Colorado River Connectivity Canal Receives Green Light Following Environmental Impact Assessment – Low Calorie Diets Tips

Windy Gap Reservoir and Dam from the air and in its current condition. In late June or early July, construction of the dam will begin and the Colorado River will be diverted around it.
Trout Unlimited / Photo courtesy

Windy Gap Reservoir and Dam from the air and in its current condition. In late June or early July, construction of the dam will begin and the Colorado River will be diverted around it.
Trout Unlimited / Photo courtesy

Ten years after plans were finalized for a Colorado River diversion route around Windy Gap Reservoir outside of Granby, the project is well underway.

A consortium of state and commercial water companies announced Monday that construction crews will begin excavating soil on land adjacent to US Highway 40 in late June or early July to fill in part of the existing reservoir and create a new path for the Colorado River to dredge to flow around it.

This comes after the Natural Resources Conservation Service released a No Significant Impact (FONSI) finding from its environmental assessment of the Colorado River Connectivity Channel. The decision paves the way for construction, which will be completed in 2023, and provide miles of new public fishing access to the Colorado, said Kirk Klancke, president of the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited.



Trout Unlimited is assisted in creating the project by The Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District Municipal Subdistrict, Grand County and the Upper Colorado River Alliance.

Klancke told Sky-Hi News that the Colorado health project, which has suffered since Windy Gap was built in the 1980s, is a long time coming. It is currently blocking the passage of fish and sediment upstream and downstream of the dam. It also keeps water in a shallow reservoir, sometimes raising stream temperatures downstream of the dam as water is released. And on windy days, soil around the reservoir gets kicked up in the water, filling the river below the dam with sediment.



“This dam killed miles of the Colorado River,” Klancke said. “Sediment filled the gaps in the rocks below. Sculpin (a small fish and food source for trout) disappeared. The giant stonefly (another main food source for trout) disappeared. And according to a study by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, 38% of macro invertebrates disappeared. From that dam down to Williams Fork Reservoir, the ecosystem has collapsed. They put a dam in the middle of a mainstream where today you can’t get a permit for a dam.”

The connectivity project will reduce and deepen the reservoir that stores water from the Upper Colorado and Fraser Rivers. Through the Colorado-Big Thompson water diversion project agreement, Northern has rights to 220,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water per year, which it pumps into Lake Granby, Shadow Mountain Reservoir, Grand Lake and through miles of underground tunnels to several cities the front range.

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This is affecting water companies like the Upper Colorado River Watershed Group, which has asked authorities to conduct a water accounting at the Upper Colorado River Watershed to ensure there is adequate water before proceeding with the project.

UCRWG President Andy Miller said that while the group does not outright oppose the project, key questions it posed to the Colorado Division of Water Resources have never been answered.

“During this process, we requested a full accounting showing how current and projected (taking into account climate change) basin water flows compare to local, Front Range and downstream rights to that available water,” Miller said. “We cannot continue to make such decisions without having an accurate picture of the current state of the river.”

The Colorado Division of Water Resources administers water rights, represents Colorado in interstate water treaty processes, monitors power flow and water use, and authorizes dam construction and repair. When the Sky-Hi contacted the division’s state engineer, Kevin Rein, he sent the following email:

“The water right for this diversion is decreed by the water court. The question of water availability is raised with the water court at the time the application is made.

Once the court issues a decree for this diversion with a priority date, the Department of Water Resources will administer it under the prior acquisition system, just as we do with all water rights in Colorado. If the water right can be diverted without affecting the priority water rights and the diversion is consistent with all the terms of the decree, they can divert. If not, the water law cannot evade.”

Klancke added: “If the water is not available, Northern cannot pump. But the water in the canal will always be there, for that is guaranteed in Senate Document 80 (passed June 24, 1937 by the 75th Congress). Senate Document 80 created Lake Granby and Shadow Mountain Lake. Lake Granby has specific currents that it needs to unleash. These flows must be in this canal because there are guaranteed flows under the dam. You can’t take the water and dry up the river below this dam. It has to go through that canal and down the river because it’s guaranteed in Congress.”

According to Windy Gap FONSI, the Upper Colorado River Watershed Group’s first choice to deal with the dam — removing it entirely — would cost $75 million, while the connectivity project will cost $27 million.

The bulk of this funding comes from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Another $1 million has come from Grand County’s Open Lands Rivers and Trails fund, and Klancke says Northern has already exceeded the amount committed — from an initial $2 million to $4 million.

Klancke adds that Northern — considered a “water buffalo” by many Grand County residents due to its interest in diverting water to the Front Range — has “done everything” in its support of the project.

Based on the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s environmental assessment, the project “will result in long-term positive impacts on environmental resources (ie, soil, air, water, animals, plants and human resources)”. With the FONSI secured, the Natural Resources Conservation Service can now provide funds that have been committed for project construction and may consider granting up to $9 million in additional funds still needed for the project.

The Grand County Board of County Commissioners commended the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s decision-making work and recognized “the tremendous work of the project partners and individual champions.”

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