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Colorado River Update: VICTORY — Rights of Nature Established for Boulder Creek in Nederland, Colorado!

Hi Friends of the Colorado River,

First, Great News! Last week, the Nederland, Colorado, Board of Trustees passed the first “Rights of Nature” resolution for a watershed in the state of Colorado!

Nestled high in the mountains near the continental divide above Boulder, CO, the small town of Nederland is an environmental and outdoor-recreation paradise. Surrounded by hundreds of thousands of acres of national forest and wilderness, Nederland’s 1,500 people have the utmost respect and honor for their natural surroundings. The Board of Trustees vote to support “Rights of Nature for the Boulder Creek Watershed” came after unanimous support from the Town’s “Sustainability Advisory Board” and “Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Advisory Board”, as well as complete support from every member of the public who provided comment to the Board of Trustees.

The “Rights of Nature for the Boulder Creek Watershed” (posted here) was moved forward by Town Trustee Alan Apt. The resolution states that Boulder Creek possesses “fundamental and inalienable rights” including the “right to maintain natural flow” as well as the right to be “fed by sustainable precipitation, glaciers, and aquifers”. 

Further, the resolution recognizes rights for the whole watershed: “The Watershed and its living and non-living natural components and communities — including forests and wildlife — possess, at minimum, fundamental and inalienable rights to exist, maintain integral health, regenerate, evolve, and be restored.”

Finally, the resolution allows the Town Board to appoint “legal guardians” for the Creek and Watershed who can represent nature in Town decision-making processes.

Save The Colorado is thrilled to help establish this first “Rights of Nature” for a Creek and Watershed in the state of Colorado. Our overall goal with our new Rights of Nature program is to establish similar local resolutions and laws up and down the Colorado River basin so that rivers, streams, watersheds, and nature can have a new and larger voice in the future of the American Southwest.

Second, last week we also got some likely good news from the Boulder County, Colorado, government about the 18-year fight against the proposed massive and environmentally destructive Gross Dam expansion. Recall, the proposed dam expansion would divert a new 3.5 billion gallons of water per year, on average, out of the Upper Colorado River to slake the thirst of bluegrass lawns in the Denver metro area. Further, the project would build the tallest dam in the history of Colorado, thus devastating the local environment in Boulder County and marring the County’s reputation as an environmental-protection mecca.

Boulder County has forced Denver Water through a permitting process for the Gross Dam expansion, but Denver Water is still not complying with the County permit regulations. County staff released a short letter (posted here) states:

“Denver Water failed to supply satisfactory responses to the referral agencies’ response letters and the public comments. Accordingly, Community Planning & Permitting staff will base its staff recommendation on review of the file as it exists. Under Article 8511(A) of the Code, Denver Water must satisfactorily demonstrate that the proposal complies with all applicable criteria. Should staff find that Denver Water failed to submit material demonstrating that it complies with applicable criteria, staff may find that the criteria have not been met.”

The permit process in Boulder County for the massive dam project now moves into hearings with the Land Use Planning Commission sometime in August, and the County Commissioners sometime in September. The Boulder County Commissioners have the final say-so in accepting or denying Denver Water’s application to build the massive new dam. 

Save The Colorado and our local partner, The Environmental Group, will continue to provide comments, bird-dog the process, and engage in the legal proceedings. It’s of utmost importance that Boulder County residents SHOW UP AND SPEAK OUT against the dam in the hearings, so if you or anyone you know lives in Boulder County, please play close attention to hearing dates.

Third and finally, we continue to speak out in the media about the huge negative impacts that proposed new dams and diversions up and down the Colorado River basin would have on the management of the Colorado River. As you know, severe overuse, drought, and climate change have drained Lake Powell and Lake Mead to their lowest levels in history. It’s insane to be building more dams and diversions amidst this ecological and political chaos.

Last week, the Denver Post (story here) highlighted our position against proposed new dams. In a story titled, “Why the Southwest’s shrinking water reservoirs matter to Colorado”, reporter Bruce Finley noted that it makes no sense for Colorado to be funding and building new dams while reservoirs are shrinking to historic low levels. In the report, I am quoted with a statement that you hear us saying over and over, Any new water you take out of the Colorado River in Colorado is going to accelerate the political, electricity supply, and water management chaos in the Southwest.” — Save the Colorado River director Gary Wockner


Thank you for your support.

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