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PRESS RELEASE: Will Colorado’s Cratering Economy Impact Ponzi Growth-Scheme Dam Project Financing?

April 13, 2020
For Immediate Release
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Colorado and Save The Poudre, 970-218-8310

Will Colorado’s Cratering Economy Impact Ponzi Growth-Scheme Dam Project Financing?

Fort Collins: Last week, due to the cratering of Colorado’s economy by the coronavirus lockdown, the City of Broomfield, Colorado, announced that it was “furloughing” about 25% of its City workforce (see Broomfield Enterprise story here). At the exact same time, Broomfield is on the financial hook for a massively expensive proposed dam project that would further drain the Colorado River called the “Windy Gap Firming Project”.

The Windy Gap Firming Project proposes to drain a new 9 billion gallons of water every year out of the Upper Colorado River, and pipe that water to rapidly growing suburbs north of Denver, with Broomfield being the biggest participant in the project. Broomfield’s share is 29.4%, wanting 26,464 acre feet of the proposed 90,000 acre feet of water storage in the project (see participants’ shares here).

Recently, the Longmont Observer (see story here, Longmont is also a participant in the project) reported that the Windy Gap Firming Project applicant, Northern Water, announced that the total cost of the project has now soared to $575 million, which would bring Broomfield’s share to $169.05 million. Many of the project participants intend to issue debt, via revenue bonds, that would be paid back by future growth and ever-rising water rates on residents.

“The debt financing for this and other dam projects in Colorado is all based on a ponzi scheme of growth,” said Gary Wockner, Director of Save The Colorado. “With the cratering of the economy, and a likely recession with stalled growth, all of these projects may face huge financial headwinds as well as continued legal challenges.”

The Windy Gap Firming Project is currently being litigated and still pending in federal district court in Denver. Back in October of 2017, six conservation organizations, led by Save The Colorado, filed a lawsuit against the agencies that gave the project permits — the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. One of the claims in the lawsuit is that the cost of water conservation and alternatives to the dam project were not adequately considered in the federal Environmental Impact Statement process.

“Water conservation, reuse, and recycling is cheaper, easier, and faster than any new dam project,” said Wockner. “And, those alternatives require little or no debt financing, aren’t subject to boom-and-bust ponzi growth-schemes, and don’t get challenged in court by environmentalists because they don’t drain and destroy rivers.”

Other dam projects in Colorado may be at even more risk. The proposed “Northern Integrated Supply Project” (NISP), which would further dam and destroy the Cache la Poudre River through Fort Collins, is even more expensive — estimated to be at least $1.2 billion — and would serve small towns mostly in Weld County which has experienced a complete economic meltdown because of the crashing of oil prices. Weld County is the most heavily drilled and fracked county in Colorado with over 20,000 active oil and gas wells. Unlike the City of Broomfield, NISP participant towns are all small, nearly completely dependent on debt financing and growth schemes to pay off the debt.

This press release is posted here.

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