- Associated Press - Sunday, June 14, 2015

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) - Federal water engineers are heading into the final stretch for making a decision on Denver’s $360 million project to divert more water from the upper Colorado River Basin amid complaints from opponents who say the project would further drain and harm the upper Colorado River.

Wrapping up environmental issues and paperwork has forced a delay of the decision until fall, said Rena Brand of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Denver Water has to obtain a water quality certification from the state. They also have to obtain a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,” Brand said. “They also have some other permissions they need to obtain. One is through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service addressing endangered species.”

The project to move 18,000 acre-feet of water a year through existing tunnels to an enlarged Gross Reservoir west of Boulder would affect habitat for greenback cutthroat trout. There are also cultural-resources permissions and documents that must be completed.

For years, Denver Water officials have been planning the project to increase water supplies for 1.3 million metro Denver residents.

Denver Water leaders are looking forward to the decision “so that we can move forward with this much-needed reservoir project,” utility manager Jim Lochhead said.

Lochhead said the project will help improve the Colorado River and the environment while improving the reliability of Denver Water’s system, the Denver Post reported (https://tinyurl.com/psz39et ). “We are already making investments in the environment in Grand County, even without a permit for the Gross Reservoir expansion,” he said.

Residents near Boulder are pressing their concerns about construction to enlarge the reservoir, which would require raising the current 340-foot high concrete gravity arch dam another 125 feet.

Last year, Denver Water and Western Slope leaders negotiated a deal to try to save the Fraser River and its trout while also letting Denver siphon more water across the Continental Divide. That deal obligates Denver, state and Grand County officials to work together to monitor water temperatures, count stone flies and other aquatic insects crucial for trout and to document how changing water flows affect riparian vegetation.


Information from: The Denver Post, https://www.denverpost.com

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