Windy Gap Firming Project proponents are mindful about effects in Grand County | SkyHiNews.com

Windy Gap Firming Project proponents are mindful about effects in Grand County

Jill Boyd
Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District

We may be on different sides of the Continental Divide, but Grand County and the Subdistrict of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District certainly can agree on one thing: The Colorado River is a vital resource that we must all work together to protect as we try to supply our growing state with much-needed water.

I work for the Subdistrict. We are proposing to build the Windy Gap Firming Project, which would include a new reservoir in Larimer County to store water from the Windy Gap Project.

A lot of you and your friends and neighbors spent an evening at a public hearing about the Windy Gap Firming Project last month in Granby. Many spoke about the proposed water project and voiced concerns about its impacts to Grand County and, specifically, the Colorado River.

All of you who attended the public hearing and made your voices heard are an important part of the process as the Subdistrict asks the federal government for a permit to build the project. The Subdistrict is committed to addressing impacts caused by the project ” and we can only do that if we fully understand what those are. You helped us do that.

We have made a proposal to Grand County and the Middle Park Water Conservancy District that would provide additional water for Grand County residents and help address some of the low-flow concerns on the Colorado River. We’ve enjoyed thoughtful dialogue with representatives of the West Slope about ways we can get more water in the Colorado River at crucial times ” and we look forward to more discussions.

As you continue to educate yourself about the Windy Gap Firming Project, I want to clarify a few points:

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– A recent news article said the Windy Gap Firming Project would divert up to triple the amount currently diverted from Grand County annually. This is certainly not accurate.

“Water math” can be very confusing, but let’s consider how the predicted diversions from the Windy Gap Firming Project relate to the total average amount of water diverted from Grand County by the Windy Gap, Colorado-Big Thompson and Denver Water Moffat projects during the past five years. The Windy Gap Firming Project would result in approximately a 4 percent increase in annual average diversions from Grand County, not 300 percent as the news article stated.

– The water providers who are funding and would use the water from the Windy Gap Firming Project ” the “participants” ” are committed to conserving water. The participants collectively reduced their per capita water usage by an average of 26 percent from 1988 to 2003. All of them have rate structures that result in customers paying more money the more water they use.

Many of the participants have progressive water conservation programs. For example, the City of Loveland offers incentives to developers who install Xeriscape landscapes that use at least 20 percent less water than a typical landscape. And the City of Greeley’s extensive conservation program includes free irrigation audits to customers who want to learn how to improve the efficiency of their sprinkler systems.

These are merely a couple of the many progressive and effective water conservation measures that the participants are using.

Some of the participants also have in place systems that allow them to reuse their water, which helps them maximize use of their water. For example, the City of Broomfield has put in place infrastructure that will allow them to recycle and reuse their Windy Gap water.

– Some folks at the public hearing commented that the draft environmental impact statement for the Windy Gap Firming Project should consider the effects of Denver Water’s Moffat Project as well. The draft EIS actually does just that. The environmental consequences chapter includes “cumulative effects” that consider the Moffat Project and Windy Gap Firming Project together.

– The Windy Gap Project ” and the Windy Gap Firming Project, if built ” only diverts water from the Colorado River during the peak-flow season in late spring and early summer. The Windy Gap Project does not and cannot take water from the Colorado River during late summer or early fall when flows are low. The Windy Gap Firming Project will not divert any more water from the Colorado River than the amount allowed under the original Windy Gap water rights.

I encourage you to learn more about the project by visiting http://www.chimneyhollow.org. You also have until Dec. 29 to submit comments to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on the draft EIS. I would be happy to answer your questions. I can be reached at (970) 622-2248 or jboyd@ncwcd.org.

Working together, we can help protect Grand County and the Colorado River while also making sure that our state gets to use Colorado’s share of its namesake river before it flows downstream to other states.

” Jill Boyd is the public affairs coordinator for the Windy Gap Firming Project.

Editor’s note: The news article referenced in this column that said the Windy Gap Firming Project would divert up to triple the amount of water currently diverted from Grand County each year could have been more precise by stating triple the amount currently diverted from Grand County by the Windy Gap Project. According to figures presented to the Sky-Hi Daily News by the Subdistrict, the 50-year average annual yield from the Windy Gap Project has been about 11,500 acre-feet. In years when sufficient water is available, that could increase to about 30,000 acre-feet if the firming project comes to fruition and about 22,000 acre-feet under the “no-action” alternative.

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