Outstanding Grand Lake Foundation works to protect the future of Grand Lake’s watershed after discussion of the elimination of Shadow Mountain Reservoir
6/20/2017 For Immediate Release
Grand Lake, CO— Outstanding Grand Lake — On July 27th, the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NWCCOG) will be holding a public hearing in Grand Lake to discuss amending the 208 Water Plan to allow for designation of Grand Lake as an Outstanding Water. This meeting is being held in response to a request of the Outstanding Grand Lake (OGL) Foundation to make the designation.
The state of Colorado has authority under the Clean Water Act to set water quality standards for our lakes and rivers. In doing so, the law provides for three levels of protection: Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3. Currently, Grand Lake is classified as a Tier 2 water where its protected uses are described as a cold water aquatic resource, suitable for providing drinking water and are a recreation and aesthetic resource. Outstanding Water designation (Tier 3) provides the highest level of protection with the same protected uses as provided in Tier 2. The difference between these two classifications is that Tier 2 allows for degradation of water quality up to the point that it does not change the protected uses. Tier 3 protects these uses but allows no further water quality degradation from what exists today.
When the Clean Water Act was established in 1972, it established the process for protecting the uses of the nation’s waters as described in the paragraph above. It included not only the Tiered classification above but also antidegradation standards. This latter was meant to insure that existing water quality standards and uses were not further degraded. So how effectively have these regulations been applied? Studies done in the late 1960’s by the then Federal Water Pollution Control Agency (formed into the EPA in 1970) measured clarity of 10 meters (approx. 33 feet) in Grand Lake and Lake Granby and reaching to the bottom in Shadow Mountain. Last summer, Grand Lake clarity went below 2.5 m and could not reach a 3.8 m average in spite of agreements reached in April 2016 with the State of Colorado.
Despite the ongoing objections and pleadings of many in Grand County over the years to fix the problem, a solution has yet to be found. Recently, the Corps of Engineers issued its Record of Decision that will allow another 30,000 acre-feet per year to be pumped through Grand Lake; this is roughly a 20% increase in pumping per year. It is this pumping with its nutrient filled waters that leads to the algal blooms that turn the lake green in summer.
A review of meeting minutes (obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request) between Northern Water and the highest levels of the Department of the Interior should give us cause as to why Outstanding Water protection is needed for Grand Lake. In a meeting held May 21, 2014, the minutes state “…if a structural solution requires pumping from Lake Granby directly into Grand Lake then Shadow Mountain may need to be eliminated.” In another meeting on March 17, 2015 between these same parties, the minutes record that “(name withheld) does not want clarity in Grand Lake linked to the preservation of recreation and aesthetic values. … it is not a good strategic move to have clarity linked to recreation and aesthetic values”. In other words, forget protecting the lake and the notion as to why people come to Grand Lake.
It is important that anyone interested in the future of Grand Lake (the town and the lake) attend the hearing in July and understand the process and importance of Outstanding Water designation. In essence, it becomes the last line of defense that will protect our lake.
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