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Settlement reached in fight over Gross Reservoir expansion

Boulder County commissioners and Denver Water came to an agreement, allowing the expansion of Gross Reservoir to move forward.

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — The Boulder County Board of Commissioners approved a settlement proposal to resolve a lawsuit that would allow the expansion of Gross Reservoir to move forward.

Denver Water filed a federal lawsuit against Boulder County in July. The lawsuit claimed Boulder County didn't have the authority to review the reservoir expansion project because the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency (FERC) had already approved the project in 2020.

>Video above: How can Denver Water fill an expanded Gross Reservoir?

“A federal agency approved this project under federal law,” said Deputy County Attorney David Hughes in a statement. “In its lawsuit, Denver Water cited cases from the U.S. Supreme Court holding that state and local governments can’t veto a FERC-approved project. The settlement proposal avoids the legal risk that a federal court will order the project to proceed without any county-approved mitigation measures.” 

The settlement requires Denver Water to pay nearly $13 million to mitigate impacts of the project in Boulder County. For their part, Boulder County would not dispute Denver Water's claim that the project is exempt from review.

RELATED: Expansion proposal for Gross Reservoir placed on hold

Boulder County said the money would go toward:

  • $5 million to help Boulder County residents directly impacted by the expansion
  • $5.1 million for open space to replace lands that will be inundated by the increased reservoir capacity
  • $1.5 million to address greenhouse gas emissions from the project
  • $1 million to restore a portion of the South St. Vrain Creek for wildlife habitat

“We appreciate the County’s effort to work through the issues and come to an agreement that will help ease concerns about the project’s impact on nearby residents, bring benefits to Boulder County residents through enhancements to its trails and open spaces and allow Denver Water to proceed on an undertaking critical to the water security of 1.5 million people in the Denver region,” said Denver Water CEO and Manager Jim Lochhead said. “Denver Water and Boulder County have shared values. We both believe deeply in the need to address climate change, conserve our water resources and protect the region’s precious environment. This agreement reflects those values through dedicated funding and actions on the ground.”

Denver Water also agreed to transfer 70 acres of land that would be added to Walker Ranch Open Space to Boulder County.

Boulder County commissioners held a public meeting on Nov. 2. to discuss the proposed settlement, and Denver Water considered the proposal on Nov. 3.

Boulder County and Denver Water were scheduled for oral arguments before a federal judge on Nov. 4, but that was canceled after the agreement was reached.

Gross Reservoir is located in southwest Boulder County.

Click here for more information on the Gross Reservoir expansion project.

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