Palisade whitewater park awaits permit | AspenTimes.com

Palisade whitewater park awaits permit

Marija B. Vader
Grand Junction correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

PALISADE, Colo. ” One permit stands in the way of the town of Palisade’s plan to jump on the whitewater park craze with place to lure paddlers on a stretch of the Colorado River in far western Colorado.

Already, Glenwood Springs, about 76 miles to the east, is poised to begin work on its own park in the Colorado River, starting construction next month while water flows are low.

Palisade, just east of Grand Junction, is poised to award a bid to construct its own park once it has permission, said Palisade Town Manager Tim Sarmo. American Civil Constructors submitted the low bid of $635,800.

The town, however, must first appease area irrigators and secure the support of the Colorado Division of Wildlife, and fish and wildlife officials, in order to obtain an Army Corps of Engineers permit for the park. It will be located in what some view as a critical stretch of the river ” one that four endangered species of fish call home.

The fish were but one concern expressed during a comment period on the Palisade whitewater park. The Army Corps of Engineers took comments on the permit application until Nov. 5 and received a bundle, said Steve Moore, project manager for the corps.

“We got absolutely flooded with comments … easily over 40,” Moore said. Corps staffers will review the comments and forward them to the town, which must address them.

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“The burden is on the applicant to provide the information needed,” Moore said. After that, it will be a back-and-forth process between the town and the corps.

Among the issues raised during the comment period: Endangered fish and potential back-flooding of the river as a result of structures placed in the water, Moore said.

“The corps is not opposed to the concept of a whitewater park on the Colorado River,” he added.

That sentiment was echoed by Patty Gelatt, fish and wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“We want to ensure any project wouldn’t cause any impediment to fish movement,” Gelatt said. “I do think whitewater parks and fish can exist together.”

“I think the structures will enhance habitat for the fish,” Sarmo said.

The town manager took particular issue with a comment from the Grand Valley Irrigation Company, which demanded a full Environmental Impact Statement before moving forward with the park.

“If that is required, it will kill the project,” Sarmo said. “I don’t have the money to complete an EIS. We need to be in the river now.”

Sarmo disagrees with other input, as well, particularly the contention that placing rocks in the river could affect water levels.

“We are not damming the river. We are not diverting water from the river. And we are not seeking water rights,” Sarmo said. “We are merely placing rocks in the river.”

“I hope the Army Corps of Engineers is capable of reacting rationally to this, separating legitimate comments from the irrational comments from people who want to see it fail,” Sarmo said. “I’m not building the Hoover Dam here.”

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