For Immediate Release
Contact: Gary Wockner, E.D., Save The Colorado
Large new dam and diversion would further drain the Colorado River and violate federal law
Fort Collins, CO: Save The Colorado has sent the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation a 21-point letter highlighting how the Windy Gap Firming Project would further drain and destroy the Colorado River and violate federal law. The Bureau had opened an official public comment period (which closed on Friday, Nov. 7, 2014) in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process that gave the public the opportunity to once again review and comment on the proposed project. Save The Colorado’s letter (posted here) summarizes over a hundred pages of negative comments the project had received during the EIS process from environmental groups, homeowners groups, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“The Windy Gap Firming Project would further drain and destroy the Colorado River and violate federal law,” said Gary Wockner, Executive Director of Save The Colorado. “The Colorado River is already on the brink of destruction, from the top to the bottom — it needs to be protected and restored, not further drained.”
The Windy Gap Firming Project proposes to drain at least 33,000 acre feet of new water out of the Upper Colorado River, pipe it under the continental divide, into a large new dam and reservoir complex west of Loveland, and down into the sprawling suburban megalopolis of northern Colorado. About 60% of the Upper Colorado River has already been drained out and piped to Front Range.
Ironically, the Windy Gap Firming Project decision point also comes along at the exact same time that federal officials and water agencies throughout the Southwest U.S. have sounded alarm bells and launched a new program to get more water back in the Colorado River. A few weeks ago, the very same U.S. Bureau of Reclamation sent out a press release discussing the “gripping drought” that had “reduced water levels to critically low levels” and their program to “protect the Colorado River.” The two main reservoirs in the Colorado River system, Powell and Mead, are at their lowest point in history, and just last week the Central Arizona Project posted a story saying they were planning for the state’s first Colorado River water shortage in history in 2017.
“If the patient is bleeding out, you don’t cut open a new artery to heal it — that’s what the Windy Gap Firming Project would do,” said Wockner. “The Bureau of Reclamation needs to stop this project in its tracks and change course towards river protection and restoration that also protects water supplies for the entire Southwest U.S.”
Save The Colorado is promoting alternatives to the $300 million project that would better protect the river and find a more sustainable water path forward. “Cities should focus on conservation, efficiency, growth management, water recycling, and water-sharing agreements with farmers, not new river-destroying schemes,” said Wockner.
The Bureay of Reclamation has not indicated when they will issue a “Record of Decision,” after which many more permits and decisions are required including a decision from the Army Corps of Engineers, before the project could move forward.