Flaming Gorge pipeline: Mesa County Commissioners vote to oppose the project, Wyoming Game and Fish files motion to intervene with FERC

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From the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic:

Mesa County commissioners in Colorado have joined those opposing a proposal to build a pipeline to carry water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to Colorado…

Mesa County commissioners voted 2-0 Monday, with a third commissioner out sick, to oppose the idea. The Daily Sentinel reports commissioners said the idea is ill-conceived, expensive, and could cause Colorado to use more water than it has been allocated under a multistate compact divvying up water in the Colorado River system.

Meanwhile, here’s a release Wyoming Governor Matt Mead outlining his opposition to the pipeline. Thanks to Sagebrush Sam’s (@SagebrushSam) Twitter feed for the link:

Governor Matt Mead sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today. That letter expresses the Governor’s deep concern about the proposed water pipeline from the Green River in Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range. Governor Mead’s comments are meant to protect Wyoming’s economy and resources and show the project is not feasible.

“This project would cut a vast swath across southern Wyoming, with the potential for huge impacts in many significant sectors of our economy and aspects of critical resources to Wyoming and Colorado,” Governor Mead wrote. He added, “The proponent has stated this project will cost $3 billion to construct but little is known about the future cost to consumers or others from such a massive project.”

FERC is considering a preliminary permit for this project, which is now billed as a hydroelectric endeavor. It had been before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers until the Corps withdrew the application earlier this year. The project applicant then took it to FERC. Governor Mead expressed concern that FERC is not the correct entity to review this proposal, “The proponent has, by all appearances, shifted federal permitting venues to short-circuit the regulatory process and/or sidestep fundamental issues. I do not believe FERC should be the lead or initial permitting agency for this project.”

In terms of Wyoming’s water rights, Governor Mead wrote that the Upper Colorado River Basin Compact must be given full consideration because no project can disrupt Wyoming’s potential to develop its remaining appropriation under that Compact. While most of the water for this project would supposedly come from whatever Colorado’s unused portion of the compact is Governor Mead noted, “The applicant is proposing use of 25,000 acre feet of water per year from Wyoming’s undeveloped allocation under the Compact, and Wyoming has not agreed to this allocation.”

Governor Mead also raised concerns about the impact on recreation opportunities in the Flaming Gorge and the Green River as well as impacts on endangered species recovery programs in the Green and Colorado Rivers.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department has also filed a notice of intervention with FERC.

More coverage from Jake Nichols writing for the JH Weekly. From the article:

“Although in its proposal a hydroelectricity angle has been attempted, it is important to note that hydroelectric production is a minor purpose of the project,” Mead wrote. “The project first, foremost and always is a water supply project.”

Wyoming Game and Fish Department, along with a host of environmental groups including the Sierra Club, Earthjustice and Utah Rivers Council have joined Mead in urging that FERC deny Million’s application.

More coverage from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

[John] Stokes, director of the Fort Collins Department of Natural Resources, said entrepreneur Aaron Million’s Regional Watershed Supply Project, also known as the Flaming Gorge Pipeline, would be “highly detrimental” to the 22,000-acre Soapstone Prairie and nearby 26,500-acre Meadow Spring Ranch. Both are located near the Wyoming border.

Million, however, believes his own proposal showing the pipeline threading through those lands is a mistake which will be corrected.

In a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, which is permitting the pipeline, Stokes wrote last week that Million’s company, Wyco Power and Water, plans to construct the pipeline, hydroelectric power facilities and major electric transmission lines across Soapstone Prairie and Meadow Spring Ranch…

…FERC received about 200 comments or motions to intervene in the pipeline permitting process.

Of those, few supported the project, and the most vehement objections came from cities along the pipeline corridor, environmentalists and federal and local government agencies warning that the pipeline would have a tremendous impact on the Colorado and Green rivers, endangered species, national forests and natural areas such as Soapstone Prairie.

“The magnitude of disturbance from installing an underground pipeline and transmission lines across several miles of SPNA and MSR would be great, both in the short term and longer term,” Stokes said…

On Monday, Million said the map in the proposal submitted to FERC showing the pipeline routed through Soapstone Prairie and Meadow Springs Ranch was an error. “That’s an artifact of GIS,” he said. “We have no intention of going through the natural area. John (Stokes) asked it to be moved, and I said I would.”[...]

Robert Stewart, an environmental officer for the U.S. Department of Interior, urged officials to determine if climate change will reduce the water flow in the Green River before the pipeline is built. He added that water diversions out of the Colorado River Basin, of which the Green River is a part, have altered the flow downstream, and water diversions for the Flaming Gorge Pipeline could further harm four endangered fish species in the Colorado River…

In his letter of opposition, Green River, Wyo., Mayor Hank Castillon joined a chorus of Wyoming counties and towns objecting to the project, because, he said, “the Regional Watershed Supply Project will profoundly and negatively affect every citizen and business in this community.”

Other major organizations objecting to the pipeline include the Glenwood Springs-based Colorado River Water Conservation District, the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District of Steamboat Springs, the Colorado River Outfitters Association, the Wyoming-based Coalition of Local Governments, several counties in Utah and Wyoming and a host of environmental groups, including Trout Unlimited, Save the Poudre, the Sierra Club and others.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

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