Official comments from the Environmental Protection Agency on the Moffat Collection System Project have been critical of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ methodology in determining environmental impacts from the project.
But Grand County Commissioner James Newberry said Denver Water’s proposed mitigation and enhancement would address those concerns.
“The EPA is just reiterating what they said from the very start, and basically, what’s going on with that is those are a lot of the same comments that Grand County had,” Newberry said. “These are the same comments that have been going on. What we did with the mitigation and enhancements and the Colorado River agreement addresses those questions.”
Denver currently diverts a large amount of water from the Fraser River through the Moffat Collection Tunnel. The current project proposal seeks to triple the capacity of the Gross Reservoir in Boulder County. Denver water currently diverts 60 percent of the upper Fraser River’s flows, and the project would see even more water drawn from the river. The cost of the project is expected to be around $360 million.
The EPA’s 22-page letter to the Corps of Engineers contains a number of recommendations, including expanding proposed mitigation of the project’s impacts on the Fraser and Colorado rivers.
“As mentioned throughout this comment letter, the documentation of proposed mitigation for project impacts is inadequate to determine compliance with this section of the Guidelines,” the letter states.
The EPA recommended additional mitigation measures such as adding additional bypass flows during low-flow periods, replacing riffle-pool complexes in affected rivers, and moving diversion structures lower in the watershed to increase wetted habitat.
The county’s comments, contained in a two-page letter, also criticized the Corps of Engineers’ conclusions on environmental impacts, though it stated that understanding impacts was “fraught with uncertainty.”
“Because of these inherent uncertainties, the County would like to emphasize its support for the general approach to mitigation embodied in Denver Water’s Conceptual Mitigation Proposal that includes measures described as mitigation and additional environmental protections,” the letter states.
The letter also touts Denver Water’s participation in Learning By Doing, an adaptive management process that could see mitigation measures change in order to prevent declines in river health and improve conditions in certain areas.
The project has drawn lots of criticism in recent months, and not just from the EPA. A Boulder County Commissioners meeting in June was dominated by voices critical of the project’s impacts on Boulder County.
But Newberry said those involved need to move on.
“Why argue about (the data)?” Newberry said. “Let’s get into the river, get the scientists in the river, and get started on fixing this thing. That’s our mantra.”
Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.