Audubon lawsuit against Corp of Engineers now in front 10th Circuit panel

Proposed reallocation pool — Graphic/USACE

From Courthouse News (Amanda Pampuro):

A 10th Circuit panel on Monday heard arguments on whether the Army Corps of Engineers incorrectly applied Clean Water Act standards only to mitigating environmental damages rather than to the entirety of a project to expand a Colorado reservoir…

The Audubon Society of Greater Denver sued the Army Corps of Engineers in 2014, claiming the corps failed to choose a less environmentally damaging alternative.

“The record and the state show that the most environmentally damaging plan was chosen,” said attorney Kevin Lynch with the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, representing the Audubon Society during oral arguments at the 10th Circuit on Monday.

In order to meet federal regulations, Lynch said the corps evaluated the full reallocation project under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and then misapplied the Clean Water Act to assess only alternative plans for environmental mitigation. Lynch said both NEPA and the Clean Water Act need to be applied to the full project.

U.S. Attorney Sommer Eagle confirmed the Clean Water Act was applied only to consider discharge from the mitigation efforts rather than the full project. When U.S. District Judge Philip A. Brimmer issued final judgment in favor of the corps in December 2017, he found no issue with this reading of the law.

On Monday, U.S. Circuit Judge Scott Matheson seemed to address both parties when he asked, “How much of your argument is based on your interpretation of ‘overall project purpose?’”

Matheson said the panel would comb through the law to determine whether “project” under the Clean Water Act means the full construction or can refer to parts of it.

Other project alternatives passed over by the Army Corps of Engineers included expanding other water reserves, increasing groundwater storage, using readily available offsite gravel pits directly adjacent to the park, and a “no-action alternative relying on Penley Reservoir” coupled with increased water conversation efforts.

Chief Circuit Judge Mary Beck Briscoe was not impressed by the suggestion that better water conservation would solve metropolitan Denver’s increasing demand.

“Would that have been something that would have been effective? You hope that this week people do better, but next week maybe they won’t?” Briscoe challenged.

Construction on the Chatfield Storage Reallocation Project is expected to be completed by 2020. Although construction has commenced on the western edge of the lake, activists still hope for a decision that would protect the Plum Creek Nature Area.

U.S. Circuit Judge Carlos Lucero also sat on the panel. The judges did not indicate when they would reach a decision.

Ongoing #SouthPlatte Basin water storage projects

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate:

There already are six projects being pursued in the South Platte Basin to extend the water supply. These are not included in the recent South Platte Storage Survey, but have been considered and under way for some time:

Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

• The NISP/Glade project — The Northern Integrated Supply Project is a proposed water storage and distribution project that will supply 15 Northern Front Range water partners with 40,000 acre-feet of new, reliable water supplies.

Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.

• Chimney Hollow Reservoir — A 360-foot high dam that will hold 90,000 acre feet to help supply the thirsty Thompson Valley urban area. The water will come from the Windy Gap Project, a diversion dam and pumping station completed in 1985 to provide extra irrigation and municipal water out of the Colorado River. The water originally was stored in Grand Lake, but when that is full, the water cannot be stored. Chimney Hollow, also known as the Windy Gap Firming Project, solves that problem.

Reservoirs NW of Fort Collins

• Halligan reservoir enlargements — Halligan Reservoir near Fort Collins is about 100 years old. Its capacity is about 6,400 acre feet of water and the City of Fort Collins wants to add 8,125 acre feet to the reservoir by raising its dam about 25 feet.

• Milton Seaman Reservoir enlargement — Greeley originally had wanted to expand Seaman Reservoir in conjunction with Halligan, but because of diverging goals Greeley withdrew from the joint project. The expansion of Seamon now is targeted for design in 2028 and construction by 2030.

Gross Dam enlargement concept graphic via Denver Water

• Gross Reservoir enlargement — Gross Reservoir is one of 11 reservoirs supplying water to the City of Denver and surrounding urban areas. It is on the city’s Moffat System, which diverts water from the Western Slope to the metro area. Denver Water has proposed raising the dam height by 131 feet, which will allow the capacity of the reservoir to increase by 77,000 acre feet.

Proposed reallocation pool — Graphic/USACE

• Chatfield Reallocation Plan — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has determined that Chatfield Reservoir, built primarily for flood control after the 1965 South Platte River flood, can accommodate an additional 20,600 acre feet of water storage for water supply without compromising its flood control function. This additional storage space will be used by municipal and agricultural water providers to help meet the diverse needs of the state. No actual construction is required, but the legal, environmental, and engineering concerns of allowing the reservoir to hold more water all have to be satisfied.

@audubonsociety files lawsuit over Chatfield Reallocation Project

Proposed reallocation pool — Graphic/USACE

From TheDenverChannel.com (Marc Stewart):

“Swim, or hike, or watch birds, if you have a boat you can go boating,” said Polly [Reetz].

Yet the couple fears a construction project to build additional areas to hold water will ruin the place in the near future.

It’s a project that supporters argue is necessary in order to store water in a state that is in the midst of a population boom and a drought.

“I think aesthetically, it’s going to be a very different kind of park with mud flats instead of this rich riparian vegetation,” said Gene.

Along with the Audubon Society, they fear that by getting rid of the green space around the reservoir, all of nature will be hurt… including the animals.

“When you destroy the habitat, or alter it, so that it’s no longer usable for them, there really isn’t any other place to go, because other areas are already full too,” said Polly.

Which is why the Audubon society has gone to court.

They want a judge to throw out a previous decision allowing the project to move forward, saying among other things, that it violates the Clean Water Act.

A hearing will take place in September.

The Army Corps of Engineers is not commenting as the case is in litigation

“Audubon recognizes the region is growing, and so were not against developing additional water supplies,” said Gene [Reetz]. He is pushing for more water conservation and alternative storage sites other than Chatfield.

Chatfield Reservoir: The best dam flood solution, period – News on TAP

The South Platte River flood of 1965 led to the construction of Littleton’s popular water recreation destination.

Source: Chatfield Reservoir: The best dam flood solution, period – News on TAP

Gilcrest: Chatfield Storage Reallocation Project open house, September 6, 2017

Proposed reallocation pool — Graphic/USACE

From The Greeley Tribune:

Representatives for the Chatfield Storage Reallocation Project will host an open house from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Sept. 6 in the cafeteria at Valley High School, 1001 Birch St. in Gilcrest.

Final designs for the recreational facilities changes and environmental mitigation projects for Chatfield Reservoir and the surrounding Chatfield State Park will be on display. Another display will show the agricultural benefits of the project, according to a release issued Saturday from the Chatfield Mitigation Co. The workings of the environmental pool to help time releases of the stored water also will be illustrated with a display.

The $134 million project will allow Chatfield to store up to 20,600-acre feet of additional water.

Representatives from consultant firms working on the designs, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the participating water districts all will be there to answer questions.

Update on chatfield storage reallocation project

Proposed reallocation pool — Graphic/USACE

From The Denver Post (Joe Rubino):

After more than a decade of discussion and planning, the Chatfield Storage Reallocation Project is set to begin later this year. The more than two-year construction effort will prepare the reservoir to accommodate an additional 20,600 acre feet of water to meet a variety of municipal, agricultural and industrial needs. Currently, the reservoir holds about 27,000 acre feet of water. Eventually it will hold up to another 20,600 acre feet of water and the the water level could rise as much as 12 vertical feet, officials said.

Beginning in winter and continuing through spring, the swim beach and north boat ramp will be reconstructed to accommodate the future shoreline. By the end of 2019, many other features of the park, including the marina, day use areas and South Platte bridge will be visited by construction crews and earth movers.

The park will remain open throughout construction. Higher water levels will change features along the reservoir’s shore…

The project will cost an estimated $160 million, said Tim Feehan, general manager of the Chatfield Reservoir Mitigation Co., whose eight partners — including Castle Rock, Centennial Water and Sanitation District and the Castle Pines Metropolitan District — will pay that tab in proportion to the amount of water storage each will be granted. Of that, $140 million has already been set aside in escrow.

Groundbreaking awaits final design approval from the Army Corps of Engineers, which built, owns and leases the reservoir to Colorado Parks and Wildlife for recreational use, Roush said. Preliminary designs and a tentative construction schedule are available online at Chatfieldreallocation.org, a project website created by Chatfield Reservoir Mitigation Co.

The swim beach is scheduled to close for reconstruction in late fall and reopen for use by Memorial Day weekend 2018. The beach and park perimeter road will be moved to the west, away from the present shoreline, to accommodate greater water fluctuations, effectively creating another 200 feet of beach area at low water. The parking lot will be expanded and the shower, restrooms and other features will be rebuilt. The north boat ramp also is scheduled to reopen to use by next Memorial Day weekend.

“A lot of the work is going to be done over the wintertime when the visitation is down and when the swim beach is closed and when the boat ramps are closed,” Roush said. “It’s about minimizing the time when the users would not be able to use those areas.”

@CFWEwater — Barr Milton Urban Waters Tour

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I rode along with the Barr Lake and Milton Reservoir Watershed Association and the Colorado Foundation for Water Education on their Urban Waters Tour of the South Platte River last Wednesday. These rides are educational and fun and well worth the time. It was great to meet some new folks from the water community. Thanks to Amy Conklin for organizing the ride.

We started at Johnson Habitat Park where the Greenway Foundation has located their SPREE outdoor school. We learned about efforts to increase the volume of water in the river through the Chatfield Reallocation Project which will provide environmental flows through the City of Denver. Joe Shoemaker, Jr. explained the genesis of the Greenway Foundation and how the area we were in was one of Denver’s dumps during his youth. The educational effort was in full swing with young students plying the waters for macro-invertebrates and other life.

A representative from Trout Unlimited conveyed his excitement about landing big carp from the river. He also told us that a fisherman recently pulled a 24 inch rainbow from the river just upstream from the park.

Further downstream at Weir Gulch the focus was on widening the channel to more a more natural flood plain to help manage stormwater and improve river and riparian health. The South Platte through here, back in the day, was a braided, meandering stream with a flood plain that was sometimes as wide as a mile.

A Denver Parks representative explained the big project at Confluence Park — the replacement of the original structures from the first project in the South Platte revitalization effort. Kudos to the contractor that stayed with the project as their profit dried up due to the discovery of coal tar on site. The Denver representative said that the company believed in the project and the benefits to the community.

The last stop was at the site of Globeville Landing Park. There was a lot of construction going on to build an outfall for stormwater management. Denver is building their Platte to Park Hill Project to mitigate flooding caused by construction and development over the years.

I highly recommend these tours. You’ll learn a lot, get a bike ride in, and meet some interesting folks. The South Platte River through Denver is a great ride. What a success story.