Frequently Asked Questions about Chimney Hollow Reservoir
Where will Chimney Hollow Reservoir be located?
Chimney Hollow Reservoir, which is the main component of the Windy Gap Firming Project, will be located just west of Carter Lake and south of Flatiron Reservoir, southwest of Loveland, Colo. in Larimer County.
How large is the reservoir?
Chimney Hollow Reservoir will store up to 90,000 acre-feet and will have 740-acre surface acres at capacity. Water will be stored behind a 350-foot-tall dam. Chimney Hollow Dam will be the third tallest dam in the State of Colorado and one of the tallest on the Colorado’s Front Range.
Will Chimney Hollow Reservoir be open to the public?
Yes, Larimer County will manage the Chimney Hollow Open Space Public Recreation Area. The open space will include over 2,000 acres of forest in addition to the 740-acre reservoir. The public open space will provide a day-use recreation area with hiking, horseback riding, fishing and non-motorized boating.
How much is this project going to cost and who is paying for the project?
The project is estimated to cost $670 million. The project will be fully paid for by the 12 project participants.
Is this project needed?
Yes! This project is part of a long-term water supply plan that is critical to support our growing and vibrant communities. Chimney Hollow Reservoir will provide dedicated storage to ‘firm’ Windy Gap water rights and ensure reliable supplemental water supply for about 825,000 people in Northern Colorado.
Why has this project taken so long?
Project participants entered the formal federal permitting process in 2003. The federal environmental permitting process consists of a thorough analysis of project needs, impacts and ways to mitigate those impacts and that takes time.
Has the project met all the permitting requirements?
All state and federal permits have been issued and construction is slated to begin in 2021.
How will this project benefit the Colorado River?
The Windy Gap Firming Project, in which Chimney Hollow Reservoir is a main component, includes mitigation of potential impacts from the project and voluntary enhancements to improve the health of the Colorado River. Among other things, these programs include the following measures:
- Water quality and nutrient mitigation for the Colorado River
- Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program
- Water quality and temperature monitoring in the Colorado River
- Colorado River Connectivity Channel
- Colorado River Habitat Project
- Learning by Doing program to benefit the Colorado River
The project also provides water and water storage for Grand County to use for environmental purposes. Grand County values the water and storage at approximately $45 million, which is a very substantial contribution by the project to the long-term environmental health of the Colorado River.
The project includes operations to improve the health of the Colorado River. Pumping operations will be curtailed to maintain temperature standards for fish health, and ‘flushing flows’ will be provided to move sediment and improve the aquatic habitat of the Colorado River.
Why do we need another dam? Can’t we just conserve water instead?
Project participants recognize the importance of water conservation. The participants have diversified, substantive conservation programs that they continue to evaluate and strengthen. The project participants have already made considerable progress by reducing water consumption per person by more than 25 percent since 1988. They accomplished this through supply-side measures such as improving facility efficiency, as well as on the demand side, by implementing metered billing, outdoor watering limitations and implementing re-use systems for gray water.
Despite these efforts, conservation measures alone cannot meet future residential water demands. The project participants are expected to see a combined 2050 population exceeding 825,000 people – more than double what they had in 2005.
How long will construction last?
We anticipate that construction will take about four years. Based on our current construction schedule, we will fill Chimney Hollow Reservoir in 2024.
What is an asphalt core dam, and is it safe? Why aren’t we using a ‘normal’ design like Horsetooth Reservoir?
Asphalt core dam technology was originally developed in the 1960s in Germany, Austria and Norway for areas that lacked sufficient clays to construct clay-core dams. Since then, there have been over 120 asphalt core dams constructed all over the world, including many that are much taller than Chimney Hollow Dam.
At the start of design for the Chimney Hollow Reservoir, an extensive clay-borrow geotechnical engineering study was undertaken that indicated that we did not have enough clay material in the valley to construct a clay-core dam. At that time, we hosted a workshop with our design engineer, the State of Colorado Division of Dam Safety and four independent technical consultants who unanimously agreed that the asphalt-core dam was the best and safest solution for the Chimney Hollow Dam.
We have heard that the project is in litigation. Why is the project in a lawsuit?
An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was prepared by federal agencies as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. The EIS process included 15 years of studies and resulted in thousands of pages of data and analysis. Environmental organizations have filed suit in federal court to stop the project on the basis that this work did not comply with the requirements of federal law. Lawsuits of this nature are common even for good water projects like the Windy Gap Firming Project.
We feel strongly that the project has met and exceeded all requirements of state and federal law. The project was defined through collaboration with both east and west slope entities, provides necessary water supply and mitigates and enhances the Colorado River. The project mitigation and enhancement commitments have been approved or supported by Governor Hickenlooper and the State of Colorado, Trout Unlimited, Grand County, Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado River District and the Colorado River Water Conservancy District. We are confident that the federal court will confirm that the project has met all requirements of federal law and the project will move forward as anticipated.