In October 2017, a coalition of environmental groups, including Guardians, filed suit against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) over a planned diversion from the already stressed Colorado River. The lawsuit challenges the Windy Gap Firming Project, which proposes to divert nearly 10 billion gallons (30,000 acre-feet) of water annually from the iconic river to Colorado’s Front Range for municipal use. The Northern Colorado Water Conservation District (Northern Water), the project proponent, wants the diversion to fuel population growth and development in the burgeoning Front Range metropolises from Estes Park east to Greeley and from Fort Collins south to Boulder. The environmental groups claim the federal agencies, in approving the proposal, did not properly consider the full range of environmental impacts of the project, nor did they consider viable alternatives to the diversion.
The federal agencies’ poor decision making in approving the project at face value without exploring and evaluating the actual water needs of Front Range communities and the numerous negative environmental effects of the plan is short-sighted and is in direct violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Clean Water Act (CWA). During the federal review of the diversion project, environmental groups raised concerns about the impacts of the proposal, yet Reclamation and the Corps disregarded these concerns and blindly approved Northern Water’s proposal to the detriment of the Colorado River and the many species and communities that rely on its flows. The lawsuit requests that the court declare the agencies’ approval for the proposal invalid and require the agencies to complete in-depth assessments of possible alternatives and environmental impacts of the project.