Final EIS for Windy Gap Firming Project released |

Final EIS for Windy Gap Firming Project released

Sky-Hi News Staff Report
Grand County, CO Colorado

The Windy Gap Firming Project Final Environmental Impact Statement was released last week.

The revised environmental impact statement for a project that proposes storage requests up to 87,180 acre-feet from out of the upper Colorado River drainage states that “substantial effort has gone into developing mitigation measures to offset or reduce identified impacts from implementation of the (Windy Gap Firming Project).”

The Executive Summary of the Final EIS states that one major mitigation component is a Fish and Wildlife Mitigation Plan that was developed by the Subdistrict in cooperation with the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, adopted by the commission on June 9, 2011.

During public meetings and the comment period on the draft EIS, which ended on Dec. 29, 2008, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation received about 1,150 letters, comment forms and recorded and written oral comments about the project, according to the report’s Executive Summary.

There was also a revision of criteria for nitrogen and phosphorus loadings to the Three Lakes in the final report, as well as additional stream temperature data for the Colorado River.

The project’s key feature, construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir southwest of Loveland, would increase the reliability of the existing Windy Gap Project, which started delivering water to Front Range municipalities in 1985.

The Windy Gap Firming Project is a regional collaboration among 13 growing Northeastern Colorado water providers (Platte River Power Authority, Broomfield, Erie, Greeley, Longmont, Louisville, Loveland, Superior, Central Weld County Water District, Evans, Little Thompson, Louisville, Loveland, Superior, Central Weld County Water District, Evans, Little Thompson Water District, Lafayette and Fort Lupton) who in 2050 face a population totaling more than double what it was in 2005, according to Northern.

Water demand projections for the participants show a storage of 64,000 acre feet in 2030 and 110,000 acre-feet by 2050. Northern Water’s Municipal Subdistrict is coordinating the review on behalf of the providers, who will pay for the estimated $270 million project.

Chimney Hollow would be just west of and slightly smaller than Carter Lake and would be part of Larimer County’s Open Lands Program, with non-motorized boating, fishing and trails.

“We put a lot of time and effort into developing these plans, and we’re proud to say that they will make conditions on the Colorado River better in the future than they are today,” said Jeff Drager, project manager of Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, in statements released this week.

It’s still unclear whether the mitigation measures proposed in the Final EIS are enough to satisfy the opposition in Grand County.

Since the report was just released, Lurline Underbrink Curran, Grand County manager, reserved comment on the report until she and the county’s water consultants and experts have the chance to analyze it.

The project awaits an official Record of Decision from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which is expected in early 2012. The project would also require permits related to construction, water quality and other issues.

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