Every day, there is more news about the drought (made worse by climate change) affecting the West, and in particular, the Colorado River. The Colorado River Basin is in the midst of an extreme drought. See the below links to learn more:
Lake Mead's low water level prompts feds to consider declaration of Colorado River water shortage - YouTube
"Mega-drought" takes dramatic toll on Colorado River system that provides water to 40 million people - CBS News
The West’s Extreme Drought: Colorado River Plans Explained (1) (bloomberglaw.com)
Colorado River water shortage now almost certain, new projections show - CNN
The Colorado River simply cannot be tapped more to fill an expanded Gross Reservoir!!!
On April 1st, the US District Court granted the government and Denver Water's motions to dismiss our coalition's federal lawsuit for lack of jurisdiction. Note that our lawsuit was dismissed for procedural reasons - NOT FOR LACK OF MERIT.
In response - our Coalition is STAYING THE COURSE in our fight to halt construction of the tallest dam in Colorado History. Today we filed a notice of appeal to challenge this dismissal. An excellent article about the filing can be found in The Colorado Sun. Our official press release about this action, including quotes from members of the coalition, is below.
Many people are surprised to find out that most of the water that fills Gross Reservoir comes from tributaries of the Colorado River on the western slopes of Colorado. Unrelenting drought and years of rising temperatures due to climate change are pushing the long-overallocated Colorado River into new territory, setting the stage for the largest mandatory water cutbacks to date.
The Colorado River’s flow has shrunk during one of the driest 22-year periods in centuries. Scientists say the West is experiencing a megadrought and one that’s worsened by humanity’s heating of the planet.
The drought over the past year has hit especially hard in the Colorado River watershed. Last spring and summer, months of extreme heat combined with the lack of monsoon rains baked the soils dry and shrank the amount of runoff, sapping the river and its tributaries. A year ago, about 4% of the West was in a severe drought. Now, about 58% of the West is classified as being in a severe, extreme or exceptional drought.
This all speak to what a bad idea it is for Denver Water to try to pull more water out of the Colorado River system to fill an expanded Gross Reservoir! A good article by Ian James on what the southwest faces can be read at the Arizona Republic.
For details about the recent dismissal of our lawsuit in Federal District Court, please see this article in Colorado Politics. There is also additional information in this Boulder Daily Camera article. The decision, which can be read here , states that the U.S. District Court does not have jurisdiction in this case, since the Federal Power Act gives the Federal Court of Appeals exclusive jurisdiction over challenges to a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licensing decision.
We still feel that we have a strong case at the federal level, and if we decide to appeal, we are hopeful that the Federal Court of Appeals will be open to considering the merits of our case. We will keep everyone informed on how we might move forward on that.
This loss does, however, highlight the critical role the Boulder County Commissioners play in all of this. There is absolute precedence in Colorado for counties to be able to control development proposed by entities beyond their boundaries. For example, Eagle County used the 1041 permitting process to reject construction permits in a water case when Colorado Springs proposed the Homestake II Project - and their decision was upheld by the Colorado Court of Appeals.
It is critical that we keep the pressure on the Boulder County Commissioners to insist that they use all the power they have with 1041 to stop this insidious project. We should know in the next month how they will respond to Denver Water's updated 1041 application. Public comments are still being accepted during the entire duration of the review process so if you haven't written yet, please consider doing so. Comments may be submitted by emailing Boulder County at email@example.com AND at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today, April 1st, the US District Court granted the government and Denver Water's motions to dismiss our coalition's federal lawsuit for lack of jurisdiction. Note that our lawsuit was dismissed for procedural reasons - NOT FOR LACK OF MERIT.
We strenuously disagree with the judge's opinion and are extremely disappointed that the court will allow Denver Water and the federal agencies to avoid accountability for their failed environmental review. We believe the court simply got this decision wrong, and we are actively engaged with our legal team to consider every option for moving forward.
Our coalition members (TEG, Save the Colorado, Sierra Club, Living Rivers, Waterkeeper, and Wild Earth Guardians) are united in supporting the people of Boulder County in stopping this devastating project.
Stay tuned for next steps.
Due to the HUGE response to Denver Water's 1041 application from the public (over 1,000 comments from individuals) and government agencies, DW requested an extension to February 19th to put together their response. All of their responses are available for review on the Boulder County website here. Our team subsequently analyzed those responses and submitted the following items documenting the many issues we found.
Boulder County must now consider DW's latest updates and responses and decide how to move forward. The public is able to continue submitting comments to the county throughout this process. Comments can be emailed to email@example.com. We will continue to update this space with updates as we get them.
Denver Water submitted their 1041 Permit Application to Boulder County in November, 2020. Agencies and individuals submitted thousands of comments on that application. Denver Water's responses to those comments were submitted to the county on Feb 19, 2021 and are now available for public review on the Boulder County website. To access them, click here and then click on the yellow link in the bright green box:
These highlight some of the best feedback from the 162 pages submitted by various departments and agencies to the Boulder County Planning Manager on Denver Water’s 1041 Application. We encourage you to view all of the comments that can be found here. You can also read all 1,967 pages of comments from individuals here! It is encouraging to see so many organizations and individuals stepping up to clearly detail the issues with the application and the project as a whole. GO TEAM!
Boulder County Engineer
Plans Examiner Supervisor
Planning Division Manager
Engineering Development Manager
Department of Community Planning and Permitting Long Range Planner
Floodplain Program Planner
Gilpin County Board of County Commissioners
Nederland Board of Trustees
Boulder County Parks and Open Space