Moffat Firming Project support absent at Boulder BOCC hearing | SkyHiNews.com

Moffat Firming Project support absent at Boulder BOCC hearing

A public hearing on the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project's Final Environmental Impact Statement in Boulder attracted a variety of voices, but almost all of them questioned the document's thoroughness in evaluating environmental impacts of the project. "There were numerous data issues raised that might be worth flagging," said Elise Jones, Boulder County commissioner. "Everything from the use of median versus average in the statistics to whether or not the cost estimates are accurate. There were numerous other examples but that seemed to be a theme." 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 divers 60 percent of the upper Fraser River's flows, and the project would see even more water drawn from the river. Proponents say the new expansion will improve the reliability of Denver Water's system and will stymie looming water shortages. But critics say the project's impacts haven't been accurately assessed and the project could cause serious harm to the Colorado and Fraser rivers. The July 16 meeting was to gather public comment to send to the Army Corps of Engineers, which must approve the final project. Though there was a June 9 cutoff for the comment period, commissioners said the Corps would still accept "substantive public comment." At the beginning of the meeting, Boulder County Commissioners' staff voiced concerns about the project's Final Environmental Impact Statement. The 12,000-page Final Environmental Impact Statement is meant to reveal possible environmental impacts of the project. "There wasn't a robust discussion of the need and purpose of the project," said Michelle Krezek, the commissioners' staff deputy. "Specifically, there wasn't any analysis of water conservation measures that could be taken or other smaller projects that could be undertaken instead of this large project. So it was hard to determine whether this was the right alternative." Other concerns included the absence of the Environmental Protection Agency from the process and the effect that expansion of the reservoir would have on Boulder County infrastructure. Though most of the discussion focused on the project's impacts in Boulder County, Grand County arose multiple times during the discussion, from both Grand and Boulder county residents. Boulder County commissioners said that they would take into account testimony about the effects of the project on the Western Slope. "We would want to draw the Corps' attention to those substantive comments even though they were outside Boulder County," Jones said. More than 20 people spoke during the hearing, but only one speaker, Denver Water Planning Director David Little, was in favor of the project, though he did not present an argument to counter previous assertions. "The passion that the people in the audience have shown and some of the information that they've brought forward is important for you to consider in augmenting your comments to the corps," said Little. The Boulder County Commissioners will now submit their new comments to the Army Corps of Engineers. Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.

Boulder County rejects Moffat Firming Project deal

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

Grand County: Mitigation will address EPA Moffat concerns

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.

Final EIS for Moffat Colection System to be released in Febuary 2014

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers anticipates that the projected Final Environmental Impact Statement for Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project will be released in February 2014.- At that time, the public will have an opportunity to review and comment on the Final EIS, which will in turn be considered prior to final decision-making by the Corps.– The Final EIS and public comments will serve as a basis for the Corps’ decision about whether to issue or deny a Section 404 Permit for the enlargement of Gross Reservoir, located in Boulder County. As the lead regulatory agency for the Moffat Project EIS, the Corps is charged with the responsibility of impartially reviewing Denver Water’s proposal to ensure compliance with environmental and other federal laws.— “We are confident that our latest schedule gives us a path forward toward an expeditious conclusion to the federal permit evaluation process,” said Omaha District Commander Col. Joel R. Cross. “Everyone involved with the project is committed to working together to fulfill the requirements of a Final EIS, which will bring us closer to making a final decision on Denver Water’s project.”- To remain up-to-date on the progress of the final report, visit: http://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Missions/RegulatoryProgram/Colorado/EISMoffat.aspx

Gross Reservoir expansion gets approval

This year has provided several watershed — no pun intended — moments for a pair of permits issued by the Army Corps of Engineers for development of reservoirs on the eastern slope. Officials from Denver Water late last week announced the Army Corps of Engineers has issued the long-awaited 404 Permit related to the expansion of Gross Reservoir. Denver Water will receive the permit 14 years after starting the process. To expand Gross Reservoir, located in Boulder County near Twin Sisters Peak and is one of Denver Water’s main storage reservoirs, officials plan to raise the Gross Dam by 131 feet to accommodate the storage of an additional 77,000 acre-feet of water, easily tripling the reservoir’s capacity. Of the 77,000-acre feet of additional storage, 5,000-acre feet will be set aside as an environmental pool to mitigate low flow periods on South Boulder Creek. Officials estimated the cost of the project, including design, management, permitting, mitigation and construction, at around $380 million. Officials from Denver Water noted that no tax dollars will be directed to the project, instead it will be funded through rates and new tap fees on Denver Water ratepayers, as well as the sale of hydropower. Denver Water stated in a news release Friday that additional water stored in Gross Reservoir will help prevent future shortfalls during drought and helps offset an imbalance in Denver Water’s collection system. Denver Water’s CEO Jim Lochhead was happy with the permit approval. “Denver Water appreciates the Corps’ dedication and commitment to careful study of the anticipated impacts of this project,” Lochhead said. “We will complete this project responsibly, as evidence by our actions during the public process and the resulting robust environmental protections we’ve agreed to along the way. We’re proud to be doing the right thing.” Local conservation groups like Trout Unlimited, which works closely with Denver Water on the Grand County-based adaptive water management program called Learning By Doing, was also happy with the permit approval, albeit for different reasons. “Issuance of this permit will unlock significant resources that will allow us to do good things for the river and the environment,” said Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited. Preconstruction work, including dam design and geotechnical work, is expected to begin in 2018 according to officials from Denver Water. The entire project is scheduled for completion in 2025. Officials from Denver Water said an additional 10,000 acre feet of water will be diverted through the Moffat Tunnel during average and wet years. This is an increase of 15 percent, Denver Water officials stated no increaesd diversions would occur during dry years, which are defined as any year when reservoirs are not full due to insufficient snowpack and runoff, with exmaples being 2002 and 2012. Under the 404 Permit, and other existing agreements including the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement and Learning By Doing, Denver Water must meet specific conditions related to mitigating diversion impacts in Grand County. According to Denver Water, the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project means Denver Water will restore approximately two miles of the Williams Fork River, and will be working with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Game and the U.S. Forest Service to restore and expand cutthroat trout habitat at several locations in Grand County. The Gross reservoir was originally built in the early 1950s and was designed to allow for expansion to allow for additional water storage. The 404 Permit approved by the Corps of Engineers is part of the National Environmental Policy Act. Officials from Denver Water are still waiting on the approval of a hydropower license amendment application for the reservoir’s dam. They anticipate receiving approval of that application some time next year.

Climate change scholars: Change is natural

To the Editor: Two people have responded to my letter on the global warming hoax. Both authors quoted papers for manmade global warming. However, for every one, there are papers that argue against. For example, Climatologist Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama quotes on his blog that "evidence from my group's government-funded research … suggests global warming is mostly natural and the climate system is quite insensitive to humanity's greenhouse gas emissions." This viewpoint by Dr. Spencer fits in nicely with the statement I made that manmade CO2 is in not the prime driver of climate change. In my letter I mentioned that based on the detailed temperature records for the last 113 years there is a very poor correlation with CO2 and temperature increase. The reference for that article is Joseph D'Aleo, executive director of International Climate and Environmental Assessment Project. The best statistical fit for the last 113 years of temperature data is the 30-year ocean cooling cycle. He predicts 20 more years of cooling. The best summary of the debate for me is Fire, Ice and Paradise, by H. Leighton Steward. In his book he gives a geologic perspective to the problem. Based on the 600 million fossil record there is no correlation of CO2 and temperature. The book also documents that there has never been a constant climate. There have been more than 20 glacier cycles in just the last 2 million years. In the last 400,000 years, we have good ice core data that documents four major glacial cycles. In those cycles there is a correlation of CO2 and temperature. However the details of those cycles show that the increase of CO2 lags behind the temperature increase. If CO2 were the cause of these cycles, it would have to increase before the temperature went up. The cycles of the last 400,000 years are widely accepted as being caused by the elliptical shape of the earth's orbit and not by CO2. Steward's book and the 2008 article by David Archibald documents one of the strongest arguments against the global warming theory. Archibald's research shows the effect of CO2 on the atmosphere decreases as the CO2 increases on a logarithmic scale. In simple terms, that means the first 20-ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere has a greater effect than the next 400 ppm. If this is research alone is correct – it's a hoax. Tim Schowalter Granby

New Grand County Trout Unlimited website connects local rivers, people

Trout Unlimited is collecting testimonials about what the Fraser and Upper Colorado rivers mean to the lives of Coloradans. With preliminary focus on the Fraser River, Editorial Photographer and Videographer Ted Wood of Story Group, Boulder, is leading a project under the auspices of Trout Unlimited, collecting the photos and stories of individuals who depend on the river for livelihood, for recreation, and for the sake of spirituality. With this “gallery of voices,” Wood hopes to personalize conservation issues facing the Fraser and Upper Colorado rivers. “Our ultimate goal is to increase awareness on the Front Range about where their water comes from,” he said. In the first installment of short multi-media side shows on Trout Unlimited’s re-launched website defendthecolorado.org, Grand County community members Karen Vance, Liz McIntyre, Jane Tollett, and Hoppy Southway share what the river means to them and their community. Wood’s goal was to “put a voice to their relationship to the river.” With loaded policy issues like the Moffat and Windy Gap Firming Projects being proposed, he said, “oftentimes people feel like they don’t have a voice.” But by sharing with others, “they don’t feel so powerless anymore.” Specializing in environmental and conservation stories, Wood’s work has appeared in Vanity Fair, Smithsonian, Audubon, The New York Times, High Country News, The Nature Conservancy Magazine and dozens of national and international publications. Team effort For the Trout Unlimted Project, Wood brought in Boulder colleagues Beth Wald, a photojournalist who of late has been covering environmental and cultural stories in Afghanistan, and Mark Conlin, a seasoned underwater photographer. “We launched the project as a way to get more visibility of the stream-flow issues on the Fraser and Upper Colorado,” said Trout Unlimited’s Randy Schoefield. “What we’re trying to portray is the community’s deep connection to the river.” The Story Group plans to add more portraits to the website in coming days and weeks. Eventually, Trout Unlimited hopes to host public events that display the portraits as well as work by other photographers, granting a full sense of the river’s significance in Grand County and the consequences of further transbasin diversions. “We want to show decision-makers that people care about the health of the Fraser River and the Upper Colorado, that people are paying attention on what happens to the rivers, and that they are concerned,” Schoefield said. – Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603

Denver Water looks to increase diversions from Grand County

The next major water project on Grand County’s radar screen – coming down the proverbial pipe – is Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System Project. And the public is invited to comment on the project starting Friday, Oct. 30, when The Denver Water Moffat Collection System Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement is planned to be released. Similar to the recent process of the Windy Gap Firming Project, the public will be able to comment on the Moffat document for 90 days, until Jan. 28, 2010. In essence, Denver Water has identified a shortfall in supply beginning in 2016. According to its statements, Denver Water plans to address about 16,000 acre-feet through “additional conservation,” leaving Denver Water with a remaining annual shortage of 18,000 acre-feet. Denver Water maintains that unless it expands one of its existing reservoirs – particularly the one near Golden, which sits 340 feet above the South Boulder Creek streambed – it may be forced to shut down one of its three treatment plants in the future and would not meet the water demands of Arvada, Wesminster, and the water company that services Lakewood, Wheat Ridge and eastern Jefferson County, among others. But securing more of its prior-claimed water means additional water would be carried from the Fraser River basin and Williams Fork River basin in Grand County through the Moffat Tunnel. Although Grand County stakeholders would prefer the agencies analyze both projects together, the Windy Gap firming project and the Moffat one are being handled separately, although their timing is nearly simultaneous. “We asked both lead agencies to make it one EIS (environmental impact statement),” said Lurline Underbrink Curran. “Each one causes impacts to the same stretch of river.” The Moffat water project became a catalyst for various West Slope water users – including river districts, water districts, counties and irrigators – to start serious water negotiations with Denver Water, to “settle a number of outstanding issues with Denver,” Underbrink Curran said. In the recognition that all water projects are intertwined in various ways, and in hopes of arriving at a West Slope settlement, stakeholders have made progress, she said, and for Grand County, that includes ways to put water back in the Fraser River at its lowest flows. “We are pleased with a lot of things on the table,” she said. A scientific study of river flows launched by the county, called the Stream Management Plan, has completed its work from Windy Gap downstream. And with its present focus – from “the top of the Moffat System down to Windy Gap” – it should be completed by the end of December, Underbrink Curran said. “We’ll see how the mitigation and enhancements (offered by Denver Water) work with the Stream Management Plan,” the county manager said, “as well all look at ways to protect the resource.” Public meetings The county has already made its official comments to Denver Water about the draft Moffat EIS, but those comments will not be released until the draft is released to the general public, Underbrink Curran said. In general, the county addressed the “impacts that it’s going to cause,” according to County Commissioner James Newberry, as well as objections to some of the modeling and data, he said. Public meetings on the draft environmental impact statement are set for 4 p.m. (open house) and 6 p.m. (public comments) on Dec. 1, Dec. 2 and Dec. 3 in Grand County, Denver and Boulder to allow interested parties to ask questions and make a comment. The meetings will end when all participants have had the chance to make their comments. Of the five alternatives listed in the draft environmental impact statement, Denver Water prefers the Moffat Collection System Project, the alternative that details enlarging the existing Gross Reservoir by 72,000 acre-feet. – Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@skyhidailynews.com.

Gore Canyon Whitewater Park authorized

KREMMLING – Authorization has been given to establish the Gore Canyon Whitewater Park at the Pumphouse Recreation Site on the upper Colorado River. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) gave the authorization on Aug. 15. Grand County submitted a right-of-way application to build engineer-designed boulder and block features across the full width of the river upstream of the Pumphouse boat launch 2. Grand County was recently awarded historic water rights for constructing this waterpark. The engineer-designed boulders and block-like concrete objects would be placed across the stream channel. The objects would not be visible at normal flows and would allow for fish passage at all flow rates. Construction is scheduled to begin in November. "The project will provide a unique recreational experience for the 60,000-70,000 people that visit the area each year," said BLM Kremmling Field Manager Stephanie Odell. "It will also provide permanent protection for water flows supporting fishing and recreational floatboating." The Decision Record, Finding of No Significant Impact and Environmental Assessment are available on-line at http://www.blm.gov/co/kfo.

Wildlife officials taking comment on dam proposal

DENVER (AP) – Colorado wildlife commissioners want to hear from the public on a proposal by Denver’s water utility to enlarge Gross Reservoir in Boulder County. Denver Water has said that even after additional conservation efforts, it projects it will have an annual shortage in supply of about 18,000 acre-feet of water by 2030. One acre-foot can supply about two single-family households for a year. It wants to raise the height of Gross Reservoir so it could store an extra 72,000 acre-feet of water diverted from the Fraser and Williams Fork river systems. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is preparing a final environmental impact statement on the proposal. Colorado wildlife commissioners plan to hear public comments on the proposal Jan. 20.