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Conservation Colorado and Coalition Partners Urge Communities to Provide Public Comment on September 12 to Increase Water Protections

DENVER – Conservation Colorado, in partnership with a coalition of conservation and environmental justice communities, continues to demand Colorado’s Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) to revisit its 2020 decision not to increase protections for urban waterways, known as antidegradation protections.

The conservation coalition, which includes Conservation Colorado, GreenLatinos, Western Resource Advocates and Trout Unlimited, among others, urges the public to provide their comments during the WQCC’s virtual hearing September 12 at 5 p.m. The final decision is expected to be made on September 13.

In 2020, the WQCC rejected a proposal to increase protections for segments of the South Platte River in North Denver, Commerce City, and Clear Creek, east of Golden, presented by its staff and supported by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Colorado Parks & Wildlife.

“This decision was made without taking into account science and data-driven advice and without outreach to impacted communities, who have been historically affected by cumulative impacts from air and water pollution,” said Josh Kuhn, Conservation Colorado Water Campaign Manager. “Conservation Colorado and our partners continued to demand increased protection and filed a petition with outpouring public support, last year. This is the community’s chance to demand the commission to right their wrong decision.”

Protecting waters from pollution caused by human activity is at the core of the Clean Water Act, which applies to both urban waters and mountain streams. Earlier this year, $350 million in federal funds were awarded to protect the South Platte River and adjacent communities from a changing climate.

“This is a historic moment for Colorado. Impacted communities are empowered, organized, and partnered with allies. We are committed to using every procedural tool and in every venue available to us to achieve environmental justice,” added Ean Thomas Tafoya, GreenLatinos Colorado State Director .

Although water quality has improved due to water quality regulation, the WQCC’s decision has allowed industry, such as Suncor, to have less stringent permit limits, consequently increasing levels of pollution. Other industries opposing this effort, such as Molson Coors and Metro Water Recovery, are the same entities that cause water quality degradation and insist that water quality is now too degraded to merit greater protections.

“Protecting water quality for all Coloradans to enjoy, regardless of their ZIP code, should be a central goal of the Water Quality Control Commission,” said Ellen Kutzer, Western Resource Advocates’ Senior Staff Attorney. “When the WQCC downgraded water quality protections on Clear Creek and the South Platte years ago, it put these waterways in danger of further degradation. Now, the commission has the opportunity to apply its rules equitably, and protect water quality in North Denver in the same way as it protects other streams in our state.”

Threats from climate change, coupled with increased demand are creating unforeseen stresses on rivers.

“This community is passionate about their river,” said Mely Whiting, Colorado Water Project legal counsel for Trout Unlimited. “It has improved so much over the years thanks to the efforts of many. Let’s not allow it to degrade.”

Public hearing information:

When: Sept. 12, starting at 5 p.m.
Location: Register for Zoom WQCC September Meeting