Gross Reservoir expansion gets one step closer to approval | SkyHiNews.com

Gross Reservoir expansion gets one step closer to approval

In the one of the final steps in a bureaucratic journey that began 13 years ago, Governor John Hickenlooper formally approved a project that will triple the size of Gross Reservoir southwest of Boulder and increase the amount of water drained from the Fraser and Colorado Rivers for use on the Front Range. In a letter to Denver Water CEO James Lochhead released on July 6, Hickenlooper endorsed the Moffat Collection System Project, calling it a key infrastructure project that will make public water supply more reliable and provide environmental benefits to the East and West Slope. Denver Water also released a video of the governor and other officials discussing the benefits of the project. The Governor's approval came in conjunction with the clearing of one of the final regulatory hurdles the project faced: A water quality certification from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment based on section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act. Now, only final permits from the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are required for Denver Water to break ground on a project that will cost roughly $380 million and add 18,000-acre-feet of water per year to Denver Water's current 350,000-acre-foot capacity. The additional diversion through the existing Moffat Collection System will take water from the Williams Fork, Colorado, Fraser, and Blue Rivers. Approval of the Project would also trigger several million dollars allotted toward addressing water quality and aquatic habitats in Grand County, but exactly how that money would be used is unclear. The environmental mitigation of the project is being conducted under the banner of "adaptive management" and "learning by doing." "Learning by doing means you don't know what you're doing," said Gary Wockner, International Waterkeeper Alliance board member and director of Save the Colorado, an organization opposing the Moffat project. Wockner said the roughly $10 million allocated toward mitigating the effects of the additional diversions won't be enough to prevent substantial ecological damage. Current diversions through the Moffat system, the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, and the Windy Gap reservoir have already reduced the natural annual flow of the Colorado River by 80 percent. If new diversions in the Moffat project and the Windy Gap Firming Project, also endorsed by the governor and awaiting approval from the USACE, are approved, that number will jump to 90 percent, leading to what Wockner called the complete annihilation of a river system. According to the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the project submitted to the USACE in April 2014, the overall impacts on rivers and streams in West Slope streams would be negligible, except for what the report calls "minor to moderate adverse impacts to fish and invertebrates in the upper Fraser River, most of the tributaries of the Fraser and Williams Fork rivers, and the Blue River downstream of Dillon Reservoir to Rock Creek." These effects would likely be due to increased temperatures in the water due to low flows, causing fish death and algae growth. The FEIS projects on average a 35 percent reduction in flows in the Fraser river during normal years and an 11 percent reduction in flows during dry years as a result of the project. The driver behind both projects is a rapidly growing population in the city of Denver, nearly 2.8 percent between 2014 and 2015. Denver Water's projections show a 34,000-acre-foot increase in demand by 2032, 16,000 of which will be addressed through conservation. The other 18,000 would come from the Moffat and Windy Gap projects. But in 2014, Denver's water use was the lowest it's been since 1973, largely due to conservation efforts. Wockner said the Front Range can do a lot more to reduce use, rather than increasing diversions. "It's time to say stop," he said. "This is a 19th century idea to dam rivers and run the water to cities. It's the 21st century, we're way smarter than this." If the project's permit applications are approved by the USACE and FERC, Wockner said his organization would closely examine the decisions and consider challenging them in court.

Kremming’s inaugural Redneck Mudshuffle a success

Engines roared and the mud flew through the air as drivers attempted to race their pickup trucks over the muddy course of the Redneck Mudshuffle & Calcutta at the fairgrounds in Kremmling on Sunday, May 25. A total of 28 teams competed in Sundays contest. Under the rules of the competition, each team had to make two runs over the course with the combined time determining the teams results. Each team was required to have two drivers, each of whom had to make one of the runs.Another requirement under the races rules was that none of the vehicles were allowed to be more than 500 horsepower. The success of each team was based on teamwork and driving skill, not horsepower.The complete results for last Sundays Redneck Mudshuffle & Calcutta are: 1. Gully/Scuzzaro, 78.23; 2. Timmerman/Fobert, 82.01; 3. Valencia, 82.57; 4. McMahon/Debroot, 82.64; 5. Shirado, 82.89; 6. Bauer, 84.98; 7. Redding/Soefker, 85.67; 8. Suppes/Ulrick, 87.68; 9. Omara/Keim, 88.35; 10. Kennedy, 88.55; 11. Phipps, 92.27; 12. Docheff/Gore, 94.2; 13. Higgins/Terryberry, 95.4; 14. Onken/VanNatta, 95.42; 15. Sheppardson/Colter, 98.72; 16. Cherry/Davis, 99.85; 17. Scott, 101.03; 17. Collins/Cherry, 103.91; 18. Johnson/Barr, 104.07; 19. Tamburelli/Scuzzaro, 104.79; 20. Johnson/Menhennett, 106.66; 21. Smith, 109.74; 22. Meyer/Rusher, 110.17; 23. Smith/Reckker, 112.15; 24. Blakesky/Deschene, 113.22; 25. Jones/Wilson, 115.6; 26. Acord/Reed, 117.58; 27. Docheff, 117.82; Higgins/Joyce, DQ.

New campaign reminds Front Range citizens that saving water in the city saves rivers in the High Country

A new billboard near Floyd Hill reminds eastbound drivers on Interstate 70 that the water they use to quench their lawns and wash their cars in Denver is the same water that would otherwise be flowing through rivers on Colorado’s Western Slope. “It’s the same water. Conserve it!” the billboard reads, across images of lawn sprinklers, a snowy mountain and a woman taking a shower. The billboard is the first tactic in a new campaign by governments in northwest Colorado to remind Front Range water users of their impacts to the state’s western rivers. According to Denver Water, each city slicker and suburbanite uses an average 168 gallons of water each day, 91 gallons of which goes to watering landscaping. And the agency is the first to admit that most of its 1.3 million users rarely think about the source of that water. The new campaign, a collaborative effort by the Colorado River Water Conservation District and the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, hopes to make the connection for folks. More billboards and signs at bus stops will pop up throughout the Denver-metro area in coming months. All the promotional efforts will direct people to a website, http://www.itsthesamewater.com, or a smartphone page where they can learn about where water comes from, the impacts of diversions and how to conserve. The majority of Denver’s water comes from rivers and streams fed by mountain snowmelt – primarily the South Platte River, Blue River, Williams Fork River and Fraser River watersheds. Dillon Reservoir is Denver Water’s largest storage facility and holds nearly 40 percent of Denver’s water. Before the agency began diverting water to the eastern side of the Continental Divide, that water from the Blue River and others in the West Slope eventually made its way to the Pacific Ocean via the Colorado River. Today, Denver Water uses about 265,000 acre-feet of water per year, but it’s looking for more. And that will mean even greater impacts to already-tapped rivers on the West Slope. As the Denver-metro area continues to grow, Denver Water and other Front Range water providers are moving ahead with efforts to draw more water across the Divide, much of it from sources in Grand County. Denver Water predicts it will experience a supply shortfall of 34,000 acre-feet per year by 2030, under its current system. It estimates that 16,000 acre-feet of the shortfall will be addressed through conservation, leaving an annual shortage of 18,000 acre-feet.

Grand County Real Estate Transactions

Scanloch Subdivision Lot 1, Block 2 – Gerald and Jo Ann Shumaker to Dylan and Gabrielle Taylor, $79,000 Winter Park Ranch 3rd Filing, Lot 62, Block 1 – Luanne Kay to Adam Gould and Veronica Callinan, $250,000 Winter Park Highlands Greenridge Lot 16 – Paul and Karen True Trust to Justin and Deborah Bridge, $207,000 Rio Rancho Small Tracts Sub Exempt Lot 1 – Larry and Judith Ware to Hadley and Joan Bradbury, $898,000 Columbine Lake Block 3, Lots 14,15 – Gerald and Kathryne Vanner to Benny and Susan Law, $285,000 Aspen Meadows Condominiums Unit 207, Block C – Aspen Meadows Condominiums LLC to Gordon McGlinchey and Brenda Kraft, $116,900 Winter Park Lodge II Bldg F, Unit 201 – Raymond and Judith Hall to Kenneth Richardson and Kelly Fraser, $137,500 Grand Country Estates TRT 77 – Richard Timothy Parry Living Trust to Cozens Pointe LLC, $65,000 Cozens Pointe at Grand Park Unit 201, Bldg B, Garage Unit B – Cozens Pointe LLC to Richard Parry and Abby Bleistein, $324,000 Villa Harbor Subdivision Lot 18 – Bell Crest Enterprises LLLP to William Henry Peltier III, $365,000 River Run Condominiums Unit 203, Bldg B – PennyMac Loan Services LLC to John and Barbara Rankin, $89,120 Copper Creek Lot 46 – John and Nancy Rice to Bruce Campbell, $299,999 Meadow Ridge Lodges Court 27, Unit 8 – Smith Family Trust to James Reasor and Margaret Copeland, $160,600 Mountainside at SilverCreek C U 111, Timeshare No 111504 – Tom and Louise Massoni to Mountainside SilverCreek Timeshare Owners Association, $500 Mountainside at SilverCreek C U 99, Timeshare No 099649 – Leo and Ann Lussier to Mountainside SilverCreek Timeshare Owners Association, $500 Mountainside at SilverCreek C U 91, Timeshare No. 091535 – Mountainside SilverCreek Timeshare Owners Association to Michael B Ensley Revocable Trust, $500 E.J. Vulgamotts 1st Block 5, Lots 1,2, Tabernash – Steven and Charlene Hayward to Chuck and Marie Huston, $52,000 Yacht Club Estates Lot 5 – FDIC, Firstier Bank to Gary and Linda Knippa, $1,250,000 Lakota Flg 3, Tract C, Lot 33 – SNAD II LP to M6 Capital LLC, $975,000 Longview Addn/Hot Sulphur Springs Block 15, Lots 10,11,12 – John and Taura Perdue to Roger and Michelle Gable, $213,000 Exhibit “A” Not Attached for Legal Description – Liberty Savings Bank FSB to Allen Schrieber and Suzette Kynor, $13,000 Lakeview Subdivision Unit 2, Lot 1, Bldg B – Fannie Mae Federal National Mortgage Association to Kenneth and Paulette Nolan, $106,000 Hamilton Hills Subdivision Exempt TRT 2 – Patricia Jacques to John and Florice Lietzke, $285,471 Mountainside at SilverCreek B U 064, Timeshare No. 064128 – David and Sharon Anderson to Mountainside SilverCreek Timeshare Owners Association, $500 Mountainside at SilverCreek B U 035, Timeshare No. 035126 – Thomas Farrel and Joann Debruin-Farrell to Mountainside SilverCreek Timeshare Owners Association, $500 Cozens Meadow at Grand Park Lot 3 – Grand Park Homes LLC to Robert and Debra Gnuse, $523,000 Pines at Meadow Ridge Court B U 6, Week 38 – Stephen and Susan Clemens to Naomi Yahn, $1,500 Slopeside Village Unit 113A, Bldg E – Stephen and Cary Paul to James Byerrum, $382,500 Fraser Crossing-Founders Pointe Condominium Unit 3611 – Smith Living Trust to Hyo and Jina Kim, $360,000

Highway 9 improvement project gets under way

Phase one of the State Highway 9 safety project began on April 1, with the contractor beginning to mobilize equipment this week, a CDOT spokeswoman said. The first phase of the project, scheduled to last from April to November 2015, will entail culvert replacement and repair, highway realignment and the installation of four wildlife crossings from milepost 131 to 137 immediately south of Kremmling. There will be several nighttime closures during the project primarily for culvert work, said Tracy Trulove with CDOT. There are approximately 80 culverts along the 11-mile stretch of SH-9 that need work. There will be a 30-minute opening during nighttime closures that will generally begin around 2:30 a.m. to allow commuters to pass through, she said. CDOT will issue notices of night closures one to two weeks in advance, she said. When the road is open, motorists can expect up to 45-minute delays, which include the 35 mile per hour speed limit through the project area, Trulove said. "The engineers are really going to hold (the contractor) to 45 minutes total through the project," Trulove said. Additionally, the road will repaved before the winter 2015/2016 winter shutdown, Trulove said Phase two of the project is scheduled to begin in April 2016. That phase will include highway realignment and the installation of three wildlife crossings between mileposts 126 and 131. Currently, Kirkland Construction LLLP hopes to finish the project in November 2016, though it's possible construction could extend into 2017, Trulove said. The SH-9 safety improvements project will among other improvements add seven above and below grade wildlife crossings to reduce collisions along SH-9 south of Kremmling. The stretch of SH-9 between the Colorado River and Summit County is notorious for wildlife collisions. Between 2006 and 2009, the stretch of road saw 103 collisions between vehicles and wildlife, including three fatalities, according to CDOT data. The $39.2 million project is funded by a public-private partnership between CDOT, Grand County and Blue Valley Ranch.

The Friday Report – Fixing Ma Nature’s mistakes

Scientists tell us that there’s the same amount of water around as there was way back when the first dinosaur lumbered through Highland’s Ranch. Scientists also tell us that the good news is that the earth has lots of fresh water. The bad news is that the water is not where we want it. We insist on living in dry, sunny spots where there’s not too much of that pesky rain – California, for example. California is the tenth largest economy in the world, much of it based, in some way or another, upon the use of water. But, unfortunately, 80 percent of California’s water consumption is in the southern part of the state while 70 percent of the available fresh water is in the north. California has constructed more than 2,000 miles of canals to correct this oversight of Mother Nature and is in final planning of the 10 billion dollar ditch known as the Peripheral Canal, the final pipe needed to suck all the moisture out of the north to hydrate the development in the south. Who knew Mother Nature needed so much help! Monday’s Mexico-centered earthquake might have been a wake-up call and reminder to southern California’s 24 million residents that a mild, but well-placed earthquake along the San Andreas Fault could leave two-thirds of them without water or sewage. Think Haiti times ten. We choose to live in arid places, yet we insist on lush lawns and water-intensive horticulture. More than 70 percent of the water consumed in Southern California goes to lawns and other outside, non-essential uses. The innocuously named Colorado River (Moffat) Firming Project (who wouldn’t want a firm Colorado River?) is another example of Man Fixing Mother Nature’s Mess. If she’s so smart, why didn’t she put the headwaters on the Front Range, then Denver could run the Colorado River directly through their toilets instead of having to poke straws through the mountains to sip us to death slowly. But wait – hope may come from the other direction as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finishes up a study of a $3 billion proposal to tap a quarter million acre-feet annually from Wyoming’s Green River, just above the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, pipe it across the southern desert of Wyoming and on south to Colorado’s Front Range. “It’s a plan to channel endless water to the metropolitan areas of Colorado,” says Aaron Million, pipeline promoter. “No, it’s not,” say proponents of the Colorado-Wyoming Cooperative Water Supply Project. “It’s a plan to channel a quarter billion dollars a year into Aaron Million’s pockets.” The CWCWSP is a group of municipal water suppliers from the south Denver Metro area and Wyoming with a similar but alternate plan. They announced last Thursday at the Capitol that they’re banding together to study a project that competes with Aaron Million’s 500 mile pipe dream and calls for new reservoirs to be built in Larimer County, somewhere east of the foothills. Participants in the plan include Castle Rock, Colorado Springs, Parker, Douglas County, Laramie County, Wyoming, and the Wyoming cities of Cheyenne, Torrington and Rawlins. Each party will share in the funding study and while the two concepts seem similar, Million’s project is a private venture with lots of enthusiasm but little support whereas the Colorado-Wyoming plan has the cooperation of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and would only serve municipal water utilities in the two states. Oh, if Mother Nature had only gotten it right, Denver could be three times the size it is now. Wouldn’t that just be splendid!

Glenwood Canyon daytime closure Tuesday

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) will move forward with a full closure of I-70 in Glenwood Canyon tomorrow, Tuesday, March 8. Daytime closure will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m from exit 116 (Glenwood Springs) to exit 133 (Dotsero). Weather permitting, crews are planning to utilize a helicopter to put rockfall netting in place on the slope where the original slide occurred. The construction team will also take the opportunity to continue road repairs on both the westbound and eastbound decks. Safety closures of the Hanging Lake, Grizzly Creek and Shoshone rest areas remain in effect while traffic is in the head-to-head configuration. Bair Ranch (on the east side) and No Name (west side) rest areas will remain open. The Glenwood Canyon Bike Path remains closed as well. (Please note, local traffic coming from the west can travel as far as No Name; local traffic from the east can travel as far as Bair Ranch during this daytime closure.) ALTERNATE ROUTES/TRAFFIC IMPACTS: Front Range motorists/Summit County/westbound motorists CO 9 (Silverthorne) to US 40 (Steamboat Springs) west on US 40 (Craig) south to CO 13 (Rifle) Eagle County/westbound motorists CO 131 at Wolcott to Steamboat Springs, west on US 40 to Craig, then south on CO 13 to Rifle and back to I-70. This is a 203-mile alternate route that will take about three hours and 50 minutes to travel. This detour adds 146 miles and about three hours to a regular trip from Wolcott to Rifle on I-70, which is 67 miles or about 45 minutes. South alternate route Uses US 50. Access to US 50 is available via Grand Junction for eastbound drivers and for westbound drivers by way of US 24/285 through the Salida area from the Front Range. (Please note, there is construction on US 24 over Trout Creek Pass east of Johnson Village in Chaffee County into early March; some blasting and up to 30-minute delays may be encountered.)

Paranoia over pot policy? Pot crackdown talk spooks marijuana industry

WASHINGTON — The White House press secretary's response to a Skype question Thursday sent shockwaves through Colorado's marijuana industry. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Thursday to expect "greater enforcement" of federal recreational marijuana laws. Spicer's statement flies in the face of the national will. Shortly after Spicer's statements, a Quinnipiac poll announced that American voters — 71 percent across every demographic — oppose a federal crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana for medical or adult use; 59 percent say marijuana should be legal. "It's a civil rights conversation. In Colorado, we've changed our conversation by amending our Constitution," said Jason Mitchell, manager of Roots Rx in Eagle-Vail. Medical marijuana is now legal in 28 states, Guam, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Colorado and Washington in 2012 became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana for personal use. Now recreational use is legal in eight states and the District of Columbia, whose populations are 69 million people, almost 20 percent of the U.S. population. "What Sean Spicer says during press conferences doesn't necessarily reflect what the administration's policies are," said Kevin Fisher, co-owner of Rocky Mountain Remedies in Steamboat Springs. Michael Gurtman, owner of Aspen's newest marijuana dispensary, Best Day Ever, says it's a states' rights issue, as President Trump did while on the campaign trail last year. "I am disappointed and, frankly, somewhat shocked at the White House's latest remarks in regard to a possible crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana," Gurtman said. "Trump ran for president under the pretense of states' rights. Cannabis has proven to be a billion-dollar industry in Colorado, creating thousands of new jobs and helping to boost our economy. A unilateral decision to take away states' rights would be detrimental to an already divisive country, and end up driving the industry into the hands of the drug cartels." all about the Benjamins The Obama administration in 2013 prohibited the Department of Justice from spending money on medical marijuana enforcement, saying it would not intervene in states' marijuana laws as long as they keep the drug from crossing state lines and away from children and drug cartels. "Most of what he wants to do has already been defunded," Mitchell said. But that policy could be rewritten by new Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has consistently said he opposes legal marijuana. "Marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance," explained Jeff Dorschner, public affairs officer with the United States Attorney's Office in Denver. "We prosecute marijuana cases, but through the lens of official (Justice Department) guidance called the Cole Memo. If and when (the Justice Department) sends U.S. Attorneys updated, revised or different guidance we will adjust accordingly." "I was concerned that President Trump appointed Sessions as the attorney general. That begins to effect how other attorneys general view their jobs," Mitchell said. Trump has said consistently he believes marijuana is a states' rights issue. "When it comes upending not only state laws but in some cases state Constitutional amendments, you can bet that whatever Attorney General Jeff Sessions does will have to pass through the White House," said John Hudak, a drug policy expert with the Brookings Institution. "They are trying to make sure that adults who choose to purchase marijuana know what they're getting," Hudak said. The vast majority of Americans agree that the federal government has no business interfering in state marijuana laws, said Mason Tvert, communications director with the Marijuana Policy Project. "This administration is claiming that it values states' rights, so we hope they will respect the rights of states to determine their own marijuana policies. It is hard to imagine why anyone would want marijuana to be produced and sold by cartels and criminals rather than tightly regulated, tax paying businesses," Tvert said in a statement. California was the first state to flout the U.S. Controlled Substances Act when, in 1996, voters there approved marijuana for medical use. Federal law prohibited marijuana for all uses then, and still does. However, three presidents throughout the past 20 years have concluded that the Justice Department's time and resources are best spent pursuing large drug cartels, not individual users of marijuana. Colorado's Centennial Institute disagrees, saying it's past time for the federal government to enforce federal pot laws. "Colorado has been decimated by the legalization of recreational marijuana and it's time for the federal government to enforce the laws on the books," the Centennial Institute said in a statement. The Centennial cites Rocky Mountain High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area data that says marijuana-related traffic deaths increased 62 percent, from 71 to 115 people, after recreational marijuana was legalized in 2013. "Colorado youth rank No. 1 in the nation for past month marijuana use, 74 percent higher than the national average. Emergency Department rates likely related to marijuana increased 49 percent since Colorado legalized marijuana," the Centennial Institute said. Big business Eagle County's government collected $160,069 in retail marijuana sales tax in 2016 on sales between $2 million and $2.5 million. Glenwood Springs had $6.7 million in marijuana sales in 2016. In Steamboat Springs, $10.8 million worth of marijuana was sold, generating $431,113 in tax revenue for the city. In 2016, Colorado's recreational and medicinal marijuana sales hit $1.3 billion. Nationwide sales are projected to hit $24.5 billion by 2025, according to Denver-based New Frontier Data, a marijuana industry analytics firm. If the federal government decides to crack down on adult use, then this year alone it could jeopardize $2.5 billion in projected revenue, New Frontier said. New Frontier projects that by 2020 the marijuana industry will hit $8.6 billion in annual sales and create almost 300,000 jobs. Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

West Slope governments urge Front Range water conservation

SUMMIT COUNTY – A new billboard near Floyd Hill reminds eastbound drivers on Interstate 70 that the water they use to quench their lawns and wash their cars in Denver is the same water that would otherwise be flowing through rivers on Colorado’s Western Slope. “It’s the same water. Conserve it!” the billboard reads, across images of lawn sprinklers, a snowy mountain and a woman taking a shower. The billboard is the first tactic in a new campaign by local governments in northwest Colorado to remind Front Range water users of their impacts to the state’s western rivers. According to Denver Water, each city slicker and suburbanite uses an average 168 gallons of water each day, 91 gallons of which goes to watering landscaping. And the agency is the first to admit that most of its 1.3 million users rarely think about where that water comes from. The new campaign, a collaborative effort by the Colorado River Water Conservation District and the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, hopes to make the connection for folks. More billboards and signs at bus stops will pop up throughout the Denver-metro area in coming months. All the promotional efforts will direct people to a website, http://www.itsthesamewater.com, or a smartphone page where they can learn about where water comes from, the impacts of diversions and how to conserve. The majority of Denver’s water comes from rivers and streams fed by mountain snowmelt – primarily the South Platte River, Blue River, Williams Fork River and Fraser River watersheds. Dillon Reservoir is Denver Water’s largest storage facility and holds nearly 40 percent of Denver’s water. Before the agency began diverting water to the eastern side of the Continental Divide, that water from the Blue River and others in the West Slope eventually made its way to the Pacific Ocean via the Colorado River. Today, Denver Water uses about 265,000 acre-feet of water per year, but it’s looking for more. And that will mean even greater impacts to already-tapped rivers on the West Slope. As the Denver-metro area continues to grow, Denver Water and other Front Range water providers are moving ahead with efforts to draw more water across the Divide. Denver Water predicts it will experience a supply shortfall of 34,000 acre-feet per year by 2030, under its current system. It estimates that 16,000 acre-feet of the shortfall will be addressed through conservation, leaving an annual shortage of 18,000 acre-feet.

Adapting for river health is key in Moffat Tunnel Collection System agreement

It's a popular old saying in the West, "whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting," but Grand County is working to join to a new era of water cooperation. Chief among local water achievements are the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, a contract that protects communities throughout the West Slope and could effectively eliminate more Denver trans-mountain water diversions. More specific to Grand County, however, is the 13-page Moffat Tunnel Collection System Project Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan, an agreement struck in March. Explaining the agreement's logic, however, becomes twisted as it winds through tortuous state water laws dating back to the Civil War era. "People ask 'you're going to take more water, but you're also going to make the river better?'" said County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran, who has spent years negotiating with Denver Water and others to bring the MECP to fruition. "When you say that, it doesn't compute." Denver Water currently uses the Moffat Tunnel to funnel water to the Front Range, storing it at Gross Reservoir in Boulder County. An estimated 60 percent of the Fraser River's native flows are currently diverted east. New proposals will triple the size of Gross Reservoir and siphon even more water away from the Fraser River. Despite the environmental degradation it causes in points west, Grand County has soggy legal ground to stop the project. "Denver operates under full compliance with Colorado water law. It's legal for them to kill the river, and there's nothing we can do about it," said Kirk Klancke, a Fraser Valley resident and president of the local chapter of Trout Unlimited. Klancke has also spent the better part of the last decade trying to keep Denver from further depleting the already starved Fraser River. "We quit fighting all the nitpicky details and said, 'OK, you need to be part of adaptive management," Klancke said. "Which means you help us pay for stream monitoring, you help us pay for the solutions if we find problems. Because you know we're going to find problems." After a long-established reputation for stubborn aversion to West Slope water needs, and sometimes outright hostility, Denver Water his finally come to the negotiating table. It's not clear what brought the shift. Some say it's because of the juggernaut's progressive new board members. Others say failed projects like the Two Forks dam, which the Environmental Protection Agency denied, have made Denver Water nervous. It could also be the result of growing public distaste for the damage Denver's diversions have done to the West Slope so far. Or, it could be the result of years of discussions between East and West which finally hit a tipping point. Regardless, the political waters seem to have shifted. "We've had a common goal with Grand County for quite a few years now to figure out how the Moffat Collection System is better for the river than without it," said Dave Little, Denver Water's director of planning. "Our board has a commitment to be good stewards of the resource." While it may take years for Denver to finish work on its proposed Moffat Project expansion, the mitigation-enhancement plan may mean protections for the Fraser River can start now. Even though Denver will ultimately be taking more water from the Fraser watershed, Grand County will be able to work with its complex system of pipes and diversions to benefit the river's most troubled waters. It will provide water, money and most importantly, flexibility to help Grand County improve river health. "(Denver Water) can pick and choose where they take water, and they can give a break to streams that are having problems," said Mely Whiting, legal counsel with Trout Unlimited. The mitigation side of the plan agreement provides water to deal with potential temperature problems in the Fraser River as more water is sucked away. Less water means warmer temperatures for fish and other aquatic life, which can quickly become deadly. Through the agreement, Denver will provide up to 250 acre-feet of water each year to cool streams and drop river temperatures if they get too high per state standards. Even if those flexible flows don't work, Denver Water has also agreed to a couple million dollars to plant shade trees and shrubs to help keep water temperatures down and help the river function with less water. Denver Water will also mitigate with flushing flows to help clean the Fraser and its tributaries from sediment. Too much sediment means murky waters, which can kill bugs, fish and other aquatic life. A promising side of the Plan might be in its enhancement half. It's where the adaptive management comes in, which the Plan partners are calling "Learning By Doing." Together, Denver Water and Grand County governments will provide funding for a team of scientists to monitor the river ecosystem. Denver Water will contribute around $9 million to a variety of programs benefiting the Colorado River and its tributaries in the county. When things take a turn for the worse, Denver Water and county officials will respond and adapt. Mutually funded scientists will look at everything from aquatic insects to fish to temperatures to what changes are happening on the ground, in real time, instead of trying to predict them. "It's not just to prevent impacts put improve them," Whiting said. "With Denver's operational flexibility, we can move water around, change where they divert water and help streams we detect are having problems." The plan agreement would have more teeth than other water agreements, including the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, because Grand County and Trout Unlimited want it tied to Denver Water's 1041 permit from the Army Crops of Engineers. Without that permit, Denver can't expand Gross Reservoir and the planned system fails. Once it's tied to the permit, if Denver Water violates any of the mitigation-enhancement plan agreements, the Army Corps can pull the permit or put it in review. According to Klancke, Denver Water is on board for asking the permit be tied for the mitigation-enhancement plan for as long as they divert. "I've been fighting for this for years, never believing I'd see it," Klancke said. Drying up leverage? Still, not all environmental interest groups are happy. Many continue to point to measures in the Moffat Project's environmental impact statement, or EIS, which grossly underestimate impacts to the Fraser and Colorado Rivers as well as downstream communities depending on those water supplies. They argue Grand County should, instead, fight for "every last drop" and force the Front Range to look at conservation measures instead of more intermountain diversions to water more East Slope lawns. "What if Denver loses and we have 18,000 acre-feet to work with?" said Geoff Elliott, earth scientist in Grand Lake with a concentration in restoring river-riparian hydrology. "70,000-plus acre-feet including Blue River. Dare I say, what about being smarter with what we have right now?" Elliott says he has not yet seen "real evidence on how the mitigations would work, how many streams would benefit, and how reshaping channels would work." The draft EIS received thousands of negative comments from Grand County and other Colorado residents, claiming Denver Water wasn't looking at all the adverse impacts. The final EIS was released late last month, which the Army Corps of Engineers will use in making its final decision. By entering into the mitigation-enhancement plan with Denver Water, some of these interests say Grand County is drying up its leverage on the issue. "The environmental impact statement is full of misinformation, it's true," Klancke said. "But we could spend the rest of our lives attacking each point where it is wrong, and we have for years." County officials and Trout Unlimited say all that contention is counter-productive. Meanwhile, the Fraser is slowly dying from current diversions. "We could keep fighting the project, maybe we could kill it, or hold it up for years and years and years with litigation," said County Commissioner James Newberry. "But what is that ultimately doing to save the Fraser River? Absolutely nothing." Newberry admits there will inevitably be losses with Denver's plan to siphon more water, including some dried-up tributaries in the Fraser Basin. The mitigation-enhancement plan means the county could jump in with work to improve the Fraser's overall health now, instead of spending more time and resources fighting the inevitable. "If you look at the greater good of the entire system, that's what we're working for," he said. "We might be proven wrong, and the whole thing falls apart, but what else is anyone else offering the river?" While the county, Trout Unlimited and some other environmental groups are calling the plan a major victory, they acknowledge water law remains as controversial as ever in Colorado. And even if tied to the 1041 permit, the mitigation-enhancement plan could still fail if Boulder County decides to reject expanding Gross Reservoir. "If people have questions, I hope they'll call the commissioners, and I'd be glad to answer questions, too," Underbrink Curran said. "The one thing I'd want to emphasize is, if for some reason the Moffat Project is not approved, Grand County is the biggest loser." Grand County and Trout Unlimited representatives are urging the Army Corps of Engineers to make the mitigation-enhancement plan be a stipulation of the 1041 permit. The public can make similar comments and requests during the Final EIS comment period, which lasts until June 9. "Send comments to the Corps saying 'adopt this in the permit,' and the river has its best chance of surviving," Klancke said. "If you want to save Fraser River, that's our best possibility."