Developer makes switch on Flaming Gorge review

July 18, 2011
Written by Bobby Magill

Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million said Friday he is terminating the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ environmental review of the Regional Watershed Supply Project and transferring that review to another federal agency that regulates hydropower projects.

The agency switch could reduce the completion time for the project’s environmental impact statement, or EIS, and permitting from more than seven years to about 2½ years, he said.

“I think it’s a joke,” said Drew Peternell, Colorado director for Trout Unlimited, a sportsmen’s group that vehemently opposes the pipeline project. “He’s venue shopping. He’s looking for a better venue, one that will be faster. He’s going to run into a brick wall either way. The EIS conducted by FERC is going to be just as rigorous as the one the Army Corps would have conducted.”

Peternell said the pipeline would be the most expensive and one of the most environmentally damaging water projects ever built in Colorado, adding that the energy requirements for pumping the water over the Continental Divide will be greater than the hydropower the water will generate as it tumbles to the Front Range urban corridor.

“It’s going to have huge impacts on the Green River, which is a world-class trout fishery,” Peternell said. “Those impacts are of real concern to sportsmen — impacts we don’t think can be mitigated.”

Diverting the Colorado: 2 projects with Boulder County ties to bring more water to Front Range

July 11, 2011
By Laura Snider, Camera Staff Writer

“Both of these (water utilities) wrote an environmental statement that said there would be no impacts,” said Klancke, who also serves as the president of the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited. “But the third-grade class at Fraser Elementary can tell you what happens when you take 80 percent of a river.”

Despite the fact that the two mitigation plans unanimously were approved by the Wildlife Commission, some environmental groups argue that they don’t go far enough to protect the Colorado River headwaters.

Mely Whiting, senior attorney with Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project, said the plans don’t adequately address stream temperature problems and flushing flows. When the mountain snowpack begins to melt in the late spring and early summer, the influx of water “flushes” the rivers, scraping sediment off the streambed and, in some years, overflowing the banks and recharging adjacent wetlands.

Because both of the new projects plan to draw water during the periods of high runoff, Whiting said the rivers are being robbed of the critical flush. When flows stay low throughout the summer, the sediment builds up on the bottom of the rivers and destroys the habitat used by aquatic insects. The low flows also increase the danger that stream temperatures will climb higher earlier in the summer.

Guest Commentary: How much is a river worth?

July 5, 2011
Denver Post
By Drew Peternell
Most Front Range residents don’t realize that much of the water they use comes directly from the streams and rivers of the upper Colorado River basin. A spider-web network of dams and pumps and pipelines delivers water from Western Slope rivers to showerheads and sprinklers in Denver and surrounding areas.

Already the Front Range takes about 60 percent of the water that originates in the upper Colorado River basin, draining Grand County to the point that many of its once pristine streams now run dry.

The damage is severe. State biologists have recorded alarming declines in fish, insects and aquatic life. In late summer, dozens of clear streams like Jim Creek are reduced to rust-tinted trickles.

And now, Front Range water providers are planning to bleed the Colorado River some more.

Two proposed water-diversion projects — Denver Water’s Moffat Tunnel expansion project and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s Windy Gap firming project — threaten to push the Colorado and Fraser Rivers and their tributaries past the tipping point. Combined, the projects could leave as little as 25 percent of native upper Colorado River water on the Western Slope.

The rivers and streams of the upper Colorado basin are in critical condition. Unless we act now to protect them from future diversions, they could be flat-lined.

Read more: Guest Commentary: How much is a river worth? – The Denver Post

Kirk Klancke: Saving Grand County’s rivers

July 5, 2011
Sky-Hi News
By Kirk Klancke
Guest opinion

While we have had reasons for optimism recently in the battle to save our rivers, we have also recently received a hard blow from the Colorado Wildlife Commission.

On June 9, the Commission voted to approve the mitigation plans for Denver Water’s (Moffat Firming) and Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s (Windy Gap Firming) diversion projects despite comments from commissioners who felt that way too little mitigation is being offered.

The support for these mitigation plans is a statement from the Wildlife Commission that this should be the state’s official position on these projects. Thanks to the enthusiasm of Grand County residents to save our rivers, this decision was made with stacks of written comment on the commissioners’ table and several Grand County residents at the meeting speaking on behalf of the Fraser and Upper Colorado rivers.

It was very apparent at the June 9 meeting that politics, not science, is being used to decide the fate of these rivers.

Task force could review pipeline idea

June 30, 2011
The Coloadoan
Written by Bobby Magill

“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.”

Is the Colorado River dying?

June 13, 2011
By Janice Kurbjun
summit daily news
But Trout Unlimited and other stakeholders are disappointed in the outcome.

“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.


Willoughby: Concerns remain over approved water projects

June 13, 2011

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.