Parker: Rueter-Hess Reservoir update

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So far Parker and its partners in Rueter-Hess Reservoir — currently under construction southwest of the city — do not have enough surface water to fill the 77,000 acre-foot reservoir. Here’s a report from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

The prospect of what critics call an empty bathtub is generating anxiety around Colorado as water managers clash over the last unclaimed mountain river flows. Most water to fill the Rueter-Hess reservoir “will have to be imported,” said Frank Jaeger, manager of the Parker Water and Sanitation District, who for 25 years has led the effort to supply 450,000 suburban residents. Importing water would require multibillion-dollar pumping and piping from rivers running down the western side of the Continental Divide, such as the Colorado, back across mountains to Front Range residents, Jaeger said. Though huge, the costs likely would be less than for alternatives such as trapping and treating contaminated water from the South Platte or Arkansas rivers, he said. The option Jaeger and a Colorado-Wyoming coalition of municipal suppliers favor — one of four being considered by state natural resources officials — would divert water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in western Wyoming along Interstate 80 to Colorado…

Yet Colorado Western Slope leaders see the $230 million Rueter-Hess reservoir as folly — and bristle at talk of diverting more water across the mountains to fill it. The reservoir “is 20 times more expensive, and 10 times as big as they need. It’s going to be a little bit of water in a big bathtub,” said Eric Kuhn, manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, based in Glenwood Springs. The financing, based on tap fees from anticipated housing construction, “is the water equivalent of a Ponzi scheme,” Kuhn said…”There’s a very good chance that, in the long run, there’s not going to be any more water available on the Western Slope. And, if they’re having trouble now paying for Rueter-Hess, how are they going to pay for moving water from the Western Slope? That’s why I say this is a fairy tale,” Kuhn said…

This month, more construction vehicles are rolling into action to build up the 7,700-foot-wide Frank Jaeger Dam at the reservoir. Critics “can make their claims,” but the reservoir will be crucial to sustain population growth, Jaeger said. Paying off the debt for the construction now underway all depends on tax revenues from future growth, he said. “To say, ‘We’ll just shut off growth’ will only exacerbate problems,” he said. “If you don’t pay off debt, what do you do? What does that do to the economy of the whole state? We need steady, controlled growth. All our needs for a reasonable lifestyle are tied into this.”

More Rueter-Hess coverage here and here.

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