State parks, water diversion mitigation on agenda for wildlife commission meeting

As part of its plan to guarantee a source of water for its constituents, Denver Water is proposing to enlarge Gross Reservoir in Boulder County from its current storage capacity of 41,811 acre-feet to approximately 114,000 acre-feet.

Converting four state parks into state wildlife areas is among the topics facing the Colorado Wildlife Commission at its meeting Thursday in Denver.

The meeting is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Hunter Education Building, 6060 Broadway.

The proposal to switch parks to wildlife areas follows Gov. John Hickenlooper’s budget belt-tightening that slashes Colorado State Parks’ expenditures by $3.3 million in the 2011 fiscal year beginning July 1.

This cutback, according to the governor’s office, will cause four state parks to be “repurposed.”

According to the Division of Wildlife, the process still is in its formative stage and no parks have been singled out for conversion to wildlife areas.

The wildlife commission also will begin a formal review of mitigation plans for impacts to fish and wildlife resources from major trans-mountain water diversions by Denver Water and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

The 60-day review of mitigation plans is required by statute as part of each project’s federal permitting process.

Denver Water is proposing to firm up (or guarantee) the yield from its existing water rights on the West Slope, primarily by enlarging Boulder’s Gross Reservoir and diverting up to an additional 18,000 acre feet of water from the Fraser and Williams Fork rivers.

Northern Water is proposing to firm up the yield from its existing water rights in the Upper Colorado River by diverting additional water to the proposed new Chimney Hollow Reservoir west of Longmont.

According Brian Werner, spokesman for Northern Water, the plan will bring an additional 9,000 acre feet annually to the Front Range over and above what Windy Gap has historically averaged.

“What we plan to do is firm the Windy Gap water supply so that 30,000 acre feet can be delivered to the participants each and every year,” Werner said in an e-mail. “The water rights for the full 48,000 acre foot yield we were granted back in the 1970s and what the Firming Project plans to do is develop the infrastructure necessary to reach that full yield.”

Both water agencies voluntarily are proposing enhancements addressing impacts to fish and wildlife on both sides of the Continental Divide.

Colorado statutes limit the wildlife commission’s authority to reviewing mitigation plans.

According to the Division of Wildlife, restoring the river to a past condition “is beyond the scope of the project approval process and Wildlife Commission authority.”

People unable to attend the meeting may listen to live audio by clicking the “listen to live audio” link at the bottom of the commission’s webpage at:


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