Today Federal District Judge Richard P. Matsch issued an opinion finding that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acted properly in vetoing the permit that would have allowed Two Forks dam to be built. Two Forks, a proposal of the Denver Water Department, would have dammed the South Platte southwest of Denver, diverted water from the Colorado River west of the Continental Divide and inundated almost 40 miles of river valley habitat.
In reviewing the judge’s opinion, Daniel Luecke, the Environmental Defense Fund’s Rocky Mountain office director, finds that the court has delivered a very strong message that EPA acted properly. Mr. Luecke points, in particular, to the language in the opinion that states that
- [t]he record shows that these [Two Forks] impacts were considered by the EPA, resulting in a finding that the quantitative and qualitative impacts on aquatic life and recreation were much greater for the Two Forks project and this court must be deferential to the expertise of the agency.
- The defendants [EPA] also have shown record support for the conclusion that even after mitigation the three proposals for the Two Forks Dam would result in significant and unacceptable adverse impacts.
“The Environmental Defense Fund has always been prepared to work with the Denver metropolitan area to seek solutions to manage water resources for the long-term,” according to Luecke, “but Two Forks was and always will be a losing proposition from both an environmental and economic point-of-view. Perhaps now it can returned to the obscurity it so richly deserves.”
The debate over Two Forks has lasted for decades. The dam’s opponents have won another significant victory. With this federal court decision, the debate may now be over.