Denver Water Board extends olive branch to West Slope | SkyHiNews.com

Denver Water Board extends olive branch to West Slope

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News

Denver Water may be owning up to the impacts its water diversions have had on Grand County water sources.

At the State of the River meeting hosted by the Colorado River District in Granby on Tuesday, Denver Water Manager Chips Barry commented the water supplier is working to “mitigate the past” as it takes care of the future.

The statement comes as Denver Water seeks to develop 18,000 acre-feet per year of new water to Denver users by developing a Moffat collection system.

That means an added 10,000 to 11,000 acre-feet of water annually could be diverted from Grand County during wet seasons.

The Denver Water system already operates 16 reservoirs, 690,000 acre-feet of storage, four transmountain diversions, five canals, and three treatment plants to deliver drinking water to 1.2 million customers.

Due to growth, it’s predicted Denver Water’s supply versus demand will hit a 34,000 acre-feet shortfall by 2030, according to information presented by Travis Bray of the Moffat project.

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At present, the draft environmental impact statement for the Moffat project is being finalized and will be under agency review through July. The Army Corps of Engineers is scheduled to release the draft at the end of September for public review with a final EIS and record of decision by mid-2009.

Meanwhile, Grand County is pumping up negotiations with Denver Water commissioners as the county’s Stream Management Plan seeks to provide hard science to the city water supplier and the Northern Water Conservancy District on the Front Range. The stream management plan, it’s believed, will show how and why West Slope rivers should be protected in spite of future firming projects.

And in what seems to be a first, Denver Water is hinting at rectifying any problems initial diversions have caused to the Fraser River, at least in the eyes of Grand County Commissioner and Colorado River District board member James Newberry.

He says he is optimistic that new members on the Denver Water Board seem to be in-tune with possible environmental issues on the West Slope, going so far as to call it an “environmentally friendly Denver Water Board” that is disinclined to “destroy one area of the state to benefit another.”

Denver Water and Grand County have agreed to a contracted facilitator for negotiations that are under way. Both sides have established what the other wants, Newberry said, and are ready to pound out agreements in six to eight more meetings.

“We came away from the April 9 meeting with increased hope that we can accomplish something historic over the coming months,” said Denver Water Commissioners President Tom Gougeon in a letter to Grand County Commissioners, dated April 23, “and are impressed with your willingness to explore concepts that a few months ago were unthinkable.”

“It just seems everything is coming together,” Newberry said, adding that with the good runoff this year and an air of cooperation, “it’s a good year for negotiations.”

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