Communities Protecting the Green is keeping a watchful eye on the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition #ColoradoRiver

September 27, 2013
Conceptual route for the Flaming Gorge Pipeline -- Graphic via Earth Justice

Conceptual route for the Flaming Gorge Pipeline — Graphic via Earth Justice

From The Green River Star (David Martin):

According to Don Hartley, a member of [Communities Protecting the Green], an organization known as the Colorado Wyoming Coalition is finishing a feasibility study involving the transfer of water from the Flaming Gorge. The coalition was originally known as the Parker Group, after the community in Colorado initially proposing the project, before it rebranded itself. According to a 2011 document titled “Flaming Gorge Investigation Status Report,” the municipal governments in Cheyenne and Torrington, along with the Laramie County government, are involved the coalition’s study to move water from the gorge to eastern Wyoming and northern Colorado.

The document states more than half a million people living in both states would be served by the project.

“It’s kind of slow right now, but things could get interesting once that study is completed,” Hartley said.

Hartley believes the study could be completed within a matter of weeks and said they need to be vigilant with the group because they pose the biggest threat to the river.

Hartley said the second issue on the horizon involves a state water plan under construction within the Colorado state government. One of the key issues Hartley and others at Communities Protecting the Green are watching involves the augmentation of the river to provide water to communities in Colorado.

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


Reuse: The WISE Partnership gets approval from the Denver Water Board

August 20, 2013

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From the Denver Business Journal:

Denver Water last week approved the WISE partnership agreement that clears the way for the utility to delivery treated water to the area’s southern suburbs.

Approval of WISE, which stands for Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency, formalizes the regional cooperative water project. The agreement calls for the permanent delivery of 72,250 acre-feet of treated water from Denver and Aurora to members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority (SMWSA).

SMWSA was formed in 2004 from the banding together of smaller water utilities in south Denver.
With the agreement now in place, some of the water that currently flows down the South Platte River and out of the state would be recaptured by Aurora’s 34-mile Prairie Waters Pipeline and pumped back to the Peter D. Binney Water Purification Facility near the Aurora Reservoir. There, the water would be treated and piped to the southern suburbs.

The water delivery will begin in 2016. Members of the SMWSA must have infrastructure in place to move the water from the purification facility. The cost of the water and infrastructure for its delivery is estimated at $250 million over the next 10 years. Each member will independently determine how to finance their share of the project.

The participating members of SMWSA are the town of Castle Rock, Dominion Water & Sanitation District, Stonegate Village Metropolitan District, Cottonwood Water & Sanitation District, Pinery Water and Wastewater District, Centennial Water & Sanitation District, Rangeview Metropolitan District, Parker Water & Sanitation District, Meridian Metropolitan District and Inverness Water & Sanitation District.

More WISE Partnership coverage here.


Parker signs on to the WISE project for future supplies

June 27, 2013

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From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

Parker Water joins nine other members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority that have signed on to WISE, or the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency agreement. The June 13 approval by the PWSD board of directors adds another source of water for the area’s long-term needs, said district manager Ron Redd.

Parker Water pulls much of its water supply from the Denver Basin Aquifer, but it also captures an average of 5,000 acre-feet annually off Cherry Creek. The WISE agreement will have Parker piping 12,000 acre-feet of recycled water from Aurora and Denver every 10 years for an indefinite period of time.

Water rates will likely go up 1 percent to 2 percent incrementally because of WISE, although any increases will not occur until a thorough rate analysis is conducted, Redd said. The results of the analysis will be released in mid-2014.

The PWSD will start receiving the first trickles of water in 2016 and get full delivery of 1,200 acre-feet starting in 2021. The district hopes to use an existing pipeline along the E-470 corridor to transport the water and is in the process of negotiating with the East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District. If an agreement is not reached, the district would have to build its own infrastructure at a steep cost…

The supply coming from Denver and Aurora is water that has been used and treated. The district will again reclaim the water, meaning the average of 1,200 acre-feet coming in each year will actually measure close to 2,400 acre-feet, Redd said, adding there is a possibility that Parker Water might purchase more WISE water in the future…

Rueter-Hess Reservoir, which the PWSD built for storage, contains around 6,000 acre-feet. By the time the new water treatment plant off Hess Road opens in 2015, the reservoir will contain 15,000 to 20,000 acre-feet. It has the capacity for 72,000 acre-feet.

More Parker coverage here and here.


Parker Water and Sanitation District board is evaluating joining with Aurora and Denver in the WISE project

April 29, 2013

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From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

The Parker Water and Sanitation District board of directors will hear a presentation later this month from new manager Ron Redd, who will recommend that the district enter into WISE, the Water, Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency project. Six members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, including Pinery Water and Wastewater, the Cottonwood Water and Sanitation District and Stonegate Village Metropolitan District, committed to WISE by signing intergovernmental agreements in late March. The agreements will bring nearly 7,000 acre-feet of recycled water to the south metro area…

The Parker Water and Sanitation District board asked Redd to examine the possibility of buying 500, 1,000 or 1,500 acre-feet through the WISE project. He was expecting to receive the results of a cost analysis on April 5 to determine the possible financial impacts. Any rate hikes on customers would likely be implemented incrementally and equate to about 2.5 percent to 3 percent per year, Redd said, cautioning that those figures are preliminary. The cost of WISE water increases annually over an eight-year period.

It would be relatively easy, Redd said, to move the reclaimed WISE water from Aurora to Parker if the district can come to an agreement to use a pipeline along E-470 owned by East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District. If the board gives approval, the intergovernmental agreement would be signed by late May…

Rueter-Hess Reservoir, which contains 5,700 acre-feet of water and was built to store 70,000 acre-feet, will be paid off by the time the Parker Water and Sanitation District takes on more debt to build pipelines to transport the water that will be needed for the future.

Meanwhile, Centennial has inked an IGA with the WISE Partnership. Here’s a report from Ryan Boldrey writing for the Highlands Ranch Herald. Here’s an excerpt:

Centennial Water and Sanitation District was one of six members of the South Metro Water Supply Authority to sign an IGA this past week committing to more renewable water by way of the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency Partnership. Through the agreement, Aurora Water and Denver Water will provide roughly 7,000 acre-feet of fully treated water annually to participating SMWSA members and deliver it in phases, starting in 2016. As part of the IGA, the participating South Metro WISE entities have agreed to fund new infrastructure that will move the water from Aurora’s Binney Water Purification Facility to its end locations. “A region-wide water solution makes more sense than having each water entity fending for themselves to source, treat and deliver renewable water to customers,” said Eric Hecox, executive director of SMWSA. “We’re excited about the progress we’re making through WISE towards transitioning the region from nonrenewable groundwater to renewable water.”

Hecox said that the agreement helps provide SMWSA with about a third of the necessary water that participating entities will need long-term. From here, work will continue on the Chatfield Reallocation Project as well as of other options and alternatives to bring more water to the region…

For Centennial Water specifically, it’s another step toward cementing a long-term supply and not relying as much on groundwater or leased water. “We’ve got many years of full supply, but some of that full supply comes from leases that are not long-term,” said Centennial Water and Sanitation District General Manager John Hendrick. “We want to add to our portfolio with long-term or near-permanent surface water sources…

Other SMWSA members committing to the project at this time are Cottonwood Water, Meridian Metropolitan District, Pinery Water, Rangeview Metropolitan District and Stonegate Village Metropolitan District. Hecox said he expects Dominion, Inverness, Castle Rock and Parker water districts to sign the IGA by the end of April. SMWSA members not expected to take part in the IGA include: Castle Pines Metro, Castle Pines North, East Cherry Creek Valley, and Arapahoe.

More WISE coverage here.


Flaming Gorge Task Force: ‘I felt we set the groundwork to move forward’ — Reed Dils

February 15, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado still needs to look at projects to bring in new water supplies despite a state water board’s decision last month to put the Flaming Gorge pipeline task force on ice. The Arkansas Basin Roundtable, the main proponent of the task force, still supports dialogue with other state roundtables on the subject and getting the statewide Interbasin Compact Committee to tackle the issue head­-on.

“It’s time we start looking at issues,” said Jeris Danielson, who represents the roundtable on the IBCC. The IBCC has adopted a “four­legged stool” that includes new supply along with identified projects, conservation and agricultural transfers.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board in January voted to suspend funding for the task force, saying the committee was duplicating work assigned to the IBCC. The group began its work in 2011 to determine issues surrounding two proposals to build water pipelines from southwestern Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range.

“All of us thought the task force made good progress and had some good discussions on tough issues,” said Alan Hamel, who represents the Arkansas River basin on the CWCB. “Their thoughts will be folded into other work the CWCB is doing to move forward new­supply discussions.”

“I think the most important thing we did was establish a list of attributes for what constitutes a good project,” said Betty Konarski, a member of the task force.

“I felt we set the groundwork to move forward,” said Reed Dils, a task force member and former CWCB representative. “If we’re ever going to see another large project in the state, it will take the cooperation of all the roundtables.”

Roundtable Chairman Gary Barber, who also sat on the task force, said the group identified an immediate gap in agricultural water needs, and a municipal gap by 2020. It made no recommendation on whether or not to build a Flaming Gorge pipeline.

Danielson and Jay Winner, the other basin representative on the IBCC, vowed to press the IBCC to more action at its meeting in March.

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


The CWCB plans to roll Flaming Gorge Pipeline analysis in with other IBCC reviews for transmountain diversions #coriver

February 4, 2013

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Here’s an article from last week that deals with the demise of the Flaming Gorge Task Force. It ran in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel and was written by Gary Harmon.

From The River Blog (Jessie Thomas-Blate):

Last year, American Rivers listed the Green River as #2 on our annual list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®, due to the potential impact of this pipeline on the river, the recreation economy, and the water supply for the lower Colorado River Basin…

Recently, a coalition of 700 business owners called Protect the Flows commissioned a poll that found 84% of West Slope residents and 52% of metro Denver-area residents oppose building additional water pipelines across the mountains. In fact, 76% of Colorado residents think that the solution lies in using water in smarter and more efficient ways, with less waste…

The Green River is a paddler’s paradise. In May 2012, Steve Markle with O.A.R.S. told us why paddlers love the Green River so much. Then in August, Matt Rice, our Director of Colorado Conservation, told us about his trip fishing the Green, and the big trout, beautiful scenery, and solitude he found there. Finally, Scott Willoughby with the Denver Post gives a description of the river that makes you jealous if you don’t have easy access to this trout oasis (even if you aren’t an avid fisherman!).

It is no wonder so many people care about preserving adequate water flows in the Green River. It not only provides essential water and cash flow for West Slope towns, but also a great adventure for the citizens of Colorado and beyond.

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


CWCB: ‘Zombie Pipeline’ Takes Critical Wound in Vote — Jason Bane

January 30, 2013

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From email from Western Resource Advocates (Jason Bane):

The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) today voted overwhelmingly to end funding for the ‘Flaming Gorge Task Force,’ which had been considering future large-scale water diversion projects such as the ‘Flaming Gorge Pipeline.’ The decision is in line with public opinion; a recent Colorado water poll found that four-in-five Colorado voters favor focusing on water conservation efforts rather than water diversions.

In response to today’s decision, Drew Beckwith, Water Policy Manager at Western Resource Advocates, issued the following statement:

“The Flaming Gorge Pipeline has been called the ‘zombie pipeline’ from years of lumbering around trying to latch onto anything that might keep it alive. Today’s CWCB vote sends a strong message that it’s time to move on to other water demand solutions. No amount of discussion is going to make the pipeline less expensive or more realistic, and we applaud the CWCB for recognizing the need to move forward.”

The ‘Flaming Gorge Pipeline’ (FGP) is a proposal to pump 81 million gallons of water a year across more than five hundred (500) miles from the Green River in Wyoming to the Front Range of Colorado—all at a projected cost of $9 billion dollars (according to CWCB calculations). Western Resource Advocates has consistently opposed the idea as unreasonable and unnecessary.

More coverage from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. Here’s an excerpt:

The task force funding drew criticism from conservation groups, who said the money would be better spent studying realistic conservation and reuse options for water. By some state estimates, the pipeline could have cost as much as $9 billion. The CWCB denied a request for $100,000 of state water money for continued study…

We applaud Governor Hickenlooper and the Colorado Water Conservation Board for their decision to turn down spending additional money to examine new water diversions as a solution to meet Colorado’s water challenges, said Protect Our Flows director Molly Mugglestone. “It’s the right decision for what Coloradans want as reflected overwhelmingly in a recent bipartisan poll commissioned by Protect the Flows.

The poll showed that more than 80 percent of Colorado voters would tell state officials to spend their time and resources focusing on conservation efforts, rather than water diversions; a majority of voters across political and geographic lines oppose building additional pipelines; and almost all express strong regard for Colorado rivers and a desire to protect them.

[Aaron Million] has said the pipeline could actually help protect flows in over-used sections of the Colorado, especially in years like this, with abundant moisture in Wyoming, but well below average snowpack in Colorado.

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


Flaming Gorge Task Force: ‘I guess neutral is a big win for us’ — Aaron Million

January 25, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

More state discussions are needed on how to develop Colorado’s share of Colorado River water, a task force that met for more than a year on the Flaming Gorge water project reported Wednesday. The task force did not recommend either building or denying the Flaming Gorge pipeline idea, and wasn’t expected to. Instead, it worked to create a framework that would bring competing interests to the table to evaluate any project proposing development of a new supply from the Colorado River. Its conclusions will be submitted to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which funded the task force. “I guess neutral is a big win for us,” said Aaron Million, who was one of two sponsors of a Flaming Gorge pipeline who met with the task force last year.

More engineering work is being completed so that the Flaming Gorge project can be resubmitted to a federal agency for environmental evaluation. Million said it would be submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which rejected an application last year, saying more information was needed. If FERC does not accept the new proposal, either the Army Corps of Engineers or Bureau of Land Management would be approached.

The task force recommended the CWCB and Interbasin Compact Committee, an umbrella organization that represents the interests of basin roundtables and the state, develop a way to evaluate if a project meets certain criteria. The top priorities are developing Colorado’s share of the water under the 1922 Colorado River Compact and protecting the state from a call on the river that could diminish Colorado’s water supply.

The group recommended forming a committee that would continue to discuss issues relating to water and is asking the CWCB for up to $100,000 for phase 2 of the study. The first phase was funded at $72,000 in September 2011, over the objections of environmental groups who tried to kill any consideration of a Flaming Gorge plan.

More coverage from the Associated Press via the Laramie Boomerang. Here’s an excerpt:

In a report to be presented to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the Basin Roundtable Exploration Committee said questions that should be addressed include not only financing and how Colorado can maximize its entitlements to Colorado River water without overdeveloping the river, but also alternatives to new water supply projects.

The committee said state leaders and each of the basin roundtables in Colorado should participate in the conversation, which it called a “key threshold step” needed to move beyond the status quo in developing significant new water supply solutions. The roundtables represent each major river basin in the state, plus the Denver area.

The report, released Wednesday, described an urgent need for action, citing the gap between the demand for water on the populated Front Range and the supply.

“The municipal gap on the Front Range is immediate, the dry-up of agriculture is real and certain, and the environmental and economic concerns are serious and numerous,” the report said.

The report also listed several characteristics of “good” water supply projects. For instance, they should have funding and minimize the need for new infrastructure, and they shouldn’t reduce supplies to existing water users, the report said.

Colorado’s river basin roundtables agreed to form the committee after entrepreneur Aaron Million announced a $3 billion pipeline proposal to carry Flaming Gorge Reservoir water to Colorado, and a separate coalition of water providers said it was exploring its own plan. The committee didn’t set out to endorse any proposal but wanted to answer questions about cost, feasibility, water rights and legalities, along with the environmental, socioeconomics, agricultural and recreational impacts of any Flaming Gorge project, among other issues.

Million has yet to gain permits for his project. He said Thursday his team is doing more engineering work after the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last year dismissed his permit application over a lack of specifics.

More coverage from the Wyoming Business Journal (MJ Clark):

The committee is aware of protests by environmentalists and issues raised by their own constituency.

“Rather than focusing on a Flaming Gorge project, the committee is exploring what the attributes would be of any successful new transmountain diversion,” the group wrote. “And foremost to that discussion is dealing with the uncertainties of water availability under the Colorado River Compact.”

Noting that the staff could not reach an agreement of whether or not to endorse the project, the group concluded that, “At this point, we don’t see the benefit of having the Flaming Gorge Committee continue … unless the board directs otherwise, this will be the direction staff takes.”

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


Flaming Gorge Task Force’s phase one report is hot off the press

January 24, 2013

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Click here to view the report and appendices A through F. Click here for appendices G through I. Thanks to Heather Bergman for sending them along in email. Here’s an excerpt from the report:

Recommendations

In the course of its work, the Committee has come to more fully understand and appreciate the gravity and risks of the status quo and the need to develop new supply1 solutions that balance the current and future consumptive and nonconsumptive needs of both slopes and all basins. The municipal gap on the Front Range is immediate, the dry-up of agriculture is real and certain, and the environmental and economic concerns are serious and numerous. In the process of becoming informed about and discussing the benefits and costs of a specific new supply project focused around Flaming Gorge, the Committee has identified a key threshold step that must happen in order to move beyond the status quo in developing any significant new supply solution: an immediate and focused conversation with each roundtable and state leaders at the table must begin, aimed at developing an agreement or agreements around how water supply needs around the state can be met. Our conclusion and consensus is that the conversation needs to be transparent and inclusive in order to arrive at consensus agreements that can lead to meaningful statewide-level water supply solutions. The immediate need for this robust, focused, transparent, and balanced conversation is at the heart of each of our recommendations.

The Committee has developed a consensus flow chart that identifies threshold steps and a process framework for moving forward with major new supply allocation from the Colorado River. The flow chart and the process it outlines suggests a pathway to achieving statewide consensus for a new supply project, based on roundtables defining the scope of a project, the IBCC and CWCB providing insight and approval, and project proponents or participants designing a project based on statewide consensus about the criteria of what characteristics and components are needed to be included into the design, implementation, and operation of a water project for that project to be considered a “good” project for Colorado. The flow chart is based on several assumptions:

  • The goal is to minimize the risk of a Compact call.
  • An M&I gap exists and needs to be filled. Some of the water needed to fill that gap may come from the Colorado River. That portion of the gap that is not satisfied by identified projects or processes, conservation, or new supply will likely come from the change of agricultural water to municipal and industrial use.
  • The current legal framework will apply.
  • All roundtables are affected by a new supply project.
  • This process would be voluntary. An inability to complete the process (all STOP signs in the complete framework) means that proponents revert to “business-as-usual” for building a new project.
  • More coverage from KUGR News:

    A task force studying issues related to proposals to divert water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to Colorado says state leaders first need to agree on how Colorado’s water needs can be met. In a report to be presented to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the Basin Roundtable Exploration Committee says questions that should be addressed include how Colorado can maximize its entitlements to Colorado River water without overdeveloping the river and who would finance a new water supply project. It also lists characteristics of “good” water supply projects, which it says shouldn’t reduce supplies to existing water users, for one. The report, released Wednesday, says there is an immediate gap between the Front Range demand for water and the supply and mentions “risks of the status quo.”

    More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


    Parker: ‘They don’t go dry out there’ — Ken Wright

    January 12, 2013

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    Back when Governor Hickenlooper was first on the scene as Mayor Hickenlooper he hosted a series about water at the Museum of Nature and Science. Ken Wright was on hand to introduce Frank Jaeger, the General Manager of the Parker Water and Sanitation District.

    “They don’t go dry out there,” said Wright. That’s the ultimate compliment for a water provider.

    Mr. Jaeger is now officially retired. Here’s report the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

    “I’ve always understood that I had a reputation, a sort of toughness. It intimidated people, and I let it intimidate some people when it was necessary for the benefit of the district,” he says. “If people want to denigrate me for that fact, I don’t care.”

    Despite departing earlier than expected — Jaeger frequently pledged to retire when he died, but was forced out after a change in board leadership — the 67-year-old is leaving with his head held high. He said he never compromised the integrity of the position and has “done all I can do for Parker Water.”

    At the recommendation of a neighbor, Jaeger joined the board of directors for the fledgling, financially troubled PWSD in 1981. He soon became its manager and was instrumental in turning around a district that was headed in the wrong direction. Since that time, Jaeger has slowly built up the district’s infrastructure, received permission to divert excess flows from Cherry Creek, and got public authorization to build Rueter-Hess Reservoir, which at the time was the first federally approved off-stream reservoir in more than 20 years.

    Jaeger, of Elizabeth, plans to enjoy his retirement by golfing (without keeping score), hunting, fishing and taking vacations with his wife, but will continue to offer guidance on water issues that affect Colorado. He is a lifetime member of the Colorado Water Congress and will regularly visit the Capitol to review the merits of proposed legislation.

    “They know I won’t be silent and will give honest opinions,” he said.

    More Parker coverage here.


    The Flaming Gorge Task Force October meeting summary is hot off the press

    December 4, 2012

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    Click here to read a copy.

    More Flaming Gorge Task force coverage here.


    Castle Rock: Assistant utilities director Rick Wilkey will take over in the interim for Ron Redd

    December 2, 2012

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    From the Castle Rock News-Press (Rhonda Moore):

    The Town of Castle Rock has announced an interim utilities director to replace Ron Redd, who leaves the department after 11 years at the helm. Assistant utilities director Rick Wilkey will replace Redd when Redd leaves Castle Rock Dec. 12. Redd will replace Frank Jaeger as district manager of the Parker Water and Sanitation District.

    More South Platte River Basin coverage here.


    Ron Redd named as the new manager for the Parker Water and Sanitation District

    November 17, 2012

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    From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

    Ron Redd, the longtime utilities director for Castle Rock, was named during a meeting Nov. 15 as the replacement for Frank Jaeger, who has served as district manager for more than 30 years. Redd was present for many of the water district’s most recent notable accomplishments, including the opening of Rueter-Hess Reservoir and Dam. Redd was among the main players in Castle Rock’s agreement to purchase $40 million worth of water storage space in Rueter-Hess, making the town the PWSD’s largest partner on the expansion of the reservoir…

    Wasserman pointed out that certain perks that have come with the district manager’s position in the past will no longer be in place, such as free gas. Jaeger drives a GMC Denali that’s owned by the district, one of the points of contention when the new board members were elected. Redd, who starts his job in early January, will get a $500-a-month auto allowance, along with his $150,500 annual salary.

    Will Mr. Redd take over Mr. Jaeger’s duties with the Colorado Wyoming Cooperative Water Supply Project?.

    More Parker coverage here and here.


    Salida: Flaming Gorge Task Force meeting Tuesday

    August 26, 2012

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    Click here for a copy of the agenda. Thanks to Heather Bergman for sending it along in email.

    More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


    The Sterling Ranch development signs up for WISE Project infrastructure and water supplies

    August 17, 2012

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    From the Castle Rock News (Rhonda Moore):

    Sterling Ranch managing director Harold Smethills announced a deal with Aurora Water that will deliver 88 million gallons of water already owned by the development’s provider, Dominion Water. The deal paves the way for Sterling Ranch to begin the plat process with Douglas County as the development moves forward, Smethills said.

    At the same time, Sterling Ranch signed a second deal with Aurora Water in a 15-year lease for 186 million gallons of water as a sub-agreement of the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency agreement, said Greg Baker, manager of Aurora Water public relations…

    Sterling Ranch aims to begin its development process before year’s end and hopes to enter the market as quickly as possible, Smethills said. He hopes to debut Sterling Ranch, a planned development approved for more than 12,000 homes over its 20-year planned build-out, with as many as 2,000 homes in its early phases. “This gets us in the market years before we could have built our infrastructure because the demand is here now,” Smethills said.

    More Sterling Ranch coverage here.


    Parker Water and Sanitation: ‘To cut from the budget without understanding what they’re doing is short-sighted’ — Mary Spencer

    July 26, 2012

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    From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

    Mary Spencer, who was elected to the board of directors in 2006, sent a resignation letter to district manager Frank Jaeger June 29 that highlighted her growing frustration with the board…

    When reached by phone July 16, Spencer said she became tired of her colleagues blaming past boards for a range of issues. Dissenters and “two sitting board members have made a disastrous decision to destroy not only the district but the reputations of past board members,” the letter said…

    During the interview, Spencer also sharply criticized a recent decision to fire the water provider’s longtime lobbyists, whom she says have helped kill legislation that would have cost the district, and therefore ratepayers, millions of dollars. Spencer said the $48,000 that was paid annually to the lobbyists was well worth it. She also bemoaned the recent firing of Floyd Ciruli, a public relations specialist and political analyst who was contracted by the PWSD…

    Spencer, whose term was set to expire in May 2014, said the decision to leave was difficult because she still believes in the district’s mission, but it was “not worth the stress” to deal with the fallout from the attempted board recall in 2009 and subsequent conduct that has had a “detrimental” affect on the water district.

    More Parker coverage here and here.


    Douglas County forms a water and wastewater enterprise to fund infrastructure for renewable supplies

    July 17, 2012

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    From the Castle Rock News Press (Rhonda Moore):

    The board of county commissioners on July 10 established the Douglas County water and wastewater enterprise, opening the door to bring money to the table for long-term water development. The enterprise allows the county to issue revenue bonds secured by future revenues from water providers who pass muster, said Lance Ingalls, county attorney. The enterprise, through state statute, allows the county to issue the revenue bonds to qualifying providers on a project-by-project basis, Ingalls said…

    The authority was focused primarily on advancing the water infrastructure and supply efficiency project that is pivotal to filling the Rueter-Hess reservoir, said Eric Hecox, authority spokesman…

    “This enterprise is opening the door for the county to be a catalyst for partnership to meet our renewable water needs,” Hecox said. “Having a partner as big a player as the county gives us the opportunity to meet our regional long term challenges.”

    The strength of the county’s borrowing power bumps the water game up a notch in Douglas County, said Jill Repella, commissioner, District 2. Repella was part of the conversations with providers who made it clear the county’s role is critical to the success of any effort toward bringing long-term water to Douglas County.

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    Flaming Gorge Task Force: Mixed views towards the feasibility of building the pipeline

    June 23, 2012

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    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

    On Friday, a task force of water interests from across Colorado charged to look into the feasibility of tapping the Green River met in Colorado Springs to discuss whether it’s possible or desirable to build a Flaming Gorge pipeline. While some on the task force said building a massive pipeline from western Wyoming to the Front Range would help restore the headwaters of the Colorado River while also preventing eastern Colorado farms from going dry, others were adamant that a Flaming Gorge pipeline is, at best, a project that could cause more strife than anything else…

    “There’s been no real analysis of the environmental impacts,” [Chuck Wanner of Colorado Trout Unlimited] said, adding that he doesn’t believe that it’s possible for the task force to fully assess the feasibility of a Flaming Gorge pipeline by the end of the year.

    Whatever project the state decides to build to bring more water to the Front Range, Colorado must tap all the Colorado River Basin water the state is entitled to, including Green River water, said Eric Wilkinson, general manager of Northern Water in Berthoud. That project, whether it’s a Flaming Gorge pipeline or something else, has to maximize currently-available infrastructure, and the proposed pipeline accomplishes that by using the Interstate 80 corridor in Wyoming, he said…

    “The most important issue in this is whether or not a project unites the state,” said T. Wright Dickinson, a Brown’s Park rancher and former Moffat County commissioner. He said a Flaming Gorge pipeline as it is being envisioned would be too divisive to be built, doesn’t address what happens when Western Slope farmers need more water and isn’t adequate to address the state’s long-term water needs. Dickinson suggested an even bigger project: Tapping the Mississippi or Missouri rivers with a massive westbound pipeline…

    The task force will meet once each month through December before making a final recommendation to state water regulators in January.

    More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


    IBCC: Next Flaming Gorge Task Force meeting Friday in Colorado Springs

    June 19, 2012

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    From email from Peak Facilitation Group (Heather Bergman):

    …please find the agenda for Friday’s meeting of the Basin Roundtable Project Exploration Committee: Flaming Gorge. The meeting will be held from 10 am to 3 pm at the Pikes Peak Regional Council of Governments offices in Colorado Springs (15 S. 7th St..).

    More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


    The Parker Water and Sanitation District board decides to keep Frank Jaeger on the payroll through the transition to his retirement this fall

    June 4, 2012

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    From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

    Even before the Pledge of Allegiance was recited by the approximately 60 people in attendance at the Parker Water and Sanitation District meeting May 31, chairwoman Darcy Beard announced that the board would be retaining Jaeger indefinitely to ensure a smooth transition to new leadership.

    Just two weeks ago, Jaeger said he believed his days as district manager were numbered. Three new board members were elected May 8 after running on a platform that promised a change in spending habits, transparency and planning. At the five-member board’s first meeting May 17, they stripped management of their ability to sign checks, but stopped short of discontinuing Jaeger’s contract for fear of losing the person with the most intimate knowledge of district operations and plans. The tone early on at the May 31 meeting was conciliatory as Beard cited Jaeger’s “dedication and vision” for making the district one of the more respected water providers in the state. Beard also apologized because she was told that Jaeger “felt my criticism was directed to him personally” during comments she made at the May 17 meeting.

    Jaeger, who has been at the helm of the PWSD for 31 years, wrote a letter to the board that expressed his willingness to pass on his knowledge during an “orderly and well-thought-out” transition period. Jaeger said he wants to schedule a full-day learning session to catch the new board members up to speed on reasons behind water planning policies and update them on growing concerns about the cost of treating wastewater.

    More Parker coverage here.


    Flaming Gorge Pipeline: Protect the Flows asks Governor Hickenlooper to put the kibosh on the project

    May 23, 2012

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    Here’s the release from Protect the Flows.

    118 West Slope businesses sent a letter this morning to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, expressing their opposition to the proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline. The businesses are members of Protect the Flows, a coalition of over 500 small business owners in the seven state Colorado River region (AZ, CA, CO, NM, NM, UT, WY) who depend upon flows in the Colorado River and its tributaries that are adequate to support the recreation economy.

    In the letter…Protect the Flows asks that the administration cease devoting state resources to studying the Flaming Gorge pipeline upon conclusion of the state’s special task force examining the project’s feasibility. As the task force has deliberated, troubling facts about the pipeline have continued to emerge, opposition to the pipeline has continued to grow, and federal agencies have continued to deny all permit attempts for the pipeline. Protect the Flows indicated that they would welcome a dialogue on water that welcomes and fosters ideas beyond the proposed pipeline and adequately accounts for the economic interests of the recreation and tourism industry. The task force, known formally as the Basin Roundtable Project Exploration Committee, is funded by a state grant issued by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and is scheduled to continue discussions through the end of 2012.

    “The state’s task force is focused only on one increasingly controversial idea — the Flaming Gorge pipeline proposal,” said Molly Mugglestone, Coordinator for Protect the Flows. “But to come up with the most effective solutions on future water usage we must apply a broader, more inclusive framework, like the one that was applied in achieving the newly completed agreement between Denver Water and West Slope interests.”

    Protect the Flows recently released a report showing that the Colorado River and its tributaries support a quarter million American jobs and generates $26 billion annually in total economic output. In Colorado alone, the Colorado River supports about 80,000 jobs and about $9.6 billion in total economic output.
    
    The proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline puts that economy in harm’s way. The plan would siphon 80 billion gallons each year from the Green River (a Colorado River tributary), which was recently declared the second most endangered river in America by American Rivers, for shipment to the Front Range. Moreover, the State of Colorado estimates that construction costs for the pipeline could reach $9 billion. An economic study by Western Resource Advocates indicated that the pipeline would take nearly a quarter of the Green River’s flow, which would result in a $58.5 million dollar annual loss to the region’s recreation economy. That same study reported that the water delivered to the Front Range by the pipeline would have to be sold at a price that is the most expensive in Colorado’s history (up to 10 times more than any existing project) because of the pipeline’s steep construction and operation costs.

    “Construction of this pipeline would be devastating to the entire Colorado River System,” said Tom Kleinschnitz, President of Adventure Bound River Expeditions in Grand Junction, which employs 30 people. “The significant loss of flows in the Green River would dramatically impact the quality of river recreation and affect tourism for everyone downstream all the way to Mexico.”

    Protect the Flows has committed to spend 2012 reminding Governor Hickenlooper and state officials that public resources would be better spent on more affordable solutions that support recreation industry jobs, such as improving water conservation efforts, water reuse and recycling, and better land-use planning and growth management.

    More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


    ‘The Flaming Gorge Pipeline has been rejected more often than a freshman before prom’ — Stacy Tellinghuisen (Western Resource Advocates)

    May 19, 2012

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    It looks like Aaron Million will have to pony up the big bucks for engineering and attorney’s fees to flesh out his application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Here’s a report from Ben Neary writing for the Associated Press via the Fremont County Ranger. From the article:

    The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday refused a request from Aaron Million of Fort Collins, Colo., to reconsider its February denial of his permit. In denying Million’s application in February, FERC said it was premature and lacked specifics about the proposed pipeline…

    His plans have drawn opposition from Gov. Matt Mead as well as county and local governments in southwestern Wyoming and downstream states. “I continue to oppose this particular proposal and continue to believe that FERC is not the regulatory body to review Mr. Million’s proposal,” Mead said Thursday. “I am glad that FERC denied the request for a rehearing.”[...]

    “We anticipated that they would not change the direction from the original response, part of the request frankly had to do with a clarification of issues related to their original decision,” Million said. “And indeed, they did clarify several things, and we now understand the rationale, in essence. They said the application was too broad.”

    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    Million’s company, Wyco Power and Water Inc., “presented no information in its permit application or its request for rehearing to indicate that the planning, routing or authorizations for the water conveyance pipeline are in progress or reasonably foreseeable,” FERC’s order said. Until Wyco can do that, the order said, there’s no point in issuing a preliminary permit…

    Million said he expected this rejection and learned from the process. “They need some more specifics,” he said, estimating $5 million has been invested so far. “We’re pushing ahead. FERC will be involved at some point because they permit hydropower.”

    From the Colorado Independent (Troy Hooper):

    FERC deemed the application from Million’s company, Wyco Power and Water Inc., inadequate in February but Wyco returned the next month asking the agency to reconsider. “We are not persuaded by any of Wyco’s unsupported arguments that it should be issued a preliminary permit for its proposed Regional Watershed Supply Project,” the commissioners wrote in their decision. “Therefore, we affirm the February 23 Order and deny Wyco’s request for rehearing.”

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

    The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today re-affirmed its decision to deny a rehearing on a preliminary permit application for the Flaming Gorge Pipeline. This is now the third time (in less than a year) that a federal agency has rejected plans for the Flaming Gorge Pipeline.

    “The Flaming Gorge Pipeline has been rejected more often than a freshman before prom,” said Stacy Tellinghuisen, Water & Energy Policy Analyst at Western Resource Advocates. “It doesn’t matter how you try to alter the proposal, or whose name is on top. You can change the wording. You can change the font. You can print it on a different color paper. It’s still too expensive, too harmful to the environment, and just not necessary for meeting future water demands.”

    In July 2011, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers terminated its review of the pipeline proposal, prompting Million to shift his application request to FERC. On February 23, 2012 FERC denied a preliminary permit application for the pipeline proposal, and on March 23 Million requested a “rehearing and clarification.” In a decision released this morning, FERC stated:

    We are not persuaded by any of Wyco’s unsupported arguments that it should be issued a preliminary permit for its proposed Regional Watershed Supply Project. Therefore, we affirm the February 23 Order and deny Wyco’s request for rehearing.

    Said Robert Harris, Staff Attorney with Western Resource Advocates: “Enough is enough. This is a strong signal to the State of Colorado to focus more time and attention on proposals that — unlike the Pipeline — are more ripe for serious consideration.”

    Million had been seeking a federal permit from FERC to review his ‘Flaming Gorge Pipeline’ (FGP) proposal to pump 81 billion gallons of water a year for more than five hundred (500) miles from the Green River in Wyoming to the Front Range of Colorado—all at a projected cost of $9 billion dollars (according to CWCB calculations). Western Resource Advocates (WRA) filed objections to the application in representing itself, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and the Colorado Environmental Coalition (CEC); in total, more than 5,000 objections were filed in December 2011 to Wyco’s proposal.

    Opposition to the Flaming Gorge Pipeline has continued to grow since December. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead has formally objected to the proposal, as have numerous local governments in both Colorado and Wyoming (such as Grand Junction, CO and Laramie, WY).

    Here’s a release from Earth Justice (McChrystie Adams):

    Today, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) closed the door on what will hopefully be the last attempt to permit the Flaming Gorge Pipeline. FERC denied a request for rehearing from Aaron Million’s company, Wyco Power and Water, Inc.—an attempted “do-over” on FERC’s earlier denial of a preliminary permit. The Colorado developer has spent several years, and a claimed $5 million, attempting to launch this ill-conceived boondoggle. His proposal has been met with stiff opposition from conservation groups, individuals, and local communities and businesses. Now, FERC has provided a point-by-point refutation of Wyco’s application and rehearing request, and left no doubt that this pipeline remains a pipe dream.

    FERC’s order recognized that the Flaming Gorge Pipeline proposal is poorly defined, and the approval process would be “difficult and lengthy” due to the opposition and controversy surrounding the project. As a result, FERC states that it would be premature to issue the permit for the project at this time. Importantly, FERC also made clear that it would not license the entire 501-mile water conveyance project. FERC is now the second agency to reject Mr. Million’s attempts to review and approve the Pipeline, following the Army Corps of Engineers’ termination of its review of the project in 2011.

    McCrystie Adams, staff attorney for Earthjustice, had the following statement on FERC’s action:

    “The Flaming Gorge Pipeline would be one of the biggest, most expensive, most environmentally damaging water projects in the history of the western United States. FERC got it right when they dismissed the permit application, and got it right again today when they denied Mr. Million’s rehearing request. We hope this will finally put an end to Mr. Million’s attempt to profit at the expense of one of the West’s last great rivers and the fish and wildlife, as well as the local economies, which depend on it.

    “This project—and any similar, large-scale transbasin diversions—is the worst way to meet Colorado’s water challenges. Such a project is unnecessary and distracts us from the important work we must do to build a secure water future. Unfortunately, we cannot be confident that this project is dead until Mr. Million and those who might follow his path abandon this futile scheme. We will continue to work to ensure that the Green River is protected and that this and other assaults on the West’s rivers do not succeed.”

    The Flaming Gorge Pipeline is a massive transbasin water supply project that would annually take approximately 81 billion gallons (250,000 acre-feet) of water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir and the Green River and pipe it more than 500 miles over the Continental Divide to Colorado’s Front Range and southeastern Wyoming. This diversion would have devastating impacts on the native fish and wildlife in the Green and Colorado Rivers, batter regional recreational opportunities and jobs that depend on river flows, and potentially be a fatal blow to one of the West’s last great rivers. The plight of the Green River and the impacts of the proposed Flaming Gorge Pipeline were highlighted this week when American Rivers declared it #2 on its list of “most endangered rivers” in the United States.

    After an attempt at permitting through the Army Corps of Engineers was rejected last year, Aaron Million’s new company Wyco Power and Water, Inc. turned to the FERC. In February, FERC, acting well within its discretion and following its governing regulations, dismissed Wyco’s preliminary permit application as “premature.”

    FERC, in its review of the preliminary permit application, rightly found that Wyco would be unable to gain the many authorizations and the design certainty necessary to file a license application within the three year permit term. Again failing to take “no” for an answer, Wyco then requested a rehearing, yet failed to provide any meaningful evidence or arguments that FERC got it wrong the first time. FERC’s ruling today upheld its earlier finding and left it clear that Wyco’s application is without merit.

    Earthjustice had intervened in FERC’s preliminary permit review and filed papers urging the agency to deny the rehearing request. Earthjustice represents a coalition of ten conservation groups with interests throughout the Colorado River Basin: Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Rocky Mountain Wild, Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, Wyoming Outdoor Council, Citizens for Dixie’s Future, Glen Canyon Institute, Living Rivers: Colorado Riverkeeper, and Utah Rivers Council.

    From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

    The controversial Flaming Gorge pipeline (formally known as the regional water supply project) was initially under review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but partway through that process, proponent Aaron Million switched gears and asked the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission to review the proposal as an energy generating project.

    FERC rejected the application once and Million subsequently appealed that decision under an administrative procedure. This week’s FERC ruled denies his appeal and appears to put the project on hold, at least for now.
    The proposal garnered widespread opposition from businesses that rely on recreational flows in regional rivers and streams, collectively represented by Protect the Flows.

    “The thousands of people in our region whose jobs depend upon a strong Colorado River system dodged another bullet today, but it’s time to move beyond this threat once and for all,” said the group’s coordinator, Molly Mugglestone. “Enough time and public money has been spent fixating on this one controversial idea, it’s time to bring people together to come up with a smarter way forward.”

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

    FERC spokeswoman Celeste Miller said in a statement Thursday that the order “confirms that it is premature to issue Wyco a preliminary permit for its seven proposed hydropower developments.”

    Miller said Wyco presented no information in its permit application or its appeal to show that Wyco has permission from landowners to build the pipeline across their property.

    “Until Wyco is able to do so, there is no point in issuing a preliminary permit for the hydropower developments because Wyco would be unable to study the feasibility of, and prepare a license application for, a project whose location has not been sufficiently narrowed,” the statement said.

    From KSL.com (Amy Joi O’Donoghue):

    The application for Wyco to study the feasibility of the pipeline — described officially as the Regional Watershed Supply Project — lacked concrete information such as the route or if any authorizations from land managers had been sought, according to the FERC decision. Also incomplete were details about the locations of its proposed hydropower stations. Aaron Million, a Fort Collins, Colo., entrepreneur who is pushing the project, said trying to provide that kind of detail this early in the process is premature — it needs more research…

    Wyco has 60 days to file an appeal of Thursday’s decision with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

    From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

    Million on Friday said the latest ruling has given his team a better understanding of what it must include in its formal application. “We’ll address the issues and keep heading through the permitting process,” he said.

    Large engineering construction firms involved in the project remain interested, he added. He declined to name them, citing confidentiality agreements. The pipeline would help meet the water needs of Colorado, which faces a water supply shortfall, Million said. It also would bolster flows in the Poudre River.

    Finally, Chris Woodka talked to Aaron Million. The entrepreneur remains focused, according to Mr. Woodka’s report. From the article:

    “We plan to move forward and will submit a more complete application,” Million said. He added that he is continuing to secure financing for the project.

    More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


    Parker: Frank Jaeger retires, 9News exposé contributes to board angst over his continued employment

    May 19, 2012

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    From The Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

    Frank Jaeger, the Parker Water and Sanitation District’s general manager for 31 years, announced his plans to retire at the end of his contract in December, but some of the newly elected directors proposed immediately terminating his contract, just hours after they were sworn in May 17.

    However, following a discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of losing the person with the most extensive knowledge of the water district’s history and operations, the board members decided to rescind the resolution to fire Jaeger.

    A special executive session, which enables the board to privately discuss sensitive matters, is tentatively scheduled for May 21. Jaeger, who was reached at his office by phone a day after the May 17 meeting, believes the board will likely terminate his contract…

    But Wasserman acknowledged that the board might have acted too hastily with the proposal to terminate Jaeger’s contract. He commended what he calls Jaeger’s “far-sighted” decision to build Rueter-Hess Reservoir, but says the project got too costly and out of control.

    Jaeger, who makes no apologies for his blunt manner of speaking, said he has been unfairly targeted by the new board, the media and members of the public, despite what he sees as 31 years of devotion to “doing what’s best for our customers.”

    Dozens of people attended the May 17 meeting, including Parker Water and Sanitation District employees, who were curious about what would happen to the man who has served as their general manager and been with the district longer than anyone else. Wasserman said it was “understandable” that they might be concerned and said they have no reason to fear losing their jobs.

    From 9News.com:

    Frank Jaeger has managed the Parker Water and Sanitation District since 1981. 9Wants to Know recently revealed that he and other managers were using government credit cards to pay for vehicle upgrades, numerous lunch meetings, and trips for conferences in places like Las Vegas and Florida. These expenses came as the district raised water rates for Parker residents.

    Thursday night, Jaeger announced his retirement, but the new board members still proposed to terminate his contract, effective on Friday…

    9Wants to Know found he and other managers had expenses like:

    • $892 spent on new rims for the District Manager’s Yukon Denali
    • Among dozens of car washes, sometimes several in a week, $560 was spent on a detail job for the District Manager’s Yukon Denali
    • $6,000 spent on 127 lunch meetings attended by water managers, consultants and lawmakers at places like the Brown Palace Hotel.
    • $20,000 spent on trips to Las Vegas, Florida and Washington D.C. for conferences
    • $1,925 paid to marketing consultants to write board member bios

    Jaeger defended those expenses as the cost of doing business and keeping up a clean image for the water utility.

    I wonder if Mr. Jaeger still plans to be the driving force behind the Colorado Wyoming Coalition’s version of the Flaming Gorge Pipeline?

    More Parker coverage here and here.


    Parker: The quest for a sustainable water supply leads to political fallout over Rueter-Hess Reservoir and water rights purchases

    May 6, 2012

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    From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

    Tracy Hutchins, who served on Parker Town Council for eight years, has turned her attention to what she believes is negligence by the water district’s top authorities. She is decrying, among other dealings, the $7.7 million investment in farms and water rights in the Sterling area because she says the district has no way to transport the water back to Rueter-Hess Reservoir, a $105 million project that PWSD officials say is vital for storing water for Douglas County’s future. Instead of relying on underground aquifers that are rapidly being depleted, Parker Water planned Rueter-Hess as a mechanism to store water from wet years for use during times of drought. PWSD customers voted in 2004 to approve a bond issue that would use tap fees from ongoing development to pay for the reservoir construction. Hutchins says many Parker residents don’t know that when the real estate market crashed, the ratepayers were suddenly on the hook for the tab, which now stands at $97 million.

    “In the bond election, we said we would use all means and methods necessary, including a tax increase in the event we could not make payments,” said Jim Nikkel, project manager and assistant district manager for PWSD. The quasi-governmental agency raised its mill levy for the 2011 tax year. Nikkel says water rate increases offset rising utility costs and don’t pay for the reservoir debt.

    Hutchins says poor planning has saddled Parker’s water customers with debt, and the reservoir, which was officially opened in March, has only a puddle of water in it.

    More Parker coverage here and here.


    How would the State Engineer administer diversions with respect to the Flaming Gorge pipeline?

    April 30, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “I just laid out the options we have if either Flaming Gorge plan were to move forward,” State Engineer Dick Wolfe said following a meeting last week of the Flaming Gorge Task Force in Grand Junction. The options include special legislation to cover bringing water from outside the state, an agreement between the states or state rules on water imports…

    Wolfe is concerned that a pipeline could inadvertently injure Colorado water rights. Prompted by Million’s plan, Wolfe talked to the Colorado legislative interim committee on water resources last year about the possibility of legislation…

    Colorado already has agreements with Wyoming and Utah on how to administer specific rights that cross state lines. Those involve smaller quantities of water than Flaming Gorge would divert, and neither targets a specific water right. Under an agreement, Colorado would be able to ask Wyoming to curtail diversions if they threatened rights on the Colorado River within Colorado. There could also be impacts to the Colorado River Compact, among seven states, that could affect Flaming Gorge diversions. “We don’t want Wyoming making judgments on how much water we have left to develop under the compact,” Wolfe said…

    “It would involve a very public process, and would create the conditions for importing water,” Wolfe said. “Right now we have no venue to do that.”

    More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


    Flaming Gorge pipeline: FERC is reviewing Wyco Water and Power’s request for a rehearing for the project’s preliminary permit

    April 26, 2012

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

    The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission filed a notice Monday saying it needs more time to study a request for a rehearing filed by Aaron Million’s Wyco Power and Water Co.
    While notice was titled “Order Granting Rehearing for Further Consideration,” it did not in fact approve a rehearing on the entire pipeline project, FERC spokeswoman Celeste Miller said [ed. emphasis mine]…

    “All the notice meant was that the commission needed additional time to consider the rehearing request. If there was no action, the request would have been denied,” Miller said. “The commission is still reviewing the request.”

    From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Mark Wilcox):

    The rehearing comes despite multiple protests from environmentalist groups, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Forest Service, Sweetwater County, Colorado Springs Utilities and others. Opponents claim it would damage the ecosystem surrounding Flaming Gorge, thereby damaging the $118 million local outdoor economy.

    In his rehearing request, Million invoked the approved, 139-mile Lake Powell Pipeline, which will cost $1.064 billion and be finished in 2020. He said his preliminary proposal was similar to the Lake Powell Pipeline, but while Lake Powell got a green light, Million’s Wyco Power and Water Inc. was stopped on red.

    “The commission’s order implies that the final pipeline alignment, all authorizations to construct the pipeline and even the construction of the pipeline should be completed prior to filing an application for a preliminary permit” Million’s rehearing request said.

    More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


    Flaming Gorge pipeline: FERC grants a rehearing for the project’s preliminary permit

    April 24, 2012

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    Update: FERC did not grant a request for a rehearing. They need more time to review the request.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced Monday it will grant a rehearing for Aaron Million’s Wyco Power and Water Co., over the objections of environmental groups and Colorado Springs Utilities…

    Among those opposing the rehearing were the Colorado Environmental Coalition, the National Parks Conservation Association, Western Resource Advocates and the Sierra Club.

    Colorado Springs Utilities on April 6 filed a motion asking FERC to exclude consideration of a reservoir in El Paso County at the same site where it plans to build a reservoir for the Southern Delivery System. The Norris family, owners of T-Cross Ranches, are family friends of Million. They have filed an application with El Paso County for the Marlborough Metropolitan District with the intention of building a regional reservoir on Upper Williams Creek, southeast of Colorado Springs.

    Million also could have competition in building the pipeline from the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition, led by Frank Jaeger, manager of Parker Water, which is studying its own plan for a Flaming Gorge Pipeline.

    Meanwhile, a state task force continues to meet to identify issues that could arise if either project is built. Its next meeting is Wednesday in Grand Junction.

    Here’s the agenda for the next task force meeting via email from the IBCC facilitator.

    More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


    Flaming Gorge pipeline: The Garfield County Commissioners go on record opposing the project

    April 18, 2012

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    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

    …the decision to oppose the proposed 560-mile-long Flaming Gorge pipeline was not a unanimous one. The Garfield Board of County Commissioners voted 2-1 Monday to take the position against the controversial project. Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said that, although philosophically opposed to Front Range water diversions, it’s too early in the process for the county to be taking a position on the controversial project…

    But Commissioners Mike Samson and John Martin disagreed.

    Samson has been pushing for the county to take a stance against the project, as other Western Slope governments, water users and conservation groups have done. “We can’t continue to give West Slope water to Eastern Slope entities,” Samson said. “Enough is enough.

    “I’m looking down the road to our future needs,” he said. “Western Colorado will grow and expand, and we will need that water. And once it’s over there, there’s no way to get it back.”[...]

    Garfield County’s resolution opposing the project questions the costs for the project, as well as the potential threats to the western Colorado and other downstream water users on the west side of the Continental Divide. “The Flaming Gorge pipeline is not feasible without subsidies, with some estimates suggesting that the project would need as much as $370 million in state or federal subsidies,” the resolution states.

    “Garfield County urges Colorado water leaders and policymakers to devote the state’s attention and financial resources on water projects and programs that are cost-effective and that do not pit one region of the state against the others,” it concludes.

    More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


    Parker: Rueter-Hess Reservoir is complete, just add water

    April 15, 2012

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    Here’s the announcement from the Parker Water and Sanitation District website:

    What does it take to construct a 72,000 acre-foot reservoir on Colorado’s crowded Front Range during years of belt-tightening and competition for scarce water resources? It takes 25 years of managing complex planning, permitting and construction projects, and more importantly, it takes the vision and tenacity of the water district managers in charge. In Parker, all these elements coalesced to complete Rueter-Hess Reservoir – the first major water storage facility on the Front Range in several decades.

    Parker Water celebrated the completion of the massive Rueter-Hess Reservoir project on March 21st with more than 100 contractors, metro water partners and government officials in attendance on the tower of the Frank Jaeger Dam.

    John Stulp, special policy advisor on water issues to Governor Hickenlooper, commended Parker Water and its partners in Douglas County for collaborating on a forward-looking project that will be needed as Colorado gains an estimated 4-5 million residents over the next 30-40 years.

    Colorado State Senator Ted Harvey read a resolution adopted unanimously by both houses of the legislature the previous day, congratulating Parker Water on its foresight and persistence in planning and constructing Rueter-Hess Reservoir. Senator Harvey said, “We can’t bring in good companies to Douglas County and create jobs if we don’t have the needed resources to serve them. Rueter-Hess is a key part of that.”

    The Douglas County Commission also adopted a resolution of congratulations for 50 years of service to customers in Douglas County. County commissioners Jack Hilbert and Jill Repella specifically cited the cooperation that led communities to work together on Rueter-Hess Reservoir.

    To culminate the ceremony, the PWSD Board Members in attendance: Mary Spencer, Sheppard Root, Mike Casey and Darcy Beard, activated the release of water stored in the nearby Cherry Creek diversion structure into the reservoir. The crowd applauded as a remote camera captured the water flowing from the outlet into the south side of the reservoir.

    Already, Rueter-Hess Reservoir holds some 4,000 acre-feet of water from flows captured in the reservoir beginning in May 2011 – enough water to serve 9,000 homes over the course of a year. The Douglas County water districts partnering in the reservoir, including the Town of Castle Rock, Castle Pines North, and Stonegate, will continue to capture storm runoff and reuse water, and plan to develop additional surface-water sources in the future.

    More coverage from Clayton Wouliard writing for YourHub.com. From the article:

    A completion ceremony was held March 21 by Parker Water and Sanitation, which paid for the construction of the reservoir that can hold 72,000 acre feet of water. The dam for it cost about $135 million, with a total cost of the project at about $200 million, including an environmental impact study, pumps and legal work, according to Jim Nikkel, assistant manager of Parker Water and Sanitation. The project was funded through a general obligation bond approved by voters in 2002.

    “It’s the first of a long process of ensuring the area of northern Douglas County has sustainable water for now and in the future,” Nikkel said.

    Nikkel said a water treatment plant is currently being built for $50 million that is slated to be finished by summer 2014 and will treat water from the reservoir. Currently, Parker gets its water from aquifers, which are not renewable. The treatment plant construction is being funded through revenue bonds and will process up to 10 million gallons per day, Nikkel said.

    More Rueter-Hess Reservoir coverage here and here.


    Flaming Gorge pipeline: Earthjustice, et. al. to FERC — ‘No’ should mean no to do-over for preliminary permit

    April 6, 2012

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    From the Earthjustice blog (Doug Pflugh):

    Million is back at it again, asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reconsider his application for a preliminary permit. Million’s request comes on the heels of FERC’s dismissal of his preliminary permit. You may remember that Million turned to FERC after an earlier attempt to permit this project was terminated by the Army Corps of Engineers last summer. That’s two no’s in less than one year. Will a third do the trick?

    This week, Earthjustice, representing 10 environmental groups, filed papers with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) objecting to a do-over by FERC. FERC’s decision to deny the permit was right on the money and should have been the end of this scheme. But, with at least $1.4 billion at stake—according to Million—it’s easy to understand why he isn’t giving up easily…

    Earthjustice represents a coalition of ten conservation groups with interests throughout the Colorado River Basin: Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Rocky Mountain Wild, Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, Wyoming Outdoor Council, Citizens for Dixie’s Future, Glen Canyon Institute, Living Rivers: Colorado Riverkeeper, and Utah Rivers Council.

    More coverage from Mark Wilcox writing for the Wyoming Business Report. From the article:

    Aaron Million’s confidential business plan to annually pump about 81 billion gallons out of Flaming Gorge and the Green River that feeds it has been revealed to the Associated Press, and it is no small wonder he has not taken ‘no’ for an answer. The plan would bring in an estimated net profit of between $1.4 and $2.4 billion. And that’s after construction costs of somewhere between $2.8 billion and $3.2 billion. And end users of the water would pay up to $117 million in annual operating costs based on a “cost plus 20 percent” business model with estimated operating costs of between $70 million and $90 million…

    “Million’s plan is a blatant attempt to transform an important public good into billions of dollars of private profit,” said Earthjustice staff attorney McCrystie Adams in a statement urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission not to rehear Million’s request. Earthjustice represents various conservation clients on this issue. “We know from the developer’s public statements and documents that he’s looking for someone else to cover the millions of dollars of permitting costs that will undoubtedly be associated with what they describe as ‘the largest water infrastructure, pipeline, hydropower and storage project’ in the region.”

    Adams’ statement refers to portions of the plan showing that Million’s Wyco Power and Water Inc. is seeking to raise $15 million through 2015 to get through the permitting process. While the amount raised so far is confidential, $5 million has been spent on the permitting process.

    “It is clear that Million sees the Flaming Gorge Pipeline as his Mega-Millions jackpot and hopes someone else will pay for his tickets,” Adams wrote. “Fortunately, the odds of permitting this boondoggle are similar to winning the lottery.”

    More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


    Flaming Gorge Pipeline: Aaron Million estimates profits at $1.4 billion

    April 5, 2012

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    If you’ve wondered why Aaron Million has been so dogged in his pursuit of his pipeline dream facing while facing huge opposition across Wyoming, Colorado and Utah and from conservationists across the U.S., you need only to focus on the potential rewards from a for-profit operation in the middle of Colorado’s last remaining developable water in the Colorado River basin and the wealthy Denver southern suburbs. Here’s a report from Catharine Tsai writing for the Associated Press via The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

    His team’s confidential business proposal, shown to potential contractors, estimates construction costs of $2.8 billion to $3.2 billion, with annual operating costs of between an estimated $70 million and $90 million per year being paid by water users.

    The project would initially deliver about 110,000 acre-feet of water to municipal and industrial users, with re-use available to farm and environmental interests, according to the business plan. The water would be sold under a “cost plus 20 percent” financial model, with 20 percent being added on top of costs for delivering the water. That would result in a one-time $360 million to $480 million profit to the contractor from water sales, according to the plan.

    The second stage of the project would deliver up to 140,000 acre-feet, with water sold at market rates. “Potential net profit is targeted in the $1.4 billion to $2.4 billion range,” the plan said.

    Though the business plan lays out staged development, Million said the project likely would be built all at once to avoid having infrastructure costs balloon over time. In any case, costs should be lower if it’s developed privately, not publicly, he said. “The project is financially sound. We think we can get it done for 30 to 40 percent less than a public sector project,” Million said.

    Million provided the business proposal to The Associated Press in response to questions about an earlier version of the plan obtained by the AP.

    The role of Million’s Wyco Power and Water Inc. would be to shepherd the project through the permitting process, Million said. It would earn a management fee, which could range from 0.25 percent to 3 percent of money raised for its work, he said. The plan said Wyco is seeking to raise $15 million through 2015 to get through the permitting process. Million said the amount he has raised so far is confidential, but he has said $5 million has been spent on the project during the four years since he proposed it.

    “We’ve finally learned what this proposal is about. It’s about people wanting to get extremely rich off of the natural wealth of the Colorado River and the communities up and down the basin that depend on it,” said Gary Wockner of Save the Colorado.

    More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


    IBCC: Wyco Water and Power, Inc. and the Colorado-Wyoming Cooperative Water Supply Project proponents briefed the state task force yesterday

    March 28, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    A private developer and a public group who want to build major water supply pipelines from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range met Tuesday for the first time with a state task force. “Can both projects go? Folks, there should be collaboration. If this task force wants an additional task it could look at finding collaboration,” said Aaron Million, who first came up with the idea for the project about six years ago. “One of the outcomes of the task force has been a huge pushback from the environmental community.”

    Million’s Wyco Power and Water Inc. faces competition from the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition, led by Parker Water and Sanitation General Manager Frank Jaeger. The task force, formed at the request of the Arkansas and Metro basin roundtables, was formed to identify issues, interests and impacts associated with a Flaming Gorge project. It won’t recommend either project, and right now just has a growing list of questions and concerns…

    The Colorado-Wyoming Coalition still is investigating whether it even wants to pursue the project and is waiting on a Bureau of Reclamation determination of whether water is available, Jaeger said. “We don’t have all the answers,” Jaeger said. “We have to know what the Bureau of Reclamation plan says before we go any further.” The group has clearly identified it would serve a population of 569,000 in the next 60 years. The project would divert 100,000 acre-feet of water, which through re-use could provide about 200,000 acre-feet of need. About one-fourth of the water would go to communities in Wyoming.

    Million filed for water rights in 2007 on the Green River in Wyoming and has applied for a contract with Reclamation. He is using an earlier decision by Reclamation as the basis for his claim of 250,000 acre-feet. He has identified potential users, but does not have a specific list, unlike the coalition. So far, $5 million has been spent to develop his plan…

    While the project faces stiff opposition in Western Wyoming, there is a growing realization that the decision could be made without the area’s consensus. There is a spectrum of opinion heavily weighted toward stopping the project to those who realize control of the water is in someone else’s hands and the object is to reduce the impacts of diverting some of it. “I think our mission is to stay informed on the issues,” said Don Hartley, of the Rock Springs, (Wyo.,) Chamber Enterprise Committee. “We have to stay abreast of the issues with an eye to minimizing the impacts.”

    More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


    The Norris Family plans to build the reservoir at the site eyed by both the Flaming Gorge Pipeline and the Southern Delivery System

    March 25, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Norris family, owners of T-Cross Ranches, has filed a plan for the Marlboro Metropolitan Water District with El Paso County. “I’m going to build the reservoir,” said Steve Norris…“There has been lots of interest throughout the region for creating a regional storage reservoir.” Norris said it would hold nearly 30,000 acre-feet of water and would be built on land owned by the family and the State Land Board southeast of Colorado Springs. The application was filed earlier this month. The dam would be just south of the site targeted for the second phase of the Southern Delivery System. Colorado Springs Utilities, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West are building the SDS pipeline from Pueblo Dam, along with three pumping stations and a treatment plant. It is expected to be complete in 2016.

    The reservoir on Upper Williams Creek is contemplated several years after the first phase of SDS…

    The reservoir is also identified as terminal storage in Aaron Million’s plan to build a pipeline from Flaming Gorge Reservoir and the Green River in Wyoming. Million and Norris are longtime friends.

    More Arkansas River basin coverage here.


    Flaming Gorge pipeline: Aaron Million files a reconsideration request with FERC in response to their denial of the preliminary application

    March 24, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Environmental groups promise to fight the project at every turn, while a state task force will hear about Flaming Gorge pipeline proposals next week in Glenwood Springs. Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million on Friday filed for a rehearing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for his proposed 500-mile water pipeline from the Green River and Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range. FERC rejected the application from Million’s Wyco Power and Water Inc. on Feb. 23.

    Million’s response states that FERC made errors in its determination that the application was filed prematurely. The basis was that the water pipeline associated with hydropower projects has not been constructed. “Wyco contends that sufficient information and maps associated with the pipeline alignment have been provided to the commission,” Million stated in an 11-page request for rehearing and clarification. “We’re asking for clarification of why the decision was made, other than political pressure. That shouldn’t be a factor,” he said.

    Million contends FERC has granted preliminary permits to other power projects in their infancy, including the Lake Powell pipeline project in Utah. He said Wyco plans to build the pipeline. Wyco already has issued requests for proposals to manage the project.

    On Tuesday, the Flaming Gorge task force, formed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board at the request of the Arkansas Basin and Metro roundtables, will hear presentations from Million and from Frank Jaeger, whose Colorado-Wyoming Coalition has proposed a similar, but competing project.

    More coverage from Electa Draper writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

    On Feb. 23, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission dismissed Wyco Power and Water Inc.’s application for a preliminary permit on the basis it was premature. Officials said there was no purpose in issuing a hydropower permit without information on construction and operation of the pipeline, which Million couldn’t provide. Conservationists hailed the decision as a victory for the environment because, they said, Million’s project, which would divert water from the Upper Colorado River Basin to Front Range cities, would drastically lower the level of Flaming Gorge Reservoir, threaten four species of endangered fish, and further harm ecosystems, wildlife and recreation. “We hope that FERC will reject this appeal, and the project will die a much-deserved death,” wildlife biologist Erik Molvar said in a statement from the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance…

    Million, in a telephone interview from Fort Collins, said FERC had asked for some additional information when Wyco filed the application in September. If there were additional deficiencies in the application, he said, FERC should have told him before accepting the application. However, Million said, Wyco doesn’t need the FERC preliminary permit to keep moving forward with other elements of the project. “We already hold the water filings in the river and for federal water rights,” Million said. “We already hold the priority filings. We’re going to move through the process, regardless.”

    More coverage from Brandon Loomis writing for The Salt Lake Tribune. From the article:

    Utah has used the same rationale in seeking approval for a Lake Powell pipeline to St. George, and Million’s new application questions whether FERC imposed the same requirements in advancing that project. “Wyco contends that it will be counterproductive and cost-prohibitive to secure all necessary permits and authorizations to construct the pipeline without confirming the locations of the associated hydroelectric facilities,” the company said in its filing…

    “FERC certainly got it right the first time,” Earthjustice attorney Michael Hiatt said. “This project would clearly devastate the Green River.”

    More coverage from Troy Hooper writing for the Colorado Independent. Here’s an excerpt:

    Critics say the pipeline would drain 81 billion gallons of water each year from the Green River, a tributary of the already stressed Colorado River, and the state of Colorado projects the pipeline could cost as much as $9 billion to build. The Colorado River Water Conservation District, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, county and local governments in southwestern Wyoming and a multitude of conservation groups are opposing the potential pipeline that Million claims is needed for Colorado to meet its rising demand for water.

    “FERC made the right decision in February,” said Matt Rice, director of the Denver-based chapter of American Rivers. “It is clear this is nothing more than a speculative project that if ever built would severely harm the recreational, economic, agricultural and natural values of the Green River. Mr. Million is grasping for straws. It is highly unlikely that FERC will reverse their decision.”

    Gary Wockner of Save The Poudre added that “Mr. Million seems to think this process is like an Etch-A-Sketch, where he can just keep shaking and redrawing until he finally wears down the federal agencies and the opposition. The Flaming Gorge Pipeline is a fatally flawed concept that would devastate the Green and Colorado River ecosystems — we will fight it at every opportunity.”

    More coverage from Amy Joi O’Donoghue writing for the Deseret News. Here’s an excerpt:

    In a document filed Friday requesting a rehearing before the agency, Million argued that FERC should question if it erred by tossing his application for a permit in February on the basis that it was “premature” or incomplete…

    Million said the agency needs to consider if it let the amount of comments and objections on record by multiple agencies unduly sway the commission. Opponents like the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Forest Service, Sweetwater County and Colorado Springs Utilities — as well as numerous conservation organizations — have asked the commission to legally recognize objections raised.

    When the commission dismissed the preliminary permit application for Million’s Regional Watershed Supply Project, the agency said until the pipeline is built and authorizations are in place, it would be premature move the hydropower project forward. “The commission’s order implies that the final pipeline alignment, all authorizations to construct the pipeline and even the construction of the pipeline should be completed prior to filing an application for a preliminary permit” Million’s rehearing request said. Such a requirement, he added, is counterproductive and cost prohibitive absent knowing where the hydroelectric components would be sited…

    “The developer’s application for a rehearing is a waste of taxpayer dollars,” said Michael Hiatt, an attorney with Earthjustice.

    More coverage from Mark Wilcox writing for the Wyoming Business Report. From the article:

    Aaron Million and his company Wyco, first proposed the water project to the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps rejected the application in July of 2011 after two years’s consideration because they said Million failed to provide sufficient information. Million then proposed the Flaming Gorge pipeline to FERC as a power-generating project that would simultaneously quench the Front Range’s thirst in Colorado, and received an initial dismissal Feb. 23. The multi-billion dollar pipeline would transport water more than 500 miles to a reservoir at its final destination in Pueblo, Colo. “As presented in Wyco’s application, these hydropower projects are exclusively dependent on water from the proposed water supply pipeline,” the dismissal stated. “However, this pipeline does not currently exist, and Wyco’s application does not provide any information about the timeline for seeking and obtaining the necessary authorizations for the construction and operation of such a pipeline.”

    Additionally, officials cited a lack of information on the route the pipeline would take through public and privately held lands. “Until…authorizations have been obtained for a specific route or the process to identify a specific route has been substantially completed, Wyco will be unable to prepare “[s]uch maps, plans, specifications, and estimates of cost as may be required for a full understanding of the proposed [hydropower] project,” the order read.

    While the initial government dismissal was based on technicalities, many environmentalist groups are pushing for a more permanent dismissal. “Anyone who tries to divert Wyoming’s Green River over the Continental Divide doesn’t appreciate the value that it provides for native fish and wildlife, local economies and the western way of life,” said Earthjustice attorney Michael Hiatt in a statement. “The Flaming Gorge Pipeline—one of the biggest, most environmentally damaging water projects in the history of the western United States—would irreparably damage the Green and the Colorado River downstream.”[...]

    Another group is now touring the region with a short film and presentation that reflect the damage the pipeline would do to Flaming Gorge and the Green River’s $118 million outdoor recreation economy. Studies indicate the lost water could raise salinity levels in the gorge and river to lethal levels for fish and other marine mammals. Opponents of the pipeline also indicate the potential downsides to mammals of building a 10-foot pipeline over the Continental Divide. “This thing is still on the rails,” said Walt Gasson, Trout Unlimited’s endorsed business director, “And still constitutes — to my way of thinking — to our way of thinking, a clear and present danger to wildlife conservation in Wyoming.”

    More coverage from Steve Lynn writing for the Northern Colorado Business Report. From the article:

    “[Wyco Power and Water Inc] respectfully requests that the commission grant re-hearing of the dismissal of preliminary permit application for the regional watershed supply project and to issue the preliminary permit for a term of 36 months,” the company stated in the document…

    The pipeline would help meet the water needs of Colorado, which faces a water supply shortfall of between 500,000 and 700,000 acre feet in the next two decades, Wyco principal Aaron Million has said. He contends the federal government will take steps to protect river flows for recreation as well as enhance fisheries.

    From the Denver Business Journal:

    The Associated Press reports that Aaron Million of Fort Collins filed the request Friday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission…

    FERC’s permission was needed for the pipeline’s water to be used to generate electricity.

    More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


    Parker: Rueter-Hess Reservoir celebration this week

    March 19, 2012

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    Parker and other South Metro communities will celebrate the opening of the largest Front Range reservoir since Aurora Reservoir this week. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

    Parker Water and Sanitation has completed Rueter-Hess Reservoir, a 72,000 acre-foot storage facility that will store water for Parker and surrounding communities in the South Denver area. “The project is a significant accomplishment for Parker Water and Sanitation District, its customers and the entire south metropolitan area. Congratulations is due all around,” said Frank Jaeger, manager of the district…

    Rueter-Hess has been in the planning stages for 25 years and under construction for the last eight. It cost $165 million to build, including $56 million from Castle Rock, Castle Pines North and Stonegate, which like Parker are located in Douglas County…

    The other Douglas County communities joined the project in 2008, expanding the capacity of Rueter-Hess by 56,000 acre-feet. The reservoir still must undergo state safety inspections before it can begin storing water. It will collect water flows from wet years for use during summer months and dry years. It is the largest Front Range reservoir to open since Aurora Reservoir with a capacity of 36,150 acre-feet, began filling in 1990.

    More Rueter-Hess Reservoir coverage here and here.


    Flaming Gorge Pipeline: The ‘Green with Envy’ tour hits Fort Collins March 22, Durango April 7

    March 17, 2012

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    From Westword (Alan Prendergast):

    Million’s plan, the subject of a 2009 feature by Joel Warner, calls for moving 81 billion gallons of water annually from the reservoir to municipalities in Colorado, including several in Douglas County. The costly project has hit a few snags, including a recent refusal by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to grant a preliminary permit. But the river’s defenders are keeping the pressure on with their own education campaign.

    “The fight is far from over,” the promoters of the film claim in a press release. “Aaron Million, the wealthy entrepreneur behind the project, has already announced he will resubmit a stronger proposal in the near future.”

    Green With Envy plays in Fort Collins on March 22 and in Durango on April 7. For more information, check out the It’s Our Dam Water website.

    More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


    Aaron Million: ‘This project would divert less than 5 percent annually out of the massive Flaming Gorge Reservoir’

    March 10, 2012

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    Here’s a guest column about the Flaming Gorge pipeline written by Aaron Million running in the Northern Colorado Business Report. Here’s an excerpt:

    The argument that no further Upper Basin water projects be developed, which is a position some have taken, by default and in the simplest terms means California, Nevada and Arizona all benefit to the detriment of this region. Colorado faces a massive water supply shortfall, projected to be between 500,000 to 700,000 acre-feet over the next 20 years. New water and new storage, one of Gov. Hickenlooper’s keystone policy objectives and a long-standing objective for Colorado, can basically be accomplished with a pipe connection. This project would divert less than 5 percent annually out of the massive Flaming Gorge Reservoir, which is 25 times larger than Horsetooth Reservoir…

    …the Flaming Gorge Project has several advantages for a new water supply. The Green River system itself, starting just south of Jackson Hole, has a different snowpack regime, which mitigates risk compared to relying on water from a single source or watershed. Also, global warming models predict the Green’s more northerly region to be wetter than average, while the Colorado River main-stem drainage, the historical focus of Front Range water needs, is predicted to be dryer than average. And the Green River is as large as the Colorado River main-stem, with comparatively little consumptive use and very few diversions.

    Without question, the river has major environmental and recreational benefits that require protection…

    So why does that matter for this region? It matters because an overall systems analysis on the Green River following implementation of the ROD indicates substantial surplus flows after meeting all the environmental needs of the river. Those surpluses, estimated at several hundred-thousand acre feet in a river system that flows over 1.5 million acre-feet annually, could be used to bring in a new water supply for the South Platte and Arkansas basins, generate new alternative energy, produce hundreds of millions of dollars in economic benefits, and provide re-use of waters for agriculture to keep the region strong and vibrant.

    So the real question is this: If a large river system can be fully protected, and at the same time some of the potential surpluses from that same system alleviate major supply issues elsewhere, isn’t that an environmentally sound and reasonable water supply approach? The question remains unanswered until a rigorous and thorough environmental impact evaluation is completed…

    I believe this we need to take this project through its paces. If it is environmentally sound, it should be permitted and built. If not, then stick a fork in it. The truth of a full scientific and environmental evaluation may be hard for some in the environmental community to swallow, but the consequences of not allowing that evaluation to occur remain: A continued bulls-eye on the Poudre, reverse-osmosis plants on the South Platte because of poor water quality, more future dry-up of the agricultural base in this state, and continued pressure on the western high country of our nearby mountain peaks.

    The Flaming Gorge pipeline will be the topic of discussion March 14 at the Collegiate Peaks Anglers Chapter of Trout Unlimited. Here’s the release via The Chaffee County Times:

    More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


    Colorado Springs Utilities’ Steve Berry: ‘In looking at the numbers in this executive summary, it does not appear that many of our comments were considered’

    March 5, 2012

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    Last week, the day before the Statewide Roundtable Summit, Western Resource Advocates, et. al., released a report titled, “Meeting Future Water Needs in the Arkansas Basin.” Colorado Springs and Pueblo are taking a hard look at the report, according to this article from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Here’s an excerpt:

    There may be a question whether water providers accept the figures used in the reports. “Colorado Springs Utilities was asked to peer review the draft version, and made extensive and substantial comments on it. In looking at the numbers in this executive summary, it does not appear that many of our comments were considered, and many of our suggested changes or corrections were not made,” said Steve Berry, spokesman for Utilities. The largest amounts of water, and presumably the largest conservation and reuse savings, come from Colorado Springs.

    The Pueblo Board of Water Works is also reviewing the final report for accuracy, said Alan Ward, water resources manager…

    The environmental groups say a combination of projects already on the books — conservation, reuse and temporary ag-urban transfers — could provide as much as 140,000 acre-feet, more than enough to meet the needs. Those numbers are being examined by urban water planners, who say the savings might not be attainable. “In general, we were unable to verify or recreate most of the numbers cited in their report, and their estimates for conservation and reuse are significantly greater than what our water conservation experts have calculated as realistic,” Berry said…

    When asked how conservation savings would be applied to new supplies, a practice cities find risky, Jorge Figueroa, water policy analyst for Western Resource Advocates, said they could be put into “savings accounts” for future use. When asked where the water would be stored, he cited the T-Cross reservoir site on Williams Creek in El Paso County that is part of the Southern Delivery System plan…

    Drew Peternell, director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project, said the group supports [the Southern Delivery System]. Because the project already is under way, the groups look at SDS as a key way to fill the gap. The report also supports programs like Super Ditch as ways to temporarily transfer agricultural water to cities without permanently drying up farmland.

    Meanwhile, here’s a look at a report from the Northwest Council of Governments, “Water and Its Relationship to the Economies of the Headwaters Counties,” from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

    The report, released in January at a Denver water conference, takes a fresh look at the critical importance to the economy of water in West Slope rivers, and why Colorado leaders may want to take careful thought before making future transmountain diversion policy decisions. Visit the NWCCOG website for the full 95-page report.

    “This report makes an important contribution to the on-going dialogue about adverse economic impacts associated with losing water by focusing attention on Eagle, Grand, Gunnison, Pitkin, Routt and Summit counties,” said Jean Coley Townsend, the author of the report. “This has never been done before. The report provides an important counterbalance to earlier studies that show economic impacts of losing water from the Eastern Plains.”

    Balancing the supply and demand of water could be the State’s most pressing issue. The report does not take issue with Front Range municipal or Eastern Plains agricultural water users — all parties have important and worthy concerns and points of view — but is meant as a thorough review of water as an economic driver of headwaters economic development.

    The report provides a balance to the existing solid body of work that measures the potential economic effects of less water on the Front Range and the Eastern Plains and the loss of agriculture in those parts of the state.

    “If we … are going to solve our Statewide water supply shortage challenges there must first be statewide mutual respect and true understanding of each other’s water supply challenges,” said Zach Margolis, Town of Silverthorne Utility Manager. “The report is a remarkable compilation of the West Slope’s water obligations and limitations as well as the statewide economic value of water in the headwater counties of Colorado.”

    More transmountain/transbasin diversions coverage here.


    Flaming Gorge pipeline: Should Front Range businesses more supportive of the project?

    March 4, 2012

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    Bart Taylor (ColoradoBiz) is wondering why Front Range businesses are not clearly on board with Aaron Million’s plans for the Flaming Gorge pipeline. Here’s an excerpt:

    There’s been little or no reaction from Front-Range business, the main beneficiary of the pipeline, though more than a dozen communities have committed to buy water if the pipeline is built. Jaeger’s group supports the Colorado Water Authority’s proposal, unaffiliated with Million’s and not affected by the FERC ruling. In a statement, South Metro remained committed to Flaming Gorge as one option to develop new supplies of “renewable surface water” for the region.

    Million and Jaeger, famously at odds, are seemingly left to defend Flaming Gorge on their own. Jaeger, in the Post, doubted that the tool-kit proposed by opponents, including conservation, would be sufficient to address the state’s substantial long-term water needs. He’s consistently asserted that Colorado must think big to tackle the issue. So far, businesses here seem unconvinced…

    Data may be tilting in favor of Million and Jaeger. One prominent study has show Colorado may be using less water than interstate agreements allow. More research is on the way. The Bureau of Reclamation will release a Basin-wide supply and demand study this summer. If it’s shown Colorado is entitled to more and is able to maneuver to use or store more water, Flaming Gorge will remain very much in play.

    It might serve Colorado’s Front-Range business community to determine if its proponents are right.

    More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


    Aurora, Denver and the South Metro Water Supply Authority embark on the WISE project to share facilities and reuse wastewater treatment plant effluent

    October 11, 2011

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    Here’s the release from the partners.

    More South Platte River basin coverage here.


    The Parker Water and Sanitation District may lower their mil levy 31%

    September 28, 2011

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    From the Parker Chronicle:

    Said Mary Spencer, President of the [Parker Water and Sanitation District] Board, “The tap fee income PWSD has received from new development allows us to pay debt and reduce property taxes from 14.925 mills to 10.172 mills in 2012. This translates to a savings on property taxes. The reduction in the mil levy also includes a onetime reduction in the operating portion of the mill levy by 0.925 mills to payback property taxes plus interest that were collected in excess of limits allowed under TABOR. In addition, the Board is presenting to their customers, at the October 17, 2011 budget hearing, that there be no increase in the 2012 wastewater rates and only a 4% increase in water rates. The 4% increase for the average in house use of 6,000 gallons is $1.59 per month…

    The Board will consider the proposed budget for approval at the October 17, 2011 Board meeting to be held at 7 PM at the District’s North Water Reclamation Plant located at 18100 E. Woodman Dr., Parker , CO 80134.

    More Parker coverage 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.


    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.


    Federal funding may become available for the south Metro suburbs, Aurora and Denver to use for the WISE project

    August 14, 2011

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    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    Suburban water authorities said the project [Water Infrastructure Supply Efficiency or WISE], designed to reduce reliance on dwindling underground water, will cost about $558 million.

    U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials said “rural water supply” funds may be available for the project, if it survives a detailed feasibility review. Congress would need to authorize the federal funding, which could decrease the bill passed on to water customers. “What we’re looking at: Is this project capable of being completed? Is the cost-benefit going to work out? Is it going to be beneficial?” Bureau of Reclamation spokesman Peter Soeth said.

    Meanwhile, a crucial wastewater purchase deal with Denver and Aurora has yet to be done. How much wastewater could be diverted, and how often, remains under negotiation. The suburbs told federal officials the WISE project would deliver 5,000 to 11,000 acre-feet a year for the first five years, then as much as 37,000 acre-feet a year…

    The federal rural water-supply funds could be used because suburbs with populations under 50,000 are deemed “rural,” said Mark Shively, executive director of the Douglas County Water Resource Authority. “We have very aggressively pursued this opportunity,” Shively said. “We’re now about 20 percent into the feasibility study.”[...]

    Beyond pipeline construction, the proposed project involves new storage of treated wastewater in surface reservoirs and by injecting it into depleted aquifers. “We have a couple reservoirs we’re looking at,” Shively said. “Between the Chatfield and Rueter Hess (reservoirs) we have a good amount of storage.”

    Here’s the report from Reclamation.

    More WISE project coverage here.


    The Parker Water and Sanitation District snags the ‘Outstanding Water Laboratory’ award from AWWA — Rocky Mountain Section

    August 13, 2011

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    From the Parker Chronicle:

    In addition to receiving highest marks in a broad spectrum of water-quality tests and analysis processes, the award was also given to the district for its fieldwork performed beyond its customer service area of about 16,000 customers. The district’s lab technicians have been called to assist other districts in Arapahoe, Douglas and Elbert counties with water-quality testing and analysis due to inadequate on-site lab capabilities or under-trained personnel. Water district winners in all categories will be recognized at the Joint Annual Conference of the American Water Works Association on Sept. 18-21 in Loveland.

    More Parker coverage here.


    Parker conservation program: Evapotranspiration based irrigation controllers limit water use by 20-50%

    August 1, 2011

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    From YourHub.com (Clayton Woullard) via The Denver Post:

    “What we’ve found is by getting that message out and continually beating that message home with our users, people are starting to get it,” said [Craig Miller water efficiency expert for Parker Water and Sanitation], who added that he can walk down the average Parker street and see that three out of four of the houses are following the water restrictions.

    He also holds about 30-40 educational programs a year at the Parker Library and at Tagawa Gardens teaching about wise water use and xeriscape gardens. That thirst for education has also resulted in the agency being overbooked on water audits, he said.

    “So they’re realizing that the power of a water audit is to be able to understand how to set my sprinkler controller correctly, how often should I be watering, what kind of equipment should I be retrofitting to and word of mouth gets around,” he said.

    To help them realize those savings they might discover on a water audit, Parker Water and Sanitation offers rebates on ET-based irrigation controllers. The controllers have sensors, which measure solar radiation, wind, temperature and other weather information and generate a precise watering schedule for each user based on their soil composition. Miller said that can result in 20-50 percent in savings.

    More conservation coverage here.


    Parker Water and Sanitation and Stonegate are in merger discussions

    July 28, 2011

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    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    …utility managers propose to merge water systems to spread debt and increase efficiency. It’s the sort of consolidation that industry leaders anticipate, in Colorado and nationwide, as problems with water supply and aging pipes intensify. But the Parker-Stonegate deal has set off a political storm. On Wednesday night, more than 170 Stonegate residents attended the latest informational meeting, and a majority indicated in an informal vote that they opposed the merger. “Nobody in our neighborhood understands what is going on,” said Stonegate resident Lisa Nejedlow, whose residential water pressure recently decreased sharply. “I don’t want to go with Parker. I don’t trust them. I think they have too much debt ($214 million) and they are trying to go into other people’s pockets.”[...]

    If Parker (population 45,000) and Stonegate (11,000) were to merge their water systems, it would be the first signficant consolidation in the south metro area. There are more than 25 water utilities on the Front Range. Suburban developers created most of these special-use districts. Some serve as few as 25 people…

    Stonegate and Parker residents would face property-tax hikes as well as rising water bills whatever they do. But hooking up with Parker’s system could solve Stonegate’s problem of having to upgrade its sewage-treatment system — estimated to cost at least $10 million. That expense would add to Stonegate’s $30 million debt from sinking 13 super-deep municipal wells, building a pool and community center and other spending, said Stonegate metro district manager Mitch Chambers…

    Stonegate board members are divided. “We need to explore other options,” said Mike Sjobakken, one of two board members who are opposed, noting that a former Parker utility-board member who resigned amid controversy has been hired to help Parker project who would pay what if the utilities merged. “It would make sense to consolidate,” but maybe with multiple entities, not just Parker, he said.

    More South Platte River basin coverage here.


    Arkansas Valley Super Ditch: The IBCC and CWCB are watching closely to see if alternative ag transfers can be a model for the South Platte Basin as well

    June 17, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    John Stulp, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s water adviser, said a proposed trial lease by the Super Ditch to El Paso County water users next year is a better way to test the proposal than state legislation proposed this year. “HB1068 was shot down in short order, and for good reason because it wasn’t well vetted,” Stulp said. “The sponsors have thought of a way to do it without going to the Legislature.”

    “The rest of the state is looking to this part of the state to see how the lease-fallowing program works,” Stulp said. Stulp, along with Colorado Water Conservation Board Executive Director Jennifer Gimbel, addressed the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board at its monthly meeting Thursday…

    He praised the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, one of nine set up in 2005 when the IBCC was formed, for showing leadership at the state level. Among its accomplishments was the formation of a Flaming Gorge pipeline task force in conjunction with the Metro Roundtable. The task force will meet June 29 to decide how the state should proceed on two proposals to build a Flaming Gorge pipeline. The pipeline is the brainchild of Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million. A Colorado-Wyoming Coalition, led by Parker Water and the South Metro Water Supply Authority is doing its own study about whether to pursue a Flaming Gorge pipeline. “We’ll look at the pros and the cons, but it’s an appropriate time to get that started,” Stulp said.

    More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here.


    Parker Water and Sanitation District board election recap

    May 9, 2010

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    From the Parker Chronicle (Ashley Dieterle):

    Two positions are now filled on the Parker Water and Sanitation District board of directors after an all mail-in ballot election. Current board president Mary Spencer earned the most votes, with a total of 1,327 followed by candidate Darcy Beard earning 1,166 votes. Both women earned four-year terms.

    More Parker coverage here and here.


    Flaming Gorge pipeline: Colorado-Wyoming Coalition makes it official becoming the Colorado-Wyoming Cooperative Water Supply Project

    March 26, 2010

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    It’s official now. Aaron Million and the Million Resources Conservation Group now have another obstacle to overcome in their quest to move water from the Green River Basin to the South Platte Basin and Arkansas Basin. Frank Jaeger (Parker Water and Sanitation) and several Front Range and Wyoming water providers have announced a study aimed at determining the feasibility of building the same pipeline with public dough and public partners. When Million first heard about Jaeger’s plans some time around the Colorado Water Congress’ convention in 2009 he told The Pueblo Chieftain’s Chris Woodka, “Let’s be clear: They’re trying to steal the project. I don’t understand the deal. They’re supposed to be men of honor. They should act as such.” Here’s a report about yesterday’s announcement from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

    Each utility in the coalition will contribute $20,000 to a feasibility study for a massive municipal water pipeline project called the Colorado-Wyoming Cooperative Water Supply Project, which would pipe water for 532,000 people from Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge Reservoir to the Front Range. The coalition of utilities includes the town of Castle Rock, the Donala Water-Sanitation District in Colorado Springs, Parker Water and Sanitation District, the South Metro Water Supply Authority and Douglas County in Colorado and Laramie County, Wyo., and the Wyoming cities of Cheyenne, Torrington and Rawlins.

    The project may mirror Million’s proposed 500-mile long pipeline, which would take about 250,000 acre feet of water from the Green River above Flaming Gorge Reservoir, pipe it over the Continental Divide along Interstate 80 and deliver it to thirsty Front Range water providers, mostly agricultural. The difference is that Million’s project is private and concerns only Colorado water organizations, while the Colorado-Wyoming project has the cooperation of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and would serve only municipal water utilities in two states.

    Parker Water District Manager Frank Jaeger said in a statement that Million’s proposed pipeline does not meet a federal requirement calling for Million to specify the recipients of the project’s water. Jaeger said letters of interest from various utilities throughout the Front Range lack commitment. “Given (Million’s) project cost, it is our belief that a massive subsidy from municipal users would be necessary to pay for the water,” Jaeger wrote. He said it’s bad public policy for Colorado to support Million’s project because it allocates limited Colorado River Basin water for agriculture without meeting the water needs of cities…

    The utilities have “no preconceived notion” about the feasibility of a Flaming Gorge pipeline going into the two-year study, which will show how much water the interested cities and counties need in the future, how water would be piped from Flaming Gorge and how much the project might cost, said Bruce Lytle, one of the consultants working on the study…

    At a news conference Thursday at the Capitol, the announcement was met with enthusiastic support from several state lawmakers, including Sen. Mary Hodge, D-Brighton; Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Douglas County; Sen. Mark Scheffel, R-Parker; and Rep. Su Riden, D-Aurora.

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

    “This would develop the compact rights of two states. Those Colorado River rights have not been developed much for municipal and industrial uses,” said Frank Jaeger, Parker Water and Sanitation District manager at a press conference at the state Capitol Thursday. “This is the first move of the group to see how we develop the water for two states.”[...]

    The Colorado users are almost entirely dependent on water from the Denver Basin aquifers which have been depleted as Front Range communities have grown. They are looking at new sources of water, including buying agricultural water rights in the Arkansas River Basin. For example, Donala last year purchased a Lake County ranch for the water rights, and the South Metro district included a possible pipeline from the Arkansas basin in its long-range water supply plan. “We are looking at the project and other alternatives,” said Rod Kuharich, manager of the South Metro District, which encompasses 14 water providers serving 300,000 people. Of the coalition, he said: “This is an unprecedented level of cooperation.”

    Wyoming has looked at developing water from the Green River Basin since the 1970s. Bringing water to the eastern part of the state would address water quality and supply issues. It also would alleviate pressure on the state from Nebraska under a North Platte River compact with Nebraska, said Torrington Mayor Leroy Schafer…

    The pipeline concept is similar to Aaron Million’s plan, announced in 2006, and now being evaluated as the Regional Water Supply Project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Million proposes a 560-mile pipeline that he says could be developed for about $3 billion. Last year, he accused Jaeger of trying to “steal” the project. Although Million and Jaeger tell the story differently, it nearly came to blows outside a meeting last year — Million says he was threatened, while Jaeger claims he was provoked. Jaeger brushed aside a question from the media Thursday about whether the coalition’s project is in competition with Million’s plan. “I don’t like to hear ‘competition,’ ’’ Jaeger said. “We are end users with a need for the water. . . . How’s he going to build it without end users?”[...]

    The coalition’s plan could differ in details from Million’s, said Bruce Lytle, president of Lytle Water Solutions, the lead consultant. “This is the first phase. We don’t know the size, type of structures or feasibility,” Lytle said. “We’re talking to member agencies to understand what their needs are.” The project will be developed with the Bureau of Reclamation to address needs for the environment and power at Flaming Gorge. It would look at exporting variable amounts of water, more in wet years, less in dry, Lytle said. The project could use three existing reservoirs on the North Platte River, new off-channel storage in the South Platte and existing structures like Parker’s Rueter-Hess Reservoir, a 75,000 acre-foot vessel just beginning to fill and designed to accommodate new water brought into the South Platte Basin. “The ultimate purpose of the feasibility study is to provide enough information to providers so they know how much it costs,” Lytle said, noting that work will begin immediately and will take 18-24 months to complete…

    While Million has spent the last four years pitching his project around the state, major water suppliers have been cautious about supporting it. Earlier this month, the Arkansas and Metro basin roundtables agreed to ask the Colorado Water Conservation Board for funding to study setting up a task force proposed by the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority to look at both projects. At its meeting last week, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District agreed with that approach, rather than endorsing either project.

    More coverage from the Associated Press (Ben Neary) via the Laramie Boomerang. From the article:

    The project, if it goes forward, would require permission from Congress, but participants don’t believe they would have to renegotiate the Colorado River Compact, which allocates the river among Arizona, California, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Although it would be drawn from Wyoming, the water would come from Colorado’s allocated share of water in the Colorado River system. “The state of Colorado’s own State Water Supply Initiative clearly says that even with all the water projects currently in the pipeline, the Front Range and Platte River Basin will face significant water shortages in just a few decades,” said Frank Jaeger, general manager of Parker Water and Sanitation District, who organized the coalition.

    Leroy J. Schafer, mayor of Torrington, Wyo., and a member of the coalition, said the project faces opposition from other Wyoming communities like Rock Springs and Green River that depend on the Colorado River Compact to ensure they get the water they need, but he believes they will support the project if it can be shown that it will allow them to use more water in drought years…

    Jaeger said last year his district was meeting with entities in Colorado and Wyoming trying to start a similar, competing project to Million’s proposal. Jaeger said he believed that such a large project should be built by the public and he was concerned about the possibility of water speculation…

    Participants and their projected water needs include the Parker Water and Sanitation District, 125,000 people; Castle Rock, 85,000; the South Metro Water Supply Authority, 190,000; Douglas County, 45,000; the Donala Water and Sanitation District, 7,000; Cheyenne, Wyo., 55,000; Torrington, 5,000; and Laramie County, 20,000.

    More coverage from The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

    The idea could affect the whole Western Slope because it would use water from Colorado’s share of the Colorado River Compact…

    Western Colorado water officials have been skeptical about the Flaming Gorge plan, because it would use water from Colorado’s share of the seven-state Colorado River Compact. Jaeger said there’s nothing wrong with studying the option. “The Colorado River Compact was set up to develop water for the entire state of Colorado and the entire state of Wyoming, so I don’t think we’re out of bounds in investigating it,” Jaeger said…

    No one can agree how much water is left to Colorado under the compact. In the worst-case estimates of long-term droughts or a warmer climate, Colorado already is using all of the water it legally owns. The state government is working on a model to get a better answer to the question. Leaders at the Western Slope’s largest water district have no problem with Front Range utilities doing a study, but they hope it takes into account climate change and drought, said Jim Pokrandt, spokesman for the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “It doesn’t matter who’s looking at the project, the same issues stand. We need to get further into the Colorado River Water Availability Study to see how much water is left to develop,” Pokrandt said.

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


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