Windy Gap Firming Project public hearing recap: Northern pledges dough to study reservoir bypass


From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

Two days of public hearings opening comment on the proposal to expand the Northern Water Conservancy District’s transmountain diversion built around the 445-acre-foot reservoir near Granby drew a crowd to Hot Sulphur Springs last week. As has become the norm in the lengthy process, much emphasis was placed on the negative environmental impacts Windy Gap Reservoir already has had on the upper Colorado River and potential ways to fix the problem. The stretch of river directly below Windy Gap Reservoir is considered the least healthy portion of the upper Colorado because of impacts of the dam used to capture river water pumped across the Continental Divide via the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. State studies show a sharp decline in river health since the construction of Windy Gap, attributing increased water temperatures, algae and sediment to the reservoir.

The proposal facing Grand County commissioners seeks to remove another 15 percent to 20 percent of river flows on top of about 60 percent of native flows already being removed from the upper Colorado…

“Under present plans, expanding Windy Gap would make a bad situation worse because it would increase periods of low flows and significantly reduce runoff, which is critical to clean the river of excess silt and sediment contributed by Windy Gap Reservoir,” said Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project. “Grand County must press Northern to build the bypass.”
In addition to the bypass, Whiting and TU advocate increased minimum flows and regular flushing flows to cleanse the river bottom, among other measures.

Northern Water has pledged $250,000 to research the bypass. If it is found beneficial, Northern would put an additional $2 million toward construction along with $1 million pledged by Denver Water. The permit process would end and construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir near Fort Collins would begin as a condition of the agreement to put the money toward a bypass.

More Windy Gap Firming Project coverage here and here.

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