
The county has stated it has better legal footing against the Northern Colorado Municipal Subdistrict’s Windy Gap Firming Project — concurrently being proposed — than it does Denver’s…
“We already have a river that is on the brink,” said Mely Whiting, senior attorney for Trout Unlimited. “Is this incremental 20 percent going to push us over the brink?” It’s a question that has been subjected to modeling, charting and graphing in countless studies.
But Jon Ewert, Division of Wildlife area biologist, said even with the most esteemed modeling, biology is really unpredictable. “There are cascading effects that can take years, if not decades to unfold,” he said. Both Denver Water and Northern have endorsed the science behind the [Grand County] Stream Management Plan (pdf), county officials say, although those water users may not agree on the implementation of it…
Attorney Mely Whiting of Trout Unlimited stressed along with county officials that any allowance for Denver to take more water from the river should be tied to a “reopener clause,” in which stakeholders would revisit the project if degradation of the river reached beyond what was predicted in the NEPA process.
More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.