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Colorado Daily Letters to the Editor - Gross Reservoir expansion would be destructive, senseless

Jul 3, 2019
By Miriam Clayton

On June 24, the Colorado Daily republished the Daily Camera’s editorial titled “Gross Reservoir expansion makes sense.” It is appalling that this appears in a newspaper focused on the University of Colorado. The editorial asserts that growing populations in Denver justify Denver Water building the highest dam in the state — this is short-sighted and ill-informed.

If this project were to proceed, it would be the largest, most destructive construction project in Boulder County history. It would necessitate cutting and burning or helicoptering out at least 250,000 trees, trucking toxic fly ash through Boulder to the construction site, using explosives to demolish a mountain to source aggregate materials, and running a quarry 24/7. Recreation on the reservoir would be severely limited during the seven years of construction and habitat for bears, lions, moose, elk, raptors, and countless small mammals, birds and insects would be destroyed. The water to fill the expanded reservoir would be pulled from the Fraser River on the Western Slope, further depleting the already-threatened Colorado River.

This project is unlikely to result in a sustainable water supply. Climate scientists at CU have 50 years of data indicating that flows in the Colorado River may drop as much as 50% by 2050, meaning the enlarged reservoir will likely never fill. Water disputes are already heating up among stakeholders with water interests in the Colorado River basin. The Colorado River is over-allocated, and when water shortages occur, trans-mountain diversions to fill the Gross Dam will necessarily be sharply curtailed.

There are alternatives to this project. Jim Lockheed, the CEO of Denver Water, acknowledges that conservation has significantly reduced water usage in Denver despite population growth, and states that recharging existing aquifers is possible and would be environmentally responsible.

CU is ranked No. 5 in the nation in Environmental Law, conducts cutting-edge climate research, and is associated with UCAR, LASP and other national labs that model the ramifications and negative consequences of relying on outdated 20th-century technologies, like dams, in the age of climate change. As part of the Boulder community, CU enjoys a reputation as an environmentally conscious, forward-thinking institution. The position of the Colorado Daily does not adequately examine all aspects of this environmentally devastating project or take into consideration how significantly this project conflicts with the ethos of the CU student body. The Daily Camera editorial staff should reconsider their opinion.

Miriam Clayton, Boulder

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