December 22, 2008
Mely Whiting, Trout Unlimited Western Water Project, (720) 470-4758
David Nickum, Colorado Trout Unlimited, (303) 440-2937 x101
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Windy Gap Firming Project contains glaring planning gaps
Draft EIS fails to adequately assess environmental impacts
Denver – The proposed Windy Gap Firming Project contains serious planning flaws that could threaten the health of the Colorado River – and a coalition of conservation and sportsmen groups is calling on concerned citizens to speak out before a Dec. 29 public comment deadline.
For years, the Colorado River has been seriously depleted by transbasin diversion projects that pipe the river’s water over the Continental Divide for Front Range users. At present, more than 50 percent of the Colorado River’s water is lost to various diversion projects.
The latest proposal, the Windy Gap Firming Project, would pump even more water out of the Colorado, potentially damaging the river’s renowned fisheries as well as hurting West slope communities that depend on tourism and recreation.
Among several key flaws, the project’s draft environmental impact statement fails to consider the cumulative impacts on the Colorado River of several big transbasin diversions, including the Colorado-Big Thompson Project and Denver’s Moffat Tunnel, according to a Trout Unlimited analysis. Accounting for all existing and proposed diversions, the Colorado and Fraser rivers could lose up to 70 percent of their natural flows. The resulting lower water and higher temperatures could devastate fish populations and degrade water quality throughout the watershed.
Moreover, the draft environmental impact statement fails to gauge the impact of additional water draw-downs on the Colorado River’s eligibility for Wild and Scenic River status.
“Simply put, there are too many big straws in the river – and too many unanswered questions about this project,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “We understand that Front Range communities need a secure water supply,” he added. “But there’s a smart way to do that without sacrificing other important water benefits, such as recreation, tourism and a healthy river ecosystem.”
The deadline for public comments on Windy Gap’s draft environmental impact statement is Dec. 29. Concerned citizens should fax or email comments to Will Tully, Bureau of Reclamation, Fax: 970-663-3212, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and Chandler Peter, U.S, Army Corps of Engineers, Email: email@example.com.
To learn more about the Windy Gap project and its planning flaws, go to www.cotrout.org.
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization. TU has over 155,000 members from coast to coast.