Moffat County Collection System Project: Boulder County wants deeper study of impacts

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (Laura Snider):

The document outlining the purpose and impacts of the proposed Gross Reservoir expansion is “inadequate,” and fails to consider the big picture, according to Boulder County’s Board of Commissioners…

“We were surprised by how many things there were that the EIS did not adequately address,” Commissioner Will Toor said. “Fundamentally, in terms of purpose and need, I think that the EIS gives remarkably short shrift to water conservation. We’ve seen in the efforts of the last several years since the drought that there’s an awful lot of potential for significant reduction of per capita water use.” The commissioners also expressed specific concerns over taking more water from the Fraser River and the fact that the EIS does not take into account the cumulative effects of other proposed projects seeking to divert water from the Colorado River watershed. And closer to home, the commissioners are concerned about the flooding of hundreds of acres of high-quality forestland, and the impact of construction trucks on county roads. “We are hopeful that the federal agencies will really require a full explanation of these issues and an adequate analysis,” Toor said, “and if the project does move forward, adequate mitigation.”

Western Resource Advocates, based in Boulder, also expressed concern that the need for the project wasn’t adequately explained and that Denver Water hasn’t fully explored its conservation options. Denver Water does plan to meet half of the water shortfall it projects in 2030 with water conservation measures, and it has a strategy to reduce overall water use in its service area by 22 percent — compared to water use before the 2002 drought — by 2016.

“Denver Water has done a great job of what they’re doing with conservation,” said Drew Beckwith, water policy analyst for Western Resource Advocates in Boulder. “They have a pretty holistic conservation program, but what they’re missing is an outdoor landscape retrofit program for the residential sector.” These types of programs in other arid regions often offer “cash for grass” to incentivize people to plant drought-tolerant native plants in their yards instead of lawns. And in Denver, where 62 percent of residential water goes to outdoor use, that kind of program could make a big difference, Beckwith said. “Conservation is the cheapest, it’s the fastest and it’s the smartest water-supply strategy,” he said.

The Environmental Protection Agency also weighed in on the EIS last week, giving the document an “EO-2 rating,” which means the agency has environmental objections based on “insufficient information.”

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here.

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