Gross Reservoir Expansion Project
FACT OR FICTION? TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE!
The Big Picture
Denver Water doesn’t have the ability to treat all the water they plan to collect and store in an expanded Gross Reservoir.
Fiction.Our water treatment facilities currently have the capacity to treat water to meet needs of our customers into the future. Also, we are in the design phase of the new Northwater treatment plant as part of our larger North System Renewal Program, which will provide up to 150 million gallons of water per day for our customers.
Denver Water customers need to conserve more.
Fact.We wholeheartedly agree with that statement, which is why we continue our industry-leading and nationally-recognized conservation program. The reality of the situation – as it relates to expanding Gross Reservoir – is we can’t simply conserve our way to a secure water future. Our “all of the above” approach includes promoting use of recycled water, driving conservation, and responsibly sourcing additional supply – which includes expanding Gross Reservoir.
An expanded Gross Reservoir will never fill because – according to climate models – there won’t be enough water in key West Slope watersheds.
Fiction.This myth is supported by an analysis that uses a different time period, different assumptions, different data and a different model than the hydrologic analysis conducted by independent experts that was published in the Army Corps of Engineers’ Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The flawed methodology used by opponents invariably produces results that differ from the model adopted by those with competing water interests on both sides of the continental divide. Further, the Corps found opponents’ attempts to compare results were inaccurate and misleading. (Source: Corps FEIS, Attachment B, Page 17)
The only certainty is an uncertain future and the Gross Project will allow us to better adapt and provides greater flexibility than our current situation.
Denver Water didn’t learn anything from the Environmental Protection Agency’s veto of the Two Forks Dam project in 1990.
Fiction.We learned a lot, actually, which has informed our plans and actions ever since, and led to our industry-leading and nationally-recognized conservation program, pioneering the use of recycled water, and responsibly sourcing additional supply.
Failing on Two Forks was an inflection point; one where we made the conscious decision to listen more. Listening is, in part, how we arrived at expanding Gross Reservoir, as environmental groups who opposed Two Forks recommended raising Gross Dam as an alternative. The fact that Gross Reservoir was designed from the beginning for two subsequent dam raises was a contributing factor in it being selected as the preferred alternative over more than 30 that were considered.
Just like they did on the Two Forks Project in 1990, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will veto and stop this project.
Fiction.In this June 2017 letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator states explicitly:
- The EPA compliments the Corps’ team for addressing all of the EPA’s comments in a professional and efficient manner
- The EPA will not (emphasis ours) be requesting a higher level of review of the Corps’ decision
- That diversions of West Slope water to the Front Range will not (emphasis ours) result in significant degradation of West Slope watersheds
Additional water taken by an expanded Gross Reservoir will cause our state to default on our obligations under the Colorado River Compact Agreement.
Fiction.The expected yield to be stored in an expanded Gross Reservoir will not impact our ability to fulfill our obligations. Besides, if the small amount of yield this project plans to gain from the Fraser River during future wet years were of concern to downstream users and threatened compact obligations, why have no objections been raised by those with legal standing during the 14-year period the project has been in the planning and permitting stages?
650,000 trees will be removed to make way for this project.
Fact AND Fiction.
Trees will need to be removed to expand Gross Reservoir, though the figure is likely far less than 650,000 according to Boulder District Forester Allen Owen. He told the Daily Camera that “the number seems high". Denver Water uses this most conservative, worst-case scenario because we want to work in good faith and be transparent. The loss of these trees is considered and accounted for in the multi-year environmental review and permitting processes this project has required.
Removal techniques and the final plan will be studied more thoroughly in the coming years and will include public input to minimize inconvenience. New environmentally friendly disposal technologies that didn’t exist when the initial plan was developed will be evaluated and pursued if found to be beneficial. If hauling is required, trucks hauling materials will use the same route – albeit in reverse – as those hauling materials to the site. In other words, we will use Gross Dam Road and State Highway 72; we will NOT use Flagstaff Road or transport through Boulder.
There’s a geologic fault line that runs beneath Gross Dam and that fault will become active when the height and mass of the dam is increased.
Fact AND Fiction.There IS a mapped fault that runs beneath Gross Reservoir, but an independent analysis by geologists found that it is both inactive (hasn’t moved in more than 35,000 years) and will not be impacted by the project.
An expanded Gross Reservoir will destroy the environment.
Fiction.We have worked very hard to avoid that. The State of Colorado has studied the likely impacts, compared these with the mitigation and enhancements we have committed to as conditions of various agreements and permits, and found the project will have a "net environmental benefit" for Colorado. That is one of many reasons why the project is endorsed by Gov. Hickenlooper and the last four governors of our state, along withstate and federal lawmakers, major environmental groups, local mayors and city councils, chambers of commerce and economic development corporations, county elected officials and water interests on both sides of the divide.
Denver Water is increasing the size of the National Forest System.
Denver Water will convey approximately 540 acres of land near the Moffat Tunnel, which includes forest, riparian, and wetland habitats, to the United States Forest Service for permanent protection and management as part of the National Forest System (NFS). This land conveyance represents mitigation for impacts to approximately 280 acres of NFS land that will be inundated by the Gross Reservoir expansion. Stated simply, Denver Water will provide nearly a 2:1 mitigation ratio of replacement acreage transferred to the U.S. Forest Service to offset those acres of NFS land that will be lost due to the expanded reservoir footprint.
Property owners and residents who will be most impacted will not see a benefit of the project.
Fact.There’s no sense denying that because we do not serve water to the communities around Gross Reservoir, they will not see a direct benefit of greater storage. There will be short-term impacts to local residents. That’s one reason why we’re working so hard to make commitments and concessions to reduce the impact of the project on the local community. However, Gross Reservoir is a tremendous recreational amenity to those in the area and will continue to be so during and after construction.
Hauling over Crescent Park Drive will create an unsafe condition.
Fact.That’s why we’ve committed to NOT use Crescent Park Drive for materials hauling or transport of construction equipment, and the same goes for Flagstaff Road. Materials and construction equipment will be delivered to the site via Hwy 72, with flaggers in place at the intersection of 72 and Gross Dam Road. They’ll also be in place at other critical spots along Gross Dam Road where there are tight turning radiuses and points of limited visibility.
Highway 72 is not capable of handling the hauling traffic.
Fiction.We’ve met with CDOT representatives who certified that Highway 72 is rated for tractor-trailer haul trucks and is capable of handling the increased traffic. We also performed a real-world study and found fully-loaded haul trucks were able to maintain posted speed limits within the canyon through the end of the haul route at Gross Dam. See the “Construction Traffic Documents” entry and videos documenting the study here.
Haul trucks on Highway 72 will make it unsafe.
Fiction.All vehicles serving the project will be certified by the state as safe to operate, and drivers will be required to pass a project-specific safe driving course before they are allowed to haul their first load for the project. We’ll also require the use of dash cameras in all trucks and will perform random, surprise spot checks of their drives to make sure they are operating safely. Finally, we will be funding increased traffic patrols by Boulder and Jefferson County Sheriff’s Offices to improve safety for all who use Highway 72.
Trucks in the canyon are going to make my commute miserable.
Fiction.We’ve run the numbers and can avoid typical morning and evening commutes if that is something the community would prefer. We’ve also committed to not haul during hours students are being bused to- and from-school.
Trucks in the canyon are going to make it unsafe for children on school buses.
Fiction.We’re committed to avoiding hauling during periods when children are riding on school buses.
The semi-trucks Denver Water used in its hauling study were empty, calling into question whether trucks to be used during construction will be able to maintain speed in the canyon.
Fiction.We used a total of 10 trucks in our hauling study – the first five we sent up the hill were fully loaded to mimic the real-world hauling scenario. The study found that fully-loaded trucks of the type we plan to use will be able to maintain posted speeds in the canyon, make all the turns on the haul route safely, etc. More information about our hauling study can be found here under the drop-down in construction traffic documents.
Latest News / Blog
Municipal Water Leader – Mar. 9, 2018 – “At the end of the day, large infrastructure projects like this will not be judged on if and when they get done, but on how they are done,” said Jeff Martin, project manager of the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project. Read more...