Save the Colorado is allowed to intervene in @DenverWater lawsuit v. @BoulderCounty

Workers build the Moffat Tunnel in the 1920s.

From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Sam Lounsberry) via The Denver Post:

An environmental group’s motion to intervene in a dispute between Denver Water and Boulder County over the proposed expansion of Gross Reservoir was granted by a judge on Tuesday.

Court documents show Boulder District Judge Andrew Ross Macdonald will allow the group, Save the Colorado, to enter the case as a party on behalf of Boulder County, the defendant in the suit.

Denver Water filed the complaint against the county after it decided the utility would have to subject its controversial proposed dam expansion — which would be the largest construction project in the county’s history — through the county development approval process.

The case is still moving through court, with Denver Water trying to avoid subjecting its project to county [1041 regulations].

American Alpine Club library’s archive of images by early mountaineers holds clues for researchers documenting the retreat of glaciers worldwide — the #Colorado Sun

Here’s a report from Joe Purtell that’s running in the Colorado Sun. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

American Alpine Club Library Director Katie Sauter spends a lot of time in the climate-controlled special collections room, flipping through hundred-year-old photographs, black and white images of climbers posing in front of the world’s mountains and glaciers in the early 1900s. While the library is primarily maintained for climbers and historians, there is another interested cohort: glacier scientists.

The Arapaho Glacier is the largest in Colorado and a key component of Boulder’s water supply. Over the last 100 years, it has receded dramatically, and climate researcher P. Thompson Davis worries it could disappear completely. Photo credit: American Alpine Club via the Colorado Sun

Scientists periodically email the library, or even show up in Golden, looking for rare old photographs. Sauter says that while she has received requests for photos of the remote Ladakh region of India — and, closer to home, the Arapaho Glacier northwest of Nederland — they are largely focused on the same thing.

“Glaciers, mostly,” she says, “to see how much it’s melted.”


Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, a University of Colorado and NOAA partnership, estimates the Arapaho Glacier has lost 75 percent of its ice in the last 100 years. To get an idea of the glacier’s range at the turn of the century, he turned to old photographs.

“We probably used some of those photographs estimating the size of how the area of Arapaho Glacier has changed since the beginning of the 1900s, then moved on to satellite data more recently,” Scambos says.

When doing his own imagery, Scambos uses high-resolution images taken from different angles to construct a three dimensional model of the glacier’s surface. His team has used ground-penetrating radar to map the glacier’s internal workings. Still, when scientists want to establish a glacier’s historic range, they are left to search through old photos…

Beginning only a few years after the invention of the modern film camera, the Mountainview Collection offers some of the earliest available images of North American glaciers. At the time, the photographers would not have suspected their images would one day be used to recall ice flows that traversed entire ranges — ice that today appears as lakes in photos taken from the same vantage points.

On Stressed #ColoradoRiver, States Test How Many More Diversions Watershed Can Bear — KUNC #COriver #aridification

Gross Reservoir — The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project will raise the height of the existing dam by 131 feet, which will allow the capacity of the reservoir, pictured, to increase by 77,000 acre-feet. The additional water storage will help prevent future shortfalls during droughts and helps offset an imbalance in Denver Water’s collection system. With this project, Denver Water will provide water to current and future customers while providing environmental benefits to Colorado’s rivers and streams. Photo credit: Denver Water

From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

The Colorado River is short on water. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at a slate of proposed water projects in the river’s Upper Basin states of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

The river and its tributaries provide water for 40 million people in the Southwest. For about the last 20 years, demand for water has outstripped the supply, causing its largest reservoirs to decline.

In the Bureau of Reclamation’s 2012 Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study, you can pinpoint when the lines crossed somewhere around the year 2002. It’s a well-documented and widely accepted imbalance.

That harsh reality — of the river’s water promised to too many people — has prompted all sorts of activity and agreements within the seven Western states that rely on it. That activity includes controversial efforts in some states in the Colorado River’s Upper Basin to tap every available drop before things get worse.

The utility that owns [Gross Reservoir], Denver Water, wants to increase the size of the dam by 131 feet, and fill the human-made lake with more water from the headwaters of the Colorado River via a tunnel that traverses the Continental Divide.

Imagine a tractor trailer hauling dam-building materials making this turn, Long says.

“If they truck all of this material up our canyon, people in our community are gonna get killed by those trucks. Period,” Long said. “There’s a lot of other issues here but the safety thing should really be a serious priority.”

Long and his wife, April Lewandowski, live near the reservoir in a community called Coal Creek Canyon. Like many of her neighbors, Lewandowski commutes from the sparsely populated canyon to her job on the state’s dense Front Range. Her daily commute on the canyon’s two-lane highway is the same as a haul route for trucks needed to build the dam addition.

Long pulls up to a small parking area that overlooks the dam. It’s a deep wall of concrete, stretched between the tree-lined canyon walls of South Boulder Creek.

“I mean you look at how the land splays out, you can see why they want to (build it),” Long said. “It’s so much wider all the way around.”

If the expansion goes through, the place where we’re standing will be submerged in water. The addition to Gross Dam will raise it to 471 feet in height, making it the tallest dam in Colorado…

Denver Water first started taking an expansion of Gross Reservoir seriously after the dry winter of 2002. Exceptional drought conditions took hold across the Mountain West. The utility’s CEO, Jim Lochhead, said in the midst of those historic dry conditions, a portion of its service area nearly ran out of water.

“This is a project that’s needed today to deal with that imbalance and that vulnerability and to give us more drought resiliency,” Lochhead said.

Since then, Denver Water has filed federal permits to start construction, and negotiated an agreement with local governments and environmental groups on the state’s Western Slope to mitigate some effects of the additional water being taken from the headwaters.

Before leaving office, former Colorado Democratic governor and current presidential hopeful John Hickenlooper threw his weight behind the project, giving it an endorsement and suggesting other water agencies in the West take notice how Denver Water approached the process.

But despite the political heft behind the project, it faces considerable headwinds.

Environmentalists are suing, arguing the expansion will harm endangered fish. A group of local activists say the additional water will spur unsustainable population growth along the state’s Front Range. In recent months, the utility began sparring with Boulder County officials over whether they were exempt from a certain land use permit.

Building a 131-foot dam addition does come with baggage, Lochhead said. But he argued his agency has done its part to address some of the concerns, like reducing the number of daily tractor trailer trips up Coal Creek Canyon and planning upgrades to the intersection where trucks will turn onto Gross Dam Road.

“It is a major construction project. I don’t want to gloss over that. It will have impacts to the local community,” Lochhead said.

Denver Water staff are doing more outreach in the canyon as well, Lochhead said.

“We are committed to the project and seeing it through. We’re also committed despite the opposition to working with the local community in doing this the right way,” he said…

The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project will add 77,000 total acre feet — 72,000 for Denver Water use and 5,000 for an environmental pool that provides additional water for South Boulder Creek during low-flow periods — nearly tripling reservoir capacity.

The latest scuffle with Boulder County has brought the Gross Dam expansion squarely back into public view. At a county commissioner’s meeting in March, residents criticized Denver Water on all fronts, from specific concerns about the construction itself, to broader concerns about water scarcity in the Colorado River basin…

“This project represents an effort by Denver Water … to actually grab water while they can, before federal legislation and management of the Colorado River Basin is imposed,” McDermott said.

What McDermott is referring to is a stark disconnect in the Colorado River watershed. States downstream on the river — Arizona, Nevada and California — signed a new agreement in May called the Drought Contingency Plan that keeps them from becoming more reliant on the Colorado River. It requires cutbacks to water deliveries should levels in Lake Mead, the river’s largest reservoir, continue to drop.

Meanwhile, upstream in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico, no such agreement was made. Those states wound up agreeing to study the feasibility of a program that would compensate farmers to stop irrigating their cropland if reservoirs dropped, with no solid way to pay for it. They agreed too to better coordinate releases from their biggest reservoirs to aid an ailing Lake Powell. While they figure out how to develop those two concepts, the Upper Basin states keep inching along on their development projects to divert more from the river.

The 1922 Colorado River Compact, the river’s foundational governing document, gives Upper Basin states the legal cover to continue developing projects like the Gross Reservoir expansion. In the compact, each basin is allocated 7.5 million acre-feet of the river’s water. Over the decades the rapidly growing and intensely farmed Lower Basin has used much more than that. The less populated Upper Basin has never reached its full allotment. Those state have been using roughly 4.5 million acre-feet for the last 13 years, with the rest flowing downstream for the Lower Basin to use as it sees fit…

Conservation programs tend to be less expensive than massive new projects, [Doug] Kenney said. But additional water supplies stored in reservoirs give more security and reliability. It’s why water leaders push for them, even when the economics don’t make sense.

Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

CU Boulder’s Mountain Research Station: From base at 9,500 feet, scientists examine climate to top of tundra #ActOnClimate

Professor Frances Ramaley with picnic group. Photo credit: CU Boulder Mountain Research Group

Here’s a report from The Boulder Daily Camera (Charlie Brennan) via The Loveland Reporter-Herald. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s and excerpt:

The University of Colorado Boulder’s Mountain Research Station, within the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest and situated just a few miles west off of Colo. 72, is the jumping-off point for some of the most important ongoing research into the nuanced and changing dynamics of alpine ecology going on anywhere in North America.

Increasingly, the focus of that work relates directly to the signals and effects of climate change — a problem not even being considered by scientists when University of Colorado biology professor Francis Ramaley launched the Tolland Summer Biology Camp in the vicinity in 1909.

That camp, where primary tools included shotguns, shovels and butterfly nets, closed in 1919, and after the university bought the land to the north, it built what was known as the University Camp.

It was a successor to Ramaley, biology professor John W. Marr, who in 1946 would initiate the Mountain Ecology Project, the Mountain Climate Program, and the East Slope Ecology Project, and who was key to establishing the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Ecology, which would merge in 1952 with the University Camp as the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research.

The frontier of research into the effects of a changing climate, where animals and plants are living at the extreme limits of environmental tolerance at up to 12,000 feet, has continued to be expanded there — with ground-penetrating radar and drones now displacing shotguns and shovels — for well over half a century.

“The idea that humans could have such a pervasive impact on not just regional environment but the global environment, I don’t think was really understandable back then,” Bill Bowman, research station director for the past 29 years, said of its earliest days.

Now, said Bowman, a professor in the CU Boulder Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, “It is the very theme of research that goes on there, the impacts of humans on the environment.”

An alphabet soup of laboratories and agencies participate directly in research based out of the research station. They include not just INSTAAR, the National Ecological Observatory Network, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Critical Zone Observatory, but also researchers who don’t have weighty acronyms anchored to their curriculum vitae.

“We’ve got everything from individual grad students doing their masters theses, up to the groups that have been working up there for almost 40 years now,” Bowman said. “And so really, anybody can do research up there. We don’t make a distinction about whether they are rich and famous, or just starting in science. We really take pride in that a lot of researchers get their first experience in doing research up there.”


The Mountain Research Station base facilities, including the John W. Marr Alpine Laboratory, a family lodge with capacity for up to 32 visitors, and the Kiowa Laboratory and Classroom, with meeting space to accommodate 24, are perched at a mere 9,500 feet.

With individual data collection points spread across a challenging terrain topping out with the highest at 12,267 feet, and snow that can pile up in some spots as deep as 15 to 20 feet, simply navigating this living laboratory can be an imposing challenge.

But many of those who work there consider the opportunity to do so a gift. An example would be Duane Kitzis, a senior research associate for CU Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, who works for the Global Monitoring Division of the Earth System Research Laboratory at NOAA. He has been going up Niwot Ridge since 1987, collecting air samples that are used to provide calibration material for the measurement of greenhouse gases at laboratories around the world. He now makes more than 400 standard air measurements per year up there…

Katharine Suding is the lead investigator for one of the major research programs being conducted in the breathtaking landscape above the research station. Known as the Niwot Ridge Long Term Ecological Research program, it’s an interdisciplinary research initiative aimed at building a predictive understanding of ecological processes in high-elevation mountain ecosystems, and contributing to broad advances in ecology.

“We need long-term studying and monitoring of these complex systems to start being able to understand how they work and predict how they’re going to work in the future,” Suding said of the project, supported by funding from the National Science Foundation.

The Niwot Ridge research program has climate records (both temperature and precipitation) dating to 1952 at four places along an elevation gradient topping out at its “D1” site; that’s the one perched at 12,267 feet.

Suding’s project has the regular involvement of about 15 faculty, eight staff members, 25 graduate students and 10 undergraduates at CU Boulder. A few are stationed full time at the research station, and one or two rarely stray from the work under microscopes examining samples at laboratories down in Boulder. Most split their time between the city and the alpine world.

On a recent trip — by snowcat, across the snow that still blanketed the landscape well into May — through her program’s 4-square-mile research area, Suding, a professor in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at CU and fellow at INSTAAR, observed the interplay of snowpack, snowmelt, changes in temperature and air quality impact the fragile ecosystem in myriad ways.

“We know that in the forests, with a longer summer, the forests don’t do as well, because they get really stressed out in July and August, when it’s really hot and they don’t have the moisture,” she said. “We thought this tree line would go up, if the summer was longer and hotter. But it is not going up, because the young trees can’t start growing up here because it’s too dry.”


Suding’s research territory borders on the westernmost reaches of the Boulder Watershed, where CU Boulder scientists also collect data, only working under permission from city officials. At the top of the watershed, at 12,513 feet, sits Arikaree Glacier, which Suding’s predecessor Mark Williams predicted could vanish completely in 20 to 25 years. That sobering forecast hasn’t changed.

Predicting our climate future, according to Suding, depends on understanding how our ecology has evolved, particularly in response to the dramatic changes wreaked by the Industrial Revolution.

CU asks city to consider different CU Boulder South flood mitigation plan — CU Boulder News

Boulder. By Gtj82 at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Patriot8790., Public Domain,

From CU Boulder Today:

CU Boulder today asked the Boulder City Council to consider a flood mitigation option that would support both the community’s life safety needs and the university’s need to use a reasonable amount of its CU Boulder South property in the future to meet its mission to serve Colorado.

In a letter to council members (PDF), the university recommended that Boulder refrain from further investing in Variant I – 500, a flood mitigation option that would curtail the university’s future ability to develop its CU Boulder South property. Located at U.S. 36 and Table Mesa Drive, the 308-acre parcel of university-owned land is under consideration for annexation into the Boulder city limits.

CU Boulder has recommended that the city seriously consider another plan—Variant II – 500—which was previously recommended by the city’s Water Resource Advisory Board and experts hired by the city.

If the university and city reach agreement on annexation terms, CU Boulder would use the property in the future to develop limited academic buildings and housing for faculty, staff, upper-level undergraduate students and graduate students. Other planned uses include recreation fields, expanded hiking and biking trails and other value-added features for the Boulder and university communities.

In all, CU Boulder is seeking to develop just 129 acres of the site designated as public use in the most recent Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan update, while 30 acres would be used for recreation fields. The university would donate 80 acres to the city for flood mitigation, with the balance remaining undeveloped.

Arriving at a mutually acceptable flood mitigation plan for the land is key to the agreement between the university and the city after years of ongoing discussions. In order to make progress in the negotiation process, city officials in November asked CU to submit an annexation application ahead of schedule. CU complied by filing an annexation application on Feb. 4.

The next day, city officials decided to move forward with a flood mitigation plan known as Variant I – 500, the only proposed flood mitigation plan among several considered by the city that the university repeatedly has said it cannot accept.

If the city moves forward with Variant 1 – 500, the university would not be able to develop the entire 129 acres allocated for public use on its own property, said Frances Draper, CU Boulder’s vice chancellor for strategic relations and communications.

“The university is dedicated to working with the city, and local residents whose homes are in the floodplain to achieve safety,” Draper said. “At the same time, we must be good stewards of the university’s resources for the benefit of the state of Colorado, to educate students and engage in research. The university has offered significant community benefits while striking a good balance to achieve effective use of this site to serve the needs of students in the coming decades.”

Despite its objection to the city’s intent to pursue Variant I – 500, CU worked to create a path forward in its annexation application by offering three options that would make it possible for CU to work with the city’s chosen flood mitigation plan.

However, in a March 28 response, the city made it clear none of CU Boulder’s alternatives would be feasible, precipitating the university’s response for a study session and further discussions.

Spikes in E. coli levels in Boulder Creek prompt call to action — CU Independent

Boulder Creek. Photo credit: Susan from Alameda, CA, USA – CC BY 2.0,

From the CU Independent (Robert Tann):

Levels of the harmful bacteria Escherichia coli (E. coli) in Boulder Creek have spiked several times in the past three years, according to reports obtained by the CU Independent.

The bacteria, found in mammal intestines, usually comes into contact with water sources through fecal contamination. While the majority of E. coli infections cause vomiting and diarrhea, in extreme cases, the bacteria can lead to severe anemia and kidney failure. After years of the issue, one Boulder community member is advocating for change

Art Hirsche, a member of the Boulder-based non-profit Boulder Waterkeeper, is calling on who he refers to as the “stakeholders” for greater accountability. It includes the City of Boulder, Boulder County and the University of Colorado Boulder, all entities that own property in which the stream flows.

“I would like to see them be transparent,” Hirsche said. “They have a responsibility.”

E. coli is measured in colony forming units (cfu) which estimate the number of bacterial cells in a given sample, with a typical water sample size being 100 milliliters. The City of Boulder has conducted roughly 80 sample testings per year between 2015 and 2018. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that levels for fresh recreational water, like the creek, should not exceed 126 cfu. Throughout the last three years, some E. coli measurements in the creek were over 2,000 cfu, 15 times the EPA standard.

116 of 338 samples between 2015 and 2018 exceeded EPA E. coli standards. (Robert Tann/CU Independent)

Determined “impaired” in a 2004 study by the City of Boulder, the creek has remained a spot for E. coli concentration ever since. It took until 2011, seven years after the findings, for the first total maximum daily load (TMDL) study to be done. In compliance with the U.S. Clean Water Act, TMDL studies identify the maximum amount of a pollutant that a body of water can receive while still meeting water quality standards. In this case, studies were done to measure levels of E. coli in the water.

According to Aimee Konowal, watershed section manager for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), TMDL studies took years to be implemented as the creek was not a “priority” at the time. CDPHE has dealt with a “growing list” of impaired water sources, said Konowal.

“We don’t always have the resources to address all of the impaired waters at any given time,” Konowal said, adding that in 2004 the department had other obligations when it came to tackling water issues.

While TMDL studies stopped prior to 2015, a plan was funded by the Keep it Clean Partnership (KICP) to further monitor and collect data along the creek, leading to regular monitoring over the next three years. While the majority of samples show E. coli levels being under the 126 cfu maximum, exceeding levels are frequent. Of the 338 samples taken between 2015 and 2018, over a third exceeded EPA E. coli standards.

To Hirsche, these studies show a “languishing” issue, one that is in desperate need of action.

“What concerns me most is how [residents] don’t understand that there is a water quality standard being exceeded,” Hirsch said. “If they know and they’re willing to accept the risk, that’s one thing. But the fact is, the stakeholders have failed to adequately inform the local public about what the risks are.”

Children and the elderly are among the more vulnerable demographics when it comes to the health effects that E. coli can cause. Children under five years old run a higher risk of developing hemolytic uremic syndrome which destroys red blood cells and causes kidney failure. About 2-7% of E. coli infections lead to this. As summer nears, Hirsche worries that increased recreational activity in the creek could spell disaster.

2015 E. coli levels in Boulder Creek. (Robert Tann/CU Independent)

Candace Owen, stormwater quality supervisor for the City of Boulder, assures that an implementation plan by the city is nearly finished. Owen mentioned locating specific outfalls of waste and furthering investigations into such areas as a way to help mitigate E. coli levels.

Owen said timeline estimations for how long the plan will take to generate results are unclear at this time, although she guesses each sewer outfall could take up to two to three years to fully control. Owen hopes the plan will be ready for implementation next month but says that recent discussions could delay it as the city continues to look for more feedback.

When asked about the high amounts of E. coli in some samples, Owen said that E. coli measurements fluctuate regularly and that it is a “challenging” process. She said that one data sample is not enough “to tell a story.”

Hirsche disagrees, citing that it is not just one sample but many that have exceeded limits and that is is “no anomaly.”

“Flexibility” when it comes to initiatives

Among Hirsche’s many concerns is a perceived lack of communication between the city and entities like CDPHE and CU Boulder. To him, CDPHE has shown a “hands-off approach” for dealing with the creek.

“[CDPHE] is asleep at the wheel,” Hirsche said.

MaryAnn Nason, communications and special projects unit manager for CDPHE, said that the department “wants to collaborate” with entities like the City of Boulder but stated that there are “boundaries.” Nason said that data on the creek cannot be requested to a “specific degree.”

2016 E. coli levels exceeded the EPA standard 28 times.

2016 E. coli levels in Boulder Creek. (Robert Tann/CU Independent)

In regards to the development of TMDL studies and why the first took so long, Nason said that studies are a result of collaboration between CDPHE and other stakeholders. However, according to Owen, the City of Boulder conducted its first TMDL study on its own as it knew that CDPHE would not be able to address the issue of the creek at the time.

As Nason explained, CDPHE can set boundaries for municipalities like the city when it comes to water standards but wants to allow “flexibility” for the city to address the issue how they see fit.

Certain initiatives are outside CDPHE’s control, such as signposting around the creek, which Hirsche believes would help better inform the public. CDPHE’s Amy Konowal said the decision is not typical but has been done in the past in order to warn the public, such as when Denver County posted signs around Confluence Park due to the results of a TMDL study. Nason said that while the department may not require the City of Boulder to post a sign, they would encourage it.

According to Owen, conversations regarding signposting are “on the table,” but she also believes that the city does not yet have a “precedent” that would justify posting signs. As of now, the City of Boulder has no immediate plans to signpost.

“The city takes this very seriously,” Owen assured. “[The city] is very receptive to feedback from the public and understands that the public has concern.”

Hirsche is skeptical of the city’s reluctance to post signage, believing that it may reflect poorly on Boulder’s reputation as a clean and healthy environment.

“[The city] does not want to advertise it,” Hirsche said.

2017 E. coli levels exceeded the EPA standard 34 times.

2017 E. coli levels in Boulder Creek. (Robert Tann/CU Independent)

“If I’m wrong, prove me wrong”

Aside from CDPHE and the city, Hirsche has also called on action from CU, but conversations have been mixed. Hirsche says finding reports from the university’s own studies have been difficult. He has requested an E. coli meeting with representatives but has yet to hear back.

Joshua Lindstein, CU facilities communications and outreach specialist, told the CUI in an email that the university has been collaborating with the city since “at least 2008.” Lindstein cited an initiative years ago in which both the city and CU contributed resources to block off and clean out a storm line on East Campus.

He wrote that the university has invested “significant effort” to mitigate E. coli entering the creek via campus storm drains. In the instance that leakage is found, CU “promptly” makes repairs, with Lindstein calling leaks a “rare” occurrence, having only happened twice in the last five years.

Further projects include increasing sampling and investigation activities related to identifying E. coli sources, as well as revisiting CU’s animal access projects to limit wildlife impacts on storm lines, according to Lindstein.

Hirsche understands that some initiatives have been taken, but it seems more like “little bits of projects” rather than a comprehensive implementation plan.

“If I’m wrong, prove me wrong,” Hirsch said. “I do not believe that [CU] has gone through the full gamut of investigation.”

According to CU, raccoons on campus may be a major contributor to fecal excretion responsible for E. coli contamination. Lindstein wrote that “significant efforts” have been made in recent years to “curtail wildlife access to storm lines.”

2018 E. coli levels exceeded the EPA standard 26 times.

2018 E. coli levels in Boulder Creek. (Robert Tann/CU Independent)

Like the city, CU has not posted any signage about E. coli levels. Lindstein said that CU maintains signage at storm drain inlets on campus property to warn against illicit discharges or dumping of materials. However, Lindstein said that E. coli signage along the creek is outside the university’s jurisdiction and would have to go through the city, county or state.

Hirsche, on the other hand, believes that CU is “just as much of a stakeholder as the city.”

The water quality advocate said he is not “pointing fingers at anyone” but knows “we can do better.” He is disappointed that the conversation still needs to happen in order to fix such a longstanding issue.

“Everyone waits to the last minute when there’s a problem,” Hirsch said. “Nobody does anything ahead of time.”

Time ticks on as Hirsche and the Boulder Waterkeeper await the city’s implementation plan. Until then, Hirsche continues to push for more awareness of the issue as Boulder Creek remains a “broken stream.”

Contact CU Independent Senior News Editor Robert Tann at

Boulder County will not process @DenverWater’s 1041 application with lawsuit winding its way through the courts #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

From The Boulder Daily Camera (Charlie Brennan) via The Denver Post:

Boulder County has notified Denver Water it will not process the utility’s land use review application for a Gross Reservoir expansion at the same time it is defending itself in a lawsuit by Denver Water challenging the need to even submit to that procedure.

Denver Water on April 18 filed a lawsuit in Boulder District Court claiming a zoned-land exemption should excuse Denver Water from having to submit to the land use review process for the expansion, which — should it go through — would be the largest construction project in county history.

However, at the same time, Denver Water CEO/manager Jim Lochhead had said the utility was taking the steps to satisfy that county requirement, even while the lawsuit was pending.

“We remain committed to finding a path forward with the county that respects the community’s needs and concerns while allowing the project to proceed, which is why we have initiated the 1041 application process,” Lochhead said at the time…

Denver Water’s bid to participate in that process and simultaneously challenge it legally, however, is not going to work, according to Boulder County.

In a letter to Denver Water dated April 18, Boulder County Land Use Director Dale Case said, “While the County believes it will prevail in litigation, it would not be appropriate for the Land Use Department to proceed with an application under these circumstances.”

It is Case who initially made the determination that Denver Water, although holding a permit for the expansion project from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, still needed to submit to the county’s permitting process — a judgment Denver Water already unsuccessfully appealed before the county commissioners on March 14.

“It would be an imprudent expenditure of taxpayer dollars for the County to process an application when the process itself is the subject of a lawsuit,” Case added in his letter. “Accordingly, the Land Use Department will not accept an application for processing until the lawsuit is resolved.”


Denver Water public documents once showed a 2019 start date on construction, but that is no longer the case, and the lawsuit against Boulder County is not the only legal hurdle to launching the project. In separate courtroom action, a coalition of six environmental groups has sued at U.S. District Court in Denver, challenging the Corps of Engineers’ July 2017 decision to issue its permit for the $464 million (in 2025 dollars) project…

The current Denver Water project timeline now shows 2020 to 2026 for the project’s start to completion.

Denver Water Program Manager Jeff Martin answered Case’s recent letter with an April 29 letter, stating that Denver Water nevertheless intends to submit an application to initiate a land review process, citing the “significant resources” it has already expended in preparing its application in “a good faith effort” to comply with county requirements.

Denver Water also argues that processing the utility’s application should not put a financial strain on the county, because “Denver Water will reimburse Boulder County for its time in considering the application.”