Technical meeting held to discuss ways to reduce environmental impacts from proposed new diversions in Grand County
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY —Some impacts to Grand County streams from new diversions could be at least partially addressed by making channels deeper, managing stream-side vegetation to provide more shade and carefully timing reservoir releases to mimic natural flows, according to discussions at technical workshop held last week in Winter Park.
The workshop featured wide-ranging discussions addressing issues related to the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy’s Windy Gap Firming proposal and Denver Water‘s Moffat Collection System proposal. Both utilities intend to capture more of the water for which they have decreed water rights and divert it to the East Slope to “firm up” their ability to supply existing and new customers along the Front Range, even in times of drought.
“The Colorado Wildlife Commission is very interested in hearing from stakeholders what impacts these two projects will have on the Colorado River below Windy Gap and particularly strategies for resolving those impacts,” said Tim Glenn, chairman of the Wildlife Commission. “This workshop was very helpful to all of us in understanding the elements of a functioning aquatic ecosystem that the county, the public and anglers hope to see in the future.”
One of the big questions that kept cropping up was what the post-project flows should look like, according to Theo Stein, communications director for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
“What are the appropriate biological goals? We’re going well beyond the minimum requirements to make it work,” Stein said, referring to an extensive process with opportunities for public comment and input regarding impacts to the streams and fisheries.
Whether it will be enough remains to be seen. The cold water fisheries conservation group Trout Unlimited has huge concerns about the new diversions. The streams have already been hammered by current diversion levels, with a significant loss of aquatic habitat, according to Colorado Trout Unlimited spokesman Randy Schofield.
“We want the rivers held harmless … if that’s not possible, we can’t support future projects,” Schofield said.
The deas and information developed during the two-day session by Grand County officials, landowners, conservationists and Division staff will be incorporated into ongoing discussions between the Division and the two utilities. Each is developing plans to mitigate impacts from their projects as part of the federal permitting process.
Mitigation plans will be presented to the Wildlife Commission and Colorado Water Conservation Board for approval as required by state statutes. Plans may include required project mitigation as well as enhancement of existing conditions on the upper Colorado and Fraser rivers in addition to mitigation for other fish and wildlife impacts of the projects on the East Slope.
“The Division is extremely interested in working with all parties to figure out how we can fix the river,” said Division Director Tom Remington. “Bringing stakeholders together to discuss the state’s position on mitigation is unprecedented, but business as usual isn’t going to get the job done.”
This meeting is one of several opportunities that the Division of Wildlife has created to give the public a chance to provide suggestions and comments on the fish and wildlife mitigation plans. The agency will make drafts of the plans available for the public review on the CDOW web page on Feb. 4 and will invite the public to send it written comments on the draft plans before February 18.
Submission of the mitigation plans to the Wildlife Commission for formal review is anticipated at the March 10 commission meeting in Denver.
Filed under: Colorado, Environment, Summit County Colorado, Summit County news Tagged: | Colorado Division of Wildlife, Denver Water, Grand County, Moffat Tunnel firming, Summit County News, water, Windy Gap firming