Windy Gap Firming Project DRAFT EIS - Mountain Buzz

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Old 08-26-2008   #1
Loveland, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 510
Windy Gap Firming Project DRAFT EIS

We have just opened a public comment process on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Windy Gap Firming Project. Comments are due in writing by October 29, 2008. Here's the e-mail and text of the press release I just sent:


You can find a link to the entire Draft EIS, Executive Summary and supporting documents on our webpage: A link to a list of libraries where the document can be viewed is also on the website.

More details are available in the text of the press release in the body of the e-mail text, at the end.

Comments on the Draft EIS should be sent to the attention of Will Tully. His contact information is also included in the press release. If you choose to e-mail comments to Will, please include "Windy Gap EIS comments" in the subject line.

If you have related questions or concerns, or are interested in obtaining a hard copy of either the Draft EIS or its Executive Summary, please feel free to call or e-mail me. I am out of the office tomorrow (Wednesday, August 27), but will be reachable by cell phone at (970) 215-9545.


For Release on: August 26, 2008
Draft EIS on Proposed Windy Gap Firming Project Available for Public Review
The Bureau of Reclamation is releasing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed Windy Gap Firming Project to the public this Friday, August 29, 2008. The Draft EIS is open for review and comment for sixty days. Comments must be provided in writing no later than October 29, 2008.

To access the Draft EIS, Executive Summary, and supporting technical reports please visit The document is also available at local area libraries from Ft. Collins to Granby. A complete list of libraries is included on the website.

In October, Reclamation will host two public open houses to present the Draft EIS to the public and answer questions. Written comments will be accepted at the open houses. Written and oral comments will also be accepted at public hearings that will follow each open house.

To provide a comment on the Draft EIS, mail, fax or e-mail to the attention of Will Tully at:
Bureau of Reclamation
11056 W. County Road 18E
Loveland, CO 80537
(fax) 970-663-3212
[email protected]

The Windy Gap Firming Project was proposed to Reclamation by the Municipal Subdistrict of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. The Draft EIS summarizes the anticipated effects of the proposed project and five alternatives, including a No Action Alternative.

For more information on the Draft EIS and Executive Summary, or to request a hard copy of either document, please contact Kara Lamb at (970) 962-4326 or

# # #

Kara Lamb
Public Information
Eastern Colorado Office
Bureau of Reclamation
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Old 08-27-2008   #2
Denver, Colorado
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I skimmed through the draft. The short story is that the windy gap res downstream of the confluence of the fraser and the colorado is not able to deliver the water that the project anticipated. There are a number of proposed actions but the two main ones to look at are no action and the proposed action.

The no action alternative doesn't do anything to windy gap, but it increases the size of ralph price res on the north st vrain by 13,000 acre ft, almost doubling its size and adding 50 ft in height to the dam. This would likely impact flows on the north st vrain below, and the st vrain through lyons, but there is no data that I found in the report other than a note saying it would reduce kayaking on the north st vrain below the res. I don't think this would impact the upper NSV run, but it would impact the stuff below which I think are proving grounds, the class III NSV and st vrain flows through lyons for the playpark.

The proposed action calls for builing a 90,000 AF res (chimney hollow) which would sit just to the west of carter lake over the hogback. The res would be southwest of loveland, would be a 742 acres surface area lake, and would have a 346 ft tall dam. The proposed action states that there is not enough storage in the windy gap, lake granby system to store all of the colorado - big T water and the windy gap water. When colorado-big T water fills capacity in granby, the junior windy gap water right can not be collected and must be passed downstream. The concept seems to be additional storage on the front range with the ability to pump water back and forth.

Aside from the impacts of a new reservoir, it seems that there would be some potential for flow changes for river recreation. It showed a reduction in flows by ~200 cfs on average at peak in the colorado below windy gap through byers canyon. This also means about a 200 cfs reduction in flows through gore at peak. It showed a slight reduction of flows in gore in the late season, but I couldn't tell how much due to the scale of the graph. It looked at 47 years of flow data and noted how many days during that time recreational kayaking and rafting flows would be lost. It seemed to say that on average there would be a loss of a couple of days a year of good kayaking flows in gore. It also noted that in very dry years this number could go up.

There was a comment that flows in the big T could go up a bit, but no graphs of cfs numbers, not sure what that impact would be on the big T.

So the plan is to build a new res on the front range. I personally would like to see scheduled recreational releases of water come out of these negotiations. As evidenced by the good flows on the big T this year, the water can still be delivered through the river, you just don't get the electricity. In my mind the big T and Gore are ripe for scheduled release events. AW has been instrumental in doing this in many locations in the east and the west, but colorado seems to lack them (other than the ark) but has a huge potential.
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Old 08-27-2008   #3
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Boulder, Colorado
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Thanks for fighting your way through that for us. I spent 5 minutes last night, but it was clear it would take more time than i had.

We wouldn't need it if we stopped giving away almost free water for lawns, would we?

(seven two 0)-298-2242
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Old 08-27-2008   #4
Lyons, Colorado
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This obviously has potentially a big impact on Lyons and also some oppportunties for the Big T. Is there someone in AWA that is on top of this that may be able to present to the Town of Lyons how to best proceed.
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Old 08-28-2008   #5
Denver, Colorado
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I sent in a comment on the draft EIS. My comment letter is below. I asked for more data on flow impacts on the Big T and the St. Vrain.

Also, in general the NEPA process is supposed to quatify impacts of a proposal and to propose mitigation to minimze impacts. The draft EIS does a good job identifying negative impacts of loss of boating days on Gore, and potentially NSV. What the draft did not do is propose any mitigation to minimize this impact.

The answer to me is simple: provide scheduled recreational in stream releases at optimal kayaking flows. It has been said many a time that colorado water laws are too complex etc for this to happen. I whole heartedly disagree. I think that there is an opportunity here to voice our collective concern that projects that reduce the number of kayaking days on a river should in some way find a way to compensate for it.

In my comment letter, I have proposed scheduled recreational releases for Gore Canyon, NSV below Ralph Price Res, and on the Big Thompson. I would hope that AW will get involved in this and I have sent similar info to AW. I know most folks won't take the time to read the draft much less write a comment, but a comment might be what it takes to get the ball rolling to getting some recreational releases in colorado, and it certainly can't hurt.

As a vision of the future imagine a reliable scheduled release on the Big T, NSV, Bailey, Gore, Black Canyon, Big South, Boulder Creek, with each one being on a different weekend in August and September. Dreaming... yes, but why not ask for it. You never know, you might just get it. Why not think big?

Comment letter...

Mr. Will Tully

My name is Ian Foley. I would like to provide some comments on the draft EIS for the Windy Gap Firming Project. I am an engineer living in Denver, Colorado, and I am an avid whitewater kayaker. I understand the complex water needs of Colorado's communities, and I feel that water and energy needs can be supplied in a way that minimizes impact while also taking into account community and recreational issues.

Comment 1
-The "no action" alternative notes that Ralph Price Reservoir will be increased in size. I did not fully understand how the North St. Vrain and Ralph Price are connected to the Windy Gap issues. Perhaps it is simply that Windy Gap shortfalls need to be filled by either the firming project or by storing more water from the North St. Vrain. This should be clarified. The no action statement of impact notes that kayaking opportunities will be decreased below Ralph Price Reservoir, but there is no data on what stream flow impacts will be in cfs numbers. I am interested in what the cfs impact will be over the course of a season. The North St. Vrain below Ralph Price Reservoir has some excellent stretches of water for kayaking, yet flows are very low as is with the current reservoir. I am concerned that boatable flows will be completely lost below Ralph Price Reservoir if it is enlarged. Also this would impact the flows of the St. Vrain river though Lyons which has a whitewater park that is a tourist draw and a recreational opportunity as well. Although not considered in the EIS, setting up scheduled recreational releases of water that provide optimal kayaking flows would be a good form of mitigation for the reduction in flow that these projects have produced.

Comment 2
-The proposed action notes a potential small increase in Big Thompson in stream flows, but does not quantify the numbers in cfs or # of kayaking days. I would be interested in this data as well and it should be clarified. As an overall comment, the Colorado-Big Thompson project has delivered much needed water and power to the Front Range, but unfortunately it has all but dried up the Big Thompson, which is an excellent kayak run through one of the Front Range's more impressive canyons. The impact of the CBT project has been to reduce the number of kayaking days on this wonderful stretch from what would likely be 60 days per year without any dams, reservoirs or flow changes, down to usually less that 5. As the project is being reviewed, I suggest that recreational flow releases of optimal kayaking flows be scheduled in the Big Thompson river to mitigate the loss of recreation that this project has incurred. Water can be conveyed down the river corridor and can still be stored in downstream facilities. What would be lost is the power generated during that time. This type of arrangement has been negotiated on several stretches of river across the nation, and should be considered on the Big Thompson.

Comment 3
-There appears to be a loss of optimal kayaking and rafting flows on the Colorado River through Big Gore Canyon as well. I suggest that this stretch should also have scheduled recreational releases to mitigate the loss of kayaking that the project incurs.

In short, I understand that water must be stored and transported to supply the large metropolitan areas with water and energy, and to also satisfy the needs of water rights holders across the state and the west. I also understand that one of the unfortunate consequences of this is that river flows can be dramatically altered and the net impact is that recreational in stream flows can be significantly reduced resulting is a loss of recreation to many river users. Part of the NEPA process seeks to identify impacts and find acceptable mitigation of these impacts. This draft EIS does a good job at identifying the negative impacts and costs associated with recreational flows in the rivers, but seems to do nothing to attempt to mitigate these impacts. I propose that scheduled recreational in-stream flows would be a reasonable mitigation to loss of recreational flows incurred by these projects. Scheduled recreational flows are possible now with the current and proposed infrastructure. Proper planning and notification is all that would be required to make this a reality. Colorado has been a national leader in showing the recreational in-stream flows provide a valuable resource for communities from a recreational and economic standpoint. As the Windy Gap Firming Project is being reviewed, I urge you to take recreational flows into consideration as a just and fair mitigation to return even a small fraction of what has already been taken away.

A national resource to help craft recreational in-stream flow agreements is the organization American Whitewater. American Whitewater has successfully negotiated in-stream recreation flows on multiple rivers, in multiple states with multiple stakeholders. American Whitewater can be contacted via: 1-866-BOAT-4-AW or [email protected] I am certain that a mutually beneficial agreement could be reached if impacted parties could discuss this issue with an open mind.

Ian Foley
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Old 09-03-2008   #6
Lyons, Colorado
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Too Important

BUmp- This is too important to drift to the bottom of the page. I emailed Nathan Fey of AWA to see where they are on this topic
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Old 09-03-2008   #7
Golden, Colorado
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Go Ian!.. Go Ian... YOU DA MAN!... YOU DA MAN!...
"I would drag my balls across broken glass just to hear her fart into a walkie talkie" -Jay Drury
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Old 09-03-2008   #8
Denver, Colorado
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I emailed Nathan Fey as well. I feel like AW could be a big resource for the windy gap deal and for the gross reservoir enlargement also. The door is open during these processes and its the boating community's opportunity to be heard. No response yet.

Thanks Tbone!
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