PRESSER: Colorado River Destruction Projects Delayed Until 2017

Oct. 21, 2016
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Colorado, 970-218-8310
Colorado River Destruction Projects Delayed Until 2017

Colorado River, USA:

Today the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers informed the public that the permitting process for the two proposed new dams and diversion out of the Upper Colorado River in the state of Colorado would be postponed until “2017.”See link:

The “Moffat Collection System Project” proposes to take a new 15,000 acre feet of water out of the river; the “Windy Gap Firming Project” proposes to take a new 30,000 feet of water out of the river.

“These projects would further drain and destroy the Colorado River and its tributaries,” said Gary Wockner, Director of Save The Colorado. “At the very same time that the Colorado River hovers near an ‘official shortage’ and the combined storage in lakes Mead and Powell are near the lowest point in history, the best thing the Corps could do is postpone these projects forever.”

The Moffat Project proposes to build the “Tallest Dam In The History Of Colorado” at 460 feet.


Hoover Dam vs Najavo Powerplant — Who’s the biggest climate polluter?


Over the last few weeks, several scientific studies have confirmed that the methane emissions from hydropower dams and reservoirs can big very big, and in some cases hydropower can emit as much CO2e (Carbon Dioxide Equivalents) as coal powerplants. Studies have confirmed this in tropical areas of the planet over the last two decades, but recent studies have also estimated similar emissions in dry and termperate climates in the U.S.

On Sept 16, 2016, a scientific study in PLOS: One estimated CO2e at Hoover Dam to be approximately the same as coal-fired powerplants. See graph below: screenshot-506

Hoover Dam produces an average of 4,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity per year.
The Navajo Coal Powerplant produces an average of 16,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity per year.

Because Navajo coal powerplant is 4 times larger, it produces about 4 times more climate change emissions than Hoover Dam, although the CO2e is estimated to be similar at both plants.



PRESS RELEASE: U.S. Dept. of Interior Admits Glen Canyon Dam Produces Dirty Energy Due To Methane Emissions

For Immediate Release
October 11, 2016
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Colorado, 970-218-8310

U.S. Dept. of Interior Admits Glen Canyon Dam Produces Dirty Energy Due To Methane Emissions

New science estimates greenhouse gas emissions from Glen Canyon Dam are equal to 193 million cars on the road/year or burning 976 billion pounds of coal/year.
Hoover Dam is over 4 times worse and as bad as coal.

Colorado River, USA: Last week, the U.S. Dept. of Interior (Interior) released its long-awaited Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for its Long-term Experimental and Management Plan (LTEMP) for Glen Canyon Dam. Responding to comments that Save The Colorado put into the Draft EIS, Interior admits that Glen Canyon Dam produces dirty energy in the form of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from methane.

Section 1.6 in Appendix Q, page Q-14, of the FEIS is titled, “Methane Emissions From Lake Powell That Contribute To Climate Change” and states:

“Reservoirs such as Lake Powell would be expected to produce some amount of GHG emissions consistent with levels reported for reservoirs in the semiarid Western U.S.”

“For the first time in history, the Dept. of Interior admits that Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell produce greenhouse gases that cause climate change,” said Gary Wockner, Director of Save The Colorado. “However, the FEIS underestimates these emissions by referring to a 12-year old study, and thus fails to use the best available science to account for these emissions.”

Just four weeks ago, on Sept 16, 20016, a peer-reviewed article was published in the journal PLOS: ONE by Swiss scientists that includes an estimate of methane emissions from Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. Titled, “Hydropower’s Biogenic Carbon Footprint,” the article estimates greenhouse gas emissions to be “228.833 kg of CO2e/MWH” – or (stated in words) “228.833 kilograms of ‘Carbon Dioxide Equivalents’ per Megawatt Hour” – due to the release of methane at Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell (see “S1 Table” line 307 for “Glen Canyon Dam” column “AO”).

The “S1 Table” is used to produce “Figure 2” (below*) in the PLOS: ONE article, which estimates the carbon footprint of various electricity sources, including those for over 1,473 dams around the world, and including the hydropower facilities at both Glen Canyon and Hoover dams.


Given that Glen Canyon Dam produces an average of 4,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity per year, that multiples to over 915 billion kilograms of CO2e. Using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s online GHG calculator, the yearly emissions from Glen Canyon Dam equal approximately the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as 193 million cars on the road per year or the burning of 976 billion pounds of coal per year.

Further, the CO2e estimate at Hoover Dam and Lake Mead is over 4 times higher, at 1,079 kg of CO2e/MWH, and its GHGs are also dramatically higher due to the even greater amount of electricity Hoover Dam produces (see “S1 Table” line 106 for “Hoover Dam” column “AO”). The study estimates the greenhouse gas emissions from Hoover Dam to be as bad as the worst coal-fired powerplants.

These estimates stand in stark contrast to recent presentations, writings, and statements made by representatives of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), which manages both dams, and the Dept. of Interior. In February of 2016, the spokesperson for Reclamation made a presentation to the “Law of The River” conference in Las Vegas and said that Glen Canyon Dam hydropower is a “clean carbon-free resource” and the “single largest source of renewable emissions-free electricity in the U.S.” (page 273). The spokesperson has been stating this incorrect information for years, including at the Colorado River Water Users Association (CRWUA) meeting in 2013 (page 13).  And, just 4 weeks ago, Secretary of Interior, Sally Jewell, wrote in a blog on Interior’s webpage, “However, for every Hoover Dam that continues to provide benefits like water supply or clean energy…”, words that she also used a recent CRWUA conferences.

Over the past few weeks, new studies have been published indicating that methane and GHG emissions from hydropower are a significant global problem, including last week’s study led by scientists at Washington State University and funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, and National Science Foundation. That study, titled, “Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Reservoir Water Surfaces: A New Global Synthesis,” was widely reported in the international media (see WSU press report here, the full study here, and Washington Post story here.)

Given the new science of methane emissions from dams, reservoirs, and hydropower – and especially the new study in PLOS: ONE – Save The Colorado makes the following recommendations:

  1. The U.S. Govt. – including Interior, Reclamation, Western Area Power Administration, Bonneville Power Administration, Dept. of Energy, etc., – must stop telling the public and media that hydropower is clean and carbon free.
  2. Due to the significant implications of the PLOS: ONE article, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) should review the article and include it in new analyses of methane emissions from hydropower and the implications for climate change.
  3. A team of scientist from the U.S. Govt. should undertake actual methane emissions measurements (rather than estimates) at both Hoover and Glen Canyon dams as soon as possible.
  4. The U.S. Govt. must propose technologies and solutions – including stopping new proposed dams and removing old dams – that complies with the National Environmental Policy Act’s (NEPA) requirement to “avoid, minimize or mitigate” environmental impacts, and complies with the Obama Administration’s 2016 “Final Guidance on Greenhouse Gases and Climate Change.”
  5. The Glen Canyon Dam LTEMP FEIS is not accurate and must be redone.

“Hoover and Glen Canyon hydropower dams have caused irrevocable damage to the Colorado River and have been replicated as models to dam, drain, and destroy rivers across the planet,” said Gary Wockner. “With hundreds of new dams under construction around the world, and with thousands more planned – all under the guise of “clean and carbon-free energy” – we are now learning that these dams are making climate change worse, and perhaps cataclysmically so. Scientists, governments, and activists must take strong steps to avoid, minimize, and mitigate these climate change emissions including stopping new dams and removing old ones.”

“We’re not advocating tearing down Hoover Dam, but this science is another of the many factors indicating that Glen Canyon Dam should be considered for removal,” said Wockner.

[*Note: Save The Colorado communicated with the article's author to interpret the results and confirm the emissions from Glen Canyon and Hoover dams in Figure 2. The article does not advocate for stopping or removing dams; that advocacy is the position of Save The Colorado.]


PRESS RELEASE: Glen Canyon Dam LTEMP FEIS Fails To Fix The Colorado River

For Immediate Release
October 7, 2016
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Colorado, 970-218-8310

Colorado River, USA: Today the U.S. Dept of Interior released the “Final Environmental Impact Statement” (FEIS) for the “Long Term Experimental and Management Plan” (LTEMP) for Glen Canyon Dam. The FEIS is here.

glen-canyon-damAfter a quick initial review, Save The Colorado has determined:

  • The FEIS fails to consider all alternatives to fix the ecological problems at Glen Canyon and Grand Canyon, including the alternative of dam removal.
  • The FEIS fails to consider alternatives that comply with the Endangered Species Act and actually “recover” the endangered fish rather than breeding and stocking them forever.
  • The FEIS fails to take climate change seriously and does not include a full range of scientific studies about how climate change would negatively impact flows in the Colorado River.
  • The FEIS fails to adequately account for the methane emissions from operating Glen Canyon Dam.

“At first blush, the FEIS fails to comply with federal law,” said Gary Wockner of Save The Colorado. “The Colorado River system is failing — it’s failing to protect fish, failing to protect water supplies, and failing under the weight of climate change. The Dept of Interior has failed to consider alternatives for Glen Canyon Dam that meet the needs of the environment and the public, including dam removal.”

The Dept of Interior is allowing a “30-day public review” of the FEIS. Save The Colorado will be fully analyzing the FEIS in the next few weeks and plans to submit more comments into the process.


PRESS RELEASE: Moffat Project Fails The Checklist Criteria For Building The Tallest Dam In The History Of Colorado

For Immediate Release
Sept 30, 2016
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Colorado, 970-218-8310

Moffat Collection System Project Fails The Colorado Water Plan Checklist Criteria For Building The Tallest Dam In The History Of Colorado

Boulder, CO: The Boulder-based policy group, Western Resource Advocates, has created a “Colorado Water Plan Project Criteria Checklist” for evaluating potential new water projects in Colorado. Here’s the reasons why the Moffat Collection System grossdam1Project (which would take a new 4 billion gallons of water out of the Colorado River every year and massively expand Gross Reservoir in Boulder County to build the tallest dam in the history of Colorado) does not meet the checklist criteria:

1. Do local communities support this proposal? NO

The thousand or more families that live near and around Gross Reservoir in Boulder County oppose the proposal, as do many people in Grand County. They have united together under the banner of TEG-Colorado to move their opposition forward. In addition, other environmental groups who have members in those local communities also oppose this proposal

2. Does the project fulfill real water needs? NO
In fact, Denver Water doesn’t even need the water — as their population grows, their water use is going lower and lower. See this post.

3. Can it be done sustainably, avoiding harm to the environment? NO
Groups opposing the project have created a 2-page list of the many negative impacts to the community and environment. See list here.

4. Can we afford it? NO
Denver Water could spend just half the estimated $380 million on conservation, efficiency, and other alternative water supply methods and easily create an even larger reduction in their water use.

Moffat Collection System Project = TOTAL FAIL ON THE CHECKLIST CRITERIA


Colorado River Update! Help Us Stop The Tallest Dam In Colorado In 50 Years!

Hello Friends of the Colorado River!

Can you believe the audacity?!? In the state of Colorado, there’s a huge new dam proposed for Colorado River water, and the people wanting to build it are actually bragging that it would be the chimney-hollow-dam-mwhTallest Dam Built in Colorado in 50 Years.”


At the exact moment in history where the Colorado River has been almost completely drained for human consumption, where the river is on the verge of a “shortage declaration,” where both Lake Mead and Lake Powell are at the combined lowest storage level in history, not only does this water agency in Northern Colorado want to build a new dam that would drain over 9 billion gallons of water out of the river every year, they are even bragging about how tall the dam would be.

To that we say:

The project is called the “Windy Gap Firming Project” and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not yet issued a permit for this project. But if they do, we have a team of scientists and attorneys who will scour the permit to see if it complies with federal law. The documents we have seen so far indicate that the massive dam and reservoir project would likely violate the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act. In fact, if this project is built, only 25% of the river’s natural water would still flow in Grand County, Colorado, the rest being diverted across the continental divide for massive sprawl and subdivisions along the north Denver corridor.

What Can You Do To Help? 

Please donate to Save The Colorado now by clicking here.

Our team of researchers is poised to take action, and your support will help us dig into this project and force the Army Corps of Engineers to do the right thing. In the documents we have seen from the Corps, they have so-far failed to take water conservation seriously, failed to fully analyze the ecological impacts to the river’s fish and habitat, failed to consider how climate change will further diminish flows in the river, and failed to consider alternatives to the massive dam and diversion including leasing or buying water from farmers.



In addition to addressing the threat of this project, we have also been bird-dogging all the other proposed new dams and diversions. Denver Water’s proposed Moffat Project is at the top of our list. Utah’s Lake Powell Pipeline proposal is in our sites. Wyoming’s Fontenelle Dam project proposal is being monitored closely.

Your donation will support specific, timely, actions to protect and restore the Colorado River and its tributaries, which is our exact mission.

This fall is going to be exciting for the Colorado River! Stay tuned for all of the action, and thank you for your support!

Media Statement: Northern Water brags about “tallest dam built in Colorado in 50 years”

In yesterday’s Loveland Reporter Herald, Northern Water is bragging about how their proposed new dam at the proposed Chimney Rock Reservoir would be the “tallest dam built in 50 years in Colorado.”

Save The Colorado’s response:

“If the Army Corps permits this project, we will do an intense analysis of the permit and address it accordingly,” said Gary Wockner of Save The Colorado. “Destroying rivers with dams and diversions is exactly a 50 year old technology and that’s why we shouldn’t do it anymore. Bragging about the height of a dam is like bragging about the height of a smokestack from a coal-fired powerplant. We are smarter than that now — conservation, efficiency, recycling and working with farmers is the future for water supply in Colorado.”

Save The Colorado’s policy is “no new dams and diversion.” The Windy Gap Firming Project proposes to divert a new 30,000 acre feet (~9 billion gallons) out of the Colorado River. The result would mean that over 75% of the water in the Colorado River would be diverted out before the river reaches the town of Hot Sulphur Springs.


PRESS RELEASE: Colorado Water Plan Survey is Greenwashing Gibberish

For Immediate Release
August 29, 2016
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The Colorado, 970-218-8310

Colorado Water Plan Survey is Greenwashing Gibberish

Fort Collins: On Wednesday, August 24, 2016, the Colorado State legislature’s “Interim Water Resources Review Committee” met to consider bills for the 2017 legislative session. Screenshot (409)One of the presentations at the meeting was from a pollster who displayed results of a survey about the Colorado Water Plan and water supply issues in Colorado.

This survey (link here) is bogus because it completely fails to provide details to poll respondents about any of the negative impacts of new dams and diversions. For example:

Question 3 (slide 3) asks if there should be “more water storage capacity.” This question uses the Orwellian euphemism “storage” instead of saying the reality of “dams, diversions, and pipelines.” The water buffaloes in Colorado began using the word “storage” in 2015 when they realized it was a method to greenwash new dams and river destruction.

Question 6 (slide 6) asks a similar question, again using “storage,” again failing to say “dams, diversions, and pipelines,” and again completely failing to discuss any of the environmental problems caused by dams.

Slide 10 offers a series of questions that are hopelessly lopsided:

10a. Should Colorado store its legal share of water? This question completely fails to note that the entire Colorado River basin is in an extended drought, that climate change predicts even lower river flows, and that by storing its “legal share of water,” Colorado could force the entire basin into a geo-political legal war by causing a “call on the river” which would likely cause a dramatic cutback in junior water rights across the state. In fact, the State is studying the likelihood of exactly that happening should more diversions occur.

10b. “Permitting should be expedited to get projects built.” This question again completely avoids discussing how the permitting process was created to protect the public’s health and environment by Acts of Congress; and fails to discuss that “projects” are dams, diversions, and pipelines that drain and destroy rivers. Further, the question completely fails to say that the “projects” are extremely controversial — as one example, the proposed expansion of Gross Reservoir in Boulder County (called the “Moffat Collection System Project”) is opposed by local residents and environmental groups because it would have dramatic negative impacts on public health and safety, on the environment in Boulder and Grand Counties, and further drain and destroy the Colorado River and its tributaries (see document here). Other projects, including the Northern Integrated Supply Project near Fort Collins, have created an all-out environmental war because it would further drain and destroy the Cache la Poudre River.

10d. This question finally uses the word “dam,” but then suggests that dams “don’t harm the environment.” This statement is ridiculous — there is no such dam on planet earth, or in the state of Colorado. All dams harm rivers.

10e. This question gets to the heart of why the State is doing the poll, where it proposes to “in 2018 ask voters for funds…”

“Much of this poll is anti-environmental greenwashing gibberish, said Gary Wockner of Save The Colorado. “This poll would be like telling people that nuclear energy provides cheap electricity but failing to say that radioactivity causes cancer. If they try to push through a 2018 ballot initiative to further dam and drain the state’s rivers, I predict there will be an aggressive “no” campaign to stop it.”

Save The Colorado has proposed alternatives to new dams and diversions, including water conservation, reuse and recycling, better growth management, and working with farmers (see widely published column here about the Colorado Water Plan) to address the state’s future water needs.

Gary Wockner, E.D., Save The Colorado


Colorado River Update: “We need to save the river, not further drain it!”

Hello Amazing Friends of the Colorado River!

Summer is winding down, and the rivers in the Colorado River basin are slowing Screenshot (401)down with it. And that makes time for us to RAMP IT UP!

This past week saw a big flurry of news about the Colorado River. The U.S. govt decided that they were NOT going to declare the first official “shortage” on the Colorado River that would have cut back water delivery to AZ, CA, and NV. We were all over the story, providing outreach to the media about the govt’s declaration as well as the numerous problems with the river. The Associated Press wrote a long piece in which we again pointed out that, while the whole river system hovers on the verge of collapse, cities and states in CO, WY, and UT are STILL proposing more dams and diversions. AP quoted me saying, “We need to save the river, not further drain it.” Read the story  from the Associated Press here. The combined storage in Lakes Mead and Powell continues to hover near the lowest level in history — taking more water out of the river is ridiculous.

Along with that story and the govt’s declaration, a lot of attention was focused on how AZ, CA, and NV are conserving more water to avert the looming shortage. That’s great sor-capitol-smallnews — in fact, the lower basin states (AZ, NV, and CA) are leading the path forward with water conservation agreements to help address the water supply problem. What the media missed though was the amazing work of grassroots environmental groups, like Save The Colorado, that also helped avert the shortage by slowing or stopping new proposed dam and diversion projects. To that end, I wrote this blog pointing out our work and why it matters — click here to take a look: “Environmental Law Enforcement Helps Avert Shortage On The Colorado River.” Along with many of our colleagues, we have helped slow or stop seven dam projects that would have diverted up to 500,000 acre feet of water out of the river every single year! With your great support, we will continue this important work of addressing the threat of more dams and diversions, and enforcing the amazing environmental laws that America has on the books!

As Lake Mead falls, Lake Powell is also under threat — most of these proposed dams would have diverted water out of CO, WY, and UT, which would have further Screenshot (402)drained Lake Powell. In addition, the State of Colorado is doing a study right now to find out how threatened Lake Powell is, and the initial results of the study suggest that Lake Powell is likely doomed by the ongoing drought, any future drought, and increasing climate change. I wrote a blog post for EcoWatch titled, “Lake Powell: Going, Going, Gone?“, that was picked up by Yahoo News and virally spread across the U.S. to be read by over a hundred thousand people. In the post, I point out that climate change is real and is likely to drain Lake Powell in the next few decades no matter what we do. If we’re smart, we will come up with a plan to drain the Lake so that various users and stakeholders can get their needs addressed over time rather than letting climate change drain it haphazardly putting all of us in a reactionary mode.  Trying to keep Lake Powell alive will cost dramatic amounts of money — draining the lake will save money, water and farms in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming as well as better secure water supplies for the whole Southwest U.S. by keeping the Colorado River flowing from top to bottom.

Finally, we had our AMAZING Cataract Canyon raft trip 3 weeks ago. Another HUGE thank you to OARS Whitewater Rafting for offering us this trip. On behalf of myself, our board, and our shipmates, we say again — thank you for your support, and stay tuned for all the action this Fall!



FERC Terminates Colorado Dam Proposal for Peabody Coal Mining

For Immediate Release
August 23, 2016
Contact: Gary  Wockner, Save The Colorado, 970-281-8310

FERC Terminates Colorado Dam Proposal that would have supported Peabody Coal Mining

Colorado River, USA: Today the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) informed the Trout Creek Reservoir Project that their application for a new dam, reservoir, and hydropower project was being terminated due to “missed deadlines.” (see this termination letter) The proposal would have diverted water out of Trout Creek (a tributary to the Yampa River in Colorado, in the Colorado River basin), created a 100-foot high dam across Trout Creek, and used the water for generating hydropower and for Peabody coal mining near Steamboat Springs, CO (see project description here). The project was in the permitting process with FERC because part of the proposal was to generate hydropower.

“This is good news for Trout Creek, the Yampa River, and the entire Colorado River basin,” said Gary Wockner of Save The Colorado. “The last thing we need is to be further damming and draining rivers to support coal mining. The future of water supply and energy production is in conservation, wind, and solar.”



Gary Wockner, PhD, Executive Director
Save the Colorado
PO Box 1066, Fort Collins, CO 80522


The mission of Save The Colorado is to protect and restore the Colorado River
and its tributaries from the source to the sea. Save The Colorado focuses on 
fighting irresponsible water projects, supporting alternatives to dams and 
diversions, fighting and adapting to climate change, supporting river and 
fish species restoration, and removing deadbeat dams. Save The Colorado has 
thousands of supporters throughout the Southwest U.S. from Denver to Los 
Angeles and beyond.