Boulder County Land Use Director issues determination in response to @DenverWater (Gross Reservoir Dam Expansion Proposal) request

Here’s the release from Boulder County:

Determination states that Denver Water must obtain a permit under Article 8 – Location & Extent Areas & Activities of State Interest (1041)

Denver Water requested that Boulder County Land Use Director Dale Case determine the applicability of the Boulder County Land Use Code to Denver Water’s proposed expansion of Gross Reservoir.

Denver Water has argued that it is exempt from having to submit its project for Location & Extent Areas & Activities of State Interest (1041) review under Article 8 of the Land Use Code.

Director Case responded to Denver Water on Oct. 22. His determination is that Denver Water’s proposed reservoir expansion project is subject to review under Land Use Code. Before undertaking the project, Denver Water must obtain a permit under Article 8 of the Code.

Documents:

  • Gross Reservoir Dam expansion proposal determination letter to Denver Water, October 22, 2018
  • Determination request letter from Denver Water, October 12, 2018
  • Denver Water may appeal the decision to the Boulder County Board of Commissioners as provided for under 8-406(B).

    Land Use Code Section 8-406 Determination of Whether a Proposed Activity or Development Must go Through the Permit Process states that “The Director shall determine the applicability of Section 8-400 to the conduct of any proposed activity or development. The Director shall make this determination within 10 calendar days after the Director receives a written request from the applicant stating the reasons why the proposed activity or development is not subject to Section 8-400.

    Background

    The Board of Water Commissioners for the City and County of Denver, aka “Denver Water,” is in the process of applying for a planned expansion of the Gross Reservoir Dam in southwest Boulder County. While this is not a Boulder County project, the reservoir resides entirely in unincorporated Boulder County.

    The Army Corp of Engineers issued its Record of Decision granting Denver Water a federal permit for the project in July 2017. However, before it can commence the project, Denver Water must still receive approval of its hydropower license amendment application from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

    Boulder County has intervened in the FERC application noting many reasons why the county finds the application to be deficient. In its motion to intervene, the county outlined nearly 20 points of contention with the project.

    Boulder County has intervened in the FERC application noting many reasons why the county finds the application to be deficient. In its motion to intervene, the county outlined nearly 20 points of contention with the project.

    On March 20, 2018, the county responded to FERC’s Supplemental Environmental Assessment, once again pointing out the deficiencies that Boulder County finds in Denver Water’s FERC application and FERC’s environmental assessment of the project.

    The county plans to further address impacts and concerns during a county (local) land use review process and has explained to FERC that Denver Water must obtain required county permits before it undertakes the project. Denver Water has not yet applied for a permit under Article 8 of the Boulder County Land Use Code (also known as a 1041 permit).

    A 1041 review would allow the Boulder County Planning Commission and the County Commissioners to conduct public hearings and review the application according to the criteria in the Code.

    More Information

    More information can be viewed on the county’s Gross Reservoir Dam Expansion Proposal information webpage. Also, individuals can sign-up to receive Boulder County-related hearing and meeting announcements concerning the proposed Denver Water Gross Reservoir Expansion Project. You can unsubscribe at any time.

    To receive notices about the Gross Reservoir project from Denver Water, look for the “Sign Up for Email Updates” option at the bottom of the page on the Gross Reservoir project website. All notices of meetings, minutes, and updates on the proposed project (also known as the “Moffat Collection System Project”) can be found on Denver Water’s website at https://grossreservoir.org/.

    The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Lawsuit filed to set aside CWCB and Boulder County floodway expansion

    Boulder. By Gtj82 at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Patriot8790., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11297782

    From The Longmont Times-Call (Anthony Hahn):

    According to the complaint filed this week, commissioners approved the floodway expansion over the resistance of local residents, who said the re-mapping would limit development on their private properties — some of which are functioning farms — and cause their flood insurance rates to skyrocket…

    The re-drawing was performed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, with assistance from Boulder County staff, and was approved last month 2-0 by commissioners. Commissioner Cindy Domenico was absent. When the change officially takes effect Oct. 1, it will substantially widen the floodway along portions of Lower Boulder Creek northwest of Erie.

    A floodway is a narrow channel where, in the event of a flood, water will be flowing. A floodplain is where shallow water is likely to be during the event of a flood, though shallower and flowing at a lower volume, if at all, than water in a floodway.

    The former, by definition of Boulder County’s standards, is more heavily regulated than a floodplain. Land regulated under floodway status is often limited to very specific redevelopment.

    According to the complaint, plaintiffs’ efforts to have the hearing delayed to learn more about proposed expansion went unheeded…

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board in 2015 changed the definition of a floodway, triggering a review of flood-hazard areas across the state. Wheeler Open Space, however, was not reassessed, given the lack of residential buildings on the land, Boulder County Senior Assistant Attorney Kate Burke said earlier this year.

    In light of the planned oil and gas development on the site, a modeling with the new standards was performed. Under the new guidelines, the entirety of well site Section 1, which is in the open space, is within a floodway, according to documents Boulder County submitted in mid-April with its formal comments to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

    Boulder inks deal to sell hydroelectric power to Tri-State

    Small hydroelectric via City of Boulder.

    From BizWest (Jensen Werley):

    The city of Boulder signed a contract with the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association for the sale of hydroelectric power generated at five of the city’s eight hydroelectric plants.

    The deal is a 10-year agreement with an option to renew for another five years. It’s expected to generate about $500,000 per year in revenue, which will offset water utility capital improvements and operating costs that would otherwise be paid through higher water rates for customers.

    The city had previously sold hydroelectric power to Tri-State from the Boulder Canyon Hydroelectric plant. This agreement renews the contract for Boulder Canyon and adds four facilities: the Kohler, Maxwell, Orodell and Sunshine plants…

    Hydroelectric generation harnesses the energy generated during the downhill trip from water sources to the water distribution system. Boulder’s hydro program consists of eight plants that generate about 37 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, enough to power 4,600 households and displace 20,400 tons of coal.

    South Boulder flood mitigation

    Boulder. By Gtj82 at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Patriot8790., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11297782

    From The Boulder Daily Camera (Anthony Hahn):

    Issues surrounding the long-heralded CU Boulder South annexation plans continue to manifest most consistently within concerns over how eventual flood mitigation designs will play out on the property.

    Those concerns were clear at a joint meeting between Boulder’s Water Resources Advisory Board and Open Space Board of Trustees on Monday, where dozens of residents from Boulder’s Frasier Meadows retirement community who wore bright orange shirts reading “Save our neighborhoods” and “Stop flooding of South Boulder Creek” urged officials to take quick action on those plans.

    Upon annexation of the property by the city, the University of Colorado plans to build more than 1,000 housing units for students and employees, athletic fields and academic buildings on the 308-acre site over the coming decades. It also intends to devote nearly 100 acres of the site to a flood mitigation plan.

    The parcel has proven controversial since its purchase in 1996, as neighbors have worried that university’s plans to eventually develop the site would put nearby homes at greater risk from floodwaters.

    The chief flood mitigation concept — proposed under the South Boulder Creek Master Plan — includes a flood wall along the south side of U.S. 36 within the Colorado Department of Transportation right-of-way and a dam along the northern portion of the CU South parcel to contain flood waters, according to a staff report presented Monday.

    Under this plan, vehicle access to CU South from Table Mesa Drive would be routed to a ramp up and over a portion of the dam. The flood wall would also include an overtopping spillway, which would be designed to discharge floodwaters “that exceed the design storm.”

    “…why I support Denver Water’s Gross Reservoir Expansion project” — Lurline Underbrink Curran

    Gross Dam enlargement concept graphic via Denver Water

    From The Boulder Daily Camera (Lurline Underbrink Curran):

    I would like to share why I support Denver Water’s Gross Reservoir Expansion project.

    While located in Boulder County, the project obtains the water from Grand County — a county that is currently the most impacted county in the state of Colorado for transbasin diversions. You must wonder why the county and its citizens, stakeholders in the Colorado River Basin, along with Trout Unlimited support this project.

    The reason is the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, which is an historic agreement with statewide environmental benefits which were fought for and gained through sometimes difficult and long negotiations. It has been hailed as a new paradigm and one that will serve as an example of what can be gained when dealing with a finite resource like water. The signatories to this agreement represent the entire Colorado River Basin, and I had the honor of acting as Grand County’s lead negotiator in this agreement. I worked for Grand County for 33 years, retiring as county manager in 2015. I have lived in Grand County over 60 years and have deep roots and interest in the well-being of our waterways.

    The environmental benefits gained by Grand County, which include additional flows, river ecosystem improvements, use of Denver Water’s system, participation in an adaptive management process called Learning by Doing, money for river improvements, just to name a few, are necessary to protect and enhance the Fraser and Colorado rivers. Without these benefits, these rivers will continue to degrade, with no hope of recovery or improvement.

    Those who oppose the project offer no solutions to the already stressed aquatic environment of the Fraser and Colorado rivers. Through the Learning By Doing format and a public private partnership, partners have already implemented a river project on the Fraser as an example of what can be done. This project immediately produced improvements that were astounding. Colorado Parks and Wildlife can verify this claim. This essential work will not continue without the CRCA.

    The impacts that are associated with the construction of the Gross Reservoir Enlargement are substantial and one sympathizes with those who will experience them, but the reality is they will end. Mitigation for the construction impacts can be applied. However, without the CRCA, the impacts to the Fraser and Colorado rivers will continue with no hope of improvement.

    The environmental enhancements and mitigation that are part of the CRCA cannot be replicated without the reservoir expansion project, and the loss of these enhancements and mitigation will doom the Fraser and Colorado rivers in Grand County to environmental catastrophe.

    Boulder County asks FERC to deny @DenverWater’s Gross Dam hydroelectric permit amendment for the Moffat Collection System Project

    The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From Boulder Daily Camera (Charlie Brennan):

    Citing the success of Denver Water’s conservation efforts since it first issued its “purpose and need” statement for the project, and the fact that no service shortfall has yet materialized for its 1.4 million customers in the metro area, Boulder County Attorney Ben Pearlman said that based on prior environmental reviews, “Boulder County does not believe Denver Water has shown that the project’s purpose and need have been met and the FERC must deny Denver Water’s application to amend its permit.”

    […]

    “We don’t think they have undertaken the duty they have (under federal environmental law) to analyze this problem thoroughly,” [Conrad] Lattes said…

    Denver Water officials on Friday answered back by reasserting the project’s merits.

    “The Gross Reservoir Expansion project represents an enormous amount of work, input and collaboration to ensure it is done in the most responsible way possible,” Jim Lochhead, Denver Water CEO/manager said in a statement. “And Denver Water will continue to develop noise, transportation and tree removal plans with input from stakeholders to minimize the impacts to Boulder County and its residents.”

    Boulder County comes out against FERC issuing @DenverWater’s requested license amendment for Moffat Collection System Project

    The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Here’s the letter from Boulder County to FERC via SaveTheColoradoRiver. Here’s an excerpt:

    Boulder County is an intervenor in this action and offers the following comments on the Supplemental Environmental Assessment (EA) issued by the FERC’s staff on February 6, 2018, related to the Gross Reservoir Hydroelectric Project (FERC Project No. 2035-099).

    As detailed below, Boulder County continues to object to the FERC issuing Denver Water’s requested license amendment. The FERC staffhas failed to address significant issues related to the project; as a result, approval by the FERC is premature and would result in negative and unnecessary impacts on the residents and natural resources of Boulder County.

    The EA analyzes only those potential environmental effects of oe·nver Water’s proposal to expand Gross Dam and Reservoir which were not addressed in the 2014 Final EIS prepared by the Army Corps ofEngineers (Corps). The FERC’s staffreviewed the EA, made a finding of no significant impact, and recommended approval by the Commission, as mitigated by environmental measures discussed in the EA.

    This approach is flawed because ofthe resulting narrow scope ofthe EA, the lack ofspecificity related to adoption of mitigation measures for project impacts, and the FERC staffs wholesale and unquestioning adoption of the Army Corps of Engineer’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), which FEIS was completed on April 25, 2014, and for which a Record of Decision was issued on July 6, 2017. The FERC should determine that both the FEIS and the EA fail to meet the standards ofthe National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and therefore reject staff’s unreasonable approach.