Construction (April 2018)

Much of Chatfield State Park continues to be closed closed for construction associated with the Chatfield Reallocation Project. The swim beach, which had been scheduled to re-open on Memorial Day 2018, will be closed for the summer.

The following photos were taken in April 2018.

Swim Beach (April 9, 2018)
Balloon Launch Site
Balloon Launch Site (April 9, 2018)
Swim Beach and Eagle Cove (April 9, 2018)
Haul Road to and across Plum Creek (April 9, 2018)

A map showing closed areas is available at  https://chatfieldreallocation.org/construction/.

Construction (Dec. 2017 & Jan. 2018)

Much of Chatfield State Park is now closed for construction associated with the Chatfield Reallocation Project.

The following photos were taken during December 2017 and January 2018. At Plum Creek efforts are being made to stop stream downcutting. It’s not clear what is being done at Deer Creek. The North Boat Ramp is also being redeveloped.

Plum Creek Construction December 7, 2017
Construction near Plum Creek (December 7, 2017)
Construction near Deer Creek December 19, 2017
Construction near Deer Creek (December 19, 2017)
Construction near Deer Creek December 19, 2017
Construction near Deer Creek (December 19, 2017)
Construction near Deer Creek January 3, 2018
Construction near Deer Creek (January 3, 2018)
Construction at North Boat Ramp January 3, 2018
Construction at North Boat Ramp (January 3, 2018)
Construction near the Swim Beach January 3, 2018
Construction near the Swim Beach (January 3, 2018)

A map showing closed areas is available at  https://chatfieldreallocation.org/construction/.

Comments on Mitigation Plans

Comments on the Chatfield Reallocation Mitigation Company’s Open House, May 30, 2017
From the Audubon Society of Greater Denver

The Proposed Mitigation is Better, But Our Basic Concerns Remain

In a 2.5 hour session on the evening of May 30, 2017, the entity known as the Chatfield Reallocation Mitigation Company presented 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.

What’s better:

  • 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.

Small Ponds Drained

Planning for Chatfield Reallocation is ongoing, even though the Audubon Society of Greater Denver (ASGD) has taken the US Army Corps of Engineers to court. In late August, contractors came in and pumped 18 inches of water out of Blackbird (also called Discovery) Pond in the southwest corner of Chatfield State Park. ASGD uses the pond under a State special use permit for its environmental education programs. Water was  also pumped out of “Turtle Pond”, a former stock pond near Plum Creek well known to birdwatchers.

Blackbird Pond, a popular fishing spot, is the home of several American Beavers. Northern Leopard Frogs, a Colorado species of special concern, also live in the area. The pumping was only discovered because ASGD staff members taking visitors on a tour of the area saw the pipes being removed. (The Corps had notified the ASGD legal team in March that “two ponds will be drained” but nothing more specific was included in the description.)

Inquiries to the Corps of Engineers, the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Chatfield State Park staff revealed that the pumping was a “test” to see if water from those ponds could be used to replace wetlands that will be destroyed by the Reallocation. Because the water levels in the ponds have been slow to recover, the tentative answer is NO, although that could change.

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.

August 2015 Post-Flooding Photos

In 2015 an unusually wet spring coupled with rapid snowmelt forced Chatfield Reservoir to be used for its primary purpose — flood control.  By August 3 when the following photos were taken, high water levels had returned to normal. Changes resulting from the flooding offer some indication of the effects reallocation would have in the 7 years out of 10 when no additional water would be available to store in the reservoir.

One obvious effect of the flooding is that it killed lower branches on trees that were partially submerged. If high water levels were maintained in the reservoir for the longer times anticipated by the reallocation plan, these trees would likely die completely. Approximately 296 acres of trees deemed most likely to die would be cut down and removed as part of the reallocation project.

Chatfiled Shoreline
The Chatfield shoreline viewed from the a spot near the North Boat Ramp. The reallocation project would remove these trees and many others close to the shore.
Massey Draw Picnic Area
Massey Draw Picnic Area. Reallocation would likely eliminate all the trees in this photo as well.
Eagle Cove
Trees near Eagle Cove. Reallocation would significantly impact wildlife in Chatfield State Park. Notice that beavers apparently cut down two of these trees while they were partially submerged.

 

 

Deer Creek Picnic Area
Remaining puddle and mud at Deer Creek Picnic Area.
Catfish Flats
Mud at Catfish Flats.
Shore Near Fox Run
The shore near Fox Run. Imagine what this pleasant path along the shore would be like without trees.
Peninsula Near the South Boat Ramp
Gulls on the peninsula east of the South Boat Ramp.
Horseshoe pits at the Plum Creek Picnic Area.
Horseshoe pits at the Plum Creek Picnic Area. Reallocation plans call for this area to be submerged during wet periods that occur in about 3 years out of 10. The rest of the time it would look much like this — but likely without the trees.

 

June 2015 Flooding

In an earlier post we shared some May 2015 photos of high water in Chatfileld Reservoir.  In June 2015 the Chatfield water level broke the record of  5447.6 feet set on May 25, 1980. At 8 am on June 18, 2015, it was 5448.4 feet and slowly continuing to rise. The west side of Chatfield State Park, including the main entrance off Wadsworth Boulevard, was closed. 5448.4 feet is 16.4 ft. above the current storage level of 5432 feet and 4.4 feet above the 5444 foot storage level proposed by reallocation plans.

Several links to news coverage of the flooding are listed below. Imagine what this would be like if these flood waters were added on top of a reservoir that was already filled to 5444 feet.

May 2015 Flooding

Unusually high precipitation combined with spring snow melt caused the water level in Chatfield Reservoir to reach a height of 5440 feet above sea level in May 2015. This is 4 feet lower than the maximum storage elevation of 5444 feet proposed by the Chatfield Reallocation Project. However, the following photos give some sense of parkland that reallocation would destroy.

Please keep several things in mind while viewing the photos:

  • If reallocation is allowed, water levels in Chatfield Reservoir would fluctuate over a much larger range than they do currently. In wet years, which are expected to occur in 2 or 3 for years out of 10, non-flood water levels would reach 4 vertical feet above the levels shown in the photos. Because shorelines are sloped, 4 vertical feet translates into much more than 4 horizontal feet. Temporary flood-prevention levels would be even higher.
  • Trees can survive the kind of short term submersion anticipated for the 2015 flooding. Long term submersion like that proposed by Chatfield Reallocation would kill them.
  • In dryer years, water levels in Chatfield Reservoir would be near current normal water levels. However, the park would be changed dramatically. Partially submerged trees in these photos would be removed. Facilities would be moved to higher ground. In some cases, higher ground for these facilities would have to be created.
  • When water levels are low, as they are expected to be much of the time, the relocated facilities would be a long way from the shore. The distance between the bathhouse and the shore at the swim beach would be a particular problem for swimmers with small bladders, but the long distance to the shore would likely affect others as well. For example, long distances to the shore would make handicapped fishing and hand launching small boats more difficult.

Click photos to display a larger version. Use your browser’s back button to return to this page.

Road to the swim beach parking lot on May 14, 2015. The reallocation project would require major changes in this area. Facilities would have to be moved to higher ground to accommodate high water levels. A long walk to the beach would be required when water levels are low.
Road to the swim beach parking lot on May 14, 2015. The reallocation project would require major changes in this area. Ground would have to be built up for facilities like the bath house shown in this photo. A long walk to the beach would be required when water levels are low.
Plum Creek Picnic Area viewed from the south. The restroom facility on the left side of the photo is at the southeast corner of the picnic area.
Plum Creek area viewed from the south on May 17,2015. The restroom facility on the left side of the photo is at the southeast corner of the Plum Creek Picnic Area. During the winter a small herd of elk takes cover in these trees during the day. Long term submersion would kill the trees and leave the elk without shelter. They would have to be removed to keep debris from interfering with boating when water levels are high.
Spit on the east side of the marina from the east marina parking lot on May 17, 2015. Click to enlarge.
Spit on the east side of the marina from the east marina parking lot on May 17, 2015. These trees would also be removed.
Marina dock viewed from the east parking lot on May 17, 2015. Major changes in the marina would be required to accommodate large fluctuations in water levels if storage space in the reservoir is reallocated.
Marina dock viewed from the east parking lot on May 17, 2015. If space in the reservoir is reallocated, major changes in the marina would be required to accommodate large fluctuations in water levels.
Path to the handicapped fishing area on the spit west of the marina on May 17, 2015. Click photo to enlarge.
Path to the handicapped fishing pier west of the marina on May 17, 2015. Trees is this area would also be removed.
Kingfisher Parking lot on May 14, 2015. Click photo to enlarge.
Kingfisher Parking Lot on May 14, 2015. This photo shows more forested shoreline that would be obliterated to accommodate reallocation.
Jamison Picnic Area on May 14, 2015. Click photo to enlarge.
Jamison Picnic Area on May 14, 2015. Trees in this area would also be removed. In dry years water levels would be about where they are typically now — roughly 8 vertical feet lower than the levels shown in these photos. Imagine what the area would look like without trees.
Picnic area near the balloon launching site on May 14, 2015. Click photo to enlarge.
Picnic area near the balloon launching site on May 14, 2015. Trees that would be removed in this area include a snag with a hollow top where great-horned owls recently nested and raised four babies.

 

Massey Draw Picnic Area on May 14, 2015. Note the grill and picnic table in the foreground. Click photo to enlarge.
Massey Draw Picnic Area on May 14, 2015. Note the grill and picnic table in the foreground. Plans call for moving this picnic area to higher ground that is currently treeless.
A fisherman near the North Boat Ramp on May 14, 2015. Click on photo to enlarge.
A fisherman near the North Boat Ramp on May 14, 2015. This area would have to be build up to allow boats to be launched when water levels are high. These trees would be removed.

Zero Dependable Yield!

In a presentation given in June 2009, the Army Corps of Engineers noted the Chatfield Reallocation Project’s low reliability and high mitigation costs. At Chatfield, dependable yield from “natural” sources was 0.

A study covered in the presentation examined 82 reallocations at 29 lakes and found an average annual cost per acre-ft of $230, with a range of $50 to $980 per acre-ft. Using the same costing methods, the average annual cost for storage at Chatfiled would be $14,300 per acre-ft! (2009 prices)

One would think that these fundamental observations might prompt the Corps to conclude that Chatfield Reallocation is not a worthwhile project to pursue. Instead the Corps decided to issue a policy waiver to reduce the price it charges for storage. This change obviously makes the project appear more favorable than it really is.

A PDF version of slides used in the June 2009 is no longer available at its original address on the Corps website (http://www.corpsresults.us/docs/CleanWaterSupplyWorkshop/Cone%20Chatfield-Storage-cost.pdf). However, a copy is available here.

The only mention of zero dependable yield that we’ve found in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement is buried in Appendix BB:

Common measurements of dependable yield include: 50-year low flow; 2% chance; 98% reliability; 7-day-10-year low flow. At Chatfield, all of these measures of dependable yield are 0.

How to Write a Letter

Identify yourself: “I am a user of Chatfield State Park” or “I am a potential beneficiary of the water supply system and I have a direct stake in this decision”, or “I am a concerned citizen of ________ and do not agree with plans to increase the water level at Chatfield”, etc. Then state “I would like to submit the following comments on the Chatfield Reallocation EIS.”

List how you use the park: (if applicable): for example, “I walk, hike, bike, bird watch, stream fish, water-ski, canoe, camp,” etc. Use personal descriptors like “I enjoy the solitude under the large trees” or “I feel so at peace when I walk through the cottonwood forest” or “I have such fun with my grandson as we search for frogs along the river’s edge”.

Describe the Resources you especially value: For example, “large mature trees with shade, cottonwood forests with rich diversity of plants/animals, shaded stream-side paths, natural waters edge with frogs and crayfish, wetlands habitat with unusual plants, the abundance of birds,” etc. Be as specific as you can.

Describe the NEGATIVE impact to you if the above resources go away: For example, “I will no longer visit the park” or, “the trees will be destroyed in my favorite section of the South Platte”, or “I will no longer be able to ride my bike along the shady forested stream side”, or “residents have a right to enjoy and protect natural areas that cannot be replaced”, etc.

Take a position:  For example, “I recommend that you NOT approve this project because the impacts to Chatfield State Park are so substantial.  Less damaging alternatives to water supply exist.”

Give your reasons:  For example:

  1. Massive impacts: deforested and barren stream and lake’s edge with mud flats and “bathtub ring” effect, loss of valuable riparian forest habitat and the recreation that depends on it. Destroyed habitat like century-old cottonwoods and free-flowing stream segments on the South Platte River, Plum Creek and Deer Creek cannot be replaced.
  2. Alternatives are weak. It doesn’t appear that other alternatives for water supply received serious consideration.   Examples:  aquifer storage and recharge, increased water conservation, gravel pit storage and/or expansion and use of existing water storage facilities in the vicinity of Chatfield such as Reuter-Hess reservoir or some combination of these.
  3. The selected plan (Alternative 3) is the MOST environmentally damaging alternative, whereas federal law – the Clean Water Act – specifies that only the LEAST damaging alternative is permissible.
  4. The selected plan will not provide a dependable source of water. In Appendix BB, the EIS lists five common measures of dependable yield for reservoirs and then states: “At Chatfield, all of these measures of dependable yield are 0.” The sacrifice of this rich bio-diverse habitat is NOT worth the benefit of an unreliable water supply.
  5. On May 15, 2013, Governor Hickenlooper issued an executive order directing the Colorado Water Conservation Board to create a Colorado Water Plan. No decision should be made about Chatfield until that plan is complete.
  6. Value of Chatfield for recreation and wildlife.  Example:  it has been designated an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society.  The EIS however leaves out a number of bird species that occur there and contains several misstatements about bird species that breed there.  A survey of breeding birds was done at inappropriate times of year and day.
  7. Tell what kinds of recreation you enjoy there and its value to you.
  8. The document is huge; we need more time to review it – at least 60 days more.

Summarize:  Example:   Chatfield State Park is a unique recreational and biological resource.  We must find an alternative that meets water supply needs but preserves the Park’s integrity.  Alternative 3 is too damaging and I recommend you reject it.

Thanks:  Thank them for the opportunity to comment.