Public weighs in on Bear Creek Lake expansion

Residents give input into Feasibility Study process

Bob Wooley
bwooley@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 10/19/21

A virtual meeting held Oct. 14 gave folks a chance to comment on the proposed expansion of Bear Creek reservoir. A feasibility Study for the project being conducted by the US Army Corps of Engineers …

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Public weighs in on Bear Creek Lake expansion

Residents give input into Feasibility Study process

Posted

A virtual meeting held Oct. 14 gave folks a chance to comment on the proposed expansion of Bear Creek reservoir. A feasibility Study for the project being conducted by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) is currently underway. 

At the onset of the meeting, host, Christopher Fassero, USACE, said folks would have a chance to hear about the study’s objectives, opportunities, constraints and considerations.

“These are things on which we would like public input,” he said. 

The opportunities he was speaking about referred to an expanded reservoir’s ability to store more water supply, store agricultural augmentation water and prevent the area downstream from the reservoir, from running dry in periods of drought. 

Fassero said the reservoir’s proximity to Bear Creek and Turkey Creek would allow for immediate capture of any available water flows that could be legally stored (as opposed to having to store it off-stream somewhere and having to pump it for use).

He said the relatively high elevation of the reservoir makes it possible to use gravity to deliver stored water. 

“Based on those opportunities, we developed objectives for this study,” he said. 

The first objective would be evaluating the availability of existing storage in the reservoir. 

Another objective would be to determine whether there’s storage in the reservoir that could be reallocated for water supply and whether it’s technically feasible to modify the project to create additional storage. Those modifications could be either physical — like raising the dam, or operational — like modifying the Water Control Plan, which is the document that governs regulations about when, and how much, water can be released.

One constraint Fassero referred to would be the need to address dam safety issues before reallocating (increasing) water storage.

“The primary authorized purpose of a dam is flood risk management,” Fassero said. “So, any impacts to the water supply reallocation on that purpose have to be carefully considered.”

For the most part, public comment was firmly against any attempt to increase storage in the reservoir. Nearly everyone who spoke addressed destruction of riparian habitat, the possible creation of an enormous dry lake bed or general opposition to changes to a beloved community asset.

Fassero stressed the study would take risks of storing more water into account before recommendations are made. He said any recommendations made by USACE would have to comply with applicable laws stressing the need to mitigate environmental, cultural or recreational impacts on the project. 

There are also things like water quality and general character of the park that would need to be considered before changes to the reservoir could be made.

The goal of increased storage at the reservoir is meeting projected water needs of the state as the population continues to grow.

Bear Creek Lake is currently allowed to store 2,000-acre feet of water. The proposed expansion would grow that capacity to 22,000-acre feet of water storage. However, additional water stored in Bear Creek Reservoir would not be used to support higher density growth in Lakewood or surrounding areas. It would instead go to accommodate growth in Dacono, Berthoud and Brighton.

Fassero said comments from the meeting would be archived and public input would be taken into consideration throughout the duration of the feasibility study. 

More information including the CWCB Feasibility Study Memo and USACE Project Management Plan can be found at https://cwcb.colorado.gov/events/public-scoping-bear-creek-lake

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