Jim Pokrandt: ‘The River District’s [motion to intervene] also cites the [Flaming Gorge pipeline] as speculative with relatively small demands’

December 23, 2011

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From email from the Colorado River District (Jim Pokrandt):

Update: Here’s the release from the Colorado River District website.

The Colorado River District is opposing a proposed Flaming Gorge Reservoir pipeline project through a motion to intervene with a federal regulatory agency that is reviewing the plan to pump water from the Wyoming reservoir to the Front Range of Colorado.

Fort Collins, Colo., businessman Aaron Million is proposing a 560-mile pipeline, the Regional Water Supply Project (RWSP), which would carry up to 250,000 acre feet of water. It is under review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for its power-generating aspects. The River District’s motion to intervene says, “The volume of water at issue would adversely impact existing users of Colorado’s entitlement to the waters of the Colorado River, and could usurp the remainder of the state’s compact allocation.”

Although the water would be taken out of the Colorado River system from the Green River, a tributary with Wyoming headwaters, under the Colorado River Compact of 1922, the amount still counts against Colorado’s limited ability to use the river.

The River District’s motion also cites the RWSP as “speculative” with “relatively small demands – nowhere near the volume claimed by the RWSP. Moreover, none of the projected water users have demonstrated the ability to pay for the enormous cost of the project.” The RWSP also threatens the ability of the Colorado River District, the state of Colorado and other public entities to plan for the development of the state’s remaining entitlement to the Colorado River in a “responsibly conservative matter,” the motion states.

Other objections include:

- The need first for the Colorado Water Conservation Board to complete its Colorado River Water Availability Study;
- The need for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to complete is Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study;
- The need for Colorado’s West Slope to finalize its own consumptive and nonconsumptive studies; and
- The need for there to be interstate and intrastate agreements on how the water would be managed under the Prior Appropriation System.

More coverage from the Associated Press via The Billings Gazette. From the article:

Colorado River District officials are telling regulators the cost for the pipeline, which would stretch more than 500 miles, will be “enormous.” They also say the proposal could cause Colorado to use up its allocation of Colorado River system water under a multistate compact and hurt existing users of that water. Million contends there’s enough water available for his proposal. Federal and state studies on Colorado River water availability aren’t complete yet.

More coverage from Ken Green writing for the Denver Examiner. From the article:

The Center for Biological Diversity said that “online action alerts” issued by it and another environment advocacy group, Earthjustice, prompted the flood of public comments to the Regulatory Commission from members of the public who oppose construction of the 500-mile pipeline they claim would be “disastrous” to the ecosystem of the Green River, including the Colorado pikeminnow, the humpback chub and razorback sucker, as well as damage the communities whose economy is based on the river…

The current proposed project would require Wyco to construct natural-gas fired pumping stations (“at least nine”, said the Center) to pump the water over the Continental Divide. The Center claims that even Wyco officials acknowledge that the energy needed to pump the water over the divide would be greater than the project might create through hydropower

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

According to the River District’s motion, the project is speculative and, thus far, none of the projected users have shown an ability to pay for the expensive project…

“The volume of water at issue would adversely impact existing users of Colorado’s entitlement to the waters of the Colorado River, and could usurp the remainder of the state’s compact allocation,” the River District wrote in its motion to intervene. Although the water would be taken out of the Colorado River system from the Green River, a tributary with Wyoming headwaters, under the Colorado River Compact of 1922, the amount still counts against Colorado’s limited ability to use the river.

The River District also said the pipeline threatens the ability of the Colorado River District, the state of Colorado and other public entities to plan for the development of the state’s remaining entitlement to the Colorado River in a “responsibly conservative matter.”

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


Taylor McKinnon: ‘Burning fossil fuels to pump river water across 500 miles to feed urban sprawl is a ludicrous idea — and that’s what the public told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week’

December 22, 2011

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Here’s a release from the Center for Biological Diversity (Taylor McKinnon/McCrystie Adams):

More than 5,000 public comments were sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week opposing the proposed Flaming Gorge Pipeline, which would pump more than 250,000 acre-feet of water annually over 500 miles from Flaming Gorge Reservoir to Colorado’s Front Range. The project would suck massive amounts of water out of the Green and Colorado rivers in Utah, unleashing disastrous impacts on those river ecosystems, four species of endangered fish — the Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, razorback sucker and bonytail chub — and human communities dependent on those rivers. The commission is currently evaluating whether to grant a preliminary permit for the project.

“Burning fossil fuels to pump river water across 500 miles to feed urban sprawl is a ludicrous idea — and that’s what the public told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s hard to imagine a worse proposal for the already over-allocated Colorado River system that’s beset by a warming climate, declining flows and disappearing native fish populations.”

This week’s public comments come on the heels of formal intervention in the commission’s process filed last week by the Colorado River Protection Coalition — a coalition of 10 conservation groups, including the Center. The coalition asserts that the Flaming Gorge Pipeline is unlikely to be permitted because it would likely violate the Endangered Species Act and adversely affect four national wildlife refuges; part of the project would be located in a U.S. Forest Service roadless area. The coalition also argued that the permit should be denied because the applicant, Wyco, failed to meet several requirements during a previous attempt at permitting a nearly identical project with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The new batch of comments this week came from online action alerts created by the Center for Biological Diversity and Earthjustice.

“The opposition to this project is amazing,” said McCrystie Adams of Earthjustice. “The pipeline would devastate the Green River and severely harm the Colorado River downstream — the public is strongly speaking out against this pipeline scheme.”

Wyco previously sought a permit for the pipeline from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In July 2011 the Corps terminated its review of the project because Wyco missed multiple deadlines and did not provide information requested by the Corps. A few months later, Wyco redesigned the project to include some incidental hydropower components and requested review through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Despite the modifications, the project remains an energy hog — at least nine air-polluting, natural gas-fired pumping stations would be required to pump the water uphill across Wyoming and over the Continental Divide. Wyco’s president has acknowledged that pumping the water uphill would use more energy than the project would create through hydropower.

Since its inception, the Flaming Gorge Pipeline has met with opposition in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. The water would go to the Front Range of Colorado, which is projected to double in population in the next 50 years. Colorado is already a parched state with severely depleted rivers, while the majority of the water in Colorado’s cities is used to keep lawns green for three months in the hot, dry summer across sprawling suburban landscapes.

The coalition’s intervention comments can be downloaded here.

More coverage from Kathy Gilbert writing for the Green River Start. From the article:

The coalition contends that the project cost could reach as much as $9 billion and that Million has failed to demonstrate a need for the water with customers committed to paying for it if it could be delivered.

They also say preventing that much water from flowing into the Green River would hurt wetlands, birds, fish and the recreation economies of surrounding communities.

The coalition believes the pipeline is extremely unlikely to be permitted because it would likely violate the Endangered Species Act, would adversely affect four national wildlife refuges and part of the project would be located in a U.S. Forest Service roadless area…

“The water in the Green River is essential for the operation of many of Sweetwater County’s major industries including four trona mines and the Jim Bridger Power Plant,” the county’s letter states. The power plant relies on a constant stream of water piped from the Green River for use in its four cooling towers.

The county asserts that the Regional Watershed Supply Project and the effects it would have on the water supply in the Green River, would “dramatically impact Sweetwater County’s industrial base.”

The county also states 38,769 or the county’s 43,806 population rely on the river to provide potable water and fire suppression supplies.

Finally, the county suggests its tourism industry would be impacted because the Flaming Gorge Reservoir is the basis of a multi-million dollar tourism industry…

In the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s filing, they’re intervening with the purpose of ensuring its interests, including the protection of all Wyoming wildlife, is considered during the FERC process.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


Deadline for Comments on Flaming Gorge Pipeline Closes with One Positive Note out of More Than 5,000 Objections

December 21, 2011

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Here’s the release from Western Resource Advocates (Jason Bane):

If official public support for the ‘Flaming Gorge Pipeline’ (FGP) is any indication of its future potential, the project to pump water from Wyoming to Colorado won’t become a reality any time soon. Public comments and objections regarding the FGP were due to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) by Monday, Dec. 19, and out of more than 5,000 submissions, only 1 (one) was supportive of the idea.

“The question here is obvious: If virtually nobody took the time to argue here that the pipeline is a good idea, why is any federal agency even considering a permit for this proposal?” said Western Resource Advocates Water Attorney Robert Harris. “Finding a supporter in the FERC filings is about as difficult as getting a perfect score on your SATs.”

Aaron Million, President of Wyco Power and Water, Inc., is seeking a federal permit from FERC to review his FGP proposal to pump water more than five hundred (500) miles from the Green River in Wyoming to the Front Range of Colorado. More than 5,000 comments from citizens, governments and non-profit organizations were formally submitted to FERC by Dec. 19, and only 1 comment – from a private citizen in Casper, WY – was supportive of the proposal. That comment represents roughly the same odds (.0002%) as an American high school student getting a perfect score on the SAT test.

Western Resource Advocates (WRA) submitted formal objections last week along with the Colorado Environmental Coalition and the National Parks Conservation Association. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead formally objected to the proposal, saying: “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.”

Additional objections included those from:

- City of Rock Springs, WY
- City of Green River, WY
- Sweetwater County, WY
- Wyoming Game and Fish Department
- Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, CO
- City of Colorado Springs, CO
- City of Ft. Collins, CO
- Daggett County, UT
- Utah Rivers Council
- Colorado River District
- Colorado River Outfitters Association

Public comments and ‘Motions to Intervene’ can be found at: http://elibrary.ferc.gov (docket # P-14263).

BACKGROUND INFORMATION
On September 1, 2011, Mr. Aaron Million of Wyco Power and Water, Inc. applied to FERC for a permit application for the Regional Watershed Supply Project proposal (generally referred to as the Flaming Gorge Pipeline, or FGP). Two months earlier, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers terminated its review of the project, citing Million’s failure to meet required deadlines to provide information. Wyco applied to FERC under the premise of reclassifying the FGP as a hydropower project, but because it is primarily a water-delivery system, FERC only has limited jurisdiction and cannot approve the entire project.

The FERC deadline for public comments and ‘Motions to Intervene’ is December 19, 2011. If FERC eventually decides to consider permitting for the FGP, it would begin a 3-year study period of the project. Before the FGP could begin to be constructed, Wyco would almost certainly need a permit from multiple additional federal agencies, such as the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. At some point, Wyco would also likely need to resubmit an application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

For More Information on the Flaming Gorge Pipeline, go to:
http://www.westernresourceadvocates.org/water/pipeline/million.php

To access FERC Submissions/Filings directly, go to:
http://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/file_list.asp?accession_num=20111013-5035

A footnote from the release reads: “The Center for Biological Diversity submitted 3,388 individual public comments, and Earthjustice submitted 1,706 public comments”

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


Wyco Water and Power’s proposal to supply water for hydraulic fracturing is an insult to injury proposal for conservationists

December 19, 2011

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Aaron Million has a history of trying to be all things to all people. At various times he’s said the Flaming Gorge pipeline will save agriculture in northeast Colorado, be environmentally friendly by using existing utility corridors, use natural gas for pumping instead of coal-generated power, etc. Last week he suggested that the project could supply the needed water for hydraulic fracturing. At least the oil companies could afford to pay the water haulers just about any price that he needs to charge to make a profit on his speculative venture. However, water providers in Weld County might object. The City of Greeley will sell about $1.4 million worth of water to oil companies this year, helping to keep rates down, according to their water manager, Jon Monson.

Last week ten conservation organizations filed the paperwork to intervene in the permit process now that the project has morphed into a hydroelectric generation project. Here’s a report from Deb Courson Smith writing for the Public News Service – Wyoming. From the article:

Duane Short, wild species program director with the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, Laramie, is a spokesman for the coalition that has filed to intervene. “Probably the most local concern is the impact that this pipeline, which would consume some 81-billion gallons of water a year, would have on the Green River area water-sport and recreation industries.”

The list of objections is long, Short says. It includes violations of the Endangered Species Act, landscape destruction to build the pipeline, and downstream effects of removing so much water from the Green River, which connects to the Colorado River in Utah.

The company proposing the pipeline, Wyco Power and Water Inc., has touted its job-creation benefits and the fact that it includes hydropower construction plans. Short claims the hydropower was only added so FERC would look at the permit. He says the project will use much more power than it generates, because the water has to be pumped uphill across Wyoming and over the Continental Divide. The developer also recently announced that some of the water would be used for hydraulic fracturing (fracking). “With that type of history, and with all these other concerns that have been expressed in Wyoming, Colorado and even in Utah, to make this water available for fracking is sort of an ‘insult to injury’ type of proposal.”

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


McCrystie Adams, ‘The Flaming Gorge Pipeline would be one of the biggest, most environmentally damaging water projects in the history of the western United States’

December 17, 2011

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As the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Monday deadline for comments on the proposed project approaches conservationists have galvanized their opposition to Aaron Million and Wyco Power and Water and the 500 mile pipeline. Western Resource Advocates, on Thursday, labeled it a boondoggle. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Colorado River Protection Coalition, representing 10 environmental groups, also filed to intervene in the case.

“The Flaming Gorge Pipeline would be one of the biggest, most environmentally damaging water projects in the history of the western United States,” said McCrystie Adams of Earthjustice, the coalition’s lead attorney. “The pipeline would devastate the Green River, one of the West’s last great rivers and a sanctuary for native fish and wildlife, and severely harm the Colorado River downstream.”

Communities Protecting the Green River, which includes the cities of Green River and Rock Springs, Wyo. and Sweetwater County, Wyo., filed in opposition to the project earlier this week…

Million has said the pipeline is cost-competitive with other plans to import water and environmentally friendly because it would prevent worse impacts from occurring within Colorado.
The project also has attracted interest from Colorado and Wyoming municipalities, which have launched their own study of the project’s viability. They are awaiting revised water availability studies by the Bureau of Reclamation.

The Interbasin Compact Committee, formed by the Colorado Legislature in 2005 to sort out state water issues, at the request of member roundtables, has formed a task force to identify impacts of Flaming Gorge. The task force is being funded by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, over the objections of the environmental groups, as a model to develop a way to talk about statewide water projects.

Here’s the release from Earthjustice (McCrystie Adams/Gary Wockner/Steve Jones/Taylor McKinnon):

Today a coalition of 10 conservation groups from Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and Arizona—the Colorado River Protection Coalition—moved to intervene in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) review of the Regional Watershed Supply Project, more commonly known as the Flaming Gorge Pipeline. FERC is currently evaluating a preliminary permit application for the Flaming Gorge Pipeline from Wyco Power and Water Inc. FERC allows members of the public with a stake in projects to intervene in preliminary permit proceedings, and the Colorado River Protection Coalition, represented by Earthjustice, has called upon FERC to deny the permit on numerous grounds.

“The Flaming Gorge Pipeline would be one of the biggest, most environmentally damaging water projects in the history of the western United States,” said McCrystie Adams of Earthjustice, the Coalition’s lead attorney. “The Pipeline would devastate the Green River, one of the West’s last great rivers and a sanctuary for native fish and wildlife, and severely harm the Colorado River downstream.”

In its intervention comments, the Colorado River Protection Coalition asserted that the Flaming Gorge Pipeline is extremely unlikely to be permitted because it would likely violate the Endangered Species Act, would adversely affect four national wildlife refuges, and part of the project would be located in a U.S. Forest Service roadless area. The Coalition also argued that the permit should be denied because the applicant failed to meet various requirements during a previous attempt at permitting a nearly identical project with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Further, the Coalition asserted that the Pipeline is an extremely environmentally damaging water supply project that would irrevocably harm the Green and Colorado Rivers, not a “hydropower project,” and thus FERC is not the appropriate agency to lead federal review of the proposal.

“The Flaming Gorge Pipeline would severely harm the Wyoming landscape it crosses,” said Steve Jones of the Wyoming Outdoor Council. “Our state’s heritage, wildlife, and economy are dependent on protecting roadless and wilderness areas.”

“Four endangered fish—the Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, razorback sucker, and bonytail chub—are dependent on the water this pipeline proposes to drain out of the Green and Colorado Rivers,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity in Flagstaff, Arizona. “The pipeline would spell disaster for those fish and the river ecosystems we and they depend on. It’s a foolish proposal in the face of global warming and projected declines in river flows.”

“The Green River flows through Utah’s largest roadless area, provides 40 percent of the water entering the Colorado River at Lake Powell each year, and supports a world-famous trout fishery averaging 6,000–8,000 fish per mile” said Zach Frankel, executive director of the Utah Rivers Council. “This catastrophic proposal would not only mar these treasures, it would forever alter life in Utah.”

The applicant previously sought a permit for the Pipeline from a different federal agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). In July of 2011, the Corps terminated its review of the project because the applicant missed multiple deadlines and did not provide information requested by the Corps. A few months later, the applicant redesigned the project to include some incidental hydropower components and requested review through FERC. Despite the modifications, the project remains a huge energy hog—at least nine air-polluting natural gas-fired pumping stations would be required to pump the water uphill across Wyoming and over the Continental Divide. Wyco’s president has acknowledged that pumping the water uphill would use more energy than the project would create through hydropower.

“We know this project would burn more energy than it produces,” said John Spahr of the Sierra Club. “Claiming it is a hydropower project is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to make an end-run around federal law.”

Since its inception, the extremely controversial Flaming Gorge Pipeline has met with great opposition in Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. The water would go to the Front Range of Colorado which is projected to double in population in the next 50 years. Colorado is already a parched state with severely depleted rivers while the majority of the water in Colorado’s cities is used to keep lawns green for three months in the hot, dry summer across sprawling suburban landscapes.

Duane Short of Biodiversity Conservation Alliance noted, “The Coalition believes that Colorado and other western citizens are beginning to realize that unbridled consumption of water from our rivers and aquifers will leave our precious water resources depleted leading to even more severe water shortages for our children and grandchildren. We hope the public will work with us to prevent this shortsighted and irresponsible water grab.”

“The Flaming Gorge Pipeline would be a flaming disaster for Colorado,” said Gary Wockner of Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper. “The Pipeline would be a devastating step backwards for water supply policy and river protection in Colorado and the Southwest U.S.—our coalition will work as long and hard as it takes to stop this project.”

This Coalition’s intervention is one of several being filed by public interest groups and local communities. Over a hundred public comments urging FERC to deny the preliminary permit have already been filed before the deadline on Dec. 19th. Comments are posted on FERC’s website. (Search for Docket Number: P-14263.)

View a map of the pipeline’s proposed 550 mile route across Wyoming and down through Colorado.

Read the motion to intervene.

Meanwhile, Governor Matt Mead of Wyoming has submitted his comments on the pipeline. Here’s a report from Ben Neary writing for Associated Press via The Columbus Republic. From the article:

“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,” Mead wrote…

“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.” Mead stated that it appears Million shifted federal agencies “to short-circuit the regulatory process and/or sidestep fundamental issues.”[...]

Mead stated that Million has not shown how much water Colorado is still entitled to under the Colorado River Compact. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Flaming Gorge Reservoir, is working on a study of how much water, if any, it believes could be available for withdrawal there…

Mead wrote that Wyoming has been involved in efforts to recover endangered fish species on the Upper Colorado River for decades. He said the agency’s review must consider the likely effect on the fish both of the pipeline project as well as Wyoming’s possible future use of its share of water from the Green River. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department filed a separate request with FERC to intervene in the permit application to track the issue…

[Aaron Million] said he agrees federal regulators need to consider water supply issues as well as his project’s likely effect on wildlife and recreation.

More coverage from Amy Joi O’Donoghue writing for the Deseret News. From the article:

Since its inception, the controversial Flaming Gorge Pipeline has met with opposition in Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. The water would go to the Front Range of Colorado which is projected to double in population in the next 50 years. Although the project would be privately financed, critics say the end water would be so publicly expensive it wouldn’t be viable. It also smacks at tapping water that river watchers say is already over allocated.

Million has said that the water his project proposes to take from the Green River in Wyoming is sustainable, according to a review of water resources by federal water managers with oversight of Flaming Gorge.

According to a Tweet from Jennifer Petersen (@BCAWY): “Last night [December 14], Laramie Council voted unanimously to oppose the Million pipeline & send in a letter intervening in the FERC permitting process.”

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


Opposition to Wyco Water and Power’s Flaming Gorge Pipeline straddles the Colorado-Wyoming-Utah borders and includes the National Park Service

December 16, 2011

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First up is a release from Western Resource Advocates calling the project a boondoggle:

Western Resource Advocates (WRA) announced that it is filing formal objections today with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regarding the proposed ‘Flaming Gorge Pipeline.’ The objections are being filed by WRA along with the Colorado Environmental Coalition and the National Parks Conservation Association.

“The Flaming Gorge Pipeline has more unanswered questions than a Presidential debate,” said WRA Water Attorney Robert Harris. “The bottom line is that there is no good reason for FERC to contemplate the proposal. The pipeline idea is getting messier by the day, and it’s not going to get cheaper or more realistic in the future.”

Aaron Million, President of Wyco Power and Water, Inc., is seeking a federal permit from FERC to review his ‘Flaming Gorge Pipeline’ (FGP) proposal to pump water more than five hundred (500) miles from the Green River in Wyoming to the Front Range of Colorado.

The objections to a potential FERC permit as filed by WRA focus on four points:

1. Ridiculously Expensive: The Colorado Water Conservation Board estimates that the project would cost $9 billion, which would easily qualify the FGP as the most expensive water project in Colorado history. The 2011 General Fund for the entire state of Colorado is about $7.4 billion.

2. Unnecessary and Illegal Water Hoarding: There is simply no need for the FGP. If it proceeded, the project would be open to charges of water hoarding [ed. speculation], which is against state law.

3. Against the Public Interest: There is no scenario in which the FGP could be completed in an
environmentally-safe manner, and there is widespread opposition to the proposal in both Wyoming
and Colorado. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, among others, has publicly condemned the project.

4. Wyco and Million are Unsuitable Applicants: Mr. Million and Wyco Power and Water have a history of missing deadlines and failing to provide complete information; in July 2011, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers terminated Million’s application for these reasons.

“The real shame of this entire process is that it is a distraction from discussions of much more reasonable and cost-effective water supply projects that Wyoming and Colorado can implement already,” said Stacy Tellinghuisen, Energy & Water Policy Analyst at WRA. “If Wyco or any other company wants to go off chasing unicorns, they should do it on their own time and their own dime.”

Becky Long, organizer for the Colorado Environmental Coalition, said: “Citizens across Colorado and Wyoming think this project is a bad idea. Multiple cities and counties in both states have publicly condemned the plan, and a recent survey by the sportsmen’s group Trout Unlimited showed that almost 80% of Wyoming residents opposed the proposal.”

The complete filing from WRA will be available this afternoon on the FERC website and at www.WesternResources.org.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION
On September 1, 2011, Mr. Aaron Million of Wyco Power and Water, Inc. applied to FERC for a permit application for the Regional Watershed Supply Project proposal (generally referred to as the Flaming Gorge Pipeline, or FGP). Two months earlier, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers terminated its review of the project, citing Million’s failure to meet required deadlines to provide information. Wyco applied to FERC under the premise of reclassifying the FGP as a hydropower project, but because it is primarily a water-delivery system, FERC only has limited jurisdiction and cannot approve the entire project.

The FERC deadline for public comments and ‘Motions to Intervene’ is December 19, 2011. If FERC eventually decides to consider permitting for the FGP, it would begin a 3-year study period of the project. Before the FGP could begin to be constructed, Wyco would almost certainly need a permit from multiple additional federal agencies, such as the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. At some point, Wyco would also likely need to resubmit an application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

For More Information on the Flaming Gorge Pipeline, go to:
http://www.westernresourceadvocates.org/water/pipeline/million.php

To access FERC Submissions/Filings directly, go to:
http://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/file_list.asp?accession_num=20111013-5035

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Federal authorities deciding whether to grant a preliminary permit for the project proposed by Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million have received more than 170 mostly negative comments on the proposal.

But Million said he’s undaunted. He said he’s talking with energy-industry representatives about using the water for oil and gas production. The pipeline to move up to 200,000 acre-feet of water a year could sustain water-intensive hydraulic-fracturing operations in Wyoming and Colorado, Million said. “We’ve heard rough figures of 15,000 to 20,000 acre-feet annually for fracking needs,” Million said. “If this new water supply helps with the fracking issues, then, without question, we would consider delivering water for the industry.”[...]

“A preliminary permit does not authorize construction or operation of a project,” federal regulatory commission spokeswoman Celeste Miller said. “All it does is give you priority over a site for three years to study feasibility.”[...]

The Colorado Environmental Coalition, National Parks Conservation Association and Western Resource Advocates on Thursday were filing formal objections to the project. Another coalition of 11 environmental groups, including Sierra Club, Wyoming Outdoor Council and Save the Poudre, also objected…

“If (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) takes on this application, they will be using taxpayer dollars and resources to look into the project,” [Stacy Tellinghuisen, an energy and water policy analyst for Western Resource Advocates] said. “This is a totally unrealistic project.”

Writer Bobby Magill posted a link to the City of Fort Collins letter to FERC on his website. Also, according the Magill’s Twitter feed (@bobbymagill), “DOI Comments on #FlamingGorgePipeline: NPS worries lower flows in Green River could hurt Dinosaur National Monument”

More coverage from Brandon Loomis writing for The Salt Lake Tribune. Here’s an excerpt:

A coalition of 10 conservation groups is seeking to intervene in a federal permitting process for a proposed pipeline that would take water from the Green River to Colorado’s Front Range…

Groups, including the Utah Rivers Council and the Wyoming Outdoor Council, formed the Colorado River Protection Coalition to advocate against the project, which they argue would imperil endangered fish and water rights in Utah. “This catastrophic proposal would not only mar these treasures, it would forever alter life in Utah,” said Zach Frankel, executive director of the Utah Rivers Council.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


Opposition to the Flaming Gorge pipeline project grows in Utah, Wyoming and Northwestern Colorado

November 3, 2011

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From the Vernal Express (Mary Bernard):

…widespread resistance to the project continues from the tri-state area. That resistance prompted Uintah County officials to formalize their opposition in a resolution last year. Elsewhere, Daggett County, the Wyoming communities of Green River and Rock Springs, Sweetwater County, Wyo. and Moffatt County, Colo. joined Utah in formal opposition…

Wyoming’s Gov. Matt Mead opposes the project. “I generally oppose trans-basin diversion projects and in particular I believe Aaron Million’s project is not well thought out,” Mead wrote.

Criticism spans concern over the reduction in scant water resources as well as impact to existing habitats. The proposed project has little popularity west of the Rockies where variable snowfall and runoff make assured flows into the Flaming Gorge Reservoir somewhat unpredictable.

Stacy Tellinghuisen, Western Resource Advocates, energy and water analyst, calls Million’s latest effort blatantly misleading. “He’s now trying to re-classify his project as a power supply project,” Tellinghuisen said. “It’s a water supply project — not a power supply project because it’s going to consume more energy than it will produce.”[...]

Million proposes to pump water from western Wyoming’s natural gas region through a system of turbines and reservoirs along to generate electricity along the pipeline. “We’re planning on using natural gas turbines to maximize the hydro-power and minimize energy use, perhaps tying some wind,” Million said…

Colorado estimated the price of water under a voluntary agreement between cities and farmers for the temporary leasing of ag-water ranged from $300 to $500 per acre-foot per year. Tellinghuisen said a private consultant to the Western Resource Advocates gauged Million’s water as costing as much as $4,000 and acre-foot per year. “Realistically, I just don’t see this project relieving pressure on any of the basins in Colorado,” she said.

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


Colorado River basin: More storage, more growth or a commitment to conservation and preservation?

October 31, 2011

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The Pueblo Chieftain ran three columns in yesterday’s edition. First up is Chris Woodka’s musings about the river, preservation and growth in the West. Here’s an excerpt:

Back in 1974 [ed. during a rim to rim hike of the Grand Canyon], my young mind didn’t quite grasp that the pristine river I enjoyed so much was a product of timed releases between Lake Powell and Lake Mead. I did understand enough to know the beautiful canyon walls and mesas were the product of millions of years of relentless, unchecked erosion. Those kind of thoughts were running through my head the other evening as I sat in the Cornerstone Arts Center Celeste Theater in Colorado Springs listening to two legal experts tangle over the worthiness of the Colorado River Compact in a changing world…

The irony of talking about Colorado River issues in a city 80 percent dependent on Colorado River water brought over the Continental Divide did not escape me — you learn to think like this as a water reporter…

One of the speakers, Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs, took the point of view that more storage is essential to continued enjoyment of the benefits of the Colorado River. Hobbs argued that building more projects along the Colorado River is not only probably, but necessary and desirable. “It’s high-risk water, but it’s going to be there in some years,” Hobbs said. “We can’t just pretend we don’t need more storage and risk drying up all the agricultural land.”

The other speaker, University of Wyoming legal professor Larry MacDonnell, argued that it’s time to start folding up the tents because the Colorado River basin is running out of water. Climate change is going to increase the pressure on the river’s resources. It’s foolish to try to develop any more, he argued. “Is this a sensible use of water?” MacDonnell asked, after listing several projects he considered folly. “In compromise, projects have been built that waste water.”[...]

The states along the Colorado River need to weigh how much more the river can deliver to avoid gobbling up more farm land in the support of growth. The preservation of its awesome beauty should be a major focal point. A frank discussion could lead to surprising conclusions about conservation, growth, land use and, ultimately, the storage of water that makes all that possible.

Meanwhile, Aaron Million’s column talks about developing the water left under the Colorado River Compact and Upper Colorado River Compact for the benefit of Colorado. Here’s his guest column from The Pueblo Chieftain. Here’s an excerpt:

The Upper Basin has over-delivered this region’s water supplies to the Lower Basin in every 10-year running average. Those waters are allocated to the Upper Basin. Why does it matter?

The Upper Basin has major natural resource concerns directly related to diminished water supplies and future increasing demands. Why not consider the Flaming Gorge Project? As a proponent of the project and the principal architect, I’m not afraid of an in-depth, critical environmental review…

…half the Upper Basin has moved forward to develop the supplies that the historic agreements gave to them. Both New Mexico, arguably up against that state’s compact allocation, and Utah, via the Lake Powell Project, have moved toward developing their respective water resources. Colorado and Wyoming need to do likewise. A new water supply would alleviate a myriad of environmental and socio-economic pressures throughout the region, allow aquifers to replenish, protect and enhance flows for use in agriculture, provide for the huge shortfall projected in municipal supplies and add huge new storage capacity with the addition of Flaming Gorge and other new reservoirs along the route. Preliminary scientific data indicates major water surpluses and supplies are available in the Green River-Flaming Gorge system to help alleviate pressures in water-short areas elsewhere, from Cheyenne to Pueblo. And the project, projected to move about 200,000 acre-feet, would take pressure off of western Colorado watersheds…

The build-out cost for this project is about $3 billion — one third of Western Resource Advocates’ estimate. How do we know its $3 billion and not $9 billion? Because we asked several nationally recognized pipeline and construction firms to give us estimates…

This state needs and deserves a straight-up evaluation of the Flaming Gorge project. The scare tactics of the environmental community are sophomoric, unnecessary and will not serve the interests of this region. Why not allow the project to be fully vetted? It’s currently in the federal environmental review process.

Finally, here’s Western Resource Advocates’ Karn Sheldon weighing in on the project from The Pueblo Chieftain. She writes:

Western Resource Advocates wants to see a water supply that sustains urban, agricultural and environmental needs. We want water that is affordable and reliable for all Coloradans. While The Pueblo Chieftain may disagree with our assessment that the Flaming Gorge Pipeline proposal is an implausible illusion (“Strange priorities,” 10/14/11), there are several important facts that should not be confused with opinion:

- The pipeline proposal would annually move 80 billion gallons of water 500 miles up and over the Continental Divide, from the Green River in southwestern Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range. State agencies estimate the cost of the plan at $7 to $9 billion, which would make this the most expensive water in Colorado history. To put that into perspective, the most costly recent water project completed in Colorado is Aurora’s “Prairie Waters,” with a price tag of about $700 million.

- According to The Chieftain, “there is growing support for the pipeline in both Wyoming and Colorado.” But all available evidence indicates exactly the opposite. A statewide poll released in September by Trout Unlimited showed that 79 percent of Wyoming residents oppose the pipeline. “It makes perfect sense to me that so many people in Wyoming oppose this project,” said Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, who has also said that the plan is “not well thought-out.” Sweetwater County Commission member John Kolb called it “a sham.”

- Million has tried to reclassify his pipeline plan as an energy project in order to find a federal agency that will agree to give him a permit. Million claims that the pipeline would generate 550 to 1,000 megawatts of hydroelectric power, but by first moving water over the Continental Divide, the pumping stations would consume more energy than they could generate.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


Flaming Gorge pipeline: FERC accepts the Million Resource Group’s application which opens a sixty day comment period

October 21, 2011

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From the Associated Press (Ben Neary) via The Columbus Republic:

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Tuesday notified Fort Collins businessman Aaron Million that it had accepted his preliminary permit application — a decision that opens a 60-day public comment period…

If FERC issues Million a preliminary permit, it would allow him to apply to build the hydroelectric facilities for his project. FERC specified in its notice to Million that it only has jurisdiction over the proposed hydroelectric development elements of the pipeline project. It said construction of other substantial portions of the pipeline would require permits from other federal agencies…

One proposed “pump storage” project associated with the pipeline calls for building a new reservoir on the side of Sheep Mountain, west of Laramie. Million said Thursday that water could drain from the proposed reservoir on Sheep Mountain down to nearby Lake Hattie to generate power while possibly using wind power to pump the water back uphill.

The pipeline would have to move water over the Continental Divide on its way to Colorado. Although Million said the project couldn’t produce more energy than it uses, he said the hydropower could provide a valuable offset to its operating costs. “The hydropower has the potential to be a net benefit of the project. Not zeroing out the energy, that’s not realistic in any scenario,” Million said. But he said the hydropower would be consistent, and could provide a valuable addition to wind energy that’s increasingly under development in southeastern Wyoming…

Several environmental groups have come out against Million’s project. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead also recently said he opposes it. “It makes perfect sense to me that so many people in Wyoming oppose this project,” Mead said in a written statement released by his office. “Water is the state’s most valuable natural resource and everyone wants to ensure it is used wisely. I generally oppose trans-basin diversion projects and in particular I believe Aaron Million’s project is not well thought out.”

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


Flaming Gorge pipeline: FERC asks the Million Resources Group for more information, warns that there may be a need to involve other federal agencies

October 11, 2011

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

The Regional Watershed Supply Project, first propossed in 2008 by a private water development entity known as Million Conservation Resource Group, would divert water from the Green River via Flaming Gorge Reservoir to the greater Denver area.

Proponent Aaron Million had at first submitted the project for review and approval to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but earlier this year resubmitted it to FERC as a project that would generate hydropower.

The Corps terminated its review in late July. And last week, the FERC said Million must provide more specific information on proposed pump stations for the pipelines, as well as new reservoirs that would also be part of the diversion project. The federal agency also seeks more information on other permits that might be needed as part of the project.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


Flaming Gorge pipeline: Wyoming residents and water wonks may have the final say

October 2, 2011

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From the North Forty News (Jeff Thomas):

State compacts dating from 1922 and 1948 entitle Colorado to water in the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, but “I don’t have the legal ability to go up there and administer those rights,” said Dick Wolfe, Colorado’s state engineer and director of the Colorado Division of Water.

While that ability may seem like just one of the many intricacies involved in a proposed 500-mile pipeline to bring water from southwestern Wyoming to a thirsty Colorado Front Range, it’s a key point that could be decided by Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, who has already expressed opposition to the project. “He is opposed to the pipeline,” confirmed Renny MacKay, communication director for the governor’s office. MacKay said in a recent interview the governor said he opposes trans-basin diversions in general, and in particular, “I don’t think that Aaron Million’s project is well thought out.”[...]

For Wolfe, being able to administer such water rights is not a trivial matter. The whole project hinges upon Colorado’s ability to take more water out of the Colorado River, which it is entitled to do under an interstate compact with fellow headwater states, Wyoming and New Mexico, and downstream states, such as California and Nevada. As much as 250,000 acre feet of water could be brought to the Front Range by the project, about enough for 1 million new residents with current usage. However, the state engineer’s office also has to protect the rights of other users that draw water from the Colorado, such as the senior rights for the Colorado-Big Thompson project, which already supplies water to much of northeastern Colorado. “The point of diversion doesn’t have to be in the state of use,” Wolfe noted. “But then we have to deal with how to administer that right, and how that diversion gets counted under the compact.”[...]

At a minimum, Wolfe said, the state engineers from both Wyoming and Colorado need to put new rules in place that would allow him to shut down the headgate for the pipeline when it is not in priority — when there’s not enough water in the Colorado to comply with the compact. While both offices noted there is a high degree of cooperation between the headwater states regarding the compact, this is fairly new ground and legislative action may be required.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


Flaming Gorge Pipeline: Some in Routt and Moffat counties are keeping a close eye on the project

September 20, 2011

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From the Craig Daily Press (Tom Ross):

So, if the Green River only flows through Moffat County for about 35 miles or so, why should people in Routt County concern themselves with the pipeline proposal? The decision to fund the first part of the study of the plan comes at a time when energy development is making more demands on Western Slope water. We’re seeing the beginnings of what could be a boom-let of oil wells here. And if those wells use fracturing techniques to pry the hydrocarbons out of the Niobrara shale, they’ll require large amount of precious water…

Heather Hansen, of Red Lodge Clearing House Natural Resources Law Center at the University of Colorado Boulder, zoomed in on the essential point in a recent essay published in High Country News.

Hansen pointed out that the Green River plays a major role in the obligation Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico have to deliver 7.5 million acre feet of water annually to the lower basin states of California, Nevada and Arizona under the 1922 Colorado River Compact.

The 250,000 acre-feet the Million proposal would subtract from the Green only puts more pressure on the Yampa, White, Eagle, Roaring Fork and Gunnison rivers to meet those obligations in a future that includes a growing Front Range of Colorado.

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


Flaming Gorge pipeline: Environmentalists are concerned that taxpayer dough is being spent frivolously on study

September 19, 2011

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From the Grand Junction Free Press (Sharon Sullivan):

A coalition of environmental groups that include Western Resource Advocates, the Colorado Environmental Coalition and Save the Colorado, object to spending taxpayer money to study the feasibility of the trans-mountain diversion of water.

“Our concern is that it adds credibility to the project,” CEC water coordinator Becky Long said.

Ken Neubecker is director of Western Rivers Institute, past president of Trout Unlimited, and a member of the task force. The state legislature set aside money for projects like the task force study to look at what needs to be done regarding water supply and Colorado’s future, Neubecker said.

“Any significant reduction from the Green River could potentially affect all users in the basin,” said Hannah Holm, coordinator of the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University. The Water Center’s purpose is to “help communities in the upper Colorado River Basin understand how to be smart about water, do more with less to meet the needs going forward due to scarcity and tightened competition,” Holm said.

Additional water for projected shortages could come from purchase of agricultural rights, increased conservation, and alternative agricultural rights purchases — temporary arrangements with farmers so water could be obtained “without drying up the land forever,” Holm said.

The environmental coalition released a statement Wednesday protesting the vote: “While smaller, the proposal would still spend thousands of dollars in state funds to investigate a controversial and environmentally damaging project which thousands of Colorado citizens believe should not be funded at all.”

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Board Chairman Eric Wilkinson castigated the environmental groups for trying to “sabotage” the study, and asked them to work with the state toward finding solutions. “The CWCB has the dirty, ugly discussions. That’s its responsibility. . . . I’m tired of all the disinformation about what the CWCB does,” Wilkinson said. “This board is trying to move the state forward, and, by golly, we’re going to turn this state around.”[...]

The CWCB approved a $72,000 grant — cut from the original $250,000 proposal — to identify statewide issues or interests from the proposed project. It would establish a task force of roundtable members from throughout the state as well as environmental representatives. The grant primarily covers the cost of 12 facilitated meetings during the process. Wilkinson asked the board to consider keeping the remainder of the money available if more discussion is warranted, but the board for now approved only the initial study. Part of the purpose of the task force would be to create a framework for studying future large projects.

The proposal was reworked Tuesday night after several environmental groups attempted to kill the project, said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, who represented the Arkansas Basin Roundtable at the meeting.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


Flaming Gorge pipeline: Conservationists are not convinced that the proposed feasibility study is worth even $72,000

September 15, 2011

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

“We are encouraged that the state will waste less taxpayer money on this study, but we still think it’s a complete waste of time and money even in its watered-down form,” said Gary Wockner of Save the Colorado.

“The pipeline would irrevocably harm the Green and Colorado Rivers, cost up to $9 billion, and negatively impact the West Slope’s economy. The state should spend the public’s money elsewhere.”

Here’s a joint release from Save the Colorado (Gary Wockner), the Colorado Environmental Coalition (Elise Jones) and Western Resource Advocates (Peter Roesmann):

At its Wednesday, September 14, 2011 meeting, the Colorado Water Conservation Board passed a diluted proposal to fund an exploratory study for the Flaming Gorge Pipeline. The original proposal was for $240,000 and multi-year meetings; the final proposal approved by the board funds just over $72,000 with only a few months of meetings. The watered-down proposal passed despite opposition from thousands of members of the public, a large coalition of environmental groups, taxpayer representatives, and West Slope businesses. Board members expressed many concerns, only some of which were addressed in the water-down version.

Our organizations continue to have numerous concerns about the project even in a scaled back form. While smaller, the proposal would still spend thousands of dollars in state funds to investigate a controversial and environmentally damaging project which thousands of Colorado citizens believe should not be funded at all. This week members of the Joint Budget Committee expressed their concerns over the project notably that this process seems to duplicate an existing efforts of the Interbasin Compact Committee.

Ultimately, a Flaming Gorge pipeline project entails enormous costs and infeasibility. We will continue to work with the CWCB, project proponents, water utilities and other stakeholders to further the important and difficult dialog around meeting Colorado’s future water needs, in ways that—unlike the Flaming Gorge pipeline—are cost-effective, feasible, and do-able in a short time frame.

Finally, Trout Unlimited released results today from a survey of Wyoming reaction to the proposed pipeline. From their release:

Public Opinion Strategies recently completed a statewide survey of voters throughout Wyoming regarding their perceptions of water. The survey results show that Wyoming voters are soundly opposed to a proposal to pump water from the Green River near Flaming Gorge Reservoir to Colorado communities and farms, and to eastern Wyoming. In fact, a majority are strongly opposed to the proposal, and opposition remains high even after hearing arguments in support of the project. After all additional information was provided, an overwhelming 90% of Wyoming voters reject the proposed pipeline.

Respondents in the survey and those in focus groups conducted earlier in Cheyenne indicate their opposition is founded in a concern for allowing Wyoming water to leave their state and an uncertainty over the state’s future needs due to drought or other conditions.

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


The Colorado Water Conservation Board is set to pony up $70,000 to study feasibility of the proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline water supply project

September 15, 2011

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

“I think it’s interesting and probably good that the state is looking at it,” said Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million, whose Regional Watershed Supply Project is the most advanced proposal for a Flaming Gorge pipeline now being considered. CWCB members think the project proposal is strong enough for the state to study it, Million said. “I’ve always argued for the project to be fully vetted on all environmental issues and all issues associated with it,” he said. “The more it can be looked at, the more beneficial it will be to the eventual outcome.”[...]

Environmentalists are unhappy that the state is spending money to study a pipeline they believe will be too costly both to taxpayers and the environment.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


The Colorado Water Conservation Board votes unanimously to fund Flaming Gorge pipeline study, now whittled down to $70,000 with more dough available if project looks feasible

September 14, 2011

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I just got out of staff meeting at work and I was wondering about the outcome from the CWCB meeting in Grand Junction, so I opened up Twitter. You have to love the Internet.

Here’s a tweet from @beckylong who attended the meeting, “Statements from proponents & Board members on the #FlamingGorge proposal. Say they’ve invited us [ed. conservationists and environmentalists] to dinner. Feel a little like the turkey.”

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Members of the Colorado Water Conservation Board voted unanimously to spend $70,000 on a study exploring the idea for a 570-mile pipeline — and $170,000 more if the first study deems the diversion promising, according to participants at a CWCB meeting in Grand Junction…

This morning’s CWCB decision “shows the potential value of the project” for delivering “a new water resource for Colorado,” [Aaron Million] said. “We’ve been watching from the sidelines. The project needs to be studied. This is a move-forward decision.”

Some environmental groups objected to spending state money to explore the project, saying it would hurt the reservoir and the Green River ecosystems. Western Resource Advocates, a Boulder-based law and policy group, called state pursuit of the pipeline “a colossal waste of time and energy… All interested parties should instead spend time on more realistic means to meet future water demands.”

The CWCB is charged with protecting and developing water resources for the state.

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


Flaming Gorge pipeline: The CWCB will discuss funding today for the Flaming Gorge Task Force

September 13, 2011

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for the image of the billboards on display in Grand Junction this week. The Colorado Environmental Coalition, Save the Colorado [ed. be careful clicking on this link at work] and Western Resource Advocates are hoping to influence the vote. The photo is from Peter McBride and is of the dry Colorado River estuary in Mexico. The Colorado River is now an ephemeral stream at its terminus.

Here’s a report detailing the state of the battle over moving water from the Green River basin to slake the thirst of the Front Range, from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

The Colorado Water Conservation Board is meeting Sept. 13 in Grand Junction to decide whether to spend $150,000 in taxpayer dollars on a special task force to further study the feasibility of the project, projected to cost as much as $9 billion to construct.

One big goal of the billboards is to raise public awareness. In the past, many major water projects received little public scrutiny in the early stages. By the time formal public comment periods are announced, the projects have already taken on a life of their own.

“At a time when government budgets are in deficit and we need to create jobs, it makes no sense to spend $9 billion on a pipeline that will hurt our economy,” said Bill Dvorak, owner of Dvorak Expeditions. “If we drain billions of gallons out of the Colorado River basin, fewer people will come out here to fish, boat and hike – businesses like mine will suffer and the West Slope will lose jobs.” Dvorak’s company leads boating expeditions on the Green River, which is a tributary of the Colorado River, and other rivers in the region.

Colorado Environmental Coalition, Save the Colorado and Western Resource Advocates joined forces to unveil the billboards, which display an image of a dried-up river bed with the message, “This will only cost you $9 billion.”

More coverage from NBC11News.com (Scott Aldridge):

…the chairman of the Colorado Wyoming Coalition, Frank Jaeger says he doesn’t know where they are coming up with those numbers, because their initial studies aren’t even done yet. “As far as numbers that others have thrown out there or published, I can’t speak to that…Right of way is going to be of immense concern, cost of pipeline, cost of pumping, electrical cost, all of these things are going to be reviewed in a study that we’re proposing to get those answers to…All of those issues have to be answered before you can put numbers on the table.”

Yet the Colorado Environmental Coalition is convinced the impacts would be devastating to Western Colorado. “Many aquatic habitats being devastated, all the great fishing on the green river would be hugely impacted.” Argues Wedemeyer.

“The Colorado River is the lifeblood of this community, we use it for our winery’s, we use it for tourism, for rafting, fishing, it’s the most important thing to our economy, and protecting water on the Western Slope is crucial to our livelihood.” Says Claudette Konola with Western Colorado Congress of Mesa County.

But Jaeger asks, how can critics cite these problems if the proposed study to find problems hasn’t even been done yet?

“Well it’s premature in that when we started this process two and a half years ago we went immediately to the Bureau of Reclamation first to find out if there’s adequate water. We are still waiting to determine that because the Bureau of Rec started a study to determine what the hydrologic amount of water would be on the reservoir, we don’t have that information yet…Until you’ve done a full investigation of a project how can you tout the pros and con’s if you don’t have the answers? I mean it’s kind of nonsensical to me for people to sit on the outside and say this is bad or that is bad, they don’t know what all the issues are.”

More coverage from KJCT8.com (Honora Swanson):

[Save the Colorado's Gary Wockner] says the pipeline would cost between seven and nine billion dollars, making it the most expensive water in Colorado’s history. He says instead of a pipeline, the state should pursue conservation and recycled water.

More coverage from Alan Prendergast writing for Westword. He’s linking to Joel Warner’s in-depth piece from 2009 about the proposed pipeline. Here’s an excerpt Mr. Prendergast’s article:

The Colorado Water Conservation Board has pegged the cost of the pipeline at somewhere between $7 billion and $9 billion, up to triple the cost of Million’s own estimates. Despite that daunting figure, the CWCB is looking into spending $150,000 on a task force to study the project.

When board members arrived in Grand Junction to take part in that discussion, they were greeted by three billboards erected by a cadre of conservation groups, including Western Resource Advocates, Save the Colorado and the Colorado Environmental Coalition. The signs feature the dried-up, parched delta where the Colorado River supposedly (but only rarely) reaches the Sea of Cortez and refer viewers to an online petition at a website address — which, according to WRA spokesman Peter Roessmann, shut down at midnight last night after collecting 21,300 signatures protesting the plan.

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


Flaming Gorge pipeline hydroelectric generation project moves to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permit process

September 7, 2011

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, is now considering Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million’s permit application for the Regional Watershed Supply Project, a 501-mile water pipeline that would stretch from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in southwest Wyoming to Pueblo via Interstate 80 and northeast Larimer County, supplying water to Front Range water districts and irrigators…

Million filed revised plans for the pipeline with FERC on Sept. 1 as president of a new company formed on Aug. 25, Wyco Power and Water, Inc. [ed. I couldn't find a website], 1436 W. Oak St. According to Million’s application, the pipeline would be up to 120 inches in diameter and would take water from the Green River about three miles downstream of the city of Green River, Wyo., and from the western shore of Flaming Gorge Reservoir. It would produce about 550 megawatts of hydroelectric power on its journey from Wyoming to Colorado while using nine natural gas-powered pump stations to send water over the Continental Divide. If the pipeline is built, it will also require construction of the proposed 185,000-acre-foot Cactus Hill Reservoir near Fort Collins…

In the application, Million said studies required for the permit would cost up to $4 million and he would pay for them.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


Flaming Gorge pipeline: ‘A Water Pipeline No One Can Afford’ — Western Resource Advocates

September 6, 2011

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The Colorado Water Conservation Board will take up the question of funding a Flaming Gorge Task Force at their next meeting but meanwhile, economist Geore Oamek, put a pencil to the project and determined that it will produce the most expensive water in Colorado history. Here’s the release from Western Resource Advocates (Stacy Tellinghuisen):

The most expensive water in the history of Colorado. That would be the dubious distinction of the proposed Flaming Gorge Pipeline. A new report written by economist George Oamek outlines the costs of the proposed pipeline to Front Range water users, impacts on the tourism and recreation economy on the Green River, and some of the financial risks that Westerners would bear.

The proposed Flaming Gorge Pipeline would move 81 billion gallons each year 560 miles from southwestern Wyoming to cities along Colorado’s Front Range. The concept is proposed by both a private developer, Aaron Million, and a group of municipalities in Douglas County.

The project – estimated by the Colorado Water Conservation Board to cost $7 to $9 billion – would provide water two to 10 times more expensive than water from other proposed or recently developed water projects. The report finds Flaming Gorge water would cost up to $4,700 per acre-foot per year, compared to several other proposed projects expected to cost less than $700 per acre-foot per year.

“Flaming Gorge pipeline costs would be completely out-of-whack with what Coloradans can afford and should have to pay, especially when there are cheaper alternatives.” said Stacy Tellinghuisen, a water and energy expert with Western Resource Advocates.

Other recent water projects in Colorado have had substantial impacts on ratepayers. Colorado Springs’ Southern Delivery System, which, at just under $1 billion is a relative bargain compared to the proposed Flaming Gorge project, has led to multi-year, double-digit rate increases for customers, long before construction began. The Flaming Gorge Pipeline would result in even greater rate impacts.

Water providers and project proponents in Douglas County would be unable to foot the bill. Neither federal nor state government agencies are poised to subsidize enormous new water projects. The State of Colorado faced a 715 million dollar budget shortfall in 2011, leaving no funds available to pay for a multi-billion dollar water project.

The cost of this pipeline project will not only be paid by those who use the water. The report finds that for the recreation-dependent economy in the rural region surrounding the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, the impact of losing nearly a quarter of the Green River’s flow would reduce the region’s recreation revenue by $58.5 million per year, roughly a 19% hit to this economic sector.

“Local businesses like mine depend on the same water that the Flaming Gorge pipeline wants to divert away,” said Zeke Hersh, the owner of Blue River Anglers. “The recreation industry supports a lot of working people in rural Colorado, and if visitors aren’t drawn out here for the fishing and rafting, they won’t be around to eat in local restaurants, shop in our stores , or stay in local hotels. Businesses here will take a hit.”

The Colorado Water Conservation Board, when it meets on September 13th in Grand Junction, is considering whether to spend $150,000 to fund a task force to study the Flaming Gorge Pipeline.
“The proposed task force would squander taxpayer dollars,” said Elise Jones, of the Colorado Environmental Coalition. “The State of Colorado should be looking at projects that are affordable, viable, and collaborative, not spending money on gold-plated pipedreams.”

More coverage from the Associated Press (Catharine Tsai) via NorthernColorado5.com. From the article:

In a study commissioned by Western Resource Advocates, economic consultant George Oamek said diversions could reduce opportunities for fishing, rafting and camping and in turn reduce business for hotels, restaurants, and commercial outfitters and guides. It estimates regional expenditures could fall by about $39 million annually, representing less than 1% of the regional economy.

More Flaming Gore pipeline coverage here and here.


Over 7,000 attend telephone town hall meeting about the proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline

September 6, 2011

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Here’s the report about the meeting from Western Resource Advocates. Here’s an excerpt:

Residents of the West don’t want their rivers dried-up, their recreation ruined, and special places destroyed. They especially don’t want their taxpayer dollars to support irresponsible projects. That was the feedback received through a telephone town hall meeting that provided 7,400 members of the public the opportunity to learn and ask questions about the proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline.

The controversial pipeline is a 560 mile-long project that would remove a massive amount of water from both the Green and Colorado Rivers. The water would be used for future growth along Colorado’s Front Range. The audience uniformly expressed concern and consternation about this proposed pipeline that would from stretch from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in southwestern Wyoming to cities in the South Denver Metro region.

A panel of experts, including WRA Water Program director Bart Miller, laid-out what’s behind the proposal and what it means to residents in a three-state region. Callers lit-up switchboards to ask questions about how much the project would cost, who would benefit, and remark how little information has been publicly available up until now.

Participants sent a clear message: they are not convinced that the pipeline should be built at all. It would transport the most expensive water Colorado has ever seen, use a huge amount of energy, and have severe negative economic impacts to the region around Flaming Gorge Reservoir. The proposal also ignores less expensive and less controversial solutions for meeting water needs, such as conservation, efficiency, reuse, and other smaller projects.

In mid-September, the Colorado Water Conservation Board will determine whether they will continue to use taxpayer dollars to fund a task force looking into the viability of the Flaming Gorge pipeline. Upon gathering feedback from the public at the town hall forum, this appears to be a very unpopular idea.

Click through for video from Peter McBride.

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


Flaming Gorge Task Force: Colorado conservation organizations have collected 16,195 signatures opposing funding the task force (and the project) as of this morning

September 2, 2011

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The groups plan to ask the Colorado Water Conservation Board not to fund a proposed task force that has been approved by basin roundtables throughout the state…

As of Thursday, more than 13,000 [ed. 16,195 as of 5:30 a.m. today) had signed the online petition at the Change.org website.

From the Change.org website:

As population increases along the Front Range of Colorado, from Pueblo to Fort Collins, some developers and water utilities have proposed projects to ship and sell more water to the region. One extreme proposal is to take 81 billion gallons of water every year out of the Green River at Flaming Gorge Reservoir in southwest Wyoming and pump it 560 miles across Wyoming, up and over the Continental Divide, and down to Colorado. This proposal – called the “Flaming Gorge Pipeline” – could cost up to $9 billion. If it were constructed, it would deliver water at a price that would be the most expensive in Colorado’s history.

The true cost only begins with the outrageous financial figures. The environmental damage would be severe. A world-class trout fishery, the ecosystem within Dinosaur National Monument, and other important habitat would be harmed by the project. This, in turn, would hurt the local tourism economy, and take away recreational opportunities that are the core of our Western way of life. This great river system and the people who depend upon it need your help to speak up for its protection!

On September 13, 2011, the Colorado Water Conservation Board – which is appointed by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper – will consider a $150,000 grant request from a regional water authority pushing the Flaming Gorge Pipeline to create a special task force to study the proposed project. There are existing stakeholder forums, such as the Interbasin Compact Committee, that can, and are, evaluating this project and others, but the pipeline’s proponents want a special process with their rules and their participants. We are petitioning the Colorado Water Conservation Board to deny this grant request – taxpayer money should not used to study or support a project that would irrevocably damage Colorado’s rivers.

Please sign the petition. You do not have to live in Colorado to sign – anyone, anywhere who wants to protect the Green River and the Colorado River can sign on.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here.


The CWCB will take up the subject of funding the Flaming Gorge Task Force at their September meeting

August 31, 2011

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From the Cortez Journal (Joe Hanel):

Although the pipeline would be far away from Southwest Colorado, it involves Colorado River water, so it could complicate interstate agreements that require Western Colorado to leave water in the rivers for use downstream.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board will consider funding the grant at its Sept. 13-14 meeting in Grand Junction.

Environmental groups are urging the board to deny the grant, citing the high cost of the proposed pipeline and the possibility for damage to trout and endangered fish below Flaming Gorge dam.

“The single most important element for those fish to continue is water,” Bart Miller, of Western Resource Advocates, said during a telephone town hall last month. “They’ve got to have water in the spring peak flow. They’ve got to have water in the base flow period when water is a little bit lower on the river. They’ve got to have it all the time.”[...]

The grant at issue before the Colorado Water Conservation Board would not favor either concept.

Instead, it is designed to find solid data to make decisions on the general concept of a Flaming Gorge pipeline, said Rod Kuharich, chairman of the Metro Basin Roundtable, one of the regional groups that submitted the grant request.

“It is not to move forward with the project. It is not to commit the state in any way,” Kuharich said.

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


Flaming Gorge pipeline: Frank Jaeger (Parker Water and Sanitation District) and others are urging the state to continue looking at the proposed project

August 29, 2011

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“While we are encouraged that the Flaming Gorge discussion sponsored by the roundtables and state of Colorado will attempt to foster agreement on key issues and take a fair look at the project, we are concerned that many groups are engaging in a political attempt to intimidate the participants and bias or terminate the process,” Parker Water and Sanitation Manager Frank Jaeger wrote in a recent letter to key state officials.

Environmental groups last month announced opposition to the study of the project by roundtables…

The [Colorado-Wyoming Cooperative Supply Project] is awaiting U.S. Bureau of Reclamation modeling of the Colorado River basin, expected to be complete later this year, before it wraps up its feasibility study launched in 2010. Since then, the group has further defined its needs: 105,000 acre-feet annually from the project to meet growth estimates to the year 2070…

The Colorado-Wyoming Coalition’s proposed project helps meet several positions taken on water by Gov. John Hickenlooper, Jaeger said. Those include:

- Protecting agricultural water.

- Providing an adequate supply of water to promote a strong economy.

- Helping to fill the municipal water gap identified in the 2010 Statewide Water Supply Initiative.

- Supporting the portfolio of strategies identified by the Interbasin Compact Committee: reuse, conservation, alternative agriculture-municipal transfers, completing identified projects and developing new projects.

More Colorado Wyoming Cooperative Supply Project coverage here.


Colorado Water Congress summer meeting: Deputy State Engineer Mike Sullivan — ‘The state engineer cannot curtail diversions from another state’

August 26, 2011

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I’ve thought for a long time that Aaron Million’s proposal is akin to him driving a tanker truck across the Colorado/Wyoming border — not subject to Colorado water law — and that any water moved would count against the Upper Colorado River Compact. That’s the way the deputy state engineer sees it as well. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“The state engineer cannot curtail diversions from another state,” Deputy State Engineer Mike Sullivan told the Legislature’s water resources review committee Tuesday. “We can’t go into Wyoming and padlock a headgate.” Sullivan and State Engineer Dick Wolfe told the committee they have concerns about proposals to take water from Flaming Gorge Reservoir and the Green River in Wyoming and send it through a pipeline to Colorado’s Front Range.

Wolfe explained that such plans could interfere with water rights administration in Colorado, particularly if lower basin states in the Colorado River Compact were to put a call on the river. Flaming Gorge Reservoir and the Green River are both part of the Colorado River basin, which supplies 80 percent of Colorado’s water. Under the compact, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah are required to deliver 75 million acre-feet of water over a 10-year period at Lake Powell. If they fail to do so, Arizona, California and Nevada could demand water, calling out junior rights in Colorado [ed. the compact has a 1922 priority, senior, for example, to the Colorado-Big Thompson Project]…

Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million is claiming a Wyoming water right as the basis for his Flaming Gorge project, which would make enforcing it difficult under Colorado’s priority system. The Colorado-Wyoming coalition, led by Frank Jaeger of Parker Water and Sanitation, plans to work with the Bureau of Reclamation, and could claim the Flaming Gorge priority date. “There’s no authority in place for dealing with Flaming Gorge,” Wolfe told the committee.

Meanwhile, meeting attendees were treated to a discussion of population estimates yesterday. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The state population grew to more than 5 million in 2010, from 4.3 million in 2000. Colorado grew at a 17 percent rate over the decade, compared with 9 percent for the nation as a whole…

[Elizabeth Garner, state demographer] gave a detailed analysis of counties, showing that the Eastern Plains and San Luis Valley were flat or lost population in the past decade, while the Front Range and Western Slope were the fastest growing parts of the state…

But the picture gets more complicated because baby boomers are getting older. Colorado’s population over age 65 is expected to grow by 150 percent in the next 20 years, which could also contribute to smaller household sizes, changes in water consumption patterns and the tax base. “We are becoming very different,” Garner said. “For the last decade, the largest part of our population has been the most productive . . . In the next 10 years, 1 million people will be leaving the labor force.”

More Colorado water coverage here.


Reeves Brown: Why should agriculture, which is already short on water, be the reservoir for the state?

August 22, 2011

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“Why should agriculture, which is already short on water, be the reservoir for the state?” Brown asked. “We need to go forward with a better analysis of the shortage and what is needed to support agriculture.” Brown also is a member of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and Arkansas Basin Roundtable, and has often tried to keep the issue in front of those groups…

Earlier this month, the [Arkansas Basin] roundtable formed a committee to address Brown’s concerns. In the process, he hopes to guide the state to a new way of thinking about its water needs. At last week’s Lower Ark meeting, Brown expanded on the need for the committee, which is closely aligned with the district’s goals. “The agriculture industry deserves to be more than the stepchild for water supply in the future,” Brown said…

Water users in El Paso County — Fountain, Widefield, Woodmoor and Donala — have been buying farms and ranches for water in recent years. Large blocks of water have been purchased on the Fort Lyon and Bessemer canals for future municipal use. Half of the Amity Canal was sold to Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association for a future power plant. And there are agricultural operations that easily could turn into municipal supply projects throughout the valley, potentially catching the valley off-guard as GP’s plan did. Large blocks of agricultural water have been consolidated in Pueblo and Otero counties, causing public officials to worry about where the water could be headed…

The Lower Ark board is one of few water agencies in the state that firmly supports a Flaming Gorge pipeline. Last year, it supported Aaron Million’s idea for the 560-mile line from the Green River in Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range because it would develop unused state entitlement in the Colorado River basin and take pressure off Arkansas Valley farms. Million has always insisted that some water from the pipeline be set aside for agricultural and environmental uses. The state’s roundtables have committed to investigating Million’s plan, along with a similar proposal by the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition, as a way of filling the water supply gap…

At a roundtable meeting earlier this month, Fremont County rancher Tom Young asked whether the state should seriously consider importing water from the Missouri River basin in South Dakota, rather than looking for more out of the Colorado River basin from Flaming Gorge Reservoir.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.


Flaming Gorge pipeline: Will the trout fishery below Flaming Gorge Dam be affected by the proposed project?

August 17, 2011

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From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

In the grand scheme of progress and water projects, it’s difficult to know the full impact of Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million’s Flaming Gorge Pipeline proposal. But at face value, the 580-mile long pipeline he envisions transporting 250,000 acre feet of water a year between Flaming Gorge and Pueblo seems overly ambitious at best and, some say, an unnecessary evil at worst.

Million claims the water is there and Colorado needs it. Critics say the price is too high and that such diversions would degrade water quality, destroy important habitat for both endangered and sport fish and potentially interfere with water rights downstream. Multiple Wyoming and Utah counties insist such use of upper Colorado Basin water resources simply cannot be sustained.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


Flaming Gorge pipeline: Add Utah’s Uintah County to the list of critics of the proposed project

August 16, 2011

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From the Deseret News (Amy Joi O’Donoghue):

“If this project moves forward, we’re afraid that whatever water rights we have left (on the Green River) will be a paper water right without any wet water,” said Uintah County Commissioner Mike McKee…

As planned, Million said the project would generate 70 megawatts of hydropower from in-line storage and another 500 to 1,000 megawatts from pumped storage — an energy source he says could shore up intermittent renewables such as wind and solar that are in demand to become a larger player in Colorado’s energy portfolio.

Million said he is framing the water-use requirements around a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation preliminary analysis that shows even when future Utah and Wyoming water depletions are factored in from the Green River, Flaming Gorge has an available surplus of 165,000 acre feet a year. Another 75,000 acre feet would be diverted per year from the Green River above Flaming Gorge…

Utah’s Uintah County joins another line of critics, who aside from other accusations, describe the proposal as an “if we build, it they will come” project because of questions about the financing and customer base.

Million says the viability of the project is backed by multiple water supply studies that show sharp contrasts between Colorado’s available water supply and demands in the decades to come. That is backed by letters of interest he says he has received that represent an annual need for 400,000 acre feet of water — nearly twice what the project would deliver.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


The Rio Grande Roundtable approves funding for the Flaming Gorge task force, members emphasize that they want a seat at the table

August 12, 2011

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

The move, which includes $5,000 roundtable members approved Tuesday, was done earlier this week with the idea of making sure the Rio Grande had a voice on the committee. Both Mike Gibson, the roundtable’s chairman, and Travis Smith, who represents the basin on the Colorado Water Conservation Board, told members that the funding did not represent an endorsement of the project…

Gibson said the Rio Grande had an interest in being at the table because of the potential impacts of Front Range water use on the San Luis Valley, which has the second-highest amount of irrigated ground in the state with 622,000 acres. The South Platte River basin is first with 831,000 irrigated acres. While the valley has not suffered from the water transfers that have sent Arkansas Valley water to cities like Aurora, the threat of a Front Range water grab is a not-too-distant memory. The region spent part of the 1980s and 1990s fighting off separate proposals from American Water Development and Stockman’s Water Company that would have piped the valley’s groundwater north.

More Flaming Gorge task force coverage here.


The Arkansas Basin roundtable approves the Flaming Gorge task force, some members skeptical of project

August 11, 2011

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Several members of the roundtable said they are against the project or skeptical that it will ever be built, but agreed the group needs to have input in case it develops…

The grant application, submitted by roundtable chairman Gary Barber on behalf of the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority that he manages, does not propose supporting either proposal for a Flaming Gorge pipeline, but would identify impacts and concerns…

“This is not a good project for Colorado,” said Tom Young, a Fremont County rancher. He said a project from the Missouri River basin, just 50 miles further away in South Dakota, would truly bring more water into the state and not jeopardize Colorado’s entitlement under the Colorado River Compact…

[Alan Hamel, who now represents the basin on the CWCB] said there is still some water available to be developed under the 1922 Colorado River Compact. “It might not be available every year, but that’s the type of thing Colorado needs to look at,” Hamel said. “This is a public process, with all participants at the table.”

More Flaming Gorge task force coverage here.


Flaming Gorge Pipeline hydroelectric generation project: Aaron Million says they are ‘double-checking’ things for the project’s FERC application

August 5, 2011

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

“We’re just double checking things,” Million said. “We’ve been making sure we had the application just the way we wanted it.”[...]

Million said he wants the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to conduct the study because of the pipeline’s hydroelectric power generation potential and the agency’s ability to issue a permit in less time than the Army Corps.

Several Larimer County water districts and irrigators have expressed interest in the pipeline, which is vigorously opposed by about 20 Colorado environmental groups because of its possible impacts to Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge Reservoir and the Green River.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


Flaming Gorge pipeline: 7,400 Coloradans took part in last Wednesday’s ‘telephone town hall’ event

August 3, 2011

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Conservation groups last week also formally announced their opposition to the proposal, calling it a waste of resources and explaining that there are better ways — including conservation and re-use — to address the constantly growing demand for water. “We held this town hall because Coloradans need to know about this boondoggle,” said Elise Jones, director of Colorado Environmental Coalition. “The cost to Coloradans is immense, from the cost of construction to the negative impact on our recreation economy to the irreversible environmental damage it would cause.”

The diversions from the Green River could potentially affect flows and ecosystems in Dinosaur National Monument and impact ongoing recovery efforts for native fish in the Colorado River. A federal environmental study that would disclose those impacts is under way, but the project proponent recently asked to have the review done by a different agency. Click here to listen to audio from the tele-town hall discussing impacts to fish.

On the state level, the Colorado Water Conservation Board is considering a $150,000 grant request by the pipeline’s proponents that would set up a special task force to consider the pipeline. The Board will make a decision on the grant at a September meeting, and the coalition of conservation groups and outdoor recreation business owners is asking that this request be denied.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


Flaming Gorge pipeline: 7,400 Coloradans took part in Wednesday’s ‘telephone town hall’ event

July 30, 2011

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

During the town hall meeting, the groups said they oppose the Colorado Water Conserva-tion Board allocating $150,000 in grant money to local river basin roundtables to form the Flaming Gorge Pipeline Task Force. The CWCB is expected to discuss the grant at its next meeting in September in Grand Junction.

“If 81 billion gallons of water are drained from the West Slope’s Green River, it could damage the river’s world class trout fishery, further threaten the population of four fish species on the endangered species list and hurt the ecosystem within Dinosaur National Monument,” said Bart Miller of Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates…

Million said Tuesday environmental impacts of the pipeline have been considered from its inception, and if its toll on the environment is too great, the project should not go forth. The environmental impacts of his project might soon be evaluated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission if the agency accepts Million’s permit application.

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


Flaming Gorge pipeline update: The Colorado Environmental Coalition, et. al., want the state to nix public funds for the Flaming Gorge Task Force

July 27, 2011

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“Creating the Flaming Gorge pipeline would cost billions of dollars we don’t have, it would deliver water at a price that nobody can afford, and it would land a devastating blow to our environment,” said Elise Jones, executive director of Colorado Environmental Coalition. “Now, the proponents of this project want the state to spend $150,000 of taxpayer dollars on an unnecessary process to push the project forward.” Jones referred to a proposal by the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority requesting $150,000 from the Water Supply Reserve Account from the Colorado Water Conservation Board for a Flaming Gorge pipeline exploration committee. The proposal also includes $40,000 from basin roundtable accounts, making its total $190,000. The CWCB is expected to consider the grant proposal in September. The Pikes Peak Water Authority is not one of the proponents of the project, originally proposed by Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million. The Colorado-Wyoming Coalition, made up of water providers in both states, also is looking at its own version of the plan. The coalition is led by Frank Jaeger, manager of Parker Water and Sanitation, and includes Donala, which also is a member of the Pikes Peak Water Authority…

Regardless of who would be interested in developing the pipeline, the environmental groups say it would be a waste of state resources to engage in any studies. “Coloradans need to know about this boondoggle,” said Bill Dvorak, a Salida-based river outfitter. “People in this state recognize the need for balanced water supply policies that preserve what’s best about Colorado — this pipeline does not meet that standard.” The environmental groups say the pipeline would result in irreparable environmental impacts on Flaming Gorge Reservoir and the Green River below the reservoir and further drain the Colorado River.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Save the Poudre and a group of 19 other environmental organizations led by Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates and the Colorado Environmental Coalition announced Tuesday they oppose any state funding for the task force. The groups are hosting a “telephone town hall” at 7 p.m. today, which will allow residents from all over the state to hear why conservation groups oppose a Flaming Gorge pipeline and ask questions about it.

“The point is to discourage the state Water Conservation Board from spending any funding or tax dollars on studying the project any further,” said Western Resource Advocates water program manager Bart Miller. He said the pipeline could cost $9 billion and be one of the most expensive and environmentally damaging water projects in Colorado history…

Save the Poudre Executive Director Gary Wockner said the state should be spending its resources studying less divisive solutions to Colorado’s water challenges. He said that because it’s unclear whether there’s enough water available in the Colorado River Basin for a pipeline to extract 250,000 acre feet of water annually, the pipeline could spark a water war throughout the West. The Green River is part of the Colorado River Basin…

A Flaming Gorge pipeline also is opposed by the Colorado River Water Conservation District whose officials worry that there is too little water in the Green River to support a pipeline.

Million said Tuesday the Regional Watershed Supply Project was designed to keep plenty of water in the Green River for Flaming Gorge and downstream uses. “There’s still ample water for the project to move forward,” he said, adding that if major environmental problems are found with the project, it shouldn’t be built…

Conservation groups opposing the pipeline and the task force include Colorado Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, the Colorado Whitewater Association, Environment Colorado, the National Parks Conservation Association and about a dozen others.

More coverage from David O. Williams writing for the Colorado Independent. From the article:

… [A] coalition of environmental groups will conduct a “telephone town hall” at 7 tonight that’s expected to draw thousands of Coloradans concerned about the proposed Flaming Gorge Pipeline that would transport at least 250,000 acre feet (81 billion gallons) of water a year from the Green River and Flaming Gorge Reservoir in southwestern Wyoming over the Continental Divide to the Front Range of Colorado. Go to the Western Resource Advocates website for more information on tonight’s town hall.

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


Rio Grande Roundtable meeting recap: Flaming Gorge pipeline could take the pressure off the San Luis Valley

July 19, 2011

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

…the Flaming Gorge proposal and others like it that would bring water into Colorado from other areas could significantly affect the San Luis Valley because the Valley would not be such a target for water export schemes if other sources could be found.

Valley water expert Steve Vandiver recently reported to the water group, the Rio Grande Roundtable, that a task force is looking into the Flaming Gorge proposal as a future water source for Colorado…

He said this would be a fairly aggressive, expensive project, which is one of two or three projects that would bring outside water to the Front Range. The Flaming Gorge project has been estimated at $2-4 billion for construction, possibly through a private/public venture. The customers of such an expensive venture would have to be municipalities who could afford the water, Vandiver said. He said he understood the estimated output from the Flaming Gorge could be 175,000-300,000 acre feet of water annually…

Vandiver said it is important for the Valley water users to have “a place at the table” in discussions about future water sources such as the Flaming Gorge proposal to prevent ag land here from becoming a target for water acquisition, as it has on the Front Range. If one of these proposals [CWCB new supply concepts] such as the Flaming Gorge does not pan out, the “easy pickings” for water acquisition will be agricultural land with water rights, Vandiver said. “There’s a bigger picture this roundtable needs to be involved in and needs to consider,” Vandiver said. “Think about what our role in that could and should be.”[...]

He said IBCC statewide funds will help pay for the Flaming Gorge task force, but he and Smith believe it might be a good move for the Rio Grande Basin roundtable to put in some money from its account as well. Smith will talk to the roundtable group in August about funding somewhere in the range of $5,000 from the basin to help with the task force.

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


Flaming Gorge Task Force to be formed to study feasibility of bringing water from the Green River to Colorado’s Front Range

June 30, 2011

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The task force does not mean the state will endorse the project, or determine which of two competing plans would move ahead.

A committee met Wednesday to determine if the state has a role in simply considering the project. Although members were divided about whether the project is needed, they agreed a task force would sort out issues. “Something’s going to happen to bring more water to Colorado,” said Betty Konarski, a former Monument mayor who is representing El Paso County water users. “It’s either going to happen to you or you’re going to be part of the conversation.”

The group decided to ask the state’s nine basin roundtables, formed in 2005 to feed into the Interbasin Compact Committee, to select representatives to a task force to get grass-roots input. The committee would provide recommendations to the IBCC and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The committee also would include environmental and recreation representatives and some state water officials…

Many West Slope interests and environmental groups oppose the project because it could diminish Colorado’s allotment of water under the 1922 Colorado River Compact. “We think it’s premature to talk about a big new diversion,” said Dan Birch, representing the Colorado River District…

Consultants recommended the task force start with looking at interest within Colorado for the project in the first phase. In a second phase, the task force would look at threshold issues of hydrology, legality or financing that would be barriers to the project. Finally, in the third phase, questions of design and mitigation, as well as comparison to other projects would be addressed.

The task force would apparently be free to determine its own agenda, however. A grant to fund the task force will be requested next month, and roundtables will begin considering whether to participate.

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

The yet-to-be-named task force likely would meet for the first time late in the fall, said Eric Wilkinson, general manager of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “Any development of a significant project like this is going to take dialogue,” he said. “This is the first step for that dialogue to take place.”[...]

The idea of the task force is to answer one question: Does the state resolve the environmental problems with a Flaming Gorge pipeline and its conflicts with Western Slope water interests in a public deliberation process, or should the Army Corps of Engineers or other federal agency answer those questions in an environmental assessment of the project? said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University…

[Aaron] Million was invited to the meeting, but did not attend. He could not be reached for comment. Waskom said it was probably a smart strategy on Million’s part to avoid the meeting to avoid being a lightning rod.

At the meeting, Western Slope water interests said they are concerned that a Flaming Gorge pipeline may not be legal and it could deplete however much water is available in the Colorado River Basin to be used for agriculture and urban growth. “This task force feels like the beginning of a big push for a big trans-Continental Divide diversion to happen,” said Rio Blanco County Commissioner Kai Turner.

“A project proponent can’t go out there in this day and age, identify a project and just go do it,” said Dan Birch of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, which opposes Million’s project. He added that the decision process about such a pipeline needs to involve water interests from across Colorado…

“Million’s pipeline is a big, bad idea and a huge distraction for the state,” said Drew Peternell, director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project. “Instead of pouring precious time and resources into studying this pipedream, Colorado should focus on the many pragmatic, cost-effective and truly collaborative ideas closer to home that could meet future water needs while protecting our environment.”

From the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic:

In making the decision Wednesday, Colorado water officials said the group could help sort out issues and concerns. The task force wouldn’t necessarily endorse any project and would include representatives of environmental, recreation and agricultural interests.

Some conservationists and Western Slope water officials had questioned forming a task force when it’s not clear how much water is available under multistate compacts to divert.

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


Flaming Gorge Task Force is meeting Wednesday in Silverthorne

June 28, 2011

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The meeting is being organized by Peak Facilitation Group and the Keystone Center under a Colorado Water Conservation Board grant requested by the Arkansas Basin and Metro roundtables. The task force would study whether a plan by Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million would be a viable solution to Colorado’s projected municipal water gap. Million proposes building a pipeline more than 575 miles down the Interstate 80 corridor, with reservoirs near Fort Collins and Colorado Springs…

“We’ll do everything we can to collaborate with a state task force,” [Aaron] Million said Monday.

A competing plan has been suggested by the South Metro Water Authority, but is still in the study phase. It is a collaboration among communities in Colorado and Wyoming being led by Frank Jaeger, manager of the Parker Water and Sanitation District.

The project already has met opposition from Western Resource Advocates, Trout Unlimited and the Colorado River District. “I believe that moving forward with a stakeholder dialogue at this time makes no sense,” said Eric Kuhn, general manager of the district said in a May memo. “It will divert attention and resources from more realistic solutions.”

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here. More Colorado Wyoming Cooperative Water Supply Project coverage here.


Flaming Gorge Task Force is meeting Wednesday in Silverthorne

June 27, 2011

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From the Associated Press (Catharine Tsai) via The Denver Post:

Officials representing Colorado river basins meet Wednesday to consider forming a task force that would study proposals to build a water pipeline from Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge Reservoir to serve Colorado cities.

Some conservationists say it’s a waste of time.

Western Resource Advocates and other groups say no one knows if Colorado River compacts allow the state to divert as much water as some have proposed. Until they do, there’s no sense spending time and money to study plans to tap the reservoir, they say…

Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River District, notes multistate compacts limit how much water Colorado can use from the river basin. “We have no idea whether or not Colorado River water is available for this project under the 1922 and 1948 compacts,” he wrote in a memo addressing Million’s proposal.

“This proposal may burst through the ceiling of what is left to develop statewide” in Colorado, said Bart Miller, water program director for Western Resource Advocates…

Last month, independent reviewers contracted by water officials concluded that a task force to review potential Flaming Gorge diversions would be valuable. Public documents show $45,000 was requested for that study. Representatives of Colorado’s river basin roundtables are meeting Wednesday in Silverthorne to decide whether to form the task force. Agricultural, environmental and recreational interests have been invited to attend.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here. More Colorado Wyoming Cooperative Water Supply Project coverage here.


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