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The White River National Forest on Monday issued the following press release on its approval of the controversial Whitney Creek geotechnical drilling project to assess the feasibility of possible new reservoir in the Homestake Creek Valley to pump water across the continental divide to Aurora and Colorado Springs:
Today the White River National Forest approved a proposal from the cities of Aurora and Colorado Springs to conduct geotechnical evaluations in the Homestake Valley about 10 miles south of Minturn, Colo.
The authorization allows the cities to drill 10 bore samples up to 150-feet deep using a small, rubber-tracked drill rig as well as collect geophysical data using crews on foot. In total, a little more than a half-mile of temporary roads will be necessary. Work is expected to begin in late summer 2021.
This preliminary geotechnical work will help the cities determine whether the Homestake Valley is a feasible location for a potential reservoir. The cities hold water rights in the Upper Eagle River Basin and are parties to the 1998 Eagle River Memorandum of Understanding to develop a joint water use project in the basin.
“Our analysis and approval only apply to the limited geotechnical investigations,” said Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger Leanne Veldhuis. “If we were to receive a proposal for a reservoir in the future, it would be subject to a detailed environmental review with multiple opportunities for public involvement.”
The cities’ proposal met the criteria for an evaluation under a “categorical exclusion” – a less detailed analysis than an environmental assessment that is used for proposals such as short-term geophysical investigations.
“We took a hard look at potential impacts, which we expect will be short-term. The approval includes a number of stipulations to minimize impacts,” Veldhuis said.
The authorization, maps and additional background are available at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=58221
Wilderness Workshop issued the following press release in opposition to the Forest Service decision:
Wilderness Workshop is disappointed in today’s decision by the White River National Forest to approve drilling test wells in the Homestake Valley – the first step towards constructing a new dam and reservoir that could inundate portions of the Holy Cross Wilderness Area and send Western Slope water over the Continental Divide. We are opposed to both the test drilling allowed by this special use permit, as well as the potential Whitney Reservoir, and will oppose this project every step of the way. – Will Roush, Wilderness Workshop Executive Director
Wilderness Workshop requested a comprehensive environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA),noting in our comments that drilling test wells will have significant impacts on wetlands, wilderness, wildlife, and roadless forests. The public is overwhelmingly opposed to the project and we encourage concerned citizens to sign our petition opposing any new dam in the Homestake Valley. In the weeks and months ahead, we will share more about how individuals can help us stop this misguided proposal.
The Holy Cross Wilderness, like all land in what is now Western Colorado, is the traditional and ancestral home of the Ute People. It was designated as Wilderness in 1980 and now includes a total of 123,409 acres, managed by the White River and Pike San Isabel National Forests. With elevations ranging from 8,500 to 14,005 feet, the Holy Cross Wilderness is named after its highest peak, Mount of the Holy Cross.