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PRESS RELEASE: Boulder County Has Legal Right To 1041 Law For Denver Water’s Gross Dam Project

For Immediate Release
March 12, 2019

Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Colorado, 970-218-8310

Boulder County Has Legal Right To 1041 Law For Denver Water’s Gross Dam Project

Boulder County: Today, Green Groups — Save The Colorado, The Environmental Group, and Sierra Club — sent a letter (posted here) to the Boulder County Commissioners in support of the County Land Use Director’s decision that Denver Water is required to go through the “1041 Permit Process” for the proposed massive expansion of Gross Dam and Reservoir in southwestern Boulder County. On March 14th, the Boulder County Commissioners will have a public hearing (details here) on the decision, which Denver Water disagreed with and “appealed” to a hearing in front of the Commissioners. A large contingent of people have signed up to speak at the hearing, which is already scheduled to last 4 hours, while additional people can sign up upon arrival.

Denver Water claims they are “exempt” from Boulder County’s local land use laws, called “1041”, even though the Gross Dam expansion would be the biggest construction project in Boulder County history to build the tallest dam in Colorado history with extraordinary negative impacts to the local community for up to 7 years of construction including noise pollution, air pollution, road and travel safety, wildlife impacts, clear-cutting over 200,000 trees, and transporting over 50,000 tons of toxic coal ash up curvy canyon roads to be stored at the dam site and used in the cement mix to build the dam.

“It’s outrageous that Denver Water thinks it doesn’t need a permit from Boulder County for this massive, environmentally destructive project,” said Gary Wockner of Save The Colorado. “We support the County Land Use Director’s decision to require a 1041 permit and we request that the Boulder County Commissioners do the same.”

The 1041 permit process is “quasi-judicial”, meaning that the County Commissioners are required to judge the merits of the issue without previously taking a position for or against it. The County staff has determined that Denver Water is required to go through the 1041 permit process, and the hearing on March 14th will be the Commissioners’ first opportunity to formally weigh in. The issue could play out for months or even years — if the Commissioners decide that Denver Water must go through the 1041 process, Denver Water can appeal that decision to State District Court. If a court determines that Denver Water must go through the 1041 process, then that permitting process could take a year or more, the outcome of which is also subject to potential litigation and court review.

The massive Gross Dam expansion project proposes to further drain and destroy the Colorado River and pipe that water under the continental divide and down into Gross Reservoir and then down into Denver. The project proposes to drain an average of over 5 billion gallons of water every year out of the already severely depleted and endangered headwaters of the Colorado River to slake the thirst of lawns in the hot summer sun in Denver Water’s service area at the same time that climate scientists predict that flows in the Colorado River are severely imperiled due to heat and drought. Further yet, technical analyses indicate that Denver Water’s water use is going down, not up (see report here), and will continue to decrease as customers focus on conservation in the metro area.

“Further draining the Colorado River is insanity,” said Wockner. “Conservation works and is faster, easier, and cheaper than trying to build massive new dams and diversions.”

The Green Groups, and other environmental co-plaintiffs, have already sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for granting a permit to the Gross Dam project. That litigation is pending in federal district in Denver.

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