The history of our story emanates from Denver Water receiving a right-of-way in 1931 from the Secretary of the Interior allowing for the possible construction of a 345,000 acre-foot reservoir, named Two Forks Reservoir, at the confluence of the South Platte River and its North Fork located at South Platte, CO. In 1968, the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (W&SRA) was passed to protect wild rivers and scenic rivers from development that would substantially change their wild and/or scenic nature. All rivers were directed to be studied for determination of any eligibility to be so protected.
By the 1980’s, Denver Water and other Denver suburban entities were actively studying the possible construction of the Two Forks Reservoir. In 1984, studies were being conducted by the U.S.D.A. Forest Service (USFS) that concluded portions of the South Platte River were indeed eligible for protection under the W&SRA. Ultimately, the Two Forks Reservoir project was stopped by a veto from the EPA in 1991.
The W&SRA driven studies about the South Platte River continued until in 1995 local interests requested that the USFS consider a local alternative to wild and scenic designation in recognition that the river not only has key environmental values, but it also is, and will forever remain, the key conduit for development of water supplies for the Front Range of Colorado. The potential conflict would have been that wild and scenic designation did not allow for future changes to be made to the river, e.g., flow aterations, stream bank protections or other projects, while Colorado’s future population and economic development required flexibility on the river’s future use in providing water supplies.
Taking all studies and local concerns into consideration, the USFS encouraged the development of a local alternative to the W&SRA designation that would achieve maintenance and possible enhancement of the identified river values. The precedent-setting, cooperative process for the development of a local alternative, known as the South Platte Protection Plan (SPPP), took from 1996 to 2004. In June 2004, the USFS issued a Record of Decision that halted the W&SRA process’ “suitability decision” and allowed the local alternative, the SPPP, to be implemented with the goal of maintaining, and possibly enhancing, the Outstandingly Remarkable Values (ORVs) identified for the rivers.
The initial meeting of the South Platte Enhancement Board (SPEB), as the key overseer of the implementation for the SPPP, was on October 21, 2004. Since that time, SPEB has held monthly meetings, adopted bylaws, collected and managed the endowment fund, created a grant issuing process, distributed grants for multiple projects and otherwise demonstrated prudent due diligence implementing the SPPP.