Denver Water, West Slope find common ground
As part of a Front Range-West Slope deal, Denver Water commits to maintaining certain levels in Dillon Reservoir.
* More information, including maps and documents: Colorado River Water Conservation District.
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Community leaders and water managers from both sides of the Continental Divide said Thursday that a proposed new water agreement should end decades of hostility and litigation over Colorado River diversions from the West Slope to the Front Range.
The deal was reached after five years of mediated negotiations and commits Denver Water to capping its service area and boosting water conservation and recycling efforts. Additionally, the utility will pay millions of dollars for stream improvements on the Colorado and its tributaries, and promises not to initiate any new West Slope water development projects without approval from the source area.
Key parts of the agreement, including changes in operations at Green Mountain Reservoir, and water use related to operation of the Shoshone power plant, still require buy-in from entities not party to the current agreement.
Though hailed as a “global” solution, the deal also would sanction an additional 15,000 acre-feet of diversions from the Colorado River headwaters to the Front Range, exacerbating an entirely different set of issues farther downstream — in the Grand Canyon, for example, where a recent report concluded that existing diversions are already damaging natural resources.
It covers existing diversions and projects, but conservation advocates were careful to point out that the agreement does not encompass the effects of two large Grand County projects currently under review — the expansion of the Moffat Tunnel collection system and the Windy Gap firming project, along the upper Colorado. Click here to read the full legal version of the deal.
“We have an obligation to the rest of Colorado … to develop, manage and use our water supplies responsibly and act with integrity,” said Denver Water manager Jim Lochhead. “We have taken responsibility for our impacts to the West Slope,” he added, acknowledging that decades of diversions have degraded aquatic habitat in numerous rivers and streams. Continue reading
Filed under: Colorado, Dillon Reservoir, Environment, Summit County Colorado, water | Tagged: Colorado River, Denver Water, Dillon Reservoir, Grand County, John Hickenlooper, Moffat Tunnel, Summit County News, Trout Unlimited, West Slope water agreement, Windy Gap | Leave a comment »