The Windy Gap Firming Project was reviewed under the federal National Environmental Policy Act. This review started in 2003. NEPA and Colorado's requirement for a plan focused on fish and wildlife are among several processes in place to identify mitigation measures that addressed the project's impacts.
But the 12 municipal providers who are paying for and would benefit from the project offered measures far beyond what’s required. These enhancements go over and above what is legally required mitigation. For nearly a decade, Windy Gap Firming Project proponents negotiated with West Slope and environmental interests to craft a plan to provides numerous environmental benefits to the Colorado River.
State biologists, Grand County officials, Trout Unlimited experts and others agree: The Windy Gap Firming Project will lead to a healthier Colorado River than we see today.
Learning by Doing
More than $10 million is earmarked for Grand County Learning By Doing projects through Inter-Governmental Agreements among LBD parties. Agreements with Denver Water and Northern Water's Municipal Subdistrict spell out conditions for the funding and timing through permitting and other milestones, as well as earmark funds for specific activities (stream temperature, aquatic life, riparian vegetation health, etc.). Additionally, Denver Water and the Municipal Subdistrict have agreed to release water at critical times and to allow their water collection systems to be used to benefit the environment. These and other resources bode well for keeping Grand County's home waters healthy and flowing.
Grand County Permit and Cooperative Agreements
At the end of 2012, Grand County issued a 1041 Permit for the project. Issuance of the permit also signaled the go-ahead for several related agreements, which were the culmination of nearly four years of cooperation, negotiation, formal reviews and public comment sessions involving the Municipal Subdistrict, Grand County, the Colorado River District, the Middle Park Water Conservancy District, the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, and others, including Trout Unlimited.
The cooperative agreements address environmental enhancements, or voluntary benefits, the Municipal Subdistrict will provide, including:
- Stream habitat restoration
- Investigation of a channel around or through Windy Gap Reservoir and contribution of $2 million toward its construction
- Water quality studies on Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Lake Granby
- Additional water supplies to Grand County
- Additional water supplies to the Middle Park Water Conservancy District
- Efforts to protect the Colorado River and enhance its habitat
- Efforts to support endangered species and recreation
"The Subdistrict and project participants are to be commended for their efforts to address our concerns and do the right thing for the Colorado River."- Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited
"Grand County has secured protections for water quantity and quality in the Colorado River that never would have happened without the project and this permit."- Nancy Stuart, former Grand County Commissioner