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Will Colorado Violate The Clean Water Act?

For Immediate Release
May 28, 2015
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Colorado, 970-218-8310

Colorado’s Draft Permit For The Windy Gap Firming Project Violates The Clean Water Act And Further Drains West Slope’s Colorado River

Denver — Today, Save The Colorado sent extensive comments to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment informing them that their “draft 401 water quality certification” for the Windy Gap Firming Project (Project) fails to comply with the Clean Water Act (the comment letter is posted here). The comment letter was sent in response to the “public comment period” for the State’s water quality certification process for the project.

Save The Colorado found extensive problems with the draft permit from the State, including:

1. The draft permit almost completely relies on the fatally flawed Final Environmental Impact Statement from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for the Project.

2. The draft permit did almost no independent scientific analyses of the water quality problems that would be caused by the the Project as required by the Clean Water Act.

3. The draft permit fails to address the water quality problems the Project would cause in Grand Lake, to Colorado River temperatures, to nutrient pollution in the Colorado River, and to streamflow quantity in the Colorado River.

In fact, the State’s draft permit squarely says, “A separate alternatives analysis was not performed for the purpose of the 401 Certification, instead a summary of the alternatives selection and screening done for the FEIS is provided here.” (Tech report, page 37)

“This draft permit fails to comply with the U.S. Clean Water Act,” said Gary Wockner, E.D. of Save The Colorado. “We call upon the State of Colorado to either complete its mandated analyses independently, or suspend the certification process until the numerous shortcomings in the Final EIS identified by Save the Colorado and others are addressed.”

Unfortunately, the State’s draft permit falls directly in line with Governor Hickenlooper’s 2013 Executive order to create the Colorado Water Plan which also requires State departments to “streamline the state role in the approval and and regulatory processes regarding state water projects.” (page 3)

The Windy Gap Firming Project proposes to further drain the Colorado River in Grand County, Colorado, and pipe the West Slope water under the continental divide to slake the growth of small cities along the northern Front Range. Save The Colorado has previously commented on the extensive damage the Project would cause (see letter here) and argues that better alternatives focusing on water conservation and water-sharing agreements farmers are cheaper, faster, and easier to implement.

“The Windy Gap Firming Project would further drain and destroy the Colorado River and violate federal law,” said Gary Wockner. “The Colorado River is already on the brink of destruction, from the top to the bottom — it needs to be protected and restored, not further drained.”

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