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Denver's water supply

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Title:
Denver's water supply from city ditch to Two Forks
Creator:
Turelli, Paul William
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English
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x, 127 leaves : maps, photographs ; 29 cm

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Subjects / Keywords:
Water-supply -- History -- Colorado -- Denver ( lcsh )
Water resources development -- History -- Colorado -- Denver ( lcsh )
Water resources development -- Environmental aspects -- Colorado -- Denver Region ( lcsh )
Water resources development ( fast )
Water resources development -- Environmental aspects ( fast )
Water-supply ( fast )
Colorado -- Denver ( fast )
Colorado -- Denver Region ( fast )
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History. ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
History ( fast )

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Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references.
General Note:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Arts, Department of History.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Paul William Turelli.

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Source Institution:
University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
25360444 ( OCLC )
ocm25360444
Classification:
LD1190.L57 1991m .T87 ( lcc )

Full Text
DENVER'S WATER SUPPLY: FROM CITY DITCH TO TWO FORKS
by
Paul William Turelli
B.A., Southern California College, 1980
A thesis submitted to
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Department of History
1991


<$) 1991 by Paul William Turell
All rights reserved.


This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Paul William Turelli
has been approved for the
Department of
History
by
il/s-jy
Date


Turelli, Paul William (M.A., History)
Denver's Water Supply: From City Ditch to Two Forks
Thesis directed by Professor Thomas J. Noel
ABSTRACT
This thesis surveys the history of Denver's water
supply and the debate surrounding the controversial Two
Forks Reservoir proposal. By compiling a history of
Denver's accomplishments in constructing a statewide,
trans-continental divide water supply, combined with a study
of the broad, environmental, sociological and political
impacts of the proposed Two Forks Project, this thesis
attempts to show the need for a prompt citywide formation of
a single-entity Metropolitan Water Provider. The overall
purpose is to investigate how the dawning of an
"environmental era" has affected Denver's water supply
history. This paper will show how this new era brings into
question the Denver Water Department's traditional role as
the controlling water provider.
The form and content of this abstract are approved,
recommend its publication.
I
Thomas J. Noel


CONTENTS
Preface ........................................vii
CHAPTER
1. THE FOUNDATION
The South Platte River .......................... 1
Walter Scott Cheesrnan and Cheesman Dam . . 7
The National Trend Toward Municipal Ownership 10
Trans-mountain Diversion ....................... 11
Moffat Tunnel and Williams Fork .................16
Roberts Tunnel-Blue River ...................... 22
The Blue-Line, 1951-1960 30
Treatment .......................................32
Notes............................................36
2. THE PERSPECTIVE...................................40
Notes ...........................................55
3. TWO FORKS
The Environmental Impact Statement ............. 57
Population.......................................66
Metropolitan Denver ............................ 68
The Decision.....................................80
Los Angeles .....................................91
Notes............................................94
4. THE VICTORS
Environmentalists .............................. 98
Alternatives .................................. 102
Conclusion......................................106
Notes...........................................108
EPILOGUE............................................Ill
Notes...........................................114
BIBLIOGRAPHY ...................................... 115


FIGURES
Figure
1.1 Photograph. City Ditch.
September 11, 1918, 11:45 am.
Looking at the headgates of City Ditch
on the South Platte River .................. xi
2.2 Photograph.
February 10, 1925.
Two Forks Site at South Platte Canyon . . xii
3.3 Map of Water Supply System................xiii
4.4 Map of South Platte Collection System .... 6
5.5 Map of Moffat Collection System ...........15
6.6 Map of Roberts Tunnel Collection System ... 21
Maps and Photographs reprinted by permission of the Denver
Board of Water Commissioners.


PREFACE
The City of Denver relies on the storage and diversion
of water from distant rivers within the state. Denver's
three major collection and delivery systems are the South
Platte, the Moffat Tunnel, and the Roberts Tunnel. The
South Platte River is the oldest and the most proximate,
while the Moffat Tunnel uses the distant Williams Fork and
Fraser River Diversions. Roberts Tunnel consists of Dillon
Reservoir and its trans-continental divide supply.
The history of Denver's water supply is easily divided
into two eras. The first covers 1859-1918, prior to the
formation of the Denver Water Department (DWD) in 1918, when
South Platte River drainage provided Denver's water. Earl
Mosely wrote an extensive water history of those early days
in A History..of the Denver Water System 1865-1919 (1967).
William H. Miller, of the Denver Water Department, covers
the formation of the DWD in a paper he wrote in 1971. In
addition, Glenn Saunders, a prominent Colorado water
attorney for fifty years before his death in 1990, compiled
a two-volume iegal history of Colorado Water to 1918.
Sources dealing with post-1918 are skimpy and have not been
consolidated.
This thesis will focus on developments following the
formation of the Denver Water Department (DWD),
trans-mountain diversion, and factors contributing to the
Two Forks decision of 1990. Trans-continental divide water


diversion is the hallmark of Denver's Water Board, as well
as a great engineering accomplishment in the United States
(see Figure 3.3). A brief overview of the development of
t
the South Platte water system puts into perspective later
discussion of the Two Forks proposal.
Chapter 1, "The Foundation," is an engineering history
of Denver's early water system. Based on previously
published and unpublished works, it is not organized
chronologically. Rather, each of the three systems is
covered separately, beginning with their water claims and
progressing to the construction of each. Chapter 1 relies
heavily on engineering material available at the Denver
Water Department (DWD) and emphasizes that point of view.
Chapter 2, "The Perspective," presents a broader
panorama. It examines the various philosophical factors
contributing to the Two Forks decision.
Two Forks Dam, the most recent grand scheme of the DWD
and numerous suburban water providers, fosters keen emotions
on both sides of the development question. As the age of
grand diversion projects winds down, Two Forks is magnified
in its importance as the DWD has long viewed it as a crown
on the imperial head of water supply for Denver. Two Forks
revisits the old era of South Platte water supply, yet
converges with a more recent era of engineering mastery and
grandiose construction. It is a natural culmination of one
century in water supply history. As of this writing,
however, it is not to be.
viii


Two Forks is also the focal point of environmental and
ideological issues. It brings age-old, value-based questions
of tinkering with nature to the forefront. It also calls
into question whether or not the DWD has outlived its
historical role as the primary provider for the metropolis.
Water is no longer viewed as an entity that is merely
channeled through pipe, but as a living resource fought over
by convergent interests and ideological perspectives.
Though these water fights are not new, Two Forks magnifies
the ultimate questions underlying the development of
Denver's water supply.
The debate surrounding the Two Forks project, and the
repercussions of failing to build this vast reservoir are
the focus of Chapter 3. By taking a look at the numerous
environmental and sociological questions inherent with Two
Forks, a larger picture frame is provided for the watering
of the Mile High Metropolis.
Chapter 4, "The Victors," looks at environmentalists
and their alternatives to Two Forks. A new era is dawning
and those who brought about the demise of Two Forks will be
called upon to lead the way.
This thesis addresses the ongoing engineering and
social aspects of the problem of providing water to
Metropolitan Denver. The solutions are not easily achieved,
but Denver must regard the challenge as one for the metro
community rather than its solitary effort in a fractured
suburban mass. The age of the Denver Water Department
ix


standing as the predominant controller for all of the
metropolis appears to be over. The time is ripe for the
formation of one Metropolitan Water Provider.
x


Figure 1.1 City Ditch
on the South Platte
September 11, 1Q1P,
Feadaates
Fiver.
11:^5 am


Figure 2.2 Two Forks Site
February 10, 1925


0 Cs<9*4 Cr*m
LEGEN0
continental DlVtOE
LRCER DEVELOPMENT
---- 90LFCARY SOUTH PLATT? WATERSHED
------ SOONDARY EAGLE-COLOPAOO COLLECTION SYSTEM WATERSHED (U.OJ
MOFFAT TUNNEL (FRASER RIVER) COLLECTION SYSTEM WATERSHED
R06ERTS TUNNEL COLLECTION SYSTEM WATERSHED
ROSERTS TUNNEL COLLECTION SYSTEM WATERSHEO (U.O.)
WILLIAMS FORK COLLECTION SYSTEM WATERSHEO
WRXIAMS FORK COLLECTION SYSTEM WATERSHED (U.O.)
DgSVER BOAffD of WATER COMMISSIONERS
WATER SUPPLY SYSTEM
'$£29225^
Figure 3.3


CHAPTER 1
THE FOUNDATION
The South Platte River
What is now the city of Denver began with the Gold Rush
of 1858-59. Cabins and tepees formed a crude mining camp
and supply town near the confluence of Cherry Creek and the
South Platte River. Water was always at the heart of this
city's history.
Diverting and appropriating water from these two
sources was paramount to mining and agricultural survival.
The construction of sluicing canals and irrigation ditches
began early. The Capitol Hydraulic Company (later renamed
the Platte Water Company) organized on November 30, 1859,
and issued plans for a major ditch from the Platte River.
The Territory of Kansas awarded the permit, as well as
appropriation rights, on February 21, 1860. (1) The Rockv
Mountain News predicted:
No work has ever been undertaken of such vast
importance to Denver. By this ditch a vast extent of
mining country will be opened, and supplied with an
abundance of water; gardens and farms can be irrigated
along its course and all emergencies will be furnished
to the whole citv. At the same time, the bed and low
bottom of the Platte will be so far drained as to
enable men to carry on mining operations therein. The


mines, alone, thereby opened, will afford employment
for several thousand men, who will be concentrated in
and around the immediate city. (2)
Under the contractual guidance of John W. Smith, and
the excavating capabilities of his Rotary Canal Builders,
construction began on "Smith Ditch" in 1864 a delayed
starting time due to a major flood earlier in that year.
Because the ditch would cover over 25 miles, beginning from
its original point of diversion on the South Platte between
Waterton and Littleton, manual digging was out of the
question. By inventing and utilizing a mechanical marvel
described as a "mammoth four-wheel outfit, partaking part of
the appearance of a fire engine, an artillery wagon, a
mowing machine, and a colossal steam plow," Smith dug his
ditch at the rate of 100 men per day. (3)
By the end of May 1867, "City Ditch" (the name was
changed on May 25, 1875, when the city purchased Smith
Ditch) was completed to the flume across Cherry Creek, two
miles north of Denver at about the present University
Boulevard. By the city ordinance of April 16, 1869, the
Platte Water Company received "the privilege and
right-of-way in all streets in the City of Denver to build
ditches, flumes, and viaducts for the purpose of conveying
water for irrigation and other purposes." (4)
Even with City Ditch the water supply remained
unreliable due to the piracy of illegal diversion. Yet
enough water reached newly developed residential sites to
ensure further growth of the community. City Ditch was not
2


only a lifeline to a newborn city. It demonstrated the
central importance of the South Platte River (see Figure
4.4) and it exemplified the exercise of Colorado's unique
doctrine of prior appropriation.
Due to an arid climate and sparse supplies of surface
water, "The Right of Appropriation" became established water
doctrine in Colorado. The old common law established
riparian water rights based on the ownership of stream
banks, river banks and shores of lakes. As water was
diverted for irrigation and mining, riparian rights were
deemed obsolete and replaced with the western concept of
"first come, first served." When the state constitution was
adopted in 1876, Article XVI declared that:
The right to divert unappropriated waters of every
natural stream for beneficial uses shall never be
denied. Priority of appropriation shall give the
better right, as between those using the water for the
same purpose; but when the waters of any natural stream
are not sufficient for the service of all those
desiring the use of the same, those using the water for
domestic purposes shall have the preference over those
claiming for any other purpose, (emphasis supplied) (5)
Colorado's water doctrine thus provided for diversions such
as City Ditch and attempted to utilize a quickly vanishing
water supply as it melted, accumulated, and rushed down
stream.
By 1870, the population of Denver was 4,769 and water
shortages were becoming a critical problem. The newly
formed Denver City Water Company planned to meet that need
by pumping over two million gallons daily from the Platte
River. It succeeded in gaining that capacity by 1872. City
3


streets were dug up, pipes laid, and fire hydrants installed
as Denver rapidly became a city. (6)
Artesian water became another source after ex-Governor
John Evans had a well drilled at his home at 14th and
Arapahoe streets, providing an opening for the artesian well
business. Five wagons of about 400 gallon capacity each,
and 30 horses, earned a profit of $50-$60 per day per wagon.
The price of a tank load was $2.00. A 2.5 gallon bucketful
cost five cents or ten cents when delivered to a second
floor room. (7)
A special election held May 19, 1875, authorized city
ownership of a permanent supply of surface water. For the
sum of $60,000, plus ten percent interest over five years,
Denver purchased City Ditch from the Platte Water Company.
The Territory of Colorado, by a charter in 1874, granted
Denver and other municipalities the power to own water works
of any description. (8)
Colonel James Archer, the first "mover and shaker" in
Denver water, formed The Denver City Irrigation and Water
Company in 1878. He consolidated it with a smaller company
in 1882, forming the Denver Water Company. Denver City
Irrigation built the Holly direct-pressure system and the
city's second major ditch, Highline Canal located a short
distance south of West Alameda conveying water to Lake
Archer, named after James Archer. The Mississippi Galleries
and pumping plant on West 12th Avenue supplied the city with
4


five million gallons per day. By 1882, capacity reached 10
million gallons. (9)
James Archer died in 1882 and the expansionist faction
within the Denver Water Company, known as "the
Moffat-Cheesman interests," fought for control. Francis P.
McManus, Mrs. Katharine Archer's brother, represented the
estate and opposed David H. Moffat and Walter S. Cheesman.
In 1888 Mrs. Archer bought out their interests in Denver
Water Company for $4 million. (10)
5


South Platte River System
ANTERO RESERVOIR
ELEVEN MILE CANYON RESERVOIR
CHEESMAN RESERVOIR
PLATTE CANYON RESERVOIR AND INTAKE DAM
MARSTON RESERVOIR
HIGH LINE CANAL
CITY DITCH
Figure 4.4


Walter Scott Cheesman and Cheesman Dam
Walter Scott Cheesman was something of a water wizard.
Cheesman had successfully commissioned experiments for a
water system, gravity operated and more sophisticated than
many others in the west. He and Moffat, using their capital
gains from Archer, formed Citizen Water Company in March of
1889. Within five months they were pumping over eight
million gallons per day from the Platte Canyon, 22 miles
away. At its mouth the company established a commercial
filter plant, one of the first of its kind in the West. The
merger of three smaller companies (Beaver Brook, Denver
Water, and Mountain Water) formed the Denver City Water
Works. Citizens Water and Denver City Water Companies
bitterly fought over the servicing rights to residential
sights sprouting around Denver. A price-cut war ensued,
which ultimately brought forth this startling headline in
1892:
Water for Nothing. The Citizens company offers its
patrons an unparalleled gratuity. No charge until
further notice ... Denver is the only city in the world
that can claim a distinction of having received
gratuitous water from the supplying company on account
of competition. (11)
Though the price war wrought heavy losses for all parties
concerned, the daily capacity of the two systems doubled;
due in large part to the expanded Marston Lake Reservoir,
with a capacity of over a billion gallons.
7


The Citizens Company and Walter Cheesman succeeded in
gaining the upper hand by using a gravity supply system
rather than relying solely on the more expensive pumping
system of the Denver Water Company. Expansion by Citizens'
included the completion of Ashland and Capitol Hill
Reservoirs and Kassler filter station. Plans for the
purchase and construction of Lake Cheesman ensued. By 1892,
Citizens secured the monopoly for which it had fought by
buying out Denver Water for $1 million and incorporating
Denver Union Water Company.
Cheesman stood as Denver's pioneer in ensuring the
City's future. Though his grandfather was a general in the
American Revolution and his father an officer in the Civil
War, young Walter did not follow in their military
footsteps. After being educated in New York and trained in
Chicago, Cheesman headed for Denver in 1864, at the age of
26, to open the City's first drug store, at 15th and Blake
Streets. Cheesman expanded into mining and railways. His
greatest contribution prior to the forming Citizens Water
Co. was the organization of Union Depot Railroad,
incorporated in 1879.
Walter Cheesman took an early interest in public
utilities. In 1869 he formed the Denver Gas Company, a
forerunner of the present Public Service Company. Through
his associations with Archer and Moffat, Cheesman led the
war on Denver's aridity. By the time Citizens Water
8


achieved its monopoly, he had charted out a future supply
that would last to this day.
What is now Cheesman Lake, 50 miles south of Denver,
was selected for the most enduring monument in Colorado
water development. For the sum of $1,150,000 Cheesman
purchased over eight thousand acres surrounding the lake.
Charles L. Harrison, who designed the dam, was acclaimed as
the biggest man in the field and had helped engineer the
Pennsylvania Railroad and later, at the turn of the century,
the Panama Canal. (12)
Cone true Lion of the dam, which is now a National
Engineer Landmark, was an arduous and time-consuming task,
due primarily to the difficulty of transporting equipment
and hundreds of tons of stone and cement over pioneer roads.
The structure required several million cubic yards of
masonry. Upon completion in 1905, the dam was more than
one-third of a mile long, with a reservoir circumference of
18 miles. Its construction was so sound it continues to
this day to be efficient in its supply operations.
Because of Cheesman Reservoir's senior rights decrees
in 1889 and 1893, it became the first reservoir filled on
the South Platte. Cheesman has an active storage capacity
of nearly eighty thousand acre-feet (one acre-foot equals
325,851 gallons, covers an acre of flat ground to a depth of
one foot, and would supply a family of four with one year of
water). It also became the hub of the South Platte supply
system. (13)
9


achieved its monopoly, he had charted out a future supply
that would last to this day.
What is now Cheesman Lake, 50 miles south of Denver,
was selected for the most enduring monument in Colorado
water development. For the sum of $1,150,000 Cheesman
purchased over eight thousand acres surrounding the lake.
Charles L. Harrison, who designed the dam, was acclaimed as
the biggest man in the field and had helped engineer the
Pennsylvania Railroad and later, at the turn of the century,
the Panama Canal. (12)
Construction of the dam, which is now a National
Engineer Landmark, was an arduous and time-consuming task,
due primarily to the difficulty of transporting equipment
and hundreds of tons of stone and cement over pioneer roads.
The structure required several million cubic yards of
masonry. Upon completion in 1905, the dam was more than
one-third of a mile long, with a reservoir circumference of
18 miles. Its construction was so sound it continues to
this day to be efficient in its supply operations.
Because of Cheesman Reservoir's senior rights decrees
in 1389 and 1893, it became the first reservoir filled on
the South Platte. Cheesman has an active storage capacity
of nearly eighty thousand acre-feet (one acre-foot equals
325,851 gallons, covers an acre of flat ground to a depth of
one foot, and would supply a family of four with one year of
water). It also became the hub of the South Platte supply
system. (13)
9


On May 31, 1907, Walter Cheesman died and the era of
private ownership of water utilities in Denver was
essentially over. Tumultuous events during the following
decade led to municipal ownership. Cheesman's partner and
successor, David H. Moffat, cooperated with Mayor Speer to
that end. Speer, in a letter dated July 9, 1907, to the
Denver Union Water Co. and David Moffat, expressed his
intent:
I am in favor of the city of Denver purchasing the
water plant provided (a) it can be purchased at a fair
reasonable price; (b) it can be managed by a
non-political board of businessmen, our Charter can be
changed at the next election; and (c) a full
investigation will show that the city can give a better
service at as low rates if not lower than those offered
by your company. (14)
The inception and election of the Denver Water Board
eventually met all of these provisions, not withstanding
prolonged debate and bitter court litigation over the costly
city purchase.
Tlie...national Trend Toward Municipal. QwnexahiB
The move towards municipal ownership in the United
States began in 1801 in Philadelphia. That city hired the
eminent designer Benjamin H. Latrobe, whom Jefferson
appointed as the first surveyor of the United States public
buildings, to transfer waters from the Schuylkill to the
city. At a cost of over a quarter of a million dollars,
Philadelphia acquired a municipal water supply for its
10


70,000 citizens. It was then the largest in the United
States. Municipal ownership of water became a reality. New
Orleans, Pittsburgh, Richmond and St. Louis followed by
forming municipal water works by 1830. In New York the
failure of Aaron Burr's Manhattan Company, the cholera
epidemics in the 1830's, and scourge of fires in 1834 (which
cost the city $1.5 million), led to the construction of
Croton Aqueduct and Reservoir, as well as city management.
Boston developed such a water-waste problem by 1854 (the
city's average daily consumption exceeded 8.5 million
gallons and in January 1855 reached 14 million gallons).
Private companies were forced to sell to the city. (15)
In Denver, Mayor Speer was not so much a prophet as a
disciple of historical trends. By leading the city into a
special election on August 6, 1918, Speer coaxed from the
electorate the right to purchase Citizens Water. With a
voter approved $14 million bond issue, Denver formed a Board
of Water Commissioners and the Denver Water Department
(DWD). (16)
Tr ana-mountain. .Di-Ysnsion
Ever since John Wesley Powell's heroic adventure down
the Colorado River in 1869, the western United States has
looked to the Colorado as its life source. Water from the
Colorado River supplies seven states and is responsible for
numerous city oases scattered throughout the desert West.
11


Agricultural miracles like that developed in the Imperial
Valley in southern California are due to run-off from the
central Rockies. The Colorado River is the main artery from
which thousands of irrigation veins run.
Dividing the Colorado River between the states began
in 1902 with the Newlands Act and the formation of the
Bureau of Reclamation. Expansion in the thirsty West became
the business of the Federal Government. While
municipalities were taking over privately owned water
suppliers, bureaucracies in Washington sought to harness the
cascades Powell had descended. The mythic age of rugged
individualism and private enterprise in the West, at least
in the water business, was over.
The Colorado River Compact of 1922 took eleven years
to negotiate and cost nearly $5 million. It required fifty
lawyers and the maneuverings of Interior Secretary Albert
Fall and Agricultural Secretary Herbert Hoover to hammer out
the final agreement. Because the Right of Appropriation is
partially determined by beneficial use," the interests of
Colorado were asserted by the immediate exercise of
diverting, irrigating, sluicing, storing and using as much
water as possible. The "lower basin jUiIcs" oZ C-v.l .
Nevada, and Arizona proved their ability to beneficially use
water leaving the upper basil*. The state of Colorado felt
an urgency to develop its resource before it was swallowed
by Hoover Dam (1931), southern California, and the Pacific
Ocean. With the South Platte effectively expended, the
12


state's Eastern Plains and municipalities looked beyond the
Continental Divide to the Colorado River and its
trans-mountain diversion. Engineering would provide the

means. The Colorado River Compact came alive; Federal
Bureaucracy flowed to Denver not to mention an
unbelievable amount of water. (17)
The earliest diversions in Colorado were for mining
purposes. Hoosier Pass ditch was built in 1860, taking water
from a tributary of the Blue River and using it to work a
high placer above Fairplay. That same ditch was modified
and is presently leased by the DWD as part of the Blue River
System. (18)
Most diversions, however, were for agricultural use.
The first trans-mountain-agricultural diversion took place
in 1898 when the Grand River Ditch was built from Laramie
River to Chambers Lake to serve the Fort Collins Water
District. This was the first of over 25 trans-mountain
diversions, removing over 625,000 annual acre-feet from its
natural course. (19)
Prior to the major diversions for Denver, nearly four
million annual acre-feet of measurable water left Colorado.
The rocky and relatively uninhabited western slope was
unable to contain and store the large volume of water
leaving the state. Though the Gunnison Tunnel (transmitting
800,000 annual acre-feet) was constructed in 1909 as one of
the largest irrigation tunnels in the world, water storage
13


in the state did not cover the upper basin appropriation.
(20)
Inter-state rivalries, claims and legal battles,
private ownership giving way to governmental funding (and
control), and west-slope east-slope bickering have all
contributed to waste and poor management. From the
relatively small Lararaie-Poudre Tunnel to the giant
Gunnison-Arkansas Project, trans-mountain diversion was
always contentious in one way or another. The major
diversions for Denver would prove to be no different. (21)
14


LEftCNO
ftmmm Wi**r >iyni M UM Tx*l ll ohMi.
taw* Cf*M >tM w Twwwi 7]mm.
St UM Csm Shm Cm* OOMm, OA. 02 MQ. SO
WIIwnm hrt Vinm Cr*M 9*w*
TOttC *Wf*l Sfttm
Figure 5.5


Moffat Tunnel and Williams Fork
The South Platte supply system was the major provider
to Denver at the time of DWD's formation in 1918. Prior to
municipal ownership, two small reservoirs were added to the
system: Platte Canyon Reservoir (1904) and Antero Reservoir
(1909), thereby providing an additional 110,000 acre-feet of
storage capacity. Although Eleven Mile Reservoir was
constructed in 1932 with a storage capacity of 98,000
acre-feet, completion of Antero Reservoir marks the end of
the South Platte era as sole supplier. (22)
The foresight of people like David Moffat and Ralph
Meeker resulted in filings on western slope water as early
as 1907 for Denver on the Fraser River (see Figure 5.5).
Moffat considered and surveyed the possibility of conveying
water through the proposed Moffat railway tunnel. In 1914
Meeker and J.B. Lippencott, along with The Denver Public
Utilities Commission, completed formal investigations into
the feasibility of such a plan. Their report was favorable
and additional water filings were initiated and secured by
city engineer George M. Bull. Bull also made application for
right-of-way to the Secretary of Interior covering the use
of ditches situated on government land. (23)
From 1915 to 1916, the Van Sant-Houghton Company,
engineers and contractors of San Francisco, completed
"plans, specifications, and estimates for a complete and
16


adequate system of water works for the city." (24) Among
their recommendations was one suggesting trans-mountain
diversion, naming the Fraser, Williams Fork and Blue Rivers
as possible sources for future development. Denver was
poised to move beyond the South Platte as sole water
provider and undertake the vast technological chore of
diverting water across the Continental Divide.
In 1922 Denver voted for the Moffat Tunnel District
and the State Legislature passed the Moffat Tunnel Act. The
Tunnel District has a shady history, marked by poor
engineering practices, cost overruns and court litigation.
In a study of the Moffat project, written by consulting
engineer John E. Field, criticisms are bountiful. The
tunnel was designed and built inadequately, with an
alternate route over Clear Creek and through Loveland Pass
never given prudent consideration. The eastern portal was
bored too high, causing construction delays and engineering
headaches. In addition, the tunnel was crooked, a "bump" in
the tunnel inadvertently passed inspection, and safety nooks
were not provided according to specifications. Due
primarily to the mismanagement of bond sales by the Tunnel
District, cost overruns exceeded four million dollars. The
railroad eventually brought suit against the District in
order to recover a portion of their costs ($250,000) due to
poor construction. Fortunately for the city, federal funds
became available through a series of Public Works
Administration (PWA) loans totaling $3.5 million.
17


Completion of the six mile tunnel (running along side of the
railway tunnel), numerous collection ditches, filter plant
and conduits from South Boulder Creek to Ralston Creek

occurred only after the federal government stepped in. The
PWA leased the tunnel back to Denver over a thirty year
period at an annual cost of $175,000. Construction delays
on the collection ditches were due to a court battle with
Fraser Sources Irrigation and Power Company, which
challenged the city's water claims. Fraser Sources lost the
decision in federal district court in January 1926. Finally,
after lining the tunnel and the passage of two additional
bond issues, the Fraser diversion project was completed in
1936. The Moffat Tunnel District had succeeded in bringing
water to Denver. (25)
After the pioneer bore of the Moffat Tunnel became a
major trans-mountain water supply, other improvements were
added over the following decades. After a flood in 1933,
Cherry Creek Reservoir (1935) was constructed on Cherry
Creek to act as an overflow dam; as water, at the rate of
54,000 acre-feet per year, flowed through Moffat Tunnel into
South Boulder Creek. South Boulder Diversion Dam (1936) and
Ralston Reservoir (1936), storing 11,000 acre-feet, were
constructed along with a conduit directly feeding the Moffat
Treatment Plant, thereby eliminating the need to dump water
into the Platte. Ralston is an earthen dam and one of the
ten highest earth-fill dams in the United States. As late
as 1954 additional storage was added with the completion of
18


Gross Reservoir. Gross Reservoir services a capacity of
over 43,000 acre-feet and is a regulating facility for water
diverted into South Boulder Creek. (26)
In summary, Colorado River water is diverted at Fraser
River and its tributaries, Jim Creek, Big and Little Creeks,
Ranch Creek and St.Louis Creek into the incline shaft at
Moffat Tunnel. The tunnel carries water under the
Continental Divide discharging into South Boulder Creek and
stored at Gross Reservoir. Through man-made conduits, water
is diverted from South Boulder Creek into Ralston Reservoir
and on to Moffat Treatment Plant in Denver.
Williams Fork, southwest of the Fraser River, was
added to the system with PWA financing. The project was
completed in 1940 by the Denver Public Works Department (the
DWD assumed control of Williams Fork in 1955). When the
original Jones Pass Tunnel (now known as Gumlick Tunnel) was
completed, water passed under the Continental Divide and
discharged into Clear Creek and on to Idaho Springs, Golden,
Denver, and subsequently into the South Platte. After the
DWD took control of the system they constructed Vasquez
Tunnel, which connects with Gumlick Tunnel and passes back
under the divide, feeding into the Moffat Tunnel System. The
primary reason for the re-diversion" was to avoid the
limited channel capacity of Clear Creek. To replace and
store water leaving the west-slope, Williams Fork Reservoir
was constructed in 1959. The purpose of the reservoir is
twofold. First, water is stored to replenish supplies
19


feeding the Colorado River. This is necessary to fulfill
"exchange requirements" of senior claims downstream. At the
reservoir 97,000 acre-feet are stored. Second, Williams
Fork is also harnessed by a hydroelectric generating plant
serving northeast Colorado. It is part of the Bureau of
Reclamation energy supply centered at the Green Mountain
Power Plant. (27)
By 1960 the state of Denver's water supply had changed
dramatically. Where the South Platte had once accounted for
nearly one hundred percent of supply, it now provided 40
percent with 60 percent now diverted through Moffat
Tunnel. The Moffat system provided 85,000 acre-feet,
bringing the total Denver water resource to about 150,000
acre-feet. This more than served Denver's water use, which
in 1960 stood at 130,000 annual acre-feet. (28)
20


Roberts Tunnel Collection System
DILLON RESERVOIR
HAROLD D. ROBERTS TUNNEL
LEGEND
- CONTINENTAL OIVIOC
UNOCft DEVELOPMENT
fi J R06ERTS TUNNEL COLLECTION SYSTEM SOUNOAJTr
DENVER BOARD of WATER COMMISSIONERS
ROBERTS TUNNEL COLLECTION SYSTEM
1
Figure 6.6


Roberts Tunnel-Blue River
The Blue River diversion project is the largest and
most costly of Denver's supply system (see Figure 6.6).
Construction of the project consisted of building Dillon
Reservoir and Roberts Tunnel, enlargement of the channel of
the North Fork of the South Platte River between the east
portal of the Roberts Tunnel and its junction with the South
Fork at South Platte, and the relocation of the entire town
of Dillon.
While it is the largest and costliest, the Roberts
Tunnel collection system is also the most controversial and
legally tenuous involving one of the most important water
decision in Colorado Supreme Court history. In this case,
the friction between east-slope and west-slope, and state
and local (and federal) government is brought, to a hitter
climax.
On March 21, 1914, through Ralph Meeker and J.B.
Lippencott, Denver filed its first claims to the Blue River
for the transferable right of 1,600 second-feet. When
George M. Bull completed engineering reports and filings on
Fraser and Williams Fork, he was asked to do the same on the
Blue River in 1922. With Bull's recommendations, the DWD
filed a map with the state engineer in 1923, showing its
intentions for water right development. On May 31, 1923,
filings for 1,200 second-feet were initiated for diversion
22


from Swan River, a tributary of the Blue River, to Jefferson
Creek, a tributary of the South Platte. State engineers
then began studying eleven different locations and three
prototypes for bringing Blue River water across the
Continental Divide. By 1927 a straight-line tunnel 23 miles
long (surpassing Gunnison Tunnel at 16 miles) was selected,
stretching from Dillon on the western slope to Grant on the
eastern slope. The Bureau of Reclamation (which supplied
Denver with $150,000 to cover costs of investigating the
Blue River project) further recommended a storage reservoir
at Dillon to regulate water at the bore. In 1941 claims were
filed on the Dillon Reservoir site and the "Montezuma
Tunnel" bore. Construction began on the tunnel in July 1946
with a limited capacity of 788 second-feet, reduced from its
originally intended 1,600 second-feet. According to Glenn
Saunders, acting attorney for the DWD at that time, critical
delays on the Dillon filings were due to several factors: a
city drought in 1933 brought about concerted efforts to
complete Moffat Tunnel and secure PWA loans thus delaying
the Blue River project, and, most importantly, the
conflicting filings and construction of a Bureau of
Reclamation project, Green Mountain Reservoir, located
upstream on the Blue River. (29)
Green Mountain Reservoir is one of 13 reservoirs
belonging to the Colorado Big Thompson Project, developed by
the Bureau of Reclamation in conjunction with The Northern
Colorado Water Conservation District, the first conservancy
23


district in the state. Big Thompson is by far the largest
and most important single water project in Colorado. It
took 23 years (1935-58) to complete a system with a storage
capacity of nearly one million acre-feet and a kilowatt
capability of 190,000. The total cost was $163 million. Big
Thompson does not feed Denver's water supply, as it services
the greater northern Colorado area: from Kremmling on the
west to Wray on the east. Over 25,000 acre-feet are
delivered to Boulder, Ft. Collins, Estes Park, and Greeley.
Although Big Thompson does not directly feed Denver, it
greatly affects the Blue River development controversy. (30)
In 1904 the federal government withdrew lands for the
"Grand River (Colorado River)-Big Thompson Project." Rocky
Mountain National Park was created in 1916, preserving water
rights for future development in northern Colorado. After
the Colorado River Compact was signed in 1922, agricultural
interests in northern Colorado banded together (becoming the
Northern Colorado Water Users' Association in 1935) to
explore the feasibility of large scale diversion from the
newly acquired Colorado River supply. Their interests wedded
with those of the Bureau of Reclamation and in 1935 the Big
Thompson Project was born. (31)
With the advent of Big Thompson the federal government
withdrew support of the Blue River project in 1948 (Denver
bickered with the Bureau over the Bureau's original and
expensive plans for bringing Blue River water to the City).
In 1954 an atmosphere of "near panic" gripped Denver.
24


Though the second phase of water supply for Denver was in
place, Moffat-Williams Fork, the city was in its worst
drought in history. Furthermore, the Mile High City had
experienced unprecedented post World War II growth. With its
increased demands on water supplies and its frustration in
finding additional resources, the DWD was faced with the
highest obstacle since its inception. A futile attempt by
the DWD to borrow $75 million in federal funds for the Blue
River project was denied in Washington. Opposition to the
Blue River project flared both in California, which claimed
the project violated allocations defined in the original
Colorado River Compact, and from west-slope interests. The
latter claimed that Denver had no right to divert the water
at all. After Green Mountain Reservoir was completed in
1948 the federal government and Northern Colorado Water
Conservancy District claimed priority to Blue River water
supply. The Conservancy District argued that the water was
being used beneficially in generating electricity throughout
the Big Thompson project. The Green Mountain Reservoir traps
Blue River water far below the point Denver had its eye on.
The question for the court to decide was: Who Denver or
the western slope exercised the first claim on Blue River
water? Who followed up these claims with "reasonable
diligence" in a "reasonable time" towards "beneficial use?"
(32)
Thus was born the important case City and Countv of
Denver Et A1. V. Northern Colorado Water Conservancy.
25


District Et A1.. 130 Colo. 375, 276 p. (2d) 992 (1954). The
unanimous opinion of the court was delivered by Chief
Justice Mortimer Stone. The Conservancy District protested
the awarding of any decree whatever to Denver's Blue River
project on the ground that Denver had an adequate water
supply, and that additional water could not reasonably be
put to beneficial use, as required by the Appropriation
doctrine. Furthermore, they argued, Denver failed to show
reasonable diligence carrying through plans to exercise use
of the original filings intent and location. Denver's first
filings were made in 1914 and subsequently in 1923 and 1927.
Filings for the Dillon site were not made until 1941.
(Filings by the federal government for Green Mountain
Reservoir were made in 1935.) Actual construction did not
begin until 1946; a delay of anywhere from 19 to 32 years.
The Conservancy District argued that this delay proved a
lack of diligence; therefore, Green Mountain Reservoir not
only had primary rights, Denver had forfeited her Blue River
Project claims.
The court's decision partially upheld district Judge
William H. Luby's previous ruling. The court, however,
overturned the lower court's refusal of priority to the
Green Mountain Reservoir, with 154,645 acre-feet. Senior
rights were granted to the Bureau of Reclamation project for
storage and electrical power. Justice Stone wrote that
Denver did have an adequate water supply at the time of the
26


hearing and had changed plans of diversion several times,
but an appropriator has a
reasonable time in which to effect his originally
intended use as well as to complete his originally
intended means of diversion, and when appropriations
are sought by a growing city, regard should be given
to its reasonably anticipated requirements . . . there
is substantial evidence to support a finding of future
need for water from the Blue River within a reasonable
time. This is amply confirmed by the City's rapid
subsequent growth. (33)
In conjunction with the subsequent federal consent decree of
1955, which settled the United States' case against the
city, the court awarded the right to the use of water
adjudicated to Denver with a direct flow of 788 second-feet,
maximum flow capacity. Denver fought for the 1927 filing of
1,600 second-feet through the Montezuma (later renamed
Roberts) Tunnel, and a storage right for 252,678 acre-feet
for the Dillon Reservoir. (34)
Justice 0. Otto Moore dissented from the majority of
the court, agreeing that Denver had the right to the 1927
filing if the City so desired to expand the capacity of the
Tunnel. Additionally, he felt Justice Stone had not
adequately supported Denver's show of diligence.
Unmentioned, Moore pointed out, was that between 1929 and
1941 the whole nation "trembled and lay prostrate in
depression; that the public treasuries were empty" and any
large scale diversion in the 1930's would have been "sheer
folly." In fact, Denver had done well to construct Eleven
Mile Reservoir in 1932 and complete the Moffat diversion by
1936. Reasons for delays at Dillon Reservoir, from 1941 to
27


1946, were obviously centered on efforts and restrictions
surrounding World War II. Summarizing his opinion, Otto
Moore wrote:
What might rightfully be determined reasonable
diligence in the liberal sense application on the part
of a municipality with such plan, could properly be
considered negligence on the part of appropriators for
other purposes. It is my firm conviction that our
statutes and decisions should be retimed to meet the
actual necessities of life that are inescapable in a
city in its attempt to care for a mass of humanity. We
find water regulations imposed upon city dwellers when
no rigid restrictions are imposed upon the takers of
water for other purposes under their decreed rights. I
ally myself on the side of the individual and his vital
needs for life itself as against industrial plants,
mountains of trees and fields of grain. The individual
would have little need for the latter if he could not
have a drink of water. (35)
An additional settlement was made in October of 1955
as to the use of diverted Blue River water. In order to show
beneficial use, the more than 177,000 annual acre-feet of
projected water added to the Denver supply would be
"reasonably integrated" in the development of Denver and
surrounding areas. The door was opened for interpretation as
to what the exact needs of the surrounding municipalities
were. (36)
The Blue River dispute and a series of appeals were
not settled until April of 1964, the year the project was
completed. Construction of Dillon Reservoir was delayed in
1963 while the courts finalized the argument of how western
slope and lower basin interests were to he compensated for
water diverted from the Colorado River. It was finally
agreed that needed waters would be released from the
28


Williams Fork Reservoir, much to the dismay of the DWD (this
exchange was practiced in September 1977). (37)
In order to begin the project and finance most of
Denver's western slope diversions, the taxpayers of Denver
approved bond issues of $75 million in 1955 and $40 million
in 1959 these being passed after the Board withdrew a
request for a $75 million government loan. The 400 feet
pilot bore had been driven in 1944 with major excavation
taking place at each end of the bore from 1946 until the
tunnel construction contract was awarded to Blue River
Constructors in July 1956. The completion of Roberts Tunnel
took six years. The bore is as deep as 4,465 feet below the
surface and 23 miles long. At capacity the tunnel
transports over 2,000 acre-feet per day (equivalent to 680
million gallons). It was named in honor of the chief
attorney and special counsel of the DWD who negotiated the
Decree of 1955. (38)
Construction of Dillon Reservoir was awarded to
Potashnick Construction of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, in
October 1959. In June 1961 McKee Construction Co., of Tulsa,
Oklahoma, was added to the agreement (at the cost of $272
thousand) for clearing the site for relocation of the town
of Dillon. The over-all length of the completed reservoir
is nearly 6,000 feet, with a depth of 230 feet, and a width
of 3,200 feet. (39)
29


The total cost of the Dillon Dam structure, not
including reservoir and diversion costs, reached $20
million.(40)
Water from the Blue River (177,000 annual acre-feet)
is released from the reservoir to flow by gravity beneath
the Continental Divide, through the Roberts Tunnel. It is
then discharged into the channels at the North Fork of the
South Platte River, in Grant, Colorado, flowing along the
river channel for approximately 46 miles before being picked
up at the Denver intake at Marston Lake. Consequently, the
Blue River diversion project nearly doubled Denver's water
supply. (41)
The Blue-Line. 1951-1960
Prior to the completion of Roberts Tunnel, Denver
underwent a post-war population explosion. Combined with the
unavailability of manpower and construction materials during
the war and severe dry weather, the large influx of people
caused the city to outgrow its water supply and growth
capabilities. In the interim, the Board of Water
Commissioners enacted a restrictive policy in regards to
further metropolitan supply. Services could not be extended
beyond areas receiving Denver water on August 23, 1951,
until completion of the planned diversion project. A line
drawn around these areas became known as the "Blue-Line."
30


The Blue-Line encompassed all of Denver's 73.8 square miles
of territory as well as 40 square miles of land outside the
city limits. (42)
The Board continued the Blue-Line policy nearly a
decade. With trans-mountain diversion tied-up in court,
until the Decree of 1955, Denver was hard-pressed to find
access to additional water resources. Funding for additional
projects was scarce. Earl Mosely, manager of the Water
Department, argued to no avail with the federal government
over federal subsidies. Drought within the state caused
crop loss of over $200 million in early 1954 and again in
May 1955. By 1959, 661,000 people within the Blue-Line were
consuming 125,000 annual acre-feet and were dependent upon
the existing supply, estimated to meet the needs of only
700,000. The city was dangerously close to expending its
water supply. (43)
Tensions between Denver and surrounding communities
occurred when petitions for water service were denied.
(Further differences, discussed in a later section, are
traceable to the Blue-Line policy.). Among the potential
customers turned away were Westminster, Perl-Mack, and the
Baker Water District. After a prolonged legal fight
initiated by the residents of Englewood, the State Supreme
Court ruled that the capital city was not obliged to supply
water to any surrounding suburb upholding the Blue-Line
policy. The most immediate result with the most disastrous
long-term affect was that most of the suburbs were forced to
31


form their own water districts, splintering the city into
numerous water providers. (44)
In December 1957 the Board relaxed the restrictions,
agreeing to take in an additional 2,800 acres of housing
development northeast of the city in Jefferson County. Most
of the land was agricultural, rezoned for 12 suburban
tracts. In explaining the relaxed policy, the Board stated
that with successful trans-mountain diversions on the
horizon (Roberts Tunnel), "there is little chance Denver
will run into a shortage again." (45) With the declaration
of 1955 and five years to recharge the water supply, the
Blue-Line was declared dead by the DWD in January 1960.
Treatment
As part of the Charter of the City of Denver the
Denver Board of Water Commissioners is empowered "... to
have complete charge and control of a water works system and
plant for supplying the City and its inhabitants with water
for all uses and purposes." (46) The Board has the
responsibility of assuring adequate quantities of treated
water for the metropolitan area.
Four major treatment plants are currently operating in
filtering the vast Denver Supply: The Kassler Treatment
Plant, the Marston Treatment Plant, the Moffat Treatment
Plant, and the Foothills project. The DWD serves over
32


1,000,000 or 63 percent of the metro population through
these plants. (47)
The Denver City Irrigation and Water Company
constructed the Kassler underground galleries (using the
"English slow sand filter process") in 1890, and six filter
beds in 1906. In order to handle the Blue River diversion
the DWD added a three million gallon clear water storage
reservoir and pump station in 1972. In 1976 the federal
government constructed Chatfield Dam (at a cost of $3.5
million) as a flood control dam which feeds the Kassler
Treatment facilities. Kassler pumps 50 million gallons per
day. (48)
The DWD constructed Marston Treatment Plant in
conjunction with Marston Reservoir in 1925. Its underground
reservoir has a capacity of 31.4 million gallons. The Plant
is divided into two systems: the rapid sand process added in
1967 and the micro strainer built in 1961. The entire system
pumps 260 million gallons per day and is valued at $10
million. (49)
Moffat Treatment Plant, built in 1937, treats
west-slope water diverted through the Moffat Tunnel.
Additions and modification to the system are numerous and
encompass filter basins, settling basins, a clear water
reservoir with a 29 million gallon capacity, and a fully
automated-computerized operation. Moffat Plant supplies
Denver 210 million gallons per day, bringing the total
Treatment supply to 520 million gallons per day. (50)
33


In 1967, the Bureau of Land Management approved the
Strontia Springs Dam site, the tunnel from the dam, and a
treatment plant site of 200 acres east of Roxborough Park.
Denver secured an additional 290 acres in 1970-74. Denver
voters approved funding for the Foothills Project in 1973.
The necessary environmental impact statement (EIS) was
presented to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in
1974. The EPA requested three additional environmental
impact statements from 1974 to 1978, with the final EIS
being issued in January 1978. Construction of the Foothills
Project was further delayed by a number of citizens'
advocacy groups and private individuals who filed suit
against its construction. The original cost estimates of the
project ranged from $90 to $100 million. By the time of its
completion the Foothills Plant cost $175 million. (51)
By the late 1970's Denver had obtained the water
supply needed to meet its growing demands. Treatment
facilities within the system, however, could not deliver
potable water beyond its limited capacity. In 1977 the DWD
instituted mandatory lawn sprinkling restrictions to relieve
pressure on the three treatment centers. When Foothills was
completed in June 1983, treatment capabilities increased 125
million gallons per day, allowing James B. Kenney, Jr.,
president of the DWD, to declare the mandatory restrictions
lifted. (52)
The Denver Water Department had successfully weathered
the storms of a city in transition. It had upheld its
34


charter by providing Denver with water throughout the
continual threat of drought. It did so with an engineering
mastery which reached well beyond city limits. That
mission, however, was yet to be tested by unforeseen forces.
35


Notes
1. Rebecca Herbst, The History of City Ditch. (Denver:
Colorado Department of Highways, 1983), p. 1; for a brief
history of City Ditch also see Louisa Ward Arps, Denver in
SI ices (Athens, Ohio: Swallow Press, 1968), Chapter 2.
2. Herbst, op.cit., quoted in, p. 2.
3. Ibid., p. 3.
4. The Daily Colorado Tribune. 17 April 1869, p. 1. On
the formation of Platte Water Company see Clyde Lyndon King,
The History of the Government of Denver with Special
Reference to Its Relations with Public Service Corporations
(Denver: Fisher Books, 1911), p. 6. City Ditch is now a
designated Denver landmark.
5. Colorado State Constitution Article XVI, Section 6,
"Diverting Unappropriated Water Priority"; see Judge Harvey
Huston, The Right of Appropriation (Denver: The Chain and
Hardy Corporation, 1893), p. 41f.
6. William H. Miller, The Denver Water Department.
(Denver: Denver Water Department, 1971), p. 4.
7. "The Good Old Days," The Water Meter. (Denver:
Denver Water Department, 1962), p. 21.
8. Jerome C. Smiley, History of Denver: With Outlines
of the Earlier History of the Rocky Mountain Country.
(Denver: The Denver Times. 1901), p. 798f.; Miller,
op.cit., p. 7; Herbst, op.cit., p. 8f.
9. King, op.cit., p. 145.
10. See Sarah E. Robbins, Denver Area Pioneer Pairs:
Walter Scott Cheesman (Denver Public Library File:
"Cheesman," 1958); Miller, op.cit., p. 10.
11. The Denver Republican. 11 May 1892, p. 1.
12. Robbins, op.cit.
13. Specifications for reservoirs are found in Features
of the Denver Water System (Denver: Denver Water
Department, 1976).
36


14. The Denver Republican. 11 July 1907.
15. Daniel J. Boorstin, The Americans.; The Democratic
Experience (New York: Random House, 1973), pp. 346-352.
16. Miller, op.cit., p. 21.
17. The definitive work on the Colorado River Compact is
Norris Hundley, Water and the West:_____The Colorado River-
Compact and the Politics of Water in the American West.
(Berkeley: University of California Press, Berkeley Press,
1975) .
18. Donald Barnard Cole, "Trans-mountain Water Diversion
in Colorado," Colorado Magazine. (Denver, May 1948), pp.
118-234; George Bancroft, "Diversion of Water from the
Western Slope," Colorado Magazine, (Denver, June 1921) pp.
178-181.
19. Ibid.
20. Ibid.
21. Ibid.
22. Features of the Denver Water System, op.cit., p.
13f.
23. Earl L. Mosely, "Western Slope Water Development for
Denver," Journal of American Water Works Association (March
1957), pp. 251-62; George M. Bull, "Water Thru the Pilot
Tunnel," Denver (Denver Chamber of Commerce, 12 May 1927),
PP.9-12; Walter R. Eha, The Moffat Water Tunnel (DWD
publication, 10 June 1936); "Report of Engineering
Sub-Committee to Water Contract Committee," The Engineers'
Bulletin (June 1926), pp.20-25; "Stapleton Favors Leasing
Pioneer Bore for City Water," The Rockv Mountain News (28
April 1927), p. 1.
24. Mosely, op.cit., p. 251.
25. John E. Field, "Some Forgotten Men," The Engineers'
Bulletin. (October 1937), pp. 10-12; John Burgess, 'The
Fraser River Water Diversion," The Engineers Bulletin,
(September 1934), pp. 10-11; "Denver Plans Fight for Use of
Moffat Tunnel Water Bore," The Rocky Mountain News. 4
December 1925, p. 1; Fred S. Warren, "$3,500,000 Contract
Signed for Moffat Water Diversion," The Denver Post, 4
November 1934, p. 1; "Complete Victory is Won by Denver over
Fraser Water Firm," The Rocky Mountain News, 14 January
1926, p. 1.
26. Mosely, op.cit., p. 253f.
37


27. Mosely, op.cit., p. 258f.
28. Mosely, op.cit., p. 260f.
29. Bull, op.cit., p.ll; E.L. Mosely, "Blue River Water
Diversion Project," (DWD publication, 1962); David Stolberg,
"Colorado Unified Finally on Blue River Water," The Rockv
Mountain News. 6 October 1955, p. 6; Robert W. Fenwick,
"Water out of the Blue," The Denver Post-Empire. 22 May
1955, p. 1; Roscoe Fleming, "Blue River Diversion Dwarfs Big
Thompson," The Rockv Mountain News. 17 December 1937, p. 8;
Nello Cassai, "Settlement Gives City Blue Water," The Denver
Post. 5 October 1955, p. 1; interview with Glenn Saunders,
Denver, May 10, 1989.
30. U.S. Department of Interior, The Story of the
Colorado Big Thompson Project (Washington: Bureau of
Reclamation, 1968).
31. Ibid.
32. John W. Buchanan, "Use of Blue River up to Courts,"
The Denver Post. 30 July 1950, p. 1.
33. Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District Et Al.
v. City and County of Denver Et Al., 130 Colo. 375, 276 p.
(2d) 992 (1954).
34. Ibid., p. 412
35. Ibid., p. 437
36. The DWD had the "Blue Line Policy" of the 1950's
which limited their supply within an arbitrary boundary
surrounding the city. This decision, in effect, helped break
down that boundary. Benefits to surrounding suburbs are
listed in Stolberg, op.cit.
37. "City Unlikely to Abandon Water Diversion Plans,"
The Rockv Mountain News. 5 September 1955, p. 16.
38. Mosely, op.cit., p. 21f.
39. Ibid., p. 22f.
40. Ibid., p. 30.
41. "Effect of Dillon Agreement Outlined," The Denver
Post. 17 April 1964, p. 68.
42. "'Blue-Line,'" The Rocky Mountain News. 30 June
1967, p.73; "Water Board Ends Temporary Pacts," The Rocky
38


Mountain News. 28 June 1961) p. 5; "Water Board Votes to
Drop 'Blue Line,'" The Denver Post. 12 August 1959, p. 1.
43. "Water Program Vital to Our Future," The Denver
Water News (December 1958), p. 2-6; "Denver's Growing Water
Problems," The Rockv Mountain News. 1 July 1954, p. 5;
"State Drought," The Rockv Mountain News. 1 July 1954, p. 5;
"Saunders Tells Water Board," Cervi's Journal. 25 July 1957,
p. 1.
44. "Court Settles Water Dispute," The Rocky Mountain
News. 20 February 1951, p. 23; Bill Miller, "Denver Will End
Water 'Blue Line' Sometime in 1959," The Rockv Mountain
News. 26 April 1959, p. 5.
45. "New Homes Obstacle Ends," The Denver Post. 8
December 1957, p. 1.
46. Charlie H. Johnson, Jr., The Foothills Project; An
unpublished treatise in the Western History Department,
Denver Public Library, p. 1.
47. Ibid., p. 2.
48. Features of the Denver Water System, op. ,cit., p. 51.
49. Ibid., p. 52.
50. Ibid., p. 55.
51. Johnson, op.cit. P.7f; ; Bob Diddlebock, "Waters Flow
at Foothills Plant," The Rocky Mountain News. 18 June 1983,
P. 7.
52. Ibid.; Denver Water Department, Annual Report and
Component. .Unit... Elinanci.aL.EeBQXt-,.£Q£.. .the .Year Ending December,
3.1, .198.3, P- 39.
39


CHAPTER 2
THE PERSPECTIVE
At one o'clock, on Saturday afternoon, October 22,
1898, a large party of city officials and representatives
from the Denver Power and Irrigation company, led by City
Engineer John Hunter, boarded the Denver, South Park and
Pacific Railway. The purpose of the trip was to inspect an
"ideal site" for a reservoir situated two miles above the
confluence of the North and South Forks in Platte Canyon.
The proposed plant was for generation of "unlimited power
and electricity" to be distributed to manufacturers and
consumers in Denver. The first stop was at the site of the
proposed power house; about half a mile inside Platte
Canyon, just above the inlet to the High Line Canal. From
there, the party boarded horse-drawn carriages and wagons to
inspect the actual location of the proposed dam. Workmen
were engaged in ground clearing and preparation for actual
construction. From the perspective of the party, the
location w<^s an admirable one. The canyon narrowed down to
about 200 feet wide: An area supportive of roughly three
miles of reservoir, filled by both the north and south
forks. (1)


The proposed plant, including construction of the
reservoir, was estimated to cost $2 million with a projected
completion date of 1901. Governor Alva Adams, who
accompanied the party, was pleased with the site and lauded
the prospect of additional electricity as well as water. (2)
Later that evening, the party moved to Deansbury, now
known as Strontia Springs, where supper was served "and the
corks made a loud report when drawn." (3)
The celebration was a bit premature. Ninety years later
Two Forks Reservoir remains unbuilt. Due to an inability to
raise the funds, an electrical plant was not constructed at
Two Forks at the turn of the century.
By 1929 Colorado's Engineering Council returned to the
site in search of water for Denver. City Engineer John
Hunter, who had first led the city to Two Forks, had
predicted in 1898 that the city could not support
consumption of water that had reached in that year 100
gallons per day per person. Ruling out conservation, Hunter
prophesied, "people cannot be expected to exercise the
practice of economy." (4) By 1929, 30 years after Engineer
Hunter's warnings, Colorado's Engineering Council needed to
come up with an additional 73 million gallons per day. (5)
In 1929 the Council's recommendations (to the Board of
Water Commissioners, DWD) were as follows: 1) construct
Moffat Tunnel; 2) secure power and water rights in the South
Platte River; 3) begin construction of Two Forks Dam; 4)
oppose the claims of the Colorado and Southern Railway
41


Company that its line between Denver and Leadville cannot be
relocated or detoured for the sake of the Reservoir; 5)
allow construction of Eleven Mile Canyon Reservoir to take
precedence over Two Forks due to the legal technicalities
involved. (6)
Over the following six years the DWD worked to meet
those recommendations. With PWA assistance, the DWD
constructed Moffat Tunnel and Eleven Mile Canyon Reservoir.
Engineer Bull secured water rights to the Two Fork region
from the Forest Service by 1931. The DWD also set out to
purchase private land in the eleven thousand acre site (it
now owns two-thirds of that land). Two Forks was again set
aside while a depression-era policy of trans-mountain
diversion took precedence. (7)
Development on the South Platte was virtually ignored
through the following three decades. During the post World
War II boom, Denver's water use jumped to 28 billion gallons
per year, or a daily consumption of 190 gallons per capita.
Cheesman and Eleven Mile Canyon Reservoirs on the Platte
supported the city with 36 billion gallons annually, while
the DWD looked to the western slope, where Bureau of
Reclamation projects dominated the state's water growth in
meeting this progressive demand. (8)
As the era of trans-mountain diversion (and the
courtroom litigation that went with it) came to a close in
the late 1960's and early 1970's, the DWD and the Bureau of
Reclamation made plans for developing Two Forks. Estimated
42


costs to build the reservoir were set at anywhere between
$80 and $120 million. Political opposition to the project
emanated from Governor John Vanderhoof's office (Vanderhoof
is a Glenwood Springs resident and longtime spokesman for
west-slope interests) when, in July 1974, he announced his
intentions to nix the project in order to prevent "unneeded
growth." Another setback occurred in February 1975. Greeley
District Judge Donald A. Carpenter had received a "due
diligence" case in the fall of 1974. Much like the landmark
Blue River controversy, agricultural interests downstream
from the Two Forks site contended that the DWD had failed to
show diligence by exercising its appropriated water claims
filed in 1931. Judge Carpenter appointed Denver water
attorney and "water master," Steven M. Hanon as referee in
the case a job that carried full power to act as final
judge in making the decision. On February 25, 1975, Hanon
ruled against the DWD. He decided that Denver did not have a
right to the water; a decision that would have effectively
killed Two Forks. On March 2 Hanon was fired by Carpenter,
his ruling thrown out, and a new hearing set before Judge
Carpenter. By December, water rights were restored to the
DWD. Glen Saunders, acting as attorney for the DWD, was at
the center of the mess. In the Rockv Mountain News Saunders
was accused of instigating the firing of Hanon and obtaining
the unusual reversal. Saunders denied the allegation,
stating that he did not know the reasons for Carpenter's
actions. No matter that the DWD eventually won, Two Forks
43


was again "put on the back burner." Instead, efforts were
diverted to the Eagle-Piney project and completion of
Foothills Treatment Plant. (9)
From the perspective of the DWD, Two Forks would always
remain the ideal location for a culminating dam, located on
the Platte and capable of storing large amounts of
trans-mountain runoff. Its potential attributes are
numerous. The Front Range is riddled with faults, but there
are none at Two Forks. The gap between the canyon walls form
a natural "V" shape of only one to two hundred feet. From a
dam builder's viewpoint, it's just asking to be plugged with
concrete. The rock abutments and anchorage are absolutely
sound better than any other reservoir in the state. The
site is near Denver, allowing easy access for construction
forces. The supply to metropolitan Denver would be abundant
and easily delivered. (10)
Thus far, constructing a history of Denver's water
supply followed the engineering and architectural designs
and blue prints found in the vaults of the DWD's offices.
The DWD viewed rivers and water run-off valuable only in
being consumed, in being stored, in being dammed, in being
projected into the future for further growth. Water supply
must grow because the city and its metropolis will grow. So
goes the DWD perception of Denver's water supply.
It's a history most likely written by the Denver Water
Department with aid from the Bureau of Reclamation. The
achievements are tremendous and the sheer ability of the
44


DWD, along with the Bureau, to construct such a supply is
impressive. It's a history that the DWD is proud of, and
well it should be. Ever since the DWD took control and
because the vast supply it propagated was ample, drought has
never seriously endangered the city, a city in the heart of
a semi-arid region. Federal funds from the New Deal helped
the city along, as did post World War II engineering. By the
sheer distance and physical obstacles overcome in diverting
water the city stands only second to Los Angeles in the
mastery it has achieved over the rivers. An immense web of
pipe, siphons, and pumping stations now stretches across the
state, with a vast accumulation of diverted waters destined
for metropolitan taps.
From another perspective, the system has created a life
of its own. Rivers no longer have destinies of their own.
Any symbolic, religious, poetic, or even aesthetic purpose
or meaning of water vanishes into the spray of lawn
sprinklers. The nature of a river now finds value as a means
of survival for a modern society growing beyond planning or
social control. The river represents a new symbol: material
progress. The water supply system delineated thus far now
has a life independent of nature yet, undeniably, reliant on
that nature (the river) for its survival.
Many symbols serve to represent the supply system. It
is the spider's web which catches the needed resources of
sustenance. It is also the web from which the city can not
escape. It is a cathedral built to a god called progress.
45


The god is good until nature raises its head and puts an end
to the illusion and idolatry of materialism. It is a
leviathan controlled by a modern bureaucracy that helplessly
flows along with a chain of events. These events demand
continued growth; there is no surcease. These symbols depict
foreboding and evil: humanity out of control, awaiting
nature's vengeance. They are symbols that defy the metaphors
of life that run deep within the historical concepts of
water.
Water is sacred. It is the blood of earth. It is found
in humanity's creation accounts and in its baptismals. By
"man's" religious accounts, water is the source of life. It
is the symbol of purity and spiritual purification. Natives
to both the Americas, Asia, and elsewhere worshiped rivers.
The mystics of eastern Asia meditate on the eternal essence
of water. Even the great material societies of western
civilization have churches professing a bible replete with
vast allusions and outright dictums to the value of water;
to the holiness of the river.
Water is sacred. Modern psychology determines that
water represents birth, productivity and the source of
reproductive drives and sexuality. Carl Jung's psychic
symbolism formulates a collective unconsciousness or soul,
often represented by the dream of a river. When the river is
polluted or runs dry, the soul, too, experiences the same.
Jesus used water in representing himself and in symbolizing
46


eternal life. The holiness of water is celebrated in
baptism and in holy water fonts of the Catholic Church.
No matter the engineering-expansionist perspective of
the DWD, the overall perspective of water is boundless,
historically endless and changing. Two Forks is important in
many ways, but in one important sense it has brought forth
an end to viewing water in one, myopic vision. Water is no
longer just an entity that flows through pipe and onto
lawns. Water is no longer just a commodity to be stored and
purchased at any cost to nature.
Four writers expand this perspective. Donald Worster,
Marc P. Reisner, Robert Gottlieb, and Philip L. Fradkin are
part of that "new breed" that are recreating what Bill
Hornby, senior editor of The Denver Post, calls "a new
thinking on Western regional history ... a history that
examines the region's inner cultural or mental history" in
search of the "elusive Western identity." (11) These
writers represent a faction in rebellion against the
traditional history of the West as a place where the wild
cowboy can take from nature whatsoever pleases him.
Worster is a member of the Forest History Society,
Friends of the Earth, Wilderness Society, and Sierra Club.
He is an environmental historian with overriding ecological
concerns. Rivers of.. Empire: Water. Aridity, and the Growth
of the American West deals with hydraulic societies such as
Denver. He discusses large societies built upon large
water diversion systems. His view is that hydrological
47


societies create despotic regimes and bureaucracies which
control both the supply system and the greater populace.
Through engineering mastery and technological innovation
progress is maintained and driven by "the leviathan" and
controllers of the supply system. History is viewed as a
struggle between nature and the engineers. Borrowing from
Karl Marx, Worster quotes:
For the first time, nature becomes purely an object for
humankind, purely a matter of utility; ceases to be
recognized as a power for itself, and the theoretical
discovery of its autonomous laws appears merely as a
ruse so as to subjugate it under human needs, whether
as an object of consumption or as a means of
production. (12)
Before Worster is dismissed as an extremist, socialist
crank, however, his book follows an impressive historical
account of other hydraulic societies, from four thousand
years before Christ, through those in Egypt, Mesopotamia,
India, China, and in South America. In all, a "bondage of
inertia" is perpetuated by the need to continue building
more irrigation systems, in order to continue growth, etc.
All of the societies discussed died a death of salinity.
That is, their water supply systems reached an inevitable
point of being overbuilt, which creates greater salinity and
kills the water. (13)
A new religion of sorts is predominant throughout all
these societies. Worster calls it "Instrumentalism." Nature
has no value of itself. The more devices that are invented
for dominating nature, the more society must serve them. The
high priests of Instrumentalism are the engineers. They
48


create an illusion of plenty. They are faceless, yet are
immortalized in their creations the supply system -
The engineer is not interested in understanding things
for their own sake or for the sake of insight, but in
accordance with their being fitted into a scheme, no
matter how alien to their own inner structure; this
holds for living being as well as for inanimate things.
The engineer's mind is that of industrialism in its
streamlined form. His purposeful rule would make men an
agglomeration of instruments without a purpose of their
own. (14)
The supply system is a monument. It is a showpiece. Hoover
Dam, Grand Coulee, represent "mastery of man over nature,"
"the vision of tomorrow."
Yet, as Worster makes quite clear, Nature is not to be
mastered. Borrowing from the philosopher Karl August
Wittfogel, Worster concludes: "As societies try to remake
nature, they remake themselves, without ever really escaping
natural influences." (15) In the West nature is taken by
the storm of Manifest Destiny. The Native American, as one
attempting to conform to nature rather than remake it
(Worster does discuss those agricultural tribes such as the
Hohokam which failed as irrigation societies), is ground
under the machine of progress. The new society indeed
remakes itself, in its greed and its destruction, becoming a
god of sorts determining its own future as well as its
end. But Nature will have none of it. The waters of the West
suffer from salinity. The rivers are dying.
In tag-team fashion, Marc Reisner continues where
Worster left off. Reisner, in Cadillac Desert: The American
West and Its Disappearing Water, gets down to the specifics
49


behind the "country of illusion." The bureaurocratic machine
responsible for the "profoundly unnatural act of mass
irrigation" throughout much of the West is studied
historically and unsparingly. Reisner uses the famous
examples of William Mullholland's "gigantic theft of Owens
Valley water," two hundred miles from Los Angeles, beginning
in 1923 and providing the greatest growth ever seen in one
city and in one valley, Imperial Valley, (depicted in the
film Chinatown) and Governor Pat Brown's deceptive water
scam in the 1960's, in order to show the pork barrel
motivation and greed inherent in many of the West's water
projects. Politicians are wed to the Bureau of Reclamation
"as a self-perpetuating monster." The political power
associated with these water projects is so great, Reisner
contends, that President Jimmy Carter lost his political
base not because of inflation nor the hostages but because
of the President's famous "hit list" on western water
projects, which managed to alienate him from most of the
prominent congressmen of the West both in and out of his own
party. Carter attempted to put an end to half a century of
nonstop dam building and it may have cost him his political
career. (16)
Nature's great weapon against the tyranny of expanding
civilization and political corruption is salinity. Like
Worster, Reisner gives the reader a bit of history the
fall of the Sumerian irrigated culture, the salination of
the Egyptian Aswan High Dam: "all the great early
50


civilizations were irrigated ones . . . irrigation seems
inextricably linked to their ascendance, as well as to their
demise." (17) Using studies published in Scientific
American and performed by the Department of Agriculture's
Salinity Control Laboratory, Western rivers are dying. Of
every 120 million acre-feet of irrigated water, ninety
million acre-feet were eventually lost to evaporation and
transpiration by plants. The remaining 30 million acre-feet
absorb virtually all of the salts. The Colorado River has
the worst problem of all (which is discussed by Philip
Fradkin). Eight tons of salt are dumped on every acre of
irrigated land per year. (18) Finally,
salinity is the monkey on irrigation's back. The good
water goes up in the sky and the junk water goes down,
so the problem gets worse and worse. The amount of land
going out of production due to salinity now surpasses
the amount being brought into production through new
irrigation. (19)
Perhaps the most interesting piece of Cadillac Desert
is found in Chapter Eleven, "Those Who Refuse to Learn." By
quoting Colorado's own Glenn Saunders, Reisner not only
provides a summary of his own argument, he shows Saunders,
the great battler of the DWD, arch-conservative and defender
of water projects, in the light of a converted saint:
It wasn't the vision and principles of our forefathers
that made this country great. It was the huge unused
bonanza they found here. One wave of immigrants after
another could occupy new land, new land, new land.
There was topsoil, water there was gold, silver, and
iron ore lying right on top of the earth. We picked our
way through a ripe orchard and made it bare. The new
generations are going to go down, down, down. With
projects continuing to be built, we're trying to
pretend that things are as they always were. Let's just
51


go out and find some money and build a dam and we'll
all be richer and better.' We've been so busy spending
money and reaping the fruits that we're blind to the
fact that there are no more fruits. By trying to make
things better, we're making them worse and worse. (20)
Robert Gottlieb writes as a former member of the
Metropolitan Water Board of Southern California and gives an
"insider view" of the power base behind the "Iron Triangle,"
which is comprised of Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation
and metropolitan water interests. In A Life of Its Own: The
E.Qlit.jg.a. .aad..£QHer of Water, Gottlieb analyzes how the Iron
Triangle's policies adversely affected crop selection,
production, labor and land values through abuses in the
"subsidizing system of pork barrel politics." Gottlieb is
much more optimistic than his fellow environmentalists in
that he sees a more pragmatic end to the engineer-dominated
world of water provision. Quite simply, the federal and
state governments are broke. Environmentalists are
successful in that they brought to the public consciousness
the wrongdoing of pollution and ecological damage of
over-building, but the reality is that money is a larger
issue to providers. Pricing issues, economic growth charts,
marketing and public relations are the stuff of inside
discussions. Gone are the engineers debating on where and
how big the next project will be. The 1970's marked the end
to the Iron Triangle as invincible. rphough it fought off
Jimmy Carter, it could not fight off the realities of fiscal
bankruptcy. Environmentalists only exacerbated the problem
by making exorbitant environmental studies a requirement for
52


further projects. These environmental studies were also open
to public debate. The public was allowed into the decision
making process. The back room was emptied. Public utilities
became accessible, accountable and democratic. In the words
of the Ute Indians, "Water has a life of its own." Water can
not be controlled, not even by the Iron Triangle. (21)
Where Gottlieb holds out for hope in the future, Philip
Fradkin is equally pessimistic. Fradkin is a Pulitzer Prize
winner and writer for Audubon magazine. Fradkin would agree
with Gottlieb that the Iron Triangle was forced to inject a
"fourth element" known as the voter into decision making. He
gives President Carter greater credit in letting loose the
forces that made this possible (again, to the President's
political demise). But Fradkin returns to the heart of the
matter: the rivers are dying under what is already
constructed. In painful fashion, A River No More traces the
end of the Colorado River; because of salinity and silt
build-up the river now fails to reach the Pacific Ocean. It
is dried up. Fradkin describes the multitude of dams along
the river as components of a "cement coffin" which encase
the dead remains of what was once a mystical and magnificent
river. About a hundred yards below the last irrigation
diversion, called Laguna Salada, Fradkin describes the end
of the Colorado:
The end of the river was now all too apparent. The
mystery was gone, and I felt deflated. I walked
downstream on cracked mud flats beside the remnant of a
river for about a half mile. It became shallower and
wider, a sure sign of quick death. Two tall cranes
53


abandoned at, the sides of the remains guided me across
the desert as night fell. And so it ended. (22)
From the perspective of the Denver Water Department,
Two Forks is a natural culmination of decades of water
development and supply planning. However, Two Forks, and the
factors leading to a culminating decision on the project,
must also be viewed from this broader perspective.
54


Notes
1. The Denver Times. (Saturday October 22, 1898), p. 2;
The Daily.Jteas., 23 October 1898, p. 5.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid; for more on Deansbury see M.C. Poor, Denver
South Park and Pacific Railroad (Denver, Rocky Mountain
Railroad Club, 1926).
4. John Hunter, Report on the Worth of the Present
Sys-t.em and Cost of Building a New Water Plant, (a report to
the City Council, Denver, 1898), p. 48.
5. Denver's Water Supply Problems. Colorado's
Engineering Council, (Denver, 1929).
6. Ibid.
7. Greater Denver's Greater Water. System 1936-1948,
Board of Water Commissioners.
8. Ibid.
9. A1 Knight, "Two Forks Referee Firing Tied to Water
Board Aide," The Rocky Mountain News. 16 April 1975, pp. 5 &
10. Because Hanon is now retired and attending culinary
school in San Francisco, he was unavailable to comment on
the matter. Saunders died before he could be asked about
the allegations. Saunders' firm was paid $64,377 for the
case.
10. An excellent chronology of Two Forks, along with a
discussion of the pros and cons of the site, is found in
Alex Shoumatoff's "The Skipper and the Dam, A Reporter at
Large," The New Yorker. (1 December 1986), pp. 71-99.
11. Bill Hornby, The Denver Post. 3 April 1990.
12. Donald Worster, Rivers of Empire; Water. Aridity,
and, .the Growth of the American West (New York: Pantheon
Books, 1985), p. 26.
13. Ibid., p. 285
14. Ibid., p. 16 .
55


15. Ibid., p. 44.
16. Marc P. Reisner, Cadillac Desert: The American
West and Its Disappearing Water (New York: Viking
Press,1986). On Mullholland see Chapter Two, "The Red
Queen;" "Chinatown" is studied in Chapter Ten; the demise of
Jimmy Carter is found in Chapter Nine, "The Peanut Farmer
and the Pork Barrel."
17. Ibid., p. 475-76.
18. Ibid., p. 478.
19. Ibid.
20. Ibid., p. 450-51.
21. Robert Gottlieb, A Life of Its Own: The Politics and
Power of Water (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988).
22. Philip L. Fradkin, A River No More: The Colorado
River and the West (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1981), p.
339.
56


CHAPTER 3
TWO FORKS
The Environmental Impact Statement
Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of
1969 any large water project is subject to a full
environmental impact statement (EIS) review. The EIS review
will
address potential water quality problems created by
construction and operation of a project as well as its
attendant water diversion and storage facilities. The
review must include an evaluation of alternatives to a
project, in addition to considering environmental
impacts and irreversible commitments of resources. (1)
In compliance with the NEPA, the DWD in co-sponsorship with
the 42 member Metropolitan Water Providers (MWP) pursued the
costly and lengthy process of obtaining a full environmental
study and approval of Two Forks Reservoir.
The original Two Forks proposal is designed to meet
projected water needs for Denver and surrounding Metro
Denver at least through the year 2010. It is important to
note that the projections used include the surrounding 42
MWP water entities (142 distributing agencies) outside of
DWD jurisdiction. The city of Denver has ample water
57


supplies for its own projected growth (the DWD is capable of
supplying 768 thousand acre-feet annually, nearly double the
amount presently needed to serve its one million customers).
Two Forks is very much a metropolitan issue, as is
demonstrated by comparing the storage capacities of the DWD
and the MWP: The DWD averages a storage of 485 thousand
acre-feet while the entire 42 member MWP averages a mere 110
thousand acre-feet.The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and
Colorado state projections indicate an increased demand for
Metro Denver of 160 thousand acre-feet annually by the year
2010. That is an approximate increase of 40 percent over
current demand. Two Forks would hold 1.1 million acre-feet
and provide 98 thousand acre-feet annually. The storage
capacity would be used to hold an average of 31 thousand
acre-feet of South Platte water and 67 thousand acre-feet of
water diverted from Dillon Reservoir and released at
Strontia Springs. Its sheer size is mind boggling, providing
more water than either the Moffat or Blue River systems. (2)
During the oil company boom and the growth of Denver in
the late 1970's, metropolitan Denver sought necessary
permits from Federal agencies in order to pursue future
water sources, Two Forks included. The Colorado General
Assembly commissioned a preliminary study known as
Metropolitan Water Requirements and Resources.__1968-2010,
and was completed in 1974 by the DWD. In 1982 the DWD, MWP,
and Bureau of Reclamation made formal requests to the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers to initiate a comprehensive study of
58


anticipated water supply and demand. Governor Richard Lamm
established the Metro Water Roundtable to consider economic,
environmental and social impacts, to both the east- and
west-slopes, of a new water supply. One year later the
Roundtable issued a statement agreeing "there is a need for
a water storage facility on the Upper South Platte River, as
well as 'non-structural' water sources -- particularly
conservation." (3)
The system-wide EIS was expanded in 1984 to include a
"site specific" at Two Forks. The initial draft was opened
to public hearings at seven locations across the state. For
the first time a DWD project received widespread public
examination. Total costs of studies up through 1984 exceeded
$38 million. This is the most expensive environmental study
in United States history. Because of the aggregate costs of
these studies and the costly "Mitigation Plan,"$97 million,
(the Mitigation plan is designed to alleviate adverse
environmental damage), throwing in $225 million for supply
pipelines to Denver and a pumping station, the total cost of
Two Forks Dam and Reservoir increased to $510 million. The
cost of the studies and the Project itself would be divided
20 percent by the DWD and 80 percent by the MWP. (4)
On March 4, 1986, the DWD filed for federal permits to
construct Two Forks. The Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) took three years before making a final determination.
In order to make a final ruling the EPA studied the
baseline conditions of the area. The baseline conditions
59


take into account physical, ecological, and socio-econoroical
factors. (5)
The physical conditions studied are the aquatic system,
geology, utilities, and transportation. Aquatic flow on the
South Platte would not be adversely affected by Two Forks,
allowing all reservoirs on the river to maintain 95 percent
intake capacity, as well as meeting the conditions
recommended by the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife.
However, annual water loss due to evaporation, bypasses and
spills, is estimated at 106,800 acre-feet. The state of
Nebraska, which has claim to downstream use, strongly
contests the loss figures and would most certainly challenge
the issue in court. Geologically, Two Forks does not pose a
granite disintegration threat, nor an earthquake hazard.
Mineral resources lost to the reservoir would be "rare earth
minerals from pegmatites within the granite," quartz, and
feldspar. In addition to the geology study, private
properties were taken into consideration: 128 year-round
residents, 44 homes, will be relocated. Another 138
"seasonal" residents also will be displaced. All properties
will be purchased at market value at the time of EPA
approval. Utilities for the reservoir's recreational
capacity, will be provided by an extensive "cavitation
system," designed to safeguard environmental conditions at
the site. A solid waste disposal plan is more of a problem.
Current means of solid waste treatment., landfill,
incineration, and removal, are costly and detrimental to the
60


environment. Solid waste treatment would be a major factor
in the EPA decision. Finally, transportation requirements
call for construction of a total of 52.6 miles of roadway.
An estimated 16,000 vehicles per average weekend peak day
are expected to utilize Two Forks roadways. The primary
roadway is designed to handle 6,400 vehicles per hour with a
total of six lanes. Most of the land, 775 acres, is located
in the 20 miles between Denver and the reservoir. Two
Forks, being in such close proximity to Denver, has
advantages in terms of water delivery and construction
costs. However, once completed, its proximity poses one
major problem: an excess and influx of a greater number of
visitors to the recreation site than can be adequately
accommodated by the environment. The risk of air and water
pollution, littering, and wildlife disturbance is greatly
enhanced. Dangers at the present undeveloped site, due to
stream fishing, biking, hiking, and camping are
comparatively minuscule. (6)
The Ecological conditions are climatology, soils,
vegetation, wildlife, and aquatic. During the day,
temperature conditions will probably be higher due to the
absorption of solar radiation. Because of the size of Two
Forks and the elevation of the canyon walls, heat will tend
to be centralized. At night, the dam will act as a physical
barrier to mountain valley winds forming cold-air pockets. A
nighttime land breeze phenomenon will be created.
Temperature changes are expected to follow the patterns of
61


other large reservoirs, which are minimal precipitation
levels will not be affected. Relative humidity would be
increased by about seven percent. Soils in the vicinity are
among the most erosive "because of the general lack of
organic matter in the area." The Mitigation Plan calls for
an extensive land management practice, otherwise it is
reasonable to expect significant impact on soils (and
vegetation). Soil conditions will compound bank erosion and
will add solids to the reservoir. This will aggravate the
siltation problem inherent with large dams. The rate of
salination is also increased. Two Forks would remove 3489
acres (2,000 acres of Ponderosa pine and 1,489 acres of
Douglas fir) of usable timber land and 2,991 acres of range
land. Successional patterns of Ponderosa pine and Douglas
fir are not expected to be affected in the outlying regions
of surviving trees. Aspen stands within the site will be
completely eliminated. All ridge-top grasses below 6550 feet
will be inundated. The cottonwood-willow-alder vegetation
will be eradicated. And the oak brush-mountain mahogany
ecosystem will be eliminated. Overall impact will include an
increase in the fire hazard, "modification of the
surrounding ecosystem, severe reduction in area forage
capacity, and adverse results on wildlife survival. Wildlife
will experience a massive destruction of physical habitat.
Species studied are the beaver, deer, elk, bighorn sheep,
wild turkey, black bear, mountain lion, cottontail and
snowshoe hare, and numerous birds: Blue grouse, mourning
62


doves, band-tailed pigeons, among them. Over a distance of
35 miles 690 acres of known habitat will experience
immediate destruction due to construction. And 6,500 acres
of wildlife habitat will be inundated.
One effect of the large scale project well be the
concentration of people and vehicles around the
reservoir. This will result in the application of
constantly increasing pressure on wildlife which are
sensitive to the presence of humans. These animals will
be displaced farther and farther from the reservoir
until they eventually become nonexistent in that
portion of the present range that lies within the
primary impact zone. (7)
One look at the map and the impact zone and the natural
question that arises is, where will those species sensitive
to the human impact go? Further, 24.5 miles of stream will
be inundated and will physically destroy 4 percent of the
trout producing area on the South Platte. Construction of
the dam will increase solid disposal downstream, disturbing
aquatic life dramatically. This will "eliminate or
drastically change the population structure of most of the
species of aquatic life now present." (8)
The reservoir conditions greatly alter current flow,
water depth (which will reach 500 feet), variations in water
temperatures which create "thermocline formation" adverse to
aquatic life, distribution of oxygen, carbon dioxide and
chemical parameters, increase silt, saline and granite
deposits, and reduce nutrient content. In general, the
productivity per surface acre of Two Forks will be "fair to
poor." A poor production of plankton and "benthic
organisms," decreasing the supply of insect food sources,
63


will endanger most aquatic life. Kokanee trout are likely to
do moderately well. (9)
Socio-economic conditions are recreation, land use,
archaeology, social impacts, aesthetic values, population,
commerce and industry. Estimates of recreational use of Two
Forks Reservoir are set at reaching a capacity of 8 million
per year by 2020. Nearly 2,500 units of camp and picnic
sites, 30 boat ramps and a swimming site would accommodate
those visitors. Because the overall surface area of the
reservoir is designed to cover 6,215 acres, motor boating,
water skiing, sailing, lake fishing and trolling will be
major recreational activities. Two Forks, however, is
considered a narrow reservoir with bank erosion problems
that may deter these activities. Winds may not be favorable
to sailing. Wildlife-oriented recreations, such as
photography, nature study, and bird watching will increase
from the present 2,000 to 12,000 user-days annually. Though
river recreation such as kayaking, rafting, and fly fishing
will be lost at the site, those activities will be available
at the north fork of Two Forks. Land use in the area,
extending from south Denver to Colorado Springs, will most
likely be affected by the rezoning of lands from
agricultural to commercial. Two Forks is expected to attract
urban activities and an influx of housing development. The
DWD has purchased 2,815 acres of private land at the site
and will purchase all private land to be relocated. The sum
of $2.1 million is allocated for the necessary purchase, in
64


conformance with the Uniform Relocation Act of 1970.
Archaeological studies are a major provision of the
Mitigation Plan. The old Westfall Monument and remnants of
the old railroad bed will be lost or relocated. The South
Platte Hotel will be dismantled and re-erected. "Beautiful
and unusual formations" within the canyon will be lost. The
social impact is closely related to the land use impact,
where an expanding community centering in Buffalo Creek,
Sedalia, Westcreek and Woodland Park will require greater
services and goods. Businesses will enter the region and
expansion will proceed outward, north and south. Accelerated
residential development is expected. The social benefits in
the region are offset by the irretrievable loss of wildlife
due to and expanding perimeter. Aesthetic values at Two
Forks will not be of the same caliber as those of the
pristine surroundings found in the canyon. All architectural
and recreational plans use every method possible to make Two
Forks "the most beautiful reservoir" in the state. The
population within the surrounding zone of the reservoir
should increase by 4,000 by the year 2020. Most of the
desirable residences will be in the Buffalo Creek-Ferndale
area. Commerce in the north-south corridor between Denver
and Colorado Springs will expand $9.7 million by 2020. (10)
Specifications for the dam features a concrete,
thin-arch, double-curvature, located on the South Platte
River about one mile downstream from the confluence of the
South Platte and its North Fork. It has a height of 584
65


feet, a crest length of 1,635 feet and a spillway capacity
of 38,000 cubic feet per second. The power plant facility
will carry a capacity of 138,000 kE. (11)
Any interpretation of the EIS is subject to many
factors and open to endless debate. The EPA, however, held
final say over its meaning.
Population
One of the factors in interpreting the EIS is
population. Population studies and projections help
determine water needs and approval of loans and bond issues
for water projects. The debate over Denver's population
projections is often as heated as the Two Forks proposal
itself.
Robert M. Hardaway is a professor of law at the
University of Denver, College of Law. Professor Hardaway
reminded readers of The Denver Post (January 19, 1991) that
much of the Two Forks fight is over population and not
merely the environment. Simply put, if Two Forks is built
more people will be able to live in the Denver Metro area
with cheap water. Without Two Forks fewer people will
choose to live in this area of expensive water. Projecting
population is a difficult tack at best, but Hardaway makes
it harder by proposing that in order to save the
environment, societies must reduce populations through birth
control and family planning. Denver's projected population


would decline through a mass government-environmental policy
of abortion and population control! The conclusion reached
by Hardaway is that through such a policy there would be no
need for Two Forks. (12)
As strange as Professor Hardaway's logic seems, he cuts
to the core of the problem just how many people must the
Metropolitan area support? In the late 1970's a semi-panic
hit the state as an influx of people streamed in from all
over the country. The DWD had no real need to fret, but
greater preasure was put on the Board to relinquish, to
sell, its surplus of water to a burgeoning suburbia.
Environmentalists successfully challenged early projections
when the boom busted and a mass exodus hit the city. Housing
developments continued to spring up in the 1980's, as well
as office complexes, and the demand for water permits kept
pace, but fewer people existed to move into these new
structures. Recession hit the area rather hard, jobs were
lost, foreclosures multiplied, and population forecasts were
thrown out the window. The EIS downgraded population
projections three times in five years.
Recent estimates are based on the 1990 Census.
Estimates from the DWD, made in 1974, are placed in
brackets, in order to illustrate the disparity in
projections. A "conservative projection" from the Bureau of
Economic Analysis (1990) forecasts a six-county Denver area
population of 2.34 million in the year 2000 [3 million],
2.63 million in 2010 [3.6 million], and 3.5 million in 2035
67


[not projected]. The fastest growing counties are Arapahoe
and Douglas (south of Denver) and the fastest growing cities
are Westminster and Thornton (north of Denver). Colorado
Springs grew 23 percent from 1980, so the north-south
corridor continues to expand. Aurora's expansion of the
1980's may have been due to the oil industry because it has
experienced the greatest foreclosures, turnover, and vacancy
rate of any city. The city to lose the most in population,
however, is Denver going from 492,000 to 460,000. (13)
Statisticians and sociologists will analyze the meaning
of these and countless other figures. Two conclusions must
be surmised for this study. One, though the city will not
expand as fast as early projections indicate, it is growing
at an impressive rate. Two, the City of Denver is shrinking
and the Metropolis is not.
Denver has the water and the Metropolis does not.
Metropolitan Denver
When the DWD was formed the concept of responsibility
to a burgeoning metropolitan population was unanticipated.
The DWD viewed its charter as a confinement to the one city
known as Denver. The twentieth-century phenomenon of
metropolitan sprawl challenged the DWD charter, stretched
the state's legal concepts of a water law based on
agricultural use, and disconnected surrounding suburbs from
68


any political unity that may have existed within the city in
1918.
Metropolitan Denver does not have a "single entity"
water provider. Unlike cities such as Los Angeles or San
Diego, Denver is splintered among more than forty providers
acting as satellites orbiting around the primary provider,
the DWD. The "political gridlock" existing between the DWD
and the loosely collated Metropolitan Water Providers (MWP)
is serious. Two leading and important water attorneys in
Denver, Glenn Saunders (now deceased) and Clyde Marts, have
agreed that it is the most substantial obstacle in solving
Metro Denver's water supply problems. It is imperative that
the providers amalgamate into one Metropolitan Water
District. (14)
On January 14, 1987, the Independence Institute of
Golden published an "Issue Paper" outlining the initial
steps in meeting that end. The Paper, A Win-Win Solution For
Metropolitan Cooperation, is co-authored by Denver
Councilman, Paul Swalm, DWD President, Monte Pascoe, and
Jefferson County Commissioner Rich Ferdinandsen.
Ferdinandsen takes the lead by defining a set of principles
upon which unification must take place. Swalm and
Pascoe concur.
Ferdinax*isen paints a gloomy picture of the status of
Denver. He describes the economic and political malaise
facing the city. Though he takes into account national
factors, "a concoction of petty jurisdictional battles and
69


legal restraints" are seriously hampering metropolitan
progress (not only in water decisions). The primary
ingredient to unification, according to the scenario, is the
construction -of Two Forks:
The key to fundamental metropolitan cooperation and
change is water. If Denver and the suburbs can resolve
the water issue, we can solve most of the other
political, social, and economic problems . . . Simply
stated, the suburban metropolitan area desperately
needs to secure additional water supplies at reasonable
costs. The City and County of Denver, by and large,
does not need additional water. Thus, while Denver owns
and controls a monopoly supply of water to the suburbs,
it also has the problems associated with a core city.
It is clear that both sets of problems have to be
solved simultaneously. (15)
Two Forks was the vehicle to that solution. The suburbs
would get their water and Denver would have their "core
city" problems solved. But how? The proposal calls for the
formation of a Metropolitan Water Authority (MWA) and a
separate Regional Service Authority (RSA). The MWA would
call for the surrender of all political jurisdiction of all
joining water entities, unifying under one umbrella agency.
The MWA would become the primary agency to acquire, develop,
transport and treat all water supplies for the entire
metropolitan area. MWA would provide services and set
equitable rates on a uniform basis, regardless of geographic
boundary (excluding those districts that choose not to
participate). Two Forks was the number one entity to be
acquired and operated by the MWA. The tenuous and existing
financial arrangement on Two Forks would be resolved
70


immediately, because the entire capital investment of all
the members would fall under one Authority. (16)
Obviously this proposal called for an enormous
relinquishing of power by the DWD. Presently, the Denver
Water Board is the most powerful supplier in the state and
would demand much in return. The RSA was designed to meet
the demands of Denver proper as well as all member
districts. The RSA would be a "special service" authority
governing solid waste disposal, parks and recreation,
libraries, hospitals, museums, zoos, convention centers,
pest control, purchasing and management services, urban
drainage, transportation, jails, soil conservation, housing,
and fire protection. Essentially, the RSA would unify most
of the city's community services. The RSA would require
consent of local governments, such as the Denver Regional
Council of Governments, and secure itself as an independent
governing entity. Suburban governments would maintain their
political sovereignty in areas such as zoning, sales
taxation and police. (17)
The financial impact of both the MWA and the RSA was
expected to be substantial. First, the DWD presently charges
suburban water suppliers up to twice as much for its water.
Suburban water rates would decrease substantially and would
level off for the long terra (given the construction of Two
Forks). The Two Forks agreement enacted between the DWD and
the MWP established the "Denver Trust" as a receiving point
for all revenues collected by both entities. However, the
71


Denver Trust is a special fund controlled solely by the city
and county of Denver and "may be used for whatever purposes
it chooses." Under the agreement, the maximum amount payable
into the Denver Trust is $81.9 million. The MWP agreed to
these terms in exchange for lower rates, now and upon
completion of Two Forks. The formation of the ESA would
erase the inequity of the Denver Trust and incorporate the
Trust to the central fund. (18)
The DWD would lose a great deal for the sake of
Denver's city government. Denver would be relieved of
financing and supporting:
1. the operation and maintenance of Denver General
Hospital
2. the Denver Center for the Performing Arts
3. the Denver Zoo
4. the Museum of Natural History
5. the park system
6. the convention center
7. the library and the proposed construction
8. the Regional Transportation District. (19)
Benefits to the DWD appear to be minimal. With the formation
of the MWA, a centralized-powerful water entity would
replace a less powerful water entity. The MWA would have
greater lobbying ability in the legislature and dominate
state water issues, even more so than the DWD. The MWA would
have greater legal clout in the courts and be much more
formidable in east-west water contests. If the DWD obtained
a majority interest in the MWA, the benefits would be far
reaching.
Other forms of cooperation were attempted at various
times. During the era of "The Blue Line," the formation of a
72


three-county "Super Water District" was attempted between
Jefferson, Arapahoe and Adams counties. The Metropolitan
Area Municipal Association, chaired by attorney Henry
Shulenburg, laid out a four to six year study of the
possibility from 1954 until 1960. When the Blue Line was
lifted the project died. Glenn Saunders made the most
crucial step in 1954 when he proposed to the DWD the
creation of the MWA. His proposal was to join Denver with
the Sculenburg group. Nicholas R. Petry, DWD president, saw
no reason to act at that time. (20)
In 1964 Governor John Love's Local Affairs Study
Commission called for a 900 square mile Denver area "super
county." The proposal called for the absorption of Adams,
Arapahoe, Jefferson, and parts of Douglas and Elbert
counties into Denver. The plan "revived the corpse" of an
idea proposed by Saunders. The 100 member committee, headed
by Ed C. Johnson, former Colorado governor and United States
senator, set up a plan covering everything from court house
usage to property taxation. The plan, however, came
nose-to-nose with the jealously guarded area water control
of the Denver Water Board. It did so by proposing that all
water supplies of the metro area be merged. It was the most
contentious aspect of the platform and split the commission.
(21)
Governor Roy Romer tried as recently as 1988 to form a
Metropolitan Water Authority. Bringing together seven water
providers, including the DWD, under the guidance of Marshall
73


Kaplan, dean of the University of Colorado Graduate School
of Public Affairs, was also unsuccessful. Members of the
roundatable were able to reach agreement on "developing
conservation strategies," but little else. (22)
A Win-Win Solution is a remarkable document and these
proposals are equally noble in light of the historical
spects of inter-agency rivalry in the city. The suburbs and
the DWD have battled for decades. Both sides spend millions
for water and water rights usually in court. According to
State Senator Martha Ezzard,
The Denver Water Board has held a club over our heads
about water for years, choosing short-term gain instead
of long-term benefit to both Denver and the suburbs.
The primary obstacle to settling this problem is the
scare tactics used, the myths perpetuated to lead
suburbanites to think that if they cooperate on the
water issue, they'll lose local autonomy in other
issues. (23)
Whether the issue is in the courts or in the newspapers, the
two sides have feared a loss of their independence.
As recently as August of 1990 the mayors of Denver and
six other metropolitan cities broke off discussions of a
"metropolitan cooperation plan." Agreement was reached on
issues such as land use, air pollution, transportation and
medical care, however, the sticking point was the "metro
water authority issue." Aurora Mayor Paul Tauer put it
sternly: "We are in no way interested in anything tha^ puts
planning for our future in someone else's hands."
Westminster Mayor George Hovorka was even more graphic:
"Anything that would be putting us under someone's custody
74


in creating a metro water authority would lead to
bloodshed." (24)
Self-sufficiency, rather than cooperation, is the rule,
he DWD makes water available at a cheaper rate and its
ustomers respond by using more, at a rate of 230 gallons e.
per day per customer. Compared to Aurora, 147 gpd, and
Arvada, 173 gpd, it is easy to conclude that the suburbs are
forced to conserve. The suburbs must pay an average of
$378.56 per acre-foot, while the DWD pays an average of
$186.56 per acre-foot. With these costs in mind, the suburbs
have banded together to find a way to funnel water flowing
out of the state into their back yards primarily through
the Two Forks Project. As Governor Richard Lamm points out,
there are approximately 1.5 million acre-feet of water
flowing out of Colorado each year that we have a right
to. Our goal has to be to capture the water we own and
are losing. (25)
Acrimony reigns in the metropolis while water flows out
of the state. The most serious symptom of this occurred in
February of 1990 when 16 suburban water districts sued
Denver and the DWD, charging the city of bilking an
estimated 115,000 suburban customers. After the DWD
announced a ten percent increase in its rates to suburban
customers, a group of suburban water providers joined
together, naming itself the Metropolitan Water Authority,
and fought back. Larry Berkowitz, president of the
Authority, represented their sentiments when he expressed to
75


the press that Denver intended to keep overcharging suburban
water users as long as they will put up with it. The DWD
charges suburbs six percent higher per acre-foot, on
average, and 40 percent more on new water taps. Berkowitz
estimates the DWD of overcharging $22 million per year. In
Lakewood households pay $340 per year, double the cost in
Denver. On average, they use nearly half as much water as a
Denver resident. Adding fuel to the fire, Hubert Farbes,
acting president of the DWD, responded, "Denver probably has
not charged as much as it might have. . . this lawsuit is a
slap in the face." (26)
The water provider most dependent on the DWD is
Consolidated Mutual Water Company of Jefferson County, sole
provider to Lakewood. The company supplies 2,700 taps from
its own surface supply, and 9,800 taps from water purchased
form the DWD. It serves a population of 80,000. While
Consolidated Mutual represents only five percent of the
water users in Denver, its importance in the overall picture
of metropolitan cooperation is crucial. Lakewood has no
further resources upon which to draw water. It can only look
to the DWD or to a MWA for its supply. Consolidated Mutual
was a forerunner in obtaining the Two Forks agreement with
the DWD and the member metropolitan water providers. Two
Forks is seen as, a "must" for Lakewood. Consolidated has
been purchasing water from Denver since 1932. Water rates
have been an issue ever since. In the words of Virgil L.
Hill, general manager of CMWC, "Lakewood has no alternative
76


but to pay whatever rates are determined by the board of
water commissioners. The assets of the company are not
sufficient to support an alternative water supply project."
(27) Lakewood residents pay an average monthly water rate
of $44.63. (28)
Littleton has a similar situation. The city of
Littleton is under a total service contract with the DWD.
Its customers pay $44.80 per month. Again, this is in light
of an average cost to Denver residents of $22.30. (29)
Two Forks is also important to communities not
dependent on DWD supply. Douglas County, the fastest growing
county in the state, is independent of the DWD. Douglas
County needed Two Forks so much it agreed to pay 17.5
percent of the total 80 percent settled upon by the member
suburbs in the original EIS agreement, five percent to be
paid for by Mission Viejo Company. Douglas County retrieves
its water from "The Denver Basin" bedrock aquifer. The
aquifer is 6,700 square miles with a depth ranging from
1,500 to 4,000 feet. The deepest section is centered in
Douglas County, directly under the town of Parker. With
current population trends, the aquifer is expected to be
drained by 2010. At the same time, water demand is expected
to reach 200,000 annual acre-feet by the same year of 2010.
Two Forks is expected to meet that demand. (30)
James Cox concluded his 1967 metropolitan water study
with these words:
77


The most outstanding characteristic of water supply-
development in the Denver metropolitan area is the
dominant position held by the Denver Board of Water
Commissioners. Its service constitutes 51 percent of
the total number of taps in the metropolitan area. By
including the taps outside the city to which it
supplies water, this percentage increases to 71.5
percent. (31)
The dominant position of the DWD is manifest not just in the
number of taps it controls, but in the fees it charges, the
political control it exercises, and the conditions it
imposes on the surrounding, thirsty suburbs.
The DWD places severe restrictions on surrounding
clients. It will only sell treated water, making it
impossible for a suburb to treat its own water and save
money. The DWD will not allow its water to be "mixed" with
other water supplies within one supplying entity, making it
impossible for one agency to seek multiple supplies. The DWD
mandates a "total service" contract with its customer. Prior
to 1959 the DWD only issued year-to-year contracts. With the
Blue Line the DWD made a complete reversal and went to long
term, exclusive-use contracts. The policy holds true today,
making it impossible for an agency to "shop around" or make
efforts to establish its own source. A service area may not
expand its customer base without DWD approval. Essentially,
the DWD annexes its customers and broadens its power over
the city. (32)
One notable exception is Arvada. Arvada occupies a
preferred position vis-a-vis other municipalities in the
city with respect to the DWD. Arvada signed the first
78


"Supplemental Contract" with the City and County of Denver
in 1934. Under the agreement Arvada is allowed to purchase
untreated water at rates not exceeding cost. It is also the
only municipality that draws water directly from the Denver
supply through Ralston Reservoir. The DWD attempted to
withdraw from the agreement through litigation in 1960. The
court ruled in favor of Arvada. Arvada was the first
municipality to form its own water district and the first
and only municipality to obtain a contract other than a
year-to-year contract (until the DWD changed its policy to
an "exclusive use" policy). It is also the only
municipality which purchases water from the DWD and
maintains its home rule. (33)
The overall condition of metropolitan Denver in
relation to its water supply can be summarized as follows:
The DWD controls the vast majority of supply; those
municipalities which are dependent on the DWD lose much of
their independence; those municipalities which have found
their own resources are sitting on an untenable supply; the
demand for water, as determined by population distribution,
is growing outside of the city of Denver and decreasing
within the city; litigation, rather than cooperation, has
been the method of resolving these discrepancies. Two Forks
is seen by all water supply parties involved as the
practical as well as magical solution to the problem.
Through Two Forks a vast supply is available to all who
contribute to the cause. Two Forks is also the avenue by
79


which the city can reach a single integrated water
authority. Through that single-minded authority the city
will be enabled to continue growing and expanding into the
O 2 c* +
The Decision
The need for Two Forks was self-evident to the water
providers in Denver. The costly Mitigation Plan of the EIS
was intended to fend off any environmental question to the
project. When formal application was made in 1986 for
approval optimism reigned that the project would get the
final go ahead.
The year 1989, however, was not a very good one for
political interests that wanted an environmentally
questionable project. The Alaskan oil spill of the Exxon
tanker Valdez received extensive and potent press coverage,
forcing President George Bush to come forward and live up to
his campaign billing as "an environmental President."
Television pictures of oil-contaminated birds, fish and
other wildlife left an indelible image on the American
conscience. This was a slightly fragile America,
recuperating from what the press termed the "Alar scare."
The Alar scare occurred 'jhen widespread pesticide
contamination of apples was feared to have endangered many
citizens. Though the contamination was localized and not
80


quite as serious as initially estimated, the mood of the
people was turning "environmental."
Most of the environmental groups had been warning of
such episodes for decades, but failed to garner a vast
audience. With the media now broadcasting the reality of
such tragedies, and with the repetition of such stories as
"a depleted ozone layer," the environmentalists gained
momentum, if not a majority of the public interest. Plastic
diapers became taboo, replaced by cloth diaper services.
Recycling creeped into the mainstream. Plastic, paper, cans,
bottles, glass, almost any disposable became recyclable.
Stepping forward for the Bush administration was EPA
chief William Reilly. Reilly came to the EPA from a fifteen
year post as head of the Conservation Foundation, a
"moderate" environmentalist group. Reilly was given "carte
blanche" power in deciding the course of EPA policy. He was
given such power because he was fiscally conservative and
frowned on costly government projects. On March 24, 1989,
(three years after the initial filing) after reviewing
18,000 documents generated by the EIS, Reilly announced his
decision to veto Two Forks, overruling the EPA "regional
level" approval of Lee DeHihns. (Of the ten vetoes in EPA
history none has been reversed.) DeHihns was forced to face
the Denver water interests on March 26, receiving their
furor. The DWD ridiculed DeHihns as someone who was unable
to stand-up to his boss, Reilly, who "had promised his
81


cronies in the extreme environmental movement the head of
Two Forks on a platter." (34)
Later that year, Reilly went on to unveil a new Clean
Air Act which mandated the production of new automobiles
that use alternative and "environmentally safe" fuels. In
May he announced plans to ban Alar pesticides. Asbestos was
banned in July. The Washington Post wrote that Reilly had
become seduced by the trappings of leading a $5 billion,
15,000-employee agency: "he has taken on a high-profile,
activist role that seems likely to attract more power." (35)
Political ranks within the GOP fell into a quagmire.
The pro-development, pro-West policies of President Ronald
Reagan were apparently vanquished, while the "hit list" of
President Carter had returned. The DWD countered Reilly's
ruling by hiring Patton, Boggs and Blow, one of the most
powerful, expensive lobbyists in Washington D.C. Their
responsibility was to sway Congress, the administration, and
Republican National Chairman Lee Atwater back to a more
favorable stance. Neil Bush, son of the President and
resident of Denver, was inundated with lobbying. Colorado
Senator Bill Armstrong, joined by Republican national
committeeman Jim Nicholson and state party chairman Bruce
Benson, took the lead by organizing 500 Greater Denver
Chamber of Commerce leaders in a massive letter-writing
campaign to the President. Writing in The Rockv Mountain
News. Armstrong argued that Two Forks would actually benefit
the environment:
82


the benefit to the environment and the wildlife habitat
is dramatic . . . thousands of ducks and geese winter
on the reservoirs; creating fishing opportunities that
couldn't exist in a river that flowed only part of the
year. (36)
Former President Gerald Ford, however, urged Bush to finish
the EPA's plan to "kill" the proposed plan. Ford,
representing west-slope interests as a Vail and Beaver Creek
resident and investor, wrote, "From my perspective, Mr.
Reilly made the right decision . . . both sides of the
Divide are well-served by his actions, as are all citizens
who care about protecting the natural habitat." (37)
Armstrong was put in an embarrassing situation, refusing to
respond to Ford's high profile stance, as Armstrong was a
big supporter of Ford over Reagan in the 1976 GOP
presidential primary.
Reilly's reasons for the decision were sketchy, at
best, as the EPA refused to release the 37 page document
supporting the decision. The EPA chose to keep the document
classified and remain covered by its attorney-client
privilege clause. Attorneys for the DWD filed a lawsuit
November 11, 1989, in federal court, seeking the release of
the report. The Defense Department defended the EPA censor
on grounds that it might "confuse the public." Information
within the document consists of "personal information that,
if released, would result in an unwarranted invasion of the
personal privacy of the individuals concerned." Under the
Freedom of Information Act and with a favorable federal
court ruling, the public obtained information which revealed
83


that the individuals concerned were engineers hired by the
Defense Department at Engineering Science Inc. Their job was
to act as the leader in evaluating the potential
environmental damage of the project. Allan Udin, manager of
Engineering Science's Denver office was also vice chairman
of the Lakewood Board of Water Commissioners, one of the
local providers initiating the study. His oversight of the
Two Forks EIS was an obvious conflict of interest. (38)
The primary arguments against the project, however,
stem from the EIS. First, there is an insufficient need for
Two Forks. With Denver's present water surplus, need is
difficult to prove. Second, Denver wastes too much water.
The EPA estimated that Denver failed to meet its
conservation goals established in 1979 by a remarkable
overuse of 142 gallons per capita per day. Even the DWD
deferred on this point, We're disappointed that our
department and its one million customers didn't meet the
conservation goals, said Kathy Richardson, spokeswoman for
the DWD. Richardson blames the poor performance on a series
of "wet years" and cheap water. Third, the Mitigation Plan
does not offer a strong enough solution to the massive
environmental and habitat damage in the canyon. DeHihns
supported Reilly by saying that too vast an area would
suffer a "significant and forever loss [sic]." Fourth,
downstream impact on Nebraska is uncertain and politically
volatile. Nebraska interests, led by Democratic Senator
James Exon, fought the project from its application date
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forward, citing a potential depletion of its water rights on
the Platte. Finally, alternatives to the project are vastly
less expensive and more practical. Those alternatives will
be discussed in a later section. (39)
Fallout at the DWD came in two immediate ways. First,
in July, 1990, a "slimmed down" version of Two Forks was
proposed. The reduced version cut the size of the reservoir
in half, projecting the cost at a savings of $120 million,
and increased efforts on the Mitigation Plan, especially in
Cheesman Canyon, saving 4.6 miles of fishery habitat.
Second, in November of that same year, Bill Miller, who ran
the DWD from 1972, resigned. He was replaced by Hamlet J.
"Chips" Barry. Barry is a fourth-generation Coloradan and
familiar with the history of water politics in the state,
serving as Governor Roy Romer's director of natural
resources since 1987. Barry's job was to face an angry
metropolis, a stronger environmental movement, and redefine
the DWD and its goals. (40)
Environmental interests were elated at the decision. In
response to the "slimraed-down" proposal, the reaction was to
not let up. Dan Luecke of the Environmental Defense Fund in
Boulder felt the DWD was trying to turn what was a big bad
idea into just a bad idea. He was not impressed. Carmi
McLean, Colorado director of Clean Water Action, wrote:
Mini-Two Forks doesn't fix any of what was wrong with
the original project. Making the mistake smaller
doesn't change the fact that it's a mistake. Two Forks
Dam, in any version, is a plan for the past, a dream of
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old men, out of touch with people's values today and
needs for tomorrow. (41)
Chips Barry, however, was received as a welcome change.
Barry is viewed by environmentalists as more moderate, more
willing to see their side. Rollie Fischer, director of the
Colorado River Water Conservation District, said, "He can
work both sides of the street and do it with integrity."
(42) Luecke added, "For years, the approach has been based
on mutual antagonism. Chips may be able to get the various
interests to cooperate." (43)
A peace was being negotiated. Environmentalists knew
victory was theirs.
Hurting the most was the coalition of metropolitan
water providers. It was a partnership that stood up
remarkably well considering its animosity towards the DWD.
Only Thornton and Aurora had left the partnership when, in
1986, both pursued water supplies other than Two Forks.
Thornton sought to buy water rights from farmers bordering
them to the north and Aurora announced its intention of
drilling a tunnel under Collegiate Peaks and diverting water
for itself. The Aurora project, estimated to cost $320
million, is combined with the Homestake project, which seeks
to divert water through Eagle-Piney and is delayed by
environmental battles, would bring in enough water to
support a population of 750,000. Thornton's plan is
designed for another purpose. Thornton's Mayor Margaret
Carpenter sought unilateral control:
86