Colorado Editorial Roundup
The Denver Post, June 24, on preserving Denver’s Park Hill golf course as open space:
Unless the prospective buyers of Park Hill Golf Club are indeed interested in operating a public golf course on the 155 acres of prime real estate in north Denver, they’d best pull out of the deal now.
The land is still under a city-held easement restriction that doesn’t allow development. And the public sentiment these days, and for the foreseeable future, is strongly in the camp of increased parkland and open space. We can’t imagine the City Council or Mayor Michael Hancock would be foolish enough to lift restrictions.
Rare isn’t a strong enough word for this opportunity. City leaders did the right thing years ago by paying $2 million, a pittance by today’s standards, to put an easement on that land. And now the city holds the power over what happens if it’s no longer going to be a golf course. Councilmembers and the mayor need to be vocal about their opposition to any development on the land that isn’t a public facility (think of the zoo and museum at City Park just a few blocks south on Colorado Boulevard). Denver is becoming denser every day, rightfully so, to meet the demands of a growing population, and the city must respond by aggressively acquiring parkland to compensate.
There was once a deal on the table for the city to purchase the land for $20.5 million. The deal, unfortunately, also involved allowing some development on the land. Thankfully that deal fell through, and now this city’s leaders can exert a strong influence over who Clayton Early Learning decides to sell to by voicing opposition.
We are sensitive to the fact that Clayton is a nonprofit that has been working in the field of early childhood education in Denver for decades, serving low-income children during their most critical ages of development. Yes, we hope Clayton can get a good price for the land to help them continue their mission. The city can and should pay a fair-market price, understanding that the price is severely hampered by the easement restrictions in place.
The potential buyer, as reported by The Denver Post’s Andrew Kenney, is Westside Investment Partners. That group is building a strong reputation as it works to redevelop Loretto Heights in southwest Denver. That is a sensitive project that will transform a beloved campus with a history stretching back 120 years. But this situation is different. The city holds all the power for determining the future of this land, and our elected officials must not lose track of the ultimate goal — to vastly increase open space by acquiring one of the last remaining parcels of land available for such an endeavor.
Denver has been home to incredible, transformational projects in recent years, but most have been dominated by private development subsidized with taxpayer dollars. It’s time for our civic leaders to be bold and envision something spectacular for north Denver, something that is publicly owned and can compete with urban parks across the world. Taxpayers and donors would certainly chip in for the right vision.
Now is the time for Hancock and our city leaders to win this land battle for generations to come.Editorial: https://dpo.st/2Jc9wwr
Daily Camera, June 22, on expanding the Gross Reservoir:
Denver Water serves 1.4 million people in Denver and surrounding communities, and that figure will rise substantially in the coming decades. As more residents demand service, climate change increasingly will exert its own strain on the water supply. One of the primary ways the utility plans to meet this imminent challenge is by expanding one of its northern storage facilities, Gross Reservoir, in the foothills southwest of the city of Boulder.
The project has met with intractable opposition. It’s the subject of lawsuits and uncertain government reviews. Neighbors are scandalized by the prospect of years of disruptive construction, and some environmentalists contend the project won’t even be able to perform its intended purpose.
But a dispassionate consideration of the project leads to the conclusion that Denver Water’s plan to expand Gross Reservoir is a reasonable and responsible measure, provided the utility proceeds with the utmost sensitivity to the residents who would be impacted by construction and with the expectation that increased storage is no substitute for continued conservation efforts.
The roots of the project go back to the proposed Two Forks Dam. Denver Water had proposed storing water from the Colorado and Platte rivers by building a 615-foot dam southwest of Denver near Deckers. But a coalition of environmental groups successfully opposed the project, which the Environmental Protection Agency spiked in 1990. Environmentalists argued at the time that a better option would be for Denver Water to expand a storage facility it already operated: Gross Reservoir.
Now that the utility is following opponents’ former advice, environmentalists have changed their mind about Gross. The project would raise Gross Dam by 131 feet to 471 feet, roughly tripling the reservoir’s current capacity of 41,811 acre-feet (for comparison, Denver Water’s largest reservoir, Dillon, has a capacity of more than 257,000 acre-feet). Critics say the expansion would result in the state’s tallest dam, and much of the opposition focuses on the project’s substantial environmental impact. It would require years’ worth of noisy construction, traffic and the removal of about 650,000 trees. The reservoir pulls water from the headwaters of the Colorado River, and critics argue that the utility should refrain from further depleting that waterway, which runs all the way to the Gulf of California and is subject to the Colorado River Compact, an agreement that governs water allocation in seven states that rely on the river as an invaluable resource. Population growth in the Southwest has stressed the river, and climate change is expected to further compromise the river’s capacity to deliver water to users. Some Gross expansion opponents even assert that there won’t be enough water available from the Colorado River Basin to fill a bigger reservoir. And anyway, the opponents say, water needs can be met through conservation rather than dam-building.
Construction to expand Gross Reservoir would indeed bring acute hardship to nearby residents, and concern for local environmental damage should not be dismissed. But construction is temporary, and the environmental impact seems less intolerable than merely regrettable when weighed against the project’s purpose of ensuring for decades the delivery of a vital resource to thousands of people.
Utilities should be judicious in exercising their rights to Colorado River Basin water, but the volume associated with the proposed Gross expansion is relatively small. The entire Denver Water utility accounts for less than 2% of the state’s total water use, while it serves about 25% of the population. As part of planning for the expansion, Denver Water worked with West Slope communities in the Colorado River Basin to earn support for the project, efforts that in 2012 resulted in the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement. The CRCA, which depends on final approval of the Gross Reservoir expansion, calls for Denver Water to help restore habitats and maintain flows in the Fraser River, a Colorado River tributary in Grand County. Some West Slope officials so favor implementation of the CRCA that a Grand County commissioner in March warned of “a ton of litigation” were Boulder to block the Gross expansion.
Colorado River flows will almost certainly decrease due to climate change in future decades. A widely cited 2017 study suggests the river increasingly will be subject to droughts, and flows could drop more than 35% by the end of the century because of higher temperatures. But this doesn’t necessarily constitute an argument against expanding Gross. No one can claim with certainty that flows would drop such to render useless an expanded reservoir, but Denver Water would certainly be justified in viewing the threat of persistent droughts and lower flows as a reason to increase storage capacity, since there’s more incentive to collect water during the fewer occasions it’s available. The utility would be seen to have failed customers were it to find itself with nowhere to store precious water to which it had rights.
That Denver Water should do more to promote conservation gets no argument here. The utility’s customers have already demonstrated that they can get by splendidly with reduced volume — they’re using about 20% less water today than 15 years ago, according to Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead — and there’s much room for further conservation. But conservation has limits, and Denver Water says it won’t be able to meet future demand solely by this method. In Denver alone, the current population of 729,000 is expected to swell by more than 20% in just 20 years. Besides, the project is meant not just to add yield to the utility’s system but also stability. The vast majority of Denver Water’s storage is in the south part of its system, and forest fires near those facilities, such as the Buffalo Creek Wildfire in 1996, have exposed a vulnerability that an expanded Gross would address.
The proposed expansion of Gross Reservoir has provoked waves of protest from Boulder County residents, and the county has asserted what it claims is its right to review the project. Known as a 1041 process, the move is contested by Denver Water. But though Denver Water doesn’t serve Boulder-area residents, water users throughout Boulder County every day enjoy the use of water pulled from the Colorado River, and water customers in such Boulder County communities as Longmont, Louisville, Lafayette, Erie and Superior are participants in the proposed Windy Gap Firming Project, which involves the construction of a whole new reservoir, not just an expansion, west of Carter Lake to store water from the Colorado River Basin. (That project similarly is tied up in litigation.)
Denver Water has already secured the bulk of required regulatory approvals for the expansion of Gross Reservoir. A final decision from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, whose staff has already recommended approval, is pending. Denver Water needs the FERC approval, because Gross also serves as a hydroelectric facility. Roadblocks include a lawsuit brought by a coalition of environmental groups that is led by Save the Colorado and Boulder County’s 1041 review.
Boulder County officials have a legitimate interest in reviewing what would be the largest construction project in county history, and they are encouraged to take an exhaustive look at Denver Water’s plans. Any objections to the expansion of Gross Reservoir, however, should be based on factors intrinsic to the proposal, not on a mere preference for Gross to be left alone.
The Durango Herald, June 21, on Denver TV reaching southwest Colorado:
If Southwest Colorado shopped on the Front Range rather than in Albuquerque, Denver’s TV stations would be eager to extend their signals to this corner of the state.
But Southwest Colorado does not. The Acuras, Volvos and Porsches are purchased and serviced in Albuquerque, and the Albuquerque airport is a favorite lower-cost outlet across lower latitudes. Interspersed are visits to the Albuquerque zoo and to Old Town, to a few casinos and to the multi-acre-sized shopping malls. The route is downhill and mostly open in the winter.
It is anecdotal, but at 6 ½ hours distance over three passes and across the big-sky San Luis Valley, rather than on mostly a four-lane highway for four hours, Denver does not seem to receive nearly the same volume of personal and commercial traffic from this corner of the state.
With Albuquerque stations rather than Denver’s, there is often a Dallas Cowboys’ football game which takes precedent over the Broncos, and the fast-paced flow of New Mexico political ads prior to an election. We get New Mexico’s regular shootings and auto accidents and not the traffic flow on I-70 into the mountains and Denver’s civic goings-on.
The weather at 10 p.m. from Albuquerque’s perspective includes only about a 20-mile band across southern Colorado. Not many changes in the weather for Durango begin in our neighboring state to the south.
Enter the federal government.
After at least a couple of decades of effort by state and local political powers, and local economic groups, last week, the Federal Communications Commission upheld a 2017 decision forcing Denver’s ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS affiliates to make their signals available to La Plata and Montezuma counties through satellite providers such as Direct TV and DISH. That ruling, however, does not include cable systems, whose channel offerings are allowed to be decided by their owners.
Thanks to Rep. Scott Tipton and Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner and the local organizations and leaders who have put so many words to paper to link the two counties to Colorado’s capital city and adjacent counties.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, elected just last November, immediately put his shoulder to the wheel, as well. That was welcome.
No one in Colorado was against the inclusion, understandably; only the ad-selling television stations in Albuquerque were.
The FCC ruling requires the stations and satellite providers to apply reasonable speed to link their respective technologies to make the programming travel to La Plata and Montezuma counties. There will be great cheering when that is completed, surely before an early football match-up bumps the Broncos.
The counties along any state’s state line can be disconnected from their state’s political and economic core, but this has been an extreme example. “Orphan counties,” indeed.
If not champagne, then craft beer should flow when the four Denver stations throw the switch for satellite connectivity. We hope the cable companies follow after.
Congratulations to all involved.