Comments on the Chatfield Reallocation Mitigation Company Open House
From the Audubon Society of Greater Denver
ALERT: Please be on the lookout for any activity such as pumping water, earth-moving, tree-cutting, road-building, and other destruction/construction in Chatfield State Park. If you see such activities, please contact us and report them to the ASGD office at 303-973-9530 immediately. Recent activities such as draining two small ponds could interfere with other uses of the Park.
The Proposed Mitigation is Better but Our Basic Concerns Remain
In a 2.5 hour session on the evening of May 30, the entity known as the Chatfield Reallocation Mitigation Company presented their current plans for mitigation of the Chatfield Reallocation project. It was a very slick presentation with good visuals and experts to answer questions, and it answered some of the concerns we have voiced for years. However, there was no opportunity for the public to submit comments.
- More of the mitigation will occur in Chatfield State Park.
- Wetlands mitigation has been moved from the uplands into the riparian zones.
- Severe downcutting on Plum Creek will be addressed.
However, our basic concerns remain:
- There will be a net loss of habitat, since what is destroyed at Chatfield State Park will not be replaced; the off-site conservation easements protecting riparian habitat protect EXISTING areas and no new riparian habitat is being created.
- There will be a net loss of accessible recreation lands. We will lose riparian areas and lake shore in Chatfield State Park that are open to the public to inundation or conversion to mud flats; the mitigation lands put into conservation easements will not be open to the public.
- The Corps of Engineers has refused to consider less-damaging practicable alternatives.
- The Corps has manipulated the project documents to avoid compliance with the Clean Water Act’s requirement that they choose “the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative.” Instead, they chose the MOST damaging.
- The Corps has determined that the “dependable” yield of the project – how much water it will provide in severe drought years – is 0. We fail to see why so much money should be spent for a project that cannot deliver a dependable yield.
- Because the providers have very junior water rights, they will only be able to store additional water in Chatfield 3 years out of 10, according to the Corps of Engineers’ calculations. Most of the time the fluctuation zone will be dry with great possibilities for dust and noxious weeds.
- There is still uncertainty about the fate of the mature cottonwoods in the Park.
The visuals for the recreational mitigation have been posted on www.chatfieldreallocation.org. As of June 5, the environmental mitigation visuals, the schedule of work and the Ecological Function Unit calculations used to plan the environmental mitigation had NOT been posted for future reference.
Our concerns and comments can be found at more length at www.savechatfield.org.
ASGD Files Complaint To Protect Chatfield State Park
Massive Environmental Damage is Cited
The Audubon Society of Greater Denver (Denver Audubon) has filed a complaint against the US Army Corps of Engineers to protect Chatfield State Park from the massive environmental damage that the Chatfield Storage Reallocation Project would do to the Park.
“Unfortunately the Corps of Engineers selected the most environmentally damaging alternative for the Chatfield project. It’s a bad deal for the public and for Colorado,” said Polly Reetz, Conservation Chairman of Denver Audubon.
“The Corps of Engineers’ approved plan will provide only a highly unreliable water supply yet will cause substantial environmental damage to Chatfield State Park, one of the State’s most heavily used and biologically diverse State Parks,” Reetz noted.
“Colorado will lose cottonwood forests, wetlands, and free-flowing streams heavily used by recreationists and essential for wildlife, including the threatened Preble’s meadow jumping mouse. In return we get acres and acres of barren mud flats, for what the Corps determined to be “0” dependable yield – the amount of water the project could reliably provide,” she said.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife concluded that the reservoir fluctuations could increase up to 17 vertical feet and the park would lose 587 acres of wildlife habitat and recreational land. The Corps estimated that the reservoir would fill only 2 or 3 years out of 10. The project has been touted as environmental restoration for the South Platte in Denver but the Corps’ own studies show that the river’s flows would decrease 9 months out of 12 and increase only one month out of 12.
Chatfield State Park hosts over 1.6 million visitors a year, with opportunities for a wide variety of recreational activities, including boating, fishing, camping, hot-air balloon rides, horseback rides, hiking, trail running, bird-watching, nature photography, bike riding, and scuba diving. It also provides a great diversity of wildlife habitats that support 375 species of birds, said Reetz, and has been designated an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society.
Denver Audubon proposes sound, attainable alternatives such as increased water conservation, storing water underground, use of gravel pits like the one at C-470 and Santa Fe, and storage in Rueter-Hess reservoir, which has excess storage capacity.
Denver Audubon says the Corps dismissed a number of alternatives that would do less environmental damage. The Corps also failed to provide the public with crucial information regarding water rights to be stored in Chatfield reservoir and provided their estimate of the dependable water yield of the project – zero – only in an obscure appendix. Many of the water providers who originally joined the project have dropped out, clearly indicating that there are viable alternatives for meeting future water needs.
“We do need to augment our water supplies, but we need to do it in a smart way, without destroying the outdoor recreation and wildlife resources so important to Colorado residents. Water conservation must be the foundation for meeting future water needs,” Reetz said.
For more information, visit www.savechatfield.org.
To view the official complaint, Click Here.
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