Vote Slated on Water Mitigation Plans

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Here’s the release from the Colorado Division of Wildlife (Theo Stein):

The Colorado Wildlife Commission plans to vote on the adequacy of plans to mitigate impacts to fish and wildlife resources from two proposed transmountain water development projects during its meeting in Grand Junction.

The vote will complete the Commission’s 60-day review of the Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Plans submitted by Denver Water and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District at the Commission’s April meeting in Meeker.

The Moffat Collection System Project proposes to firm up the yield from Denver Water’s existing water rights on the West Slope, primarily by diverting additional water from the Fraser, Williams Fork and Blue rivers to an enlarged Gross Reservoir in Boulder County. The Windy Gap Firming Project would firm up Northern’s yield from existing water rights in the Upper Colorado River by diverting additional water to the proposed new Chimney Hollow Reservoir west of Loveland. The mitigation plan review by the Wildlife Commission is part of each project’s federal permitting process.

Last month, Ken Kehmeier, a senior aquatic biologist with the Division, presented staff’s analysis of the plans during the Commission’s May meeting in Salida. Following Kehmeier’s analysis, Commissioners questioned whether additional protections might be needed to guard against high water temperatures and whether flushing flows contemplated by the plans would be enough to maintain channel health. They also asked for more consideration of mitigation and enhancement funding, and for a clarification of the role that the Division would play in developing and managing restoration projects.

As part of its mitigation package for the Fraser River and upper Williams Fork River, Denver has proposed to fund a Colorado River cutthroat restoration project and fund other aquatic habitat restoration work. On the Colorado River, Denver and Northern Water would monitor water temperatures and agree to release water in August if high temperatures threatened fish. East of the Divide, Denver would replace wetlands inundated by the enlarged Gross Reservoir and monitor stream channel stability in South Boulder Creek. Denver would also allow Boulder and Lafayette to store water in Gross Reservoir to boost minimum flows in the Boulder Creek drainage during winter.

Northern, for its part, has offered [to] manage their diversions to maintain water levels in Lake Granby and keep water temperatures cool in the Upper Colorado River below Windy Gap Reservoir. Northern also said it would contribute to water-quality projects designed to reduce nutrient loading in Grand Lake, Lake Granby and Shadow Mountain Reservoir. On the other side of the Divide, Northern would replace wetlands submerged by the new Chimney Hollow Reservoir and enhance nearby wildlife habitat.

Denver and Northern are also voluntarily proposing enhancement plans to improve conditions for fish and wildlife on a roughly 14-mile stretch of river between Windy Gap Reservoir and the Kemp-Breeze State Wildlife Area. The enhancement plans are not required by the Commission’s review process.

Once the Wildlife Commission adopts its final recommendation, the Colorado Water Conservation Board will have 60 days to affirm or modify the state’s position. Governor John Hickenlooper will also have 60 days to affirm or further modify it before it’s submitted to federal permitting agencies.

Recently, Denver Water announced it had reached a complex legal settlement with Grand County and 33 other groups regarding longstanding concerns about the health of the Colorado River. The settlement includes funding for aquatic habitat and for an adaptive management process designed to help maintain river health.

Additional information regarding the Wildlife Commission’s review, including links to the mitigation and enhancement plans being offered by Denver Water and Northern, can be found on the Division’s web site at:

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.

More Windy Gap coverage here and here.

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