Gross Dam protest: Can a kayak drum circle halt Denver's water diversion?

When powerful development forces in metro Denver conspire to drain more water from already depleted Western Slope rivers, there's only one thing for a self-respecting environmentalist to do: Grab your gear and head to Boulder for The World's Largest Kayak Drum Circle.

At least, that's what protesters hope a large crowd of river lovers will be doing this afternoon, with the idea of pressuring Boulder County's commissioners to intervene in the flap.

The outraged and the deeply concerned will be gathering on the Boulder County Courthouse lawn this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. for an "informational rally" opposing the expansion of the Gross Dam and Reservoir. Denver Water hopes to triple the size of the reservoir as part of a ramp-up of Western Slope water diversion projects to meet the demands of Front Range growth. As we've noted in previous posts, the Moffat Tunnel already takes 60 percent of the flow of the Fraser River to Front Range users, and now planners are talking about taking half of what's left.

A press release from the Stop Gross Dam! campaign launched by The Environmental Group urges citizens to "bring your boat -- and bang it like a bongo!" Not to mention inner tubes, paddles, buckets and other musical instruments. The big noise is just a preliminary event, though. At 4:30, the county commissioners will discuss the planned expansion of the reservoir and whether the county has any authority to halt or modify the project. Expect an earful from the kayak drummers and other interested parties whose land, livelihood and recreational opportunities could be affected by the expansion.

"Gross Dam is located wholly within Boulder County," the opponents note, "but will take water from the Fraser and Colorado rivers, pump it through the Continental Divide, and feed it to urban sprawl and golf courses along the Front Range."

The opponents contend that the county's home-rule control over its resources, known as 1041 rules, allow intervention. Denver Water says otherwise. But the project, handled quietly to date, is bound to generate quite a bit of noise as residents learn more about who's getting soaked in the deal.

For additional links and coverage of the Moffat Collection System Project, Coyote Gulch has a nice roundup here.

More from our Politics archive: "Scott McInnis: The waterlogged years (Pt. 3)."

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast