Last chance to speak up

gross reservoir


Barbara Lawlor, Boulder

This Monday, June 16, the Boulder County Commissioners will take statements by the public concerning the Final Environmental Impact Statement on the Moffat Collection System Project—i.e., the Gross Reservoir Expansion. The meeting will take place at 4:30 p.m. at the Commissioners’ Office. Environmental groups hope to pack the room with their presence and voices.


The reservoir project was introduced in 2010 when Denver Water proposed raising the Gross Reservoir water level by 125 feet to accommodate 72,000 acre-feet of additional water. The construction calls for the removal of 200,000 trees and the blasting and quarrying of Winiger Ridge, a popular hiking and camping area.


Since then, local grass-roots environmental groups as well as Boulder County citizens have fought the proposal, citing the impact on the environment during the construction phase and the long-term impact on the Fraser River.


Although the deadline for official comment was Monday, June 9th, the BCC have opened next Monday’s meeting for more public comment to be sent on to the USFS and the Army Corps of Engineers (CoE). The Environmental Group had also asked for help from Senators Michael Bennet, Mark Udall and Representative Jared Polis in extending the public comment period, but the deadline stood.


TEG president Chris Garre asked for an extension to September, saying “The FEIS is extremely long: 27 documents, with over 4,200 pages of text, tables and figures. The Table of Contents alone is 60 pages long. If a commenter wants to verify statements made in the FEIS by checking underlying references, the commenter has to search through an additional 341 documents consisting of several thousand additional pages. When requests were made for a printed copy of the FEIS, the CoE’s response was that the FEIS is “too big to print.” If it is too big to print, it is too big to adequately review in only 45 days.”


The Gross Expansion Project has become highly controversial because of the potential devastating impact to hundreds of miles of rivers and residents on either side of the Continental Divide.  Garre says that there are fatal flaws within the FEIS, including inaccurate, inadequate, and misleading analysis that not only reduces the potential impacts, but could cause irreversible damage to our natural resources, the fish, and the people and businesses that depend on those resources.


In failing to analyze a range of alternatives, the FEIS violates the National Environmental Policy Act, says Garre. TEG states that there will be adverse impacts to threatened and endangered species including Whooping Crane, Piping Plover, Least Tern, Pallid Sturgeon, and Western Prairie Fringed Orchid. There will also be severe impacts to aquatic life, wetlands, and stream flow in the Upper Colorado basins. The FEIS downplays the impacts to stream flows essential for operation of municipal utilities, outdoor recreation, irrigation on century-old farms, and the economic health of the Upper Colorado basins, says TEG.


The Corps will violate Clean Water Act Section 404 if it issues a Clean Water Act Section 404 Permit for the Proposed Moffat Project, says TEG.


According to the latest detailed cost estimate, the project bill will be about $360 million.


Doug Benson, a Pine Glade Road resident sent a letter to Rena Brand, the Moffat EIS Project Manager with the US Army Corps of Engineers, saying the EIS claims there would be no impacts on neighboring home values, in spite of the 24-hour-a-day rock-processing operations, concrete production, quarrying operation, and monster semi-trucks pounding on our dirt roads.
He implores the US Army Corps of Engineers to “Hear the collective voices of the Lorax: feel our sadness; grasp our logic; comprehend our plight; please don’t toss away our pleas for sanity and conservation as you would discard our trees and the pristine beauty of falling water, chirping birds and Wapiti bugling in the translucent morning mist that will never again echo to our ears—if we’ll have ears left still capable of experiencing such beauty.”

Barbara Lawlor

Barbara is a reporter for The Mountain-Ear.