The planned opening of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge to the public this Saturday was briefly put on hold Friday by order of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, before a review and decision to go ahead with the opening as planned.
The Trump administration on Friday briefly delayed the reopening of the former nuclear site in Jefferson County, according to The Hill.
A deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Interior reviewed the planned Rocky Flats opening and determined the refuge will open Saturday as scheduled, an Interior official told The Denver Post.
The 5,000-acre site is about 12 miles northwest of Denver.
“Secretary (Ryan) Zinke has heard concerns about the opening of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge and has decided to delay the opening to gather additional information. The Secretary has asked Deputy Secretary Bernhardt to look into this matter,” an Interior spokeswoman said in a statement to The Hill.
The 6,240-acre former Rocky Flats site — where workers produced plutonium triggers for U.S. nuclear weapons — will open Saturday as the wildlife refuge with 11 trails for hikers, outdoor enthusiasts and and nature lovers.
Rocky flats underwent a $7.7 billion federal Superfund cleanup, which was completed in 2006, leaving a 1,300-acre fenced core where the Department of Energy oversees buried waste.
The reopening has generated controversy over the years, which has intensified as the opening day grew closer. It also has generated support as a wildlife refuge to be used by the public. Planned uses include hiking, biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Colorado health department both have said that the park is safe for use following tests that found only “an extremely small” increased risk for cancer in the area.
However, local environmental groups sued in May over health concerns, arguing that not enough testing had been done. The judge rejected attempts to keep the refuge closed to the public until a final ruling, which is still pending.
The refuge, still the subject of a lawsuit aimed at keeping people out, builds on an emerging public-access landscape between Boulder and Golden that covers more than 80,000 acres.
Boulder and Jefferson County officials, who recently bought an adjacent 440-acre ranch, said they’ll look at buying more land to preserve as open space along Colorado 93 — to make sure population growth and development don’t completely devour nature.
Environmental groups claim the site is not entirely safe, and users would risk coming in contact with plutonium particles, which if inhaled or ingested, can cause cancer.
Both the EPA and the Colorado health department say tests of the air, water and soil showed “an extremely small” increased risk for cancer and is safe for unlimited use by workers and visitors.
Local environmental groups, like The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, disagree and sued to block the refuge’s opening. The case is pending, but a federal judge rejected a request to block the opening until it’s decided.
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder, is among those who are opposed to the refuge opening.
“I am following up on my constituents’ request that the Department of the Interior (DOI) complete further testing of air, water and soil at the Refuge site by March 2019, and that until further testing has been completed, the Refuge site remain unopen to the public,” Polis said in a letter to Zinke date Thursday.