October 8, 2014
Denver Audubon Files Complaint To Protect Chatfield State Park,
Citing Massive Environmental Damage
Denver, CO – The Audubon Society of Greater Denver (Denver Audubon) today 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
A copy of Denver Audubon’s filing is available at http://www.savechatfield.org/documents/ASGDChatfieldComplaint-2014-10-08.pdf.
The Chatfield Reallocation Project was approved approved on June 4, 2014. Information about the decision is available at tinyurl.com/ChatfieldROD-announcement.
(Video courtesy of Havens Productions, LLC)
Slides (8.9 MB in pdf format) and audio (4.5 MB in mp3 format) for a Colorado Parks and Wildlife presentation to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission on “Chatfiled Reallocation Project Impacts.”
Please see our autumn foliage photos for a close-up look at some of the habitat that the Reallocation Project would destroy.
Click here for things you can do.
Chatfield State Park, one of Colorado’s most visited State Parks, is threatened by proposed changes that would destroy much of its woodlands and riparian habitat and heavily impact the activities of Park visitors. A consortium of water districts has requested to store additional water in Chatfield Reservoir. The maximum storage level of the Reservoir would be increased by 12 feet, expanding its footprint significantly. Perhaps worse, routine water levels in the reservoir would fluctuate by as much as 21 feet. Swim beach facilities would have to be moved. Woodlands would be inundated. The floating marina would have to be re-anchored to accommodate the larger water level fluctuations. Shady picnic sites in areas to be flooded would have to be moved to higher treeless locations.
Because the consortium owns very junior water rights, water would only approach the maximum level in extremely wet years. Many years the reservoir would be maintained close to its current level. At low water levels, the swim beach facilities would be more than 600 feet from the water’s edge. Rich woodland and riparian habitat along Plum Creek and the South Platte River would be flooded during wet years and transformed into mud flats much of the time. Visitors would have fewer wild birds and other animals to observe and fewer opportunities for contact with nature.
Quality of Life
Metropolitan Denver’s population is predicted to roughly double by 2050. The Draft Feasibility Report / Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) correctly points out the urgent need to develop additional water resources and management strategies. The DEIS does not address the need to augment parks and preserve natural areas for an increased population. Without adequate parks and natural areas, the quality of life in this more crowded metropolitan area would be greatly diminished. There are other options. We should not enhance our water supplies by sacrificing a portion of one of our busiest parks.
For more information please explore the links on this page. You can reach other pages on SaveChatfield.org through the links below the photo at the top of this page. The column at the right contains links to other sites and information from external sources.