Information on this page comes directly from Friends of the Canyon, a site developed for sharing, exploring and preserving Coal Creek Canyon.
Understanding the history, future and the process of the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project will help you to make informed decisions about it now. This article discusses some questions about the Project by Denver Water. Numerous sources were reviewed including Denver Water’s website, the US Army Corps of Engineers, recent and historical newspaper articles, and other reliable sources.
Denver Water is applying for a Section 404 approval of the Clean Water Act. This regulates the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters as the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project will do. Section 404 requires a permit before dredged or fill material may be discharged into waters of the United States, unless the activity is exempt from Section 404 regulation (e.g. certain farming and forestry activities).
The document that will direct the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project is called a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). The FEIS discloses environmental impacts and identify mitigation measures to reduce impacts. It also proposes alternative solutions to their primary intent. The final-decision makers rely on this document to either approve or disapprove the project.
They also rely on independent input such as from you. If you want a voice in this project, it is imperative that you and other people wanting to oversee this project read and understand the document, at least parts that concerns you. Then, write the appropriate agencies if serious errors or concerns are found.
EIS Contact for Comments and Additional Information:
Rena Brand, Moffat EIS Project Manager
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District Denver Regulatory Office 9307 South Wadsworth Boulevard Littleton, CO 80128 firstname.lastname@example.org
Denver Water proposes to enlarge its existing 41,811-acre-feet (AF) Gross Dam and Reservoir by 65% or 77,000 AF — to a total storage capacity of 118,811 AF. (One acre foot of water is 325,851 US gallons.).
To increase the storage capacity, the existing concrete gravity arch dam needs to be raised almost 40% by increasing the height by 131 feet — from 340 to 471 feet high.
The surface area of the reservoir would more than double, from about 418 to 842 acres.
Denver Water offered the cities of Boulder and Lafayette to store 5,000 AF of storage for environmental mitigation downstream called the “Environmental Pool”.
- The Gross Dam would be raised 37% from 340 feet to 471 feet.
- The surface area would more than double to 842 acres.
- The total storage would increase by 65% to 118,811 AF.
The water includes Denver Water’s allotment of the Fraser River, the Williams Fork River and South Boulder Creek as well as Boulder and Lafayette allotments. They claim the added water would be taken in wet and average years of rainfall, not dry years.
Per Denver Water, one person consumed about 179 gal per day per capita in 2013 (see Graph 1. Data used were 70,000 million gallons per 1.15 million people divide by 365 days. The water used is about the average over the time shown in the graph.).
The PNAS reported that 157 gallons were required to make a pound of sugar; 299 gallons for a pound of rice; 606 gallons for a pound of cheese and a staggering 2,264 gallons for a pound of coffee.
(If you want to determine how much water you use, visit the USGS website to answer some questions and find out. This does not include water used to grow your food and other indirect usages.)
Denver Water's daily consumption of 179 gallons per capita is 66% MORE than the 107 gallons per capita in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The people of Santa Fe are used to conservation methods since the mid 1990’s (see Graph 2).
By implementing stricter conservation methods such as rate increases and setting a lawful amount of water used by residents and companies as well as promotions changing the way we value landscapes (promoting how beautiful a natural xeriscape is – make natural landscaping for this dry climate stylish and a gotta-have), Denver Water’s customers can reach where Santa Fe is today.
The current Gross Reservoir capacity could sustain 66% more consumption
if Denver Water's customers can consume as little water as Santa Fe residents do.
Comparing water consumption around the world, the USA is the highest consumer (see chart). Notice the chart is in liters, not gallons. One gallon is about 4 liters. Here, they assume the average for the USA is about 150 gallons per capita per day, less than Denver Water’s customers.
The US Army Corps of Engineers has the final say on whether the expansion of Gross Reservoir will be approved. They receive input from numerous federal agencies such as the E.P.A. and Boulder County, private organizations such as The Environmental Group, and studies done by universities such as C.S.U. and other groups.
EIS Contact for Comments and Additional Information:
Rena Brand, Moffat EIS Project Manager
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District Denver Regulatory Office 9307 South Wadsworth Boulevard Littleton, CO 80128 email@example.com
Denver Water is responsible for supplying water to the Denver area. They are not under the jurisdiction of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Municipal water utilities such as Denver Water are governed by city councils or by elected boards. Denver Water is an example of an unregulated municipal water utility.
The Denver Water Service Area extends from the borders of Highlands Ranch north to about 56th Avenue, with further coverage to Denver International Airport and Interstate 25 at 88th Avenue. The service area also extends from the west edge of Aurora to the east edge of Morrison. The exception in this region is that Denver Water does not cover the City of Englewood.
Colorado is the first state where the government distributed water to the residents. (6) The State created water districts with ditches to move the water, mostly for irrigation. In the late 1800’s water in streams were over-appropriated and companies were building reservoirs for storage of the spring runoff. Companies were also looking to bring water from the West Slope to the East. In the late 1950’s to mid 1960’s, wells were regulated to preserve ground water levels.
At one time, there were no water rights. Ditch companies and property owners back then owned the water. After some went bankrupt, Denver Water stepped in and purchased the rights. One example was in 1860, the Capitol Hydraulic Company started the City Ditch (of Denver) for irrigation purposes. In 1875, Denver purchased City Ditch from the Platte Water Company that used to be the Capitol Hydraulic Company. “Water rights” didn’t happen until many years later.
With talk of the Moffat Tunnel, Denver Water stepped in to pay for part of the tunnel to transport water from the Fraser River. They were under pressure to start using the water or lose their rights. The Moffat Water Tunnel Diversion Project was part of the New Deal’s Public Works Administration program to enlarge and partially line the water transit through Moffat Tunnel.
Again, where did Denver Water get the rights to the Fraser River?
According to Steve Snyder,
Yes, but this doesn’t reveal where the rights originated.
Okay – let’s go through some old newspaper articles. In late 1925, Denver was trying to secure the water rights of the upper Fraser watershed. Hearings were held regarding the user of western slope water that traveled through the Moffat Tunnel (Steamboat Pilot (Steamboat Springs, Routt County), Wednesday, November 18, 1925, Page: 4). Companies were also trying to purchase the water rights that were valued more than the water east of the Continental Divide. Some Denver men of the Fraser Sources Company filed for the rights for irrigation, but sat on the filings for years. No transit method was available at the time to carry the water to the eastern slope.
Water from the Colorado River watershed was being appropriated and consideration was being given to other states since the water was on the western slope and at that time, could not be moved eastward.
Moffat Tunnel is what gave up the water rights to Denver Water. It was too expensive for any one company to pay for the water bore. In 1925, Mayor Stapleton of Denver announced that they will lease the Moffat tunnel bore to divert water from the West Slope (Steamboat Pilot (Steamboat Springs, Routt County), Wednesday, June 13, 1928, Page: 1).
At that meeting, the Fraser, Blue and Williams Fork watersheds were discussed to total 308,000 acre feet per year. They estimated it would cost about $1,500,000 to line to bore for the water. The total cost for the bore was estimated to be $4,475,000 for 100,000 acre feet of water per year. At this time, Denver had already apparently secured the Fraser River water rights.
The Federal Government’s Secretary of Interior advocated Denver securing water rights of the Colorado River basin and building the tunnel to move the water to the eastern slope (Steamboat Pilot, Steamboat Springs, Routt County, Wednesday, November 18, 1925, Page: 5).
I have not yet researched Division Of Natural Resources to find the documents where Denver secured the water rights, but it must be there. Search for “Gross Res” as the “Water Right Name”.
Denver Water’s primary water sources
- The South Platte River whose headwaters are in Park County and runs north through Denver via Cherry Creek area to the North Platte River. Cherry Creek and Clear Creek feed this river. The following reservoirs are part of this system.
- Antero Reservoir
- Eleven Mile Reservoir
- Cheesman Reservoir
- Strontia Springs Reservoir
- Chatfield. Denver Water pulls water from Chatfield Reservoir and doesn’t own it – the US Army Corps of Engineers owns the reservoir.
- Marston Reservoir
- South Complex Reservoir
- The Blue River that feeds Green Mountain Reservoir between Kremmling and Silverthorne. It then feeds Dillon Reservoir which is Denver Water’s largest storage facility and holds nearly 40 percent of Denver’s water. The following reservoirs are part of this system.
- The Williams Fork River feeds the Williams Fork Reservoir just east of Kremmling and SW of Lake Granby.
- The Fraser River in Grand County whose water is moved through Moffat Tunnel into Gross Reservoir. There is an underground waterway to move water from Gross Reservoir to Ralston Reservoir.
Other water sources
- South Boulder Creek feeds Gross Reservoir which, in turn, feeds Ralston Reservoir via an underground waterway. The topography around Ralston Reservoir is not amenable to expanding that water storage.
- Ralston Creek and Ralston Reservoir.
- Bear Creek watersheds.
According to Denver Water,
- 80% of their water comes from southern supplies and 20% from the north end. They fear that if there were a catastrophe that greatly reduced or eliminated the southern water supplies, then the 20% from the north is not sufficient. Gross Reservoir is part of the northern supply.
- Denver Water fears that a drought will eliminate the water supply to the northern communities of Arvada, Westminster and northwest section of Denver.
- Population growth puts fear into Denver Water that they will run out of water.
September 2015, Denver Water‘s website published this graph of water usage and population. Notice that the usage remained consistent while population increased.
The graph shows slightly over 75,000 millions of gallons per approximately 1,150,000 people for 2013. Do the math and you get about 179 gallons per person per day in 2013 (70,000 millions gal / 1.15 million people divide by 365 days. The water used is about the average of the graph.).
Denver’s Water’s “Denver Water Weekly Water Watch” conflicts with their handout at their presentations on 10/10/15 at CCCIA. That handout stated that their customers use 90 gallons per day. I do not know where or how they came up with that number, especially when their Weekly Water Watch Report confirms about 178 millions of gallons per day, or 155 gal per capita per day for Jan through about Oct 4th, 2015.
So, what’s with their fears of running out of water when 50% goes to outdoor use such as landscaping? That 50% will greatly increase the “capacity per capita” if Denver Water’s customers got serious about water conservation.
And, what about strict conservation regulations like Santa Fe whose usage is much less than Denver Water’s customers? (Refer to “1. What is the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project?” discussion about Santa Fe and water conservation).
IF THE PROJECT FAILS TO GET APPROVED
Per their April 2014 EIS,
Let's think ahead, Denver Water -
think ahead for the century and for future generations.
Water is a limited resource. Get those restrictions in place now and make xeriscaping a stylish landscape for your residents.
Boulder County’s Public Lands Map shows some of the ownership around Gross Reservoir. The pink ares is “Other lands (utilities – probably Denver Water). According to this map, that there are other entities that are affected including County Open Space and Roosevelt National Forest.
Boulder county commissioners wrote a letter in 2010 to the US Army Corps of Engineers pointing out many flaws in Denver Water‘s proposal. Some issues were addressed. However, many issues were left open in a letter dated dated June 5, 2014 from the county. Here is a summary of their issues.
- The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was about 16,000 pages and the community was given only 45 days to review and comment on it.
- A detailed project design as well as how it will be implemented (such as construction of the dam) is needed to determine the extent of the environmental impact of the project.
- The plan was missing details about the construction truck traffic. E.g., plans for road pullouts have not been firmed up – it appears that pullouts are not mandatory part of the plan.
- Assumptions were made without a basis. For example, FEIS assumes 60% of the aggregate will be supplied by an on site quarry and 40% hauled in from Longmont. The FEIS assumes that the truck noise will comply with law, but no tests were made. No justification was made for these assumptions.
- Details of the removal of over 200,000 trees greater than 4″ diameter were omitted. It was suggested to use the trees for commercial use – but the types of trees here have little or no use except be taken to a landfill. If they grind the trees on site, then no noise study was done.
- Read more in their letter here 2014 Boulder County Comments
According to the FEIS,
Special status species were characterized at the mainstem below Denver Water’s diversion points downstream to its confluence with the Colorado River below Granby, and at approximately 30 tributaries to the mainstem.
The following have range or potential habitat in this river segment. If you see any of these in the affected areas, please take a photo and document your sighting. Then, send it to one of the entities involved (See “Now What?”). However, these are not the only species that may be endangered. E.g., salamanders evolve quickly into new species and there may be some residing at Gross Reservoir.
- Greenback cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki stomias)
- Canada lynx (Lynx Canadensis)
- River otter (Lontra canadensis)
- Boreal toad (Anaxyrus boreas boreas)
Okay, so the test was not scientifically thorough. The law states that up to 80 dBA is allowed for construction – and that’s a loud noise and is legal. If you are concerned, then the law must change. Contact Boulder County Commissioners and the State for action such as to disallow anything over 20 dBA at any residence within 1/4 mile of the site – or something reasonable like that.
Two noise tests were done, one for blasting and drilling and the other for truck road noise. Understand that the noise levels acceptable by law is pretty loud at 70+ dBA (See graphic, “Common Sound Levels” to the right). Boulder county has no limit for public utilities – is this a public utility project when PUC doesn’t oversee them? The Boulder county commissioners need to be pressured into passing a noise ordinance for blasting that affects homes.
A review of the details in the “Moffat Collection System Project Noise and Vibration Impact Analysis Report” dated 2/28/2014 revealed flaws in the testing done.
The 2014 FEIS Executive Summary recognizes that they *WILL EXCEED* EPA noise limits.
On-site construction noise may periodically exceed the EPA noise threshold of 70 A-weighted decibel scale (dBA) for public exposure, but the public would not be exposed to these levels on a continuous basis.
- Not Scientifically Significant. Statistically, one test quarry to one residence is not representative of every residence that will be affected. There are literally hundreds of residences that will be affected and the test evaluated only one. The test quarry was farther from the reservoir along a mountainside than the proposed quarry rendering it not representative of the proposed quarry site for reasons cited below.
- No Test At Line of Sight Including Up to Wondervu. The test quarry was along a mountainside that sheltered the residence location where the sound waves were measured. A letter from Dave Little, Director of Planning, dated 8/12/13, recognized that the test quarry was on a slope.
The site is located in a naturally steep area comprised of granite rock and sparse vegetation. Final grading will leave the area with a similar grade. The overall disturbed area is small and will be less than 6,000 square feet. The test site was chosen to minimize visual impact upon completion with most of the land disturbance below the existing tree canopy, but some disturbance may still be visible. A map of the site is included with this letter.
He further recognized that these pilot studies may be disruptive – what about the real thing?We recognize that these studies may be disruptive to you and we sincerely hope you are not inconvenienced by this activity.Notice the topographical map (USFS) of the location. The face of the test quarry faces slightly south of westward – the test residence was to the north of the test quarry. This was shown in their results for the blast test in the “Blast Contour Map of Noise”, below (predicted for the actual quarry). You can see the high-level noise orange levels fanning westward of the test quarry whereas if you head on a line to the test residence, the noise falls off fast. Note that this is a model of the noise from the proposed (not test) quarry that is closer to the water.
- Sound Echoes Off Water. This is evidenced in their “Blast Contour Map of Noise”. Notice that red spot of high noise surrounded by the orange lower noise on the lake just west of the test quarry.The test quarry was inland farther than the proposed quarry. The proposed quarry is closer to the water in both horizontal and vertical distance — the sound most likely will echo or reflect off the water to not only the residents across the reservoir but also those above it to the south in Wondervu. Another phenomenon affecting sound direction is temperature gradients and wind. Furthermore, the sound waves will not be significantly absorbed by the water’s surface. So, what about the residents in Wondervu above the reservoir?
- Humid/Rainy Weather Amplifies Sound. The test was done on a dry day. It is well known that sound travels faster, thus farther on humid and rainy days and is amplified by bouncing off the clouds on rainy days. South of Wondervu, we normally do not hear the train noise in Pinecliff — but on rainy days, it sounds like it is in our backyard. There was no correction in the data to compensate for the maximum sound on a humid/rainy day.
- Test Quarry Scaled Down Blasts. According to Boulder County’s response (2013 Letter from Boulder County to Denver Water) to the application for the blasting permit,
… the planned blasts will be controlled blasts, very small in nature and scaled down to the size of the [working] quarry. All the blasting that will take place at the test quarry is similar to that used for septic system evacuation in hard bedrock regions like the foothills.
Furthermore,With respect to the small scale test quarry, the distance and small size of the blasts will not create enough ground vibration at the dam structure to pose any risk.
How will the real quarry blasts differ from the real noise tests?
No one can predict the future, but based on in-depth historical studies and our understanding of climate today, we can make some predictions. The US Bureau of Reclamation (under the U.S. Department of the Interior) studied the Colorado River Basin supply and demand from 2010-2012.
The Fraser River naturally drains into the Colorado River. The South Platte River basin includes South Boulder Creek and Gross Reservoir. The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project proposes to increase their take of the Fraser River water.
This study confirmed other reliable studies that there is a good chance that there will be shortfalls between water supplies that are projected and demands of the supplies in the near future.
paleo-based scenarios….Droughts lasting 5 or more years are projected to occur 50 percent of the time over the next 50 years. Projected changes in climate and hydrologic processes include continued warming across the Basin, a trend towards drying (although precipitation patterns continue to be spatially and temporally complex), increased evapotranspiration, and decreased snowpack as a higher percentage of precipitation falls as rain, rather than snow and warmer temperatures, causes earlier melt.
What does this have to do with the expansion of Gross Reservoir? The expansion project includes taking more water from the Fraser River on the West Slope into Gross Reservoir. Because the Fraser River is a natural tributary of the Colorado River, reducing the Fraser River water will definitely affect the Upper and Lower Colorado Basin water supply.
It is uncertain how future events will affect the amount of available water from these basins. Some contributing factors include
- Climate change/droughts or precipitation increases.
- Consumption/demand changes.
- Advances in conservation technology to work toward elimination was wasted water and using dirty water everywhere possible.
- Advancement of technology to reduce storage evaporation.
- Reconstruction of stream flow.
- Increase of water rights to the Colorado River Basin.
Notice in the figure that in recent years, water use has leveled and started to decline. This figure does not consider water storage in reservoirs to be used when supply doesn’t meet demand. The Study cited options to manage water demand and supplies.
- Increase the water supply, e.g., desalination plants and water reuse.
- Reduce demand from domestic and agricultural conservation or power plant conversion to air cooling.
- Modifying operations is more technical. One idea is to control evaporation with reservoir or canal covers or new storage facilities. Please refer to the Executive Summary or the Plan itself.
- Governance and Implementation. Basin governance and mechanisms to facilitate option implementation: Water management and allocation, tribal water, and data and information.
This is hard to say because it was hard to find data on similar projects. Values will most likely decrease during construction because of the truck traffic as well as noise and other problems that arise. It has been recognized that traffic will be delayed along HWY-72 during their transit hours of 7am – 7pm. Many commuters use HWY-72 after 7am and will be affected — that can affect property values if the commute is burdensome.
How many residents move out naturally and how many more would move out before or during construction and lose value in their home during construction?
Per the US Army Corps of Engineers about another project, the Isabella Lake Dam Safety Modification Project,
The refinements we’ve made to the preferred plan would reduce many of the anticipated construction-related impacts, but negative short-term impacts on property values may occur during construction.
Our assessment of potential project impacts to the local economy found both short- and long-term benefits associated with construction-related spending in the Kern River Valley and unrestricted reservoir operations upon completion of the project.
Long-term economic improvement resulting from recreation, higher lake levels, employment opportunities, and lower safety risk would likely result in improved property values. These project benefits may serve to provide the Kern River Valley with greater long-term economic stability, which is a major factor in determining regional property values.
With the magnitude of unanswered and important questions that will require further studies, this project appears to be at a standstill. California’s San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority had a small water project that experienced more than a 10-year delay over building a screen to protect endangered fish from getting into the pumps.
In the 1980’s, the Poudre River was saved from dams by having parts of it declared a Wild and Scenic River under federal law. The largest reservoir project, Two Forks, was vetoed by the EPA after going through the Environmental Impact Statement process.
In addition to Boulder County’s letter that questions the project, the EPA’s office of Ecosystems Protection and Remediation sent a letter expressing their concern that the expansion “would adversely impact water quality and aquatic resources in an already degraded system”. Listen to Boulder County commissioners public hearing on Gross Reservoir: http://bit.ly/1lAzVEy.
Congressman Polis 100515-Polis-To-USArmyCorpsEngthe project for several reasons, one being the concerns express by Coal Creek Canyon residents. WRITE YOUR REPRESENTATIVE AND SENATORS NOW! If they get enough comments, they will support you. Pick out some issues listed on this page to discuss. You have our permission to copy-n-paste from this page.
- Hey! We beat the mega-tower addition on Eldorado mountain.
- We beat the Arvada Sprawls project to develop residential homes at the mouth of the canyon.
- We were not annexed by Arvada.
- We were not incorporated.
- We beat the quarry that Asphalt Paving Co. wanted to start next to Walker Ranch.
- Learn the facts and discuss it with others.
- Think about the overall result of the project.
- Stay calm and be respectful when writing letters to the agencies or speaking at meetings. If you disrespect them, then you get nowhere. REQUIRED: Always provide supporting evidence, facts and data from reliable sources when discussing your case.
- Challenge the project with feasible alternatives.
- Do your own research to learn the facts and data to argue your point to the permitting authorities or other organizations taking on the project.
- Most importantly, not only talk about the issue – get involved. Write to Boulder County Commissioners, US Army Corps of Engineers, Denver Water, your state and federal representatives, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other involved organizations if you have a novel idea for this project.
Democracy begins with YOU.