Boulder District Judge Andrew Macdonald affirms Boulder County’s 1041 oversight for @DenverWater’s Gross Reservoir Expansion Project

The dam that forms Gross Reservoir. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Boulder Daily Camera (Charlie Brennan):

In a seven-page ruling, Boulder District Judge Andrew Macdonald stated that based on evidence placed on the record by both sides in the controversy, he found Boulder County “did not exceed its jurisdiction or abuse its discretion, or misinterpret or misapply the law,” when it asserted its permitting authority.

That authority, Boulder County has maintained, is established by State House Bill 1041, passed by the Legislature in 1974, which allows local governments to review and regulate matters of statewide interest through a local permitting process.

Denver Water challenged that authority by filing suit in Boulder District Court in April of this year, claiming what it termed a “zoned law exemption” which it asserted excused it from having to pass through the county process. Denver Water’s complaint claimed the zoning at the reservoir that existed at the time of the passage of the 1041 legislation — officially known as the Activities and Areas of State Interest Act — permitted its planned activities.

Additionally, the suit stated Boulder County commissioners had exceeded their jurisdiction and/or abused their discretion at a March 14 hearing at which they unanimously upheld Land Use Director Dale Case’s finding that the county review process must apply to Denver Water.

Macdonald’s ruling struck down Denver Water’s claim to an exemption based on prior zoning.

“There is nothing on the record that Denver Water had any well-established development rights to expand Gross Dam and Gross Reservoir prior to May 17, 1974,” he ruled. “Any prior contemplated expansion projects cannot be determined to be well-established development rights because the proposed Expansion Project is essentially an entirely new construction project.”

[…]

In an email Friday night, Denver Water spokesman Travis Thompson said, “As we continue to follow the process of determining the appropriate permitting methods, we will review the order and evaluate our next steps. No matter the path forward, we remain committed to considering input from Boulder County and from community members to minimize and mitigate the impacts of the Project.”

An additional hurdle remains for the project. Denver Water is still waiting for a final decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on a hydropower licensing amendment that Denver Water needs in order to go forward with its planned expansion of the reservoir.

Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

@Interior passes on funding #GilaRiver infrastructure #ColoradoRiver #COriver

New Mexico Lakes, Rivers and Water Resources via Geology.com.

From The Albuquerque Journal (Theresa Davis):

Plans to build a diversion dam on the Gila River in southwestern New Mexico have hit another snag. The Interior Department has denied a state entity an extension to receive $56 million in diversion construction funds.

The New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity still has nearly $70 million in the New Mexico Unit Fund for a Gila diversion and regional water projects. But the loss of more federal money means less infrastructure, and less water that could be diverted from the river. In 15 years, the state has spent nearly $15 million planning for a diversion.

Under the Arizona Water Settlements Act of 2004, the CAP Entity had until the end of this month to receive a federal record of decision on environmental impact statements to obtain $56 million.

CAP Entity Executive Director Anthony Gutierrez and lawyer Pete Domenici Jr. visited Washington, D.C., in October to petition for an extension.

Timothy Petty, Interior’s assistant secretary for water and science, informed the state of the decision on Dec. 20.

Petty said in a letter that New Mexico’s “slow pace of progress” on the diversion plans showed a “lack of urgency” for delivering water to rural communities.

“Even today, a feasible project with necessary funding and contractual commitments has not been identified to enable project success,” he wrote. “It’s a disappointment this project, that would bring critical water supplies to rural communities in New Mexico, has faced such scrutiny and a lack of support from the State of New Mexico.”

Several alterations to the diversion plans were made as recently as July. The changes slashed project cost estimates by about $83million but also reduced the amount of water that could be diverted from the Gila.