Over 100 people showed up at the Boulder County Commissioners’ Meeting room Monday night as their presence and presentations changed the course of Front Range water history and, more specifically, mountain residents’ quality of life.
It has been an on-going battle for years and Monday’s second of a two-part public hearing put up the red light to continued efforts, for now, to expand Gross Reservoir to hold more water for Denver use.
The first part of the hearing was held on Thursday, Dec.20, when the BCC listened to public comments regarding an Intergovernmental Agreement with the Denver Board of Water Commissioners for the Moffat Collection System Project. The IGA would have overridden Boulder County’s 1041 Authority and allowed Denver Water to proceed with the expansion.
Magnolia Road resident Vivian Long was relieved at the commissioners’ decision and grateful to the standing room only crowd that showed up. “Thanks to all of my eloquent and impassioned neighbors, who took the time to spend hours waiting to express all of their hopes and fears into a three-minute plea for our home,” said Long.
“The commissioners decided not to sign the IGA and agreed that it made sense to wait until the EIS is out before taking the next step, whatever that might be. We will probably get to do this again, but every time our voices will get stronger.”
Those who wished to speak signed up for three minutes and some of them pooled together, allowing one person to speak for them for 10 minutes. The speakers involved long-time residents, water experts, members of The Environmental Group out of Coal Creek Canyon, scientists, engineers, hikers, hermits and attorneys who were willing and able to continue the fight.
These speakers had facts, projections, the future of Colorado water predictions and pleas to the commissioners’ to see the long-term effects of their decision.
Perhaps one of the most poignant, articulate cases for denial of the project came from nine-year-old Anyll Markevich who lives near the reservoir, and being home-schooled, considers the area as his classroom, his playground and his legacy to the future.
Anyll sat at the speaker’s table and, without the aid of notes, looked at each of the commissioners and, unwavering, told them what changes to Gross Dam meant to him.
“I am sure opposed to the Gross Dam expansion, and the problem it is all used for fracking. That makes two effects. First the effect of the Gross Dam. But as well, it makes the effect of fracking even bigger.
That raise the question, why I am connected to the water fall and the area around the Gross Dam?
“There are a lot of species around there and the flooded area is an amazing beautiful trail. The plants are amazing. If you go at the right moment, it seems you are in some kind of miracle place. Why do we want to flood such a wonderful place? There are rocks to climb. It is so fun. It is a nice little trail, the water fall is amazing. It is not the easiest trail to go on at the end. But it is worth it.
“Once with my friends, we started sliding on the mud next to the reservoir. The reservoir was low. We were pretending we were ice skating. It was so much fun. Why do we need to flood everything? Why do we need to kill hundred of squirrels by destroying trees with helicopters? I love helicopter, but I don’t want to see them with big rakes coming down to destroy what we should keep. It is non sense. And we should keep this area. The chipmunks, if they don’t escape quickly, they can drown as well. Many small species including birds can die. Air pollution is going to affect a lot of species including birds. Plus, the dust will go off the road and land on the grass. There will be less grass for deers and elks. The sound is so terrifying, elks and deers and many other species may go away and never come back. We need them. We are not conscious but we need to know. It’s so sad we are trying to destroy what we should constructing.”
Anyll’s words were pure emotion prepared by research and presented with respect and an overall compassion for the earth and the people who live on it. Before he left the table, he smiled at the commissioner’s and told them, ” I hope one day you will come and play with me at the Gross Reservoir.”
The expansion of Gross Reservoir would be far more damaging to the entire ecosystem than just to neighbor’s quality of life, says Bonnie Sundance of Ridge Road, who lived near the reservoir for 20 years. She said she recently attended an overflow audience at CU where environmentalists said that 350 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere is the safe level we need to return to. It was reported that the number is now 390 and rising, due to our fossil fuel.
“To expand Gross Reservoir accomplishes the opposite. An ext a 20-30 trips of trucks a day and 60-100 work vehicles will contribute to making the climate change worse. Removing 30,000 trees lessens the Earth’s ability to foster cleansing of the air and production of oxygen. These 30,000 trees merit our respect for the work they do.”
There were no arguments that the expansion would lead to any positive results beyond the storage of water for more development.
TEG president Chris Garre, informed the commissioners that the timeline process for holding the public meetings were not even within the 30-day policy.
David Bahr, a County Road 68 resident and a climate scientist, told the commissioners that we are in a 100-year drought and are looking at building a larger dam for water that doesn’t exist.
Y and Clark Chapman of Lazy Z Road said they had lived in Tucson, Arizona for many years where residents were faced with the same water shortage. But the residents of Tucson learned to use less water, learned about zeroscape and made better use of what they had. It seems a more enlightened project than razing thousands of trees and adding to the construction pollution.
One man asked, “Does Big Government always have to win? We have the ability to create heroes here and now and to do the right thing at the right time.”
The comments continued for over three hours. The audience was exhausted but exhilarated by the outcome.
Facts, figures, accusations, promises, predictions and impassioned pleas were heard. The Commissioners acted on what they heard and all those words were not in vain.
Resident Christel Markevich left these thoughts on the table: “Nature is my church. The trees, the animals, the water, the soil, the air are the community of this church. Now, close your eyes, and imagine that your home and country are being invaded by a force that does not respect you, that wants to destroy your church and its community. How does this feel to you?
Now, this outside force wants to control you even more and wants to poison your soil, your water and your food. How does this feel to you?
You now know what the Gross Dam expansion, fracking in Boulder County, GMO on public lands, development of Rocky Flats feels like to me.
Nothing is impossible! Think of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King – they all showed us the path forward. Let’s take this path!”
And Monday night’s meeting adjourned with the wisdom of history’s heroes echoing from the courthouse, up the canyon and onto the waters of Gross Reservoir.