Environmentalists, activists and clime experts anticipated that Denver Water would writer Boulder County implicit the utility’s $464 cardinal proposal to grow the Gross Reservoir. They conscionable didn’t deliberation it’d beryllium truthful soon.
The inferior filed its national suit July 14, claiming commissioners are taking excessively agelong to see its exertion for a 1041 licence needed to interruption crushed connected the five-year-long task southwest of Boulder.
Not lone did the suit catch Boulder County officials disconnected guard, but it amazed others keeping tabs connected the task — mostly due to the fact that they don’t deliberation Denver Water completed its licence application. County planners repeatedly warned the inferior successful penning that it had near their questions astir the task unanswered.
“It’s baffling,” said David Bahr, a retired biology and clime subject prof astatine Regis University who opposes the expansion. He expected a suit aft the Board of County Commissioners made a decision, not before.
Bahr, who presently holds an affiliate module presumption astatine the University of Colorado Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, questioned the request for an expanded reservoir, pointing to the ongoing drought connected Colorado’s Western Slope. Water levels successful the Colorado River are shrinking, hurting not lone Colorado but besides the downstream states of Utah, Arizona, Nevada and California.
Should Denver Water grow Gross Reservoir, helium said it volition beryllium 1 of the “world’s largest monuments to clime denial.”
Denver Water and Boulder County officials stay mostly tight-lipped astir the lawsuit, each pointing to a long trail of now-public correspondence. The utility’s website calls the determination a “Preemption Lawsuit.” Dale Case, Boulder County’s manager of Community Planning and Permitting, told The Denver Post successful April that helium had respective outstanding questions. His bureau had asked for much accusation connected operation plans and expressed interest that the inferior hadn’t afloat considered however the enlargement could wounded the colonisation of Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse, which lives successful the country and is listed arsenic threatened nether the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
The exertion besides had incomplete and outdated accusation connected however enactment could impact section groundwater, region Planning Division Manager Summer Frederick wrote June 1. She besides reiterated concerns that overmuch of the information is decades old.
Denver Water Expansion Project Manager Jeff Martin wrote to Case connected June 21, saying helium believed the inferior had answered each of the county’s outstanding questions and asked him to docket licence hearings “to execute an August approval.”
But successful Case’s June 29 response, helium told Martin helium considered the concerns unaddressed but would docket a proceeding earlier the region Planning Commission successful August and a 2nd 1 earlier the Board of County Commissioners successful September.
Case besides warned that region officials could find that the inferior did not conscionable its exertion criteria for the permit.
The suit was necessary, Denver Water spokesperson Todd Hartman said, due to the fact that region officials are utilizing the licence process to dilatory the utility’s expansion.
He added “we did effort to reply their questions, supply much information, and suggest ways to code their concerns arsenic appropriate. Boulder County wouldn’t prosecute with america connected solutions.”
He besides noted that 2 of Boulder County’s 3 commissioners publically expressed their absorption to the task “at run events and successful run materials.” None of the 3 commissioners responded to the Post’s requests for comment.
County officials are present successful a “holding period,” said Barb Halpin, a spokeswoman for the commissioners.
The utility’s suit asks the national justice to state that existing national support for the enlargement preempts immoderate authorization Boulder County has. Denver Water is besides asking the justice to bid Boulder County to contented immoderate different needed permits arsenic though it already has a 1041.
Drought and the drying Colorado River
Even if the reservoir is built, Denver Water volition ne'er capable it, Bahr said.
Lake Powell — fed by the Colorado River, which besides feeds the Gross Reservoir — is projected to deed a grounds debased this month. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced this period it would behaviour emergency h2o releases astatine upstream reservoirs successful Colorado and Wyoming to support levels astatine Lake Powell precocious capable to make hydropower.
Gov. Jared Polis declared a drought emergency successful aboriginal July for 21 Colorado counties. The h2o shortage is not lone apt to proceed but it volition astir apt besides worsen, biology activistic Gary Wockner of the nonprofit Save the Colorado said.
“They’re racing to the ATM earlier the slope realizes they’ve overdrafted,” Wockner said.
As proposed, the enlargement would summation Gross Reservoir’s capableness from 41,811 acre-feet of h2o to nearly 120,000 acre-feet, astir capable for 800,000 radical for an full twelvemonth — and making it Denver’s second-largest reservoir.
Hartman and different inferior officials insist, however, that if the task does spell through, they’ll beryllium capable to capable the expanded reservoir successful the years erstwhile Colorado receives capable rainfall and snowfall.