Plaintiffs in Case No. 21-1036 – Save the Colorado, et. al. v. United States Bureau of Reclamation have reached a settlement agreement, the text of which can be found below.
The agreement states that the Municipal Subdistrict, Windy Gap Firming Project Water Activity Enterprise will pay a total of $15,000,000 to the Grand Foundation for the “design, construction and maintenance of projects to improve a) aquatic habitat, b) riparian habitat, or c) water quality in Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Reservoir, Granby Reservoir, the Colorado River from Granby Reservoir to its confluence with the Williams Fork River, or the Fraser River between the Town of Winter Park and Windy Gap Reservoir, with priority given to projects that address impacts caused by the Windy Gap Project and
Windy Gap Firming Project.”
21-1036 Settlement Agreement Final 2021-04-20 signed
21-1036 Settlement Agreement Final 2021-04-20 signed
Rights of nature
By Jake Matyas and Mary C Balzer
The Earth and its natural systems are nearing a point of no return, heading toward disastrous climate change, a significant die-off of wildlife due to habitat loss, and possibly the collapse of the food chain if insect pollinators, bats and birds continue to be killed at current rates. With drought becoming the norm, water is becoming ever scarcer — and water is the lifeblood of our existence here in the West.
The Boulder Creek Watershed forms the basis of all life in Boulder. Without the watershed maintaining its basic integrity, the forests, the animals, drinking water, and countless native ecosystems would all be at risk, especially considering the unpredictable forces of climate change.
Unfortunately, there is no indication that our current laws and policies will reverse the decline of the watershed’s health. That is because we treat it as mere property, which we exploit to the fullest extent possible without consideration of its inherent worth. For the watershed to survive, it must have a seat at the table. Nature must have a voice and must have representation when decisions are made about housing, other development, water usage, road construction, and other issues.
A community organization here in Boulder, Boulder Rights of Nature (BRON), along with partners such as Save the Colorado and Earth Law Center are proposing that we take a bold stand and try to protect the Boulder Creek Watershed by recognizing its legal rights through a local ordinance. Among the rights sought for Boulder Creek are rights to flow, to support essential functions within its ecosystems, maintain native biodiversity and exist free of pollution. The proposed ordinance would also establish an independent legal guardianship body that would defend those rights and advise local government on how to ensure Rights of Nature becomes part of the community decisionmaking.
Globally, Rights of Nature is recognized at some level of government in at least 14 other countries. It is becoming bread and butter law in Latin America, with many rivers and ecosystems being declared “subjects of rights.” In the United States, numerous Tribal Nations have recognized the Rights of Nature, including the Yurok’s recognition of the rights of the Klamath River and the Nez Perce Tribe’s recognition of the rights of the Snake River. Many other communities have acknowledged and started to implement Nature’s rights as well, including Santa Monica, California, and Orange County, Florida. Boulder can lead the way towards recognizing the rights of rivers in Colorado if Boulder Creek is protected in this way.
BRON and other local advocates are now meeting with local nonprofits, businesses, student groups, scientists, and community groups to build support for this initiative. Together, we can put Boulder on a pathway to protect its watershed for the future. Jake Matyas is an environmental policy intern at Earth Law Center and BRON. Mary C Balzer is a Board member of BRON. Jmatyas5@uoregon.edu or email@example.com
Longmont City Council recently voted to make itself the deciding body on property development applications adjacent to Longmont public lands. This is an important step forward in honoring the environmental and conservation values of residents. The 2018 Longmont Open Space Survey found 74% of respondents rated “Protecting natural areas from development” as “very important.” Development proposals throughout the city are reviewed by City Planning staff before going to the Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission for review/approval. P&Z is an appointed board and not elected by residents. Historically, City Council has had no say on any development plans and was only involved if a P&Z approved proposal was appealed. Appeals are very time-limited (30 days), cumbersome, and rare. Empowering City Council to be the final deciding body on proposals adjacent to our natural areas and parks will give residents a voice in the good stewardship of our public investments.
A recent development annexation application submitted to City Planning underscores why this ordinance is so critical. The proposed “Rivertown” development is on 20 acres along the south side of St. Vrain Creek just east of Roger’s Grove to Sunset Street. Roger’s Grove exists because Roger Jones selflessly donated 55 acres to the City for preservation when his wife died. He did this so Longmont residents might always have a place to connect with nature, to learn and to enjoy. There is nothing in the Dec. 2020 Rivertown annexation application that suggests any respect for this adjacent natural environment nor any regard for the environmental value of St. Vrain Creek. The proposed “high density” residential area of 380 units with restaurants and businesses is way too high for this sensitive area. Any development proposals should honor and enhance this special area–not exploit and overburden it.
I am a member of Stand With Our St. Vrain Creek, a growing group of community members who advocate for protecting our St. Vrain corridor and the wildlife that depend upon it from potentially damaging development. The Longmont reach of the St. Vrain has tremendous ecological value. Portions of the corridor are designated as critical wildlife habitat and have been identified as having immense aquatic conservation value to the State of Colorado due to the presence of rare, threatened native fish species. The proposed Rivertown development is in very close proximity to one of the only known nesting Bank Swallow colonies (a species of special concern) within Boulder County. The entire St. Vrain corridor is also a Stream Habitat Connector, which is how wildlife moves at night from one area to another. Evidence of wildlife movement includes the presence of mink and beaver at Golden Ponds and Sandstone Ranch, coyotes and foxes throughout the corridor, and bobcats and deer at Sandstone.
Many are concerned whether it is prudent to significantly develop along this corridor. The Army Corp of Engineers has identified 12 flood events along the St. Vrain in the last 120 years. Even with the best possible mitigation efforts, common sense dictates this corridor will flood again. Flooding is the third most common natural disaster. For the river not to respond to what’s happening with climate change would break the law of physics. We had 17 inches of rain in the span of 4 days in 2013, and extreme weather events across the world have only grown worse since then. Is it morally and fiscally responsible to knowingly put people and property in harm’s way and leave taxpayers on the hook to pay for flood recovery? Thus far, over Longmont staff estimates $400-500 million has been spent on flood recovery and mitigation. Due to this massive public investment and the additional public monies the Rivertown applicant intends to apply for in urban renewal dollars, the public’s voice and best interest deserve extra consideration. This holds true for all development proposals along our St. Vrain Greenway.
We are all learning how essential protecting the natural environment is to our survival. Again, any development proposals should honor and complement our St. Vrain Greenway and other natural areas—not exploit and overburden them.
An annexation application petition has been filed for 21 S. Sunset Street to annex the 21-acre property into the city and zone it mixed use-employment. An accompanying annexation concept plan has been submitted with
the application which proposes residential apartments and duplexes on the west side of the property and a 20,000 square foot commercial building on the east side facing Sunset Street.
Stand With Our St Vrain Creek is watching this annexation with interest due to the property’s proximity to St. Vrain Creek and Roger’s Grove Nature Area. The current concept plan is vague and we’d like to know more about how the applicant intends to mitigate any potential impacts of future development on the surrounding area and how the development falls in line with the Sustainable Evaluation System.
On Tuesday, November 19, 2019, Longmont City staff presented an update on the Sustainable Evaluation System tool they are developing to “score” development applications on their value with regard to profitability, environmental sustainability, and social equity.
Staff asked for direction from Council with regard to what “adjacent” to riparian areas means in terms of what properties the SES tool would be applicable too and what water bodies should be added to the 150 foot riparian setback requirement. City staff recommended that the tool initially only be used to evaluate development applications seeking a variance to the 150 foot setback. Staff also recommended that the 150 foot setback be initially extended only to those portions of the additional waterways mentioned in the Wildlife Management Plan update (Dry Creek #1, Lykins Gulch, Spring Gulch #1 and Spring Gulch #2) for which the setback would be easiest (cheaper, more efficient, best quality habitat etc.) to implement. In the attached slide show, those sections are marked in green on the map.
The current Longmont Development Code applies a 100 foot setback for development along all waterways not specifically mentioned in the Code. Any variance requests for development along these waterways, as well as the ones to which the 150 foot setback requirement apply, would have to go to City Council for approval.
City Council concurred with Staff’s recommendations.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), in cooperation with the City of Longmont held a flood risk management study open house on Wednesday, September 18th at the Longmont Museum. During the open house, USACE presented its draft feasibility study to determine the best alternative for their assistance on a stretch of St. Vrain Creek near Izaak Walton Pond Nature Area.
The recommended plan includes a levee on the south side of the pond, channel widening and benching, replacement of the Boston Avenue Bridge, grade control downstream of Sunset Street Bridge, and construction of a stretch of retaining walls.
The draft feasibility report may be downloaded at https://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Planning/Planning-Projects/LongmontCO/.
Email your comments on the report to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, CENWO-PMA-A, ATTN: Tim Goode, 1616 Capitol Avenue, Omaha, NE 68102-4901. Comments must be postmarked or received by Oct. 4, 2019.
Longmont City staff have completed a final draft of the Wildlife Management Plan (WMP) update. This draft can be read here. This final WMP will be voted on for approval by City Council on Tuesday, September 24th.
Stand with Our St. Vrain Creek is pleased that staff has revised the WMP to provide further protections to riparian areas by adopting Fort Collins’ criteria for allowing variances to the current 150-foot riparian conservation buffer. While the WMP is not regulation, the language in the WMP will be used to inform the protections for wildlife and habitat and riparian and stream protections within Longmont’s Land Development Code.
We strongly urge you to write to City Council urging them to approve the WMP and are asking for people to show up wearing green to the City Council meeting on 9/24 at 7pm to show their support for the revised WMP.