Littleton City Council wants to lead the way on a downstream coalition to protect the South Platte River from any potential negative effects of the proposed Chatfield reallocation project.
“I think it’s appropriate for Littleton to take the lead, because we are probably the most impacted by this,” said City Manager Michael Penny.
City staff has reached out to Denver Water, the state, Centennial Water and Sanitation, Colorado Water Conservancy and Aurora, among others. Penny said there’s been general willingness to come together to discuss how to keep maximum flow running through the river should the project come to fruition.
“It’s almost a legacy issue for us,” said Councilor Bruce Beckman. “If we didn’t deal with it, future generations would look back and ask, ‘Why didn’t you?’”
Council put a letter in the mail in time to reach the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Sept. 6 deadline to comment on the project, which would convert 20,600 acre-feet of water from flood control to usable storage in an effort to help meet the growing demand for water in the metro area. It would raise the water in the recreation area by 12 feet, covering more of the park with water and requiring reconfiguration of the marina and other amenities.
“While Littleton continues to support the Chatfield reallocation project, it is concerned that the (Corps) has not given sufficient consideration to the potential environmental impact that may result under the (plan),” reads council’s letter. “Specifically, Littleton is concerned that the potential impacts to aquatic and riparian habitat immediately downstream of Chatfield in (South Platte Park) have not been adequately addressed.”
Council noted that the Corps says a minimum of 10 cubic feet per second of water flowing north through the South Platte River would benefit the fish habitat, but the number of days that would happen would be reduced under the proposal.
Additionally, the study was designed to predict levels during months and years rather than hours and days; council believes that could mask the real impacts. Council is also perplexed as to why the Corps didn’t take measurements between the dam and Denver, where point several tributaries raise water levels.
Mayor Debbie Brinkman noted different communities have different interests in the project, but Littleton’s main concern is the water flow.
“We really are stewards and caretakers of the river,” she said.