Boulder County Commissioners this week heard citizens passionately testify against the enlargement of Gross Dam, a key element in Denver Water's Moffat Firming Project.
With a revised final Environmental Impact Statement yet to be released on the Moffat firming project and approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Boulder County was considering signing an agreement with Denver Water that essentially would have forfeited that county's powers under 1041 permitting and accepted $8.25 million in mitigation money.
But during a three-hour public hearing on the issue, commissioners were swayed to reject the deal with Denver Water after hearing citizen after citizen say the deal was premature, not enough, and that the project is a sorry substitution for what Denver Water should be doing: Stepping up its conservation measures.
During the hearing, Chris Garre of The Environmental Group called the IGA "a thinly valed bribe, nothing more," and called the Moffat Firming Project an "environmental catastrophe."
Several citizens spoke of the troubled rivers in Grand County and the implications of the project statewide.
"On shutting off the Fraser River, if the argument is that it's not in our county, it's not our concern, that's just not taking responsibility for your actions," said one resident who testified, saying the Moffat Firming project is about "waste, sprawl and fracking."
Another Boulder County citizen used up her three minutes at the podium for a moment of silence in contemplation of the Colorado River.
"Let's think of the Colorado River, a river that is dying, or in this case, being killed," she said before leading the 200-or so meeting attendees and commissioners into a short meditation.
"Fundamentally, we believe this project is not a well-considered project," said Will Toor, outgoing Boulder County Commissioner. "I don't beleive we should be diverting additonal water from the Western Slope."
"We hear you loud and clear about the Western Slope and the issues with the Colorado River," said Boulder County Commissioner Chair Cindy Domenico, after the board's decision to risk not settling with an IGA. "It's something as a Colorado community we need to really think about."
Neighbors to the proposed Gross Dam expansion were especially against an estimated seven-year construction project fraught with heavy truck traffic on a county road, plus the impact the project would have to trails, vegetation, a waterfall and wildlife on 400 acres.
"We're so proud of the commissioners and grateful to the community who turned up in droves to help educate and inform the decision Boulder County made," said Garre, in statements released on Tuesday. "The commissioners' decision fills us with a tremendous amount of optimism that Boulder County will stand its ground."
Their decision not to sign the IGA does not stop the project, "but it does send a clear signal to Denver Water that the county is not willing to settle for such inadequate compensation and mitigation," according to a joint statement released by environmental groups opposed to the project.
- Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603