Editor’s note: This letter was originally sent to
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. of the Waterkeeper Alliance in
New York.

November 14, 2017

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
℅ Waterkeeper Alliance
180 Maiden Lane, Ste. 603
New york, NY. 10038

Dear Robert,

My name is Kirk Klancke and I have been a resident in Grand County and the headwaters of the Colorado River for 47 years. Being a fly fisher and a rafter, a father and a grandfather, I have had a special relationship with the Colorado River for all of those years. About 25 years ago I got tired of watching the rivers in my county decline and started volunteering a large part of my time to try to change that. I became president of the local chapter of Trout Unlimited and joined ongoing, local efforts to fight for our community’s right to healthy streams. It took 10 years of fighting to get a package of measures that will restore our rivers and prevent additional impacts. The viability of those solutions depends on Windy Gap Firming Project moving forward.

Recently, Waterkeeper Alliance, the organization you lead, joined a lawsuit to stop the Windy Gap Firming project. Your organization joined a couple of Front Range-based groups whose agenda is to “fight to kill every proposed dam and diversion project, everywhere, as hard as we can for as long as we can in whatever way we can.” This is an actual quote from the group’s executive director. Waterkeeper’s web site indicates that your organization focuses on grass-roots efforts to fight for “every community’s rights to drinkable, fishable, swimmable waters”. I’m not sure why Waterkeepers joined a lawsuit that is blind to the actual needs of the local community and environment in pursuit of a rigid, blind agenda. And I’m not sure which grass-roots efforts Waterkeepers is supporting. It certainly is not Grand County’s.

I am reaching out to you to ask that you come to Grand County and listen to what those of us who have been in the trenches for years and have the most to lose by the wrong decision have to say. We don’t have an ideological or financial agenda.

If you were to come and talk to us, you’d hear that, while it may seem common sense to say that stopping the Windy Gap Firming project diversions will save the river, this oversimplified soundbite does not reflect the complex reality of the headwaters streams and their plight. Decades of transmountain diversions are having severe impacts on the streams and their aquatic resources. Deteriorating conditions are getting worse and transmountain diversions will increase, regardless of whether or not Windy Gap Firming project moves forward.

You will hear about local efforts that focus on repairing the damage from those diversions so that aquatic resources once again thrive. You will hear about finding ways to manage transmountain diversions in a way that is less damaging to the streams, using system flexibility to give overtaxed stream reaches a chance to heal and providing flows to ease stream temperature and other low flow problems. You will hear about systems in place to ensure that the impacts of transmountain diversions are monitored and, if detected, they are reversed.

You will hear about the successes these cooperative efforts are already producing, with one stream restoration project increasing trout biomass by over 400 percent in just a few days. You will hear about our ongoing efforts to solve the biggest problem of all: the on-channel Windy Gap Reservoir, identified by Colorado Parks and Wildlife as the cause for some of the most severe impacts to aquatic life and stream health in the area.

You will hear about cooperative efforts that reflect huge breakthroughs in the way agriculture and environmental interests work together to improve irrigation efficiency while at the same time improving stream health.

There is so much at stake for our streams and our community. And it is all dependant on the Windy Gap Firming Project and the Moffat Project moving forward. Delaying the projects through litigation will delay real solutions for our streams. If delayed long enough, it may eliminate federal, state and private funding that is subject to deadlines.

Locally, we view the suit as a top down approach to push a couple of environmental groups agenda that is completely blind to the interests of the local environment and community.

Please come and talk to us, old-timers and young leaders. Come and talk to our local wildlife and fisheries biologist, or our multi-generational ranchers who are creating healthy aquatic habitat for the first time. Come and talk to our county leaders, who have invested millions of dollars to protect Grand County streams.

Assisting, rather than impinging on our efforts, seems more aligned with the mission of Waterkeepers. It also seems more aligned with the Kennedy name which, to me, stands for integrity and justice, and is the reason why, even though I’m a Republican, I have carried a Kennedy half dollar in my pocket for my entire adult life- as a reminder of what our leadership should be.

Before continuing to align your good name to an effort that could cause more environmental harm than good, I am inviting you to come to Grand County to listen to us, and then form your opinion. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance in helping to facilitate a visit to the headwaters of the Colorado River.


Kirk Klancke
President, Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited