“Million’s pipeline is a big, bad idea and a huge distraction for the state,” said Drew Peternell, director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project. “Instead of pouring precious time and resources into studying this pipedream, Colorado should focus on the many pragmatic, cost-effective and truly collaborative ideas closer to home that could meet future water needs while protecting our environment.”
The groups also say there are cheaper options for providing water to growing Front Range populations than looking to the Flaming Gorge or, specifically, Million’s plan for a 578-mile pipeline, three reservoirs and 16 natural gas-fired pumps.
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“We’re disappointed that commissioners apparently believed they didn’t have the statutory authority to recommend additional protections,” said Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project. “We don’t believe that’s an accurate reading of the statute.”
Trout Unlimited and other West Slope landowners and stakeholders asked the wildlife commission earlier this month to include several provisions, they called it an “insurance policy,” to protect the health of the rivers. What’s been offered isn’t enough, they say.
Despite flow and temperature monitoring proposed by Denver Water, Trout Unlimited claimed the utility is still allowed to divert through the Moffat Tunnel even when those diversions violate stream temperature standards designed to prevent lethal effects on fish. The diversions could also negatively affect flushing flows that clean the stream of sediment, they said.
The additional measures are a step in the right direction, watchdogs say, but don’t go far enough. Trout Unlimited vowed to seek additional mitigation conditions in the next phases of project permitting and urged Denver Water and Northern to do more to offset the impacts of the proposed projects on the Colorado River and its tributaries.
“The bottom line is that under this mitigation package, the health of the upper Colorado River and its tributaries will continue to decline,” said Drew Peternell, director of TU’s Colorado Water Project.
“The present mitigation plan doesn’t get the job done,” said Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project. “And unfortunately, Denver Water and Northern are not offering adequate protections.”
Given the amount of water removed, the list of requests is reasonable enough, only adding slightly to the commission’s concerns. The TU-led coalition is asking for a river “bypass” around the silt-laden Windy Gap Reservoir, an ongoing plan to monitor stream conditions and an endowment fund to pay for future restoration projects as necessary.
If history is an indicator, those projects will indeed be necessary.