The Boulder County Commissioners will be holding a public meeting on Thursday, March 14th on whether or not to issue a local permit for Denver Water’s planned expansion of Gross Reservoir. The Reservoir currently provides water to 1.4 million customers, but Denver Water has had plans for a while to expand this. Multiple environmental groups have been trying to prevent this from happening, including The Environmental Group (TEG). Annie Hodges, who is with TEG, says that this is an opportunity for local voices to speak up about the project which has been previously met with local opposition.
“They’re gonna be determining if they side with Denver Water’s appeal for the 1041 process or with their own land use director’s Dale Case’s determination, but Denver Water has to go through a 1041 process. The 1041 is a house bill that was passed in 1974, and it was legislation that allowed local municipalities and local authorities to have more power and say in large infrastructure projects just exactly like this one. So everything that’s happening with Denver Water is actually happening in Boulder County and none of the benefits are going to Boulder County.”
Due to the 1041 process, the Boulder County Commissioners have to remain neutral on the subject. Their staff, however, are legally allowed to come out with their opinions on the project, and the majority of them are in opposition. At the meeting on the 14th, the Commissioners will either side with their land use director or Denver Water, and if they side with their own land use director, it will have to be handed over to another judge to rule with one side. If the Commissioners have win in that case, the 1041 enters a near year long process, during which time construction will not be permitted to start.
There are a multitude of local concerns about the project, ranging from environmental devastation to displacement of wildlife. Bears, insects, fish, elk, raptors, and many other living creatures would be heavily impacted by the project which could lead to other problems as time goes on. Beyond the nature concerns, people are concerned about such a big construction project being carried out in small mountain areas, with heavily inaccessible roads and not much in the way of accommodation for large construction vehicles. Several Semi-truck drivers have even stated that they’re confident that people will die in this process. Further beyond all of this, it would be disruptive to the Boulder way of life for the average citizen.
“Denver water started this project back in 2002, and actually one of our biggest issues with the Stop the Gross campaign is that we’re looking at outdated data. Since 2002 our understanding of not only reservoirs and how we store water, but also of climate change and also how we’re in a decades long drought and how that’s had an impact on the Colorado River has really completely altered the way that we look at water storage. So if you’re using data from 2002 and before, which Denver Water did use, to show the purpose and need of this project, it does look like we’re heading into an impending water crisis for residential customers. That’s no longer occurring thanks to appliances, different kinds of landscaping, zero scape and things like that.”
The Boulder County Commissioners are taking public testimonies at the public meeting, which March 14th, 4:30 pm on the third floor of the Courthouse on the Pearl Street Mall.