After a long and contentious battle, Denver Water’s plan to expand Gross Reservoir is finally moving forward. The project, designed to triple the reservoir’s capacity, faced years of legal challenges from Boulder County and concerns from nearby residents. However, the water utility has broken ground, and construction is underway.

A Rocky Road to Expansion

The idea for the expansion was born in the aftermath of the 2002 Hayman Fire, which ravaged the surrounding area and highlighted Denver Water’s need for increased storage. Permitting began way back in 2003, but legal hurdles repeatedly stalled progress. Boulder County asserted its land-use authority, leading to a lengthy and costly legal entanglement.

Persistence Pays Off

Despite setbacks, Denver Water obtained the necessary approvals, and construction began in April 2022. The project involves raising the existing dam by a staggering 131 feet, a process that will take several years to complete. “It’s been a long road,” says Doug Raitt, Denver Water’s construction project manager, “but we’re excited to see the expansion taking shape finally.”

Environmental Considerations

While the project faced resistance, Denver Water reached a $12.5 million settlement with Boulder County to mitigate the impact on neighboring residents. The agreement includes a “dead pool” to maintain fish habitat and protections for surrounding rivers. When completed, the expanded reservoir will significantly improve the Denver area’s water security and flood control.

Looking Forward

Gross Reservoir, already an important water source for over 1.5 million people, will nearly triple by 2027. The expansion is a testament to Denver Water’s commitment to meeting the region’s water needs, even amid legal and environmental challenges.