Steve Radcliffe – The present Fraser River wouldn’t lure a President
To the Editor:
I live about one mile from the Fraser River. I have also served as a volunteer with the Colorado Division of Wildlife helping count fish in that river. I have seen first-hand the effects of diverting water from the Fraser.
I often daydream about what the Fraser River must have been like when President Eisenhower fished these rivers over fifty years ago. The river we have now certainly would not have lured him all the way from the White House to fish here today. Sometimes there is so little water in the river that it barely seems to be a river at all. It is struggling for its life. I was surprised to read that it was the third most endangered river in the country, but on second thought I guess that I was not totally shocked.
It does not require a scientific study to prove that taking more water from the Fraser would cause environmental damage to the river and therefore our ecosystem. The damage is already pretty obvious even with the current levels of diverted water. Taking more water and expecting no more damage defies logic. That is what the current Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for the Moffat Firming Project would have us believe, but it is just not believable on any level.
The current draft of the EIS does not even mention the importance of high water flows in the spring. These flushing flows are absolutely essential to the vitality of the river. High water flows also shape and clean the streambed so that fish and fish food can survive. The issue of environmental damage must be addressed. This is not rocket science, it is common sense.
I think it is time to ask what water rights Denver Water really has, and it needs to be considered at a fundamental level. When these rights were created 100 to 150 years ago, they envisioned that the water would be removed from the rivers or streams, used and then eventually returned to the river or stream that it was taken from.
Denver Water currently uses these rights in an entirely different way. The water is removed from the waterways, used and never returned. They are taken from one side of the Continental Divide and diverted for use to the other side of the continental divide. By definition, the water can never be returned to its original environment. Have these rights been vetted by a court of law from this perspective? It is time to address that question?
One way to give the Western Slope some time to recover and to plan for the future would be for Denver Water to address conservation of the water that they already have diverted. The conservation efforts to date have not addressed the impact of outdoor water use. The watering of plants and grasses uses a tremendous amount of water to keep them alive in the high plains desert of the Denver area.
It has been estimated that a significant percentage of the of the predicted water shortfall for the Denver area could be met by simply not watering plants, like Kentucky Bluegrass and others, that were not meant to survive in a desert. The very least that Denver Water could do is to make conservation of water a first priority, and make diversion of more water from the Western Slope a last priority.
The Moffat Firming Project cannot be considered in a vacuum. At the very same time that Denver Water is proposing diversion of more water from the Fraser River, the Northern Water Conservancy plans to divert more water from the upper Colorado River. Denver Water’s EIS does not even acknowledge that fact. If these projects are not considered together, the combined impact of the two projects could be devastating to the native flows of the Colorado River.
There is hardly any mention of the mitigation plans to address the impacts of reducing the water flows of the Western Slope in the EIS. There must be a mitigation plan in place before any more water is taken. We are not just talking about the survival of our rivers, but the survival of our ecosystem, our economy and our way of life. Counting on the tears of all us who live on the Western Slope to replenish the lost water is not a sufficient plan for mitigation.
Editor’s note: This letter was submitted by its author as an official comment on the Moffat Firming Project.
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