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Controversial Chimney Hollow Dam set to begin construction, Colorado

The controversial Chimney Hollow Dam is set to move forward with construction after a US$15 million settlement to Northern Water in trust for waterway improvements in Grand County. Environmental opponents accepted the mediated settlement of their lawsuit against Northern Water’s Windy Gap Firming Project, which involves a menu of waterworks construction including Chimney Hollow dam near Loveland and rerouting the Colorado River around Windy Gap Dam near Granby.

The settlement resolves litigation in the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Northern Water said it now can begin construction of the 25-story Chimney Hollow dam this summer. The dam will plug the northern end of a dry valley northwest of Carter Lake. It will eventually be filled using Colorado River rights purchased by municipalities that are members of Northern Water. The Northern Water rights can be tapped only when Grand County is wet enough to supply other, higher priorities first.

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The settlement resolves litigation in the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Northern Water said it now can begin construction of the 25-story Chimney Hollow dam this summer. The dam will plug the northern end of a dry valley northwest of Carter Lake. It will eventually be filled using Colorado River rights purchased by municipalities that are members of Northern Water. The Northern Water rights can be tapped only when Grand County is wet enough to supply other, higher priorities first.

The US$15 million will go into a foundation and is new money, not credit for previous work done to improve the Colorado River corridor. It can be used only for waterway projects in Grand County, Wockner said. The settlement projects themselves are likely to be controversial. Northern Water says it will reroute the Colorado River channel around Windy Gap Reservoir to restore food supplies and migrating paths for trout, but some environmentalists have warned about creating another sterile, human-made channel.

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