KUSA — Following a flurry of news reports that Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge would not open on Saturday as scheduled, the U.S. Department of Interior told 9NEWS that it will in fact open as planned after a review by the deputy secretary.
This comes minutes after 9NEWS received a previous statement from the U.S. Department of the Interior saying that Secretary Ryan Zinke was going to delay the opening “to gather additional information.”
In that statement, Zinke said he “has heard concerns” and asked Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt to “look into this matter.” Moments later, the Department of the Interior told 9NEWS that Bernhardt had determined Rocky Flats could open as planned.
It's unclear exactly how long his review lasted.
It means more than 5,000 acres surrounding what was once a nuclear site in Jefferson County with 10.3 miles of trails will open to the public on Saturday.
It comes after gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) wrote a letter to Zinke asking he delay the Rocky Flats opening, citing health concerns with the area surrounding the superfund site where plutonium triggers for nuclear bombs were manufactured during the Cold War.
"When it comes to the health and safety of Coloradans, we should always err on the side of caution," Polis said in a statement that was distributed on Friday afternoon. "The opening of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge should only happen after air, water, and soil testing is completed in the area maintained by the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and everything is determined to be safe."
A coalition of groups that oppose the refuge filed a lawsuit over fears that it was not safe due to plutonium contamination in the soil, and that not enough testing had been done.
The Rocky Flats refuge was first designated by Congress in 2011, but has been a point of contention between the Fish and Wildlife Service and environmental groups ever since.
Multiple Front Range school districts have already banned field trips at Rocky Flats – a parcel of land the U.S. government has spent $7 billion cleaning up.