Flaming Gorge Pipeline: Aaron Million still has his eye on the prize #ColoradoRiver

March 2, 2014
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):

The Aaron Million water project continues on in the form of a request to the Bureau of the Interior. Million’s request, as published in the Federal Register Feb. 12, calls for a standby contract for the annual reservation of 165,000 care-feet of municipal and industrial water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir for a transbasin diversion project…

Mayor Hank Castillon, who is a member of Communities Protecting the Green, said he isn’t sure what Million’s plans are with this latest move. Citing his previous denials from the Army Corp of Engineers and FERC, Castillon said the amount Million wants to use has dropped from the initial 250,000 acre feet of water his project would require. Castillon said he expects a battle to occur between the eastern and western sides of the continental divide. Castillon is aware Cheyenne and other cities in eastern Wyoming need water, along with locations in northern Colorado. The problem they need to address, according to Castillon, is the fact that the water isn’t available…

The Sweetwater County Commissioners commented on Million’s proposal Tuesday, voicing their opposition to the idea. Commissioner Wally Johnson said the transfer of water to Colorado isn’t in Sweetwater County’s best interest, saying “it doesn’t matter if it’s Mr. Million or Mr. Disney” making the proposal. Commissioner John Kolb also voiced his opposition, saying opposition to the idea is unanimous between Gov. Matt Mead, the Wyoming County Commissioners Association and the commissioners themselves.

“I’d like to see us not wasting our time on crazy, hare-brained schemes,” Kolb said. “(Transbasin water diversion) doesn’t work.”

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


The South Metro Water Supply Authority scores a $688,000 grant for designing connections to WISE

October 3, 2013
South Metro Water Supply Supply Authority boundaries

South Metro Water Authority boundaries

From the Parker Chronicle:

The South Metro Water Supply Authority has received a $688,000 grant and conditional approval for an additional $882,000 grant from the State’s Water Supply Reserve Account to help offset the cost of designing pipeline connections required to deliver water bought through the WISE Partnership with authority members.

The WISE Partnership is a regional water supply project between Aurora Water, Denver Water and SMWSA that combines available water supplies and systems capacity, creating a sustainable water supply. Through WISE, Aurora Water and Denver Water will provide an average of 7,225 acre-feet per year of treated water to SMWSA for distribution to participating members. SMWSA is designing and constructing a system of pipelines, pump stations and turnouts to distribute water to participating members.

The grant was approved by the Metro Roundtable at its meeting in June and funded through the WSRA Program at the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s meeting in Telluride. The conservation board is also looking at providing financing to individual SMWSA members that have construction requirements related to WISE. The CWCB is evaluating financing of up to $44 million in loans for the WISE Partnership.

More WISE partnership coverage here.


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.


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.


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.


    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.


    IBCC: Should Colorado take a more active role in the Flaming Gorge Pipeline?

    October 2, 2012

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    Here’s the meeting summary from email from Heather Bergman. Here’s an excerpt:

    After the last meeting, Jacob Bornstein and Tim Murrell conducted research on state involvement in water projects in Colorado and other states in West. Jacob and Tim presented information to Committee members regarding the role of the following states in existing and future new supply projects: Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. Following the Committee members’ discussion about this presentation, they considered the pros and cons of the State of Colorado having a role in a potential Flaming Gorge project. This information was provided as research only and was not intended as support for a particular type of state role in a water project in Colorado…

    Based on Committee members’ discussion regarding potential options for a State role in water storage projects, most of the group agreed that the State is currently doing well with its overall involvement in water project planning, development, and implementation. However, Committee members discussed potential expansions or improvements that could be made to the State’s function in the areas of leadership, research, and coordinating efforts related to new water projects in Colorado. Several other ideas for how the State could improve its role in water projects emerged during the Committee’s discussion…

    More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


    Can the Flaming Gorge pipeline save ag and water Colorado’s burgeoning population?

    September 26, 2012

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    Here’s the latest installment of the Valley Courier’s Colorado Water 2012 series, written by Eric Hecox. He is exploring the benefits of the Flaming Gorge pipeline, originally conceived by Aaron Million, now in the gunsights of the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition. Here’s an excerpt:

    One potential new water project, the Flaming Gorge Pipeline, is being discussed and analyzed for its feasibility. The newly formed Basin Roundtable Project Exploration Committee is taking a closer look at this pipeline project. Simultaneously to this process, both public and private groups are investigating the potential of the project to meet present and future water demands. The Colorado/Wyoming Coalition, a public organization comprised of water and municipal entities in Colorado and Wyoming that could receive water from the pipeline if it is built, is conducting a feasibility study. A private developer, Aaron Millions, is also examining the project.

    The Basin Roundtable Project Exploration Committee has identified three areas of focus related to the Flaming Gorge Pipeline: explore interests and issues related to a possible Flaming Gorge water supply project; gather and analyze current information about the potential impacts of such a project; and explore what additional work or activities would be needed to address the issues and interests.

    The committee itself is a pilot project, created to assess the effectiveness of roundtable-based collaborations to explore water supply projects and issues. While the committee is focused on the Flaming Gorge project, it will also evaluate and track ideas and issues that emerge that can be applied to other potential water supply projects. The committee’s purpose is to gather information and explore ideas. It will not make recommendations about whether or not to build the Flaming Gorge Pipeline.

    The Colorado/Wyoming Coalition is also analyzing the feasibility of the project. Established in 2010, the coalition is a joint collaboration between Colorado and Wyoming entities. The Colorado entities are: Douglas County, South Metro Water Supply Authority, Parker Water and Sanitation District, Town of Castle Rock and Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority. The Wyoming entities are: City of Cheyenne, City of Torrington and Laramie County…

    The Colorado/Wyoming Coalition is committed to a transparent examination of the Flaming Gorge Project. The coalition will complete the study, develop information, and engage in discussions with supporters as well as with skeptics and opponents.

    Meeting Colorado’s water needs undoubtedly necessitates developing new water projects. The Flaming Gorge Pipeline project appears promising, however there is much work to be done including an objective examination of the project and open discussions among interested parties. Colorado has a robust water supply planning process and it is encouraging that, through this process and through project proponents, potential solutions to Colorado’s water shortage are emerging.

    More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


    Douglas County: Sun Resources (Phil Anschutz) plans to mine 15,000 acre-feet a year from the Denver Basin aquifer system

    September 14, 2012

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    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

    Rights to the water were acquired by billionaire Phil Anschutz last year, and one of his companies, Sun Resources, is building wells that could pump as much as 15,000 acre-feet of water per year from Denver Basin aquifers. That’s enough water to sustain 30,000 houses, though Sun Resources chief executive Gary Pierson characterized the drilling as exploratory.

    “We have not made any arrangements for the water at this point,” Pierson said…

    Two production wells — 1,450 and 1,800 feet deep — were nearing completion this week. A 2009 document obtained by The Denver Post proposed 35 production wells and shows water being moved to cities and communities through pipelines, including one leading to Sterling Ranch, a planned $4.3 billion, 12,050-house development south of Chatfield State Park…

    State water authorities this year issued permits allowing Sun Resources to drill two production wells under the Greenland open space. A 1995 water-court decision established rights to 1.5 million acre-feet of water under the 7,640-acre Greenland Ranch. Anschutz acquired those rights last year in a purchase of assets from the Gaylord family of Oklahoma…

    South-metro water providers relying on finite underground sources have declared a mission of shifting to renewable water from snowmelt and rivers, said Eric Hecox, director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. “That doesn’t mean they have to be 100 percent off the Denver Basin aquifer water,” Hecox said. “What we would like to do is use the Denver Basin in a different way, as a drought supply.

    More Denver Basin Aquifer system coverage here and here.


    Douglas County aims to file an appeal of the recent ruling about the Sterling Ranch development

    September 9, 2012

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    From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

    “The board will appeal the judge’s decision directly to the Court of Appeals,” county spokeswoman Wendy Holmes said Tuesday. The board voted unanimously to appeal 18th Judicial District Judge Paul King’s decision and has 45 days to file the appeal, she said.

    Meanwhile, here’s an analysis of the reality of growth and development along the Front Range, from Bart Taylor writing for the Planet Profit Report. Here’s an excerpt:

    Despite protests of the Denver Post, King’s decision isn’t an indictment of Sterling Ranch, but a reasonable reading of a statute.

    The proposed community southwest of Denver has been lauded as a water-efficient, sustainable community of the future, but it’s also a poster child for the challenge facing the south metro area of Colorado’s Front Range. Most Douglas County communities south of Denver rely on non-renewable, diminishing aquifers. By Douglas County standards, Sterling Ranch has lined up a diverse supply, including an agreement to buy 190 million gallons of water annually from close neighbor Aurora to support the 12,000 or so homes planned for the community. King said it wasn’t enough.

    As a result, Colorado’s business leaders would do well to contemplate a pro-business water platform around which economic interests can rally.

    Harold Smethills, the development’s managing partner, promised to move ahead. King’s decision seemed to surprise others. David Tschetter, chairman of the Colorado Association of Homebuilders, told the Denver Post the ruling “will have a negative impact on development, no question…Who knows what water-usage needs are going to be 30 years from now?”

    But if pressed, Tschetter would agree that Douglas County’s water problem is spooking development, King’s ruling notwithstanding. Despite membership in a loose coalition called the South Metro Water Supply Authority, most communities in DC are pursuing their own water plans. Some are faring better than others. Aurora, in a position to sell water to Smethills, may be the region’s most innovative water operator. None, arguably, have developed a comprehensive program that guarantees residents and business renewable (non-ground water), affordable, sustainable supplies – and mitigates regional concerns.

    More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.


    Flaming Gorge Task Force meeting recap: Concern that Colorado does not have the ‘courage’ to build projects

    September 1, 2012

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    Here’s a recap of the recent Flaming Gorge Task Force meeting, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    “I’m left with the feeling that other states have the courage to embark on water projects. We don’t have that,” said Mike Gibson, president of Colorado Water Congress and manager of the San Luis Valley Conservancy District.

    The task force reviewed projects that other Western states have undertaken — including California’s state water project, started in late 1950s, and a $19 billion project to manage demands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta; Arizona’s water bank program and Central Arizona Project; and Utah’s proposal to build a $1 billion Lake Powell pipeline similar to the Flaming Gorge proposal…

    …the state lacks a water plan and unlike other states, has no way to centrally plan projects or allocate water.

    More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here and <a href="


    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.


    Chatfield Reallocation Project: Reservoir expansion = Smart bottom-up, community-wide public policy?

    August 20, 2012

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    Here’s a guest column in support of the Chatfield Reallocation Project written by Randy Knutson and Rick McLoud running in The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

    Chatfield is a common-sense solution that will help bring locally grown produce to Colorado citizens, provide greater sustainability for domestic water supplies, and stabilize South Platte stream flows through the metro area.

    Expanding the reservoir is an example of smart bottom-up, community-wide public policy. It is indeed rare that the suburbs, agricultural interests and the environmental community agree on anything, let alone a water project. Chatfield is that model. For over six years, stakeholders from all of these groups and more have been talking with the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a transparent and open process. Supporters and opponents have been involved in these meetings since the beginning. And in June 2012, the corps conducted three packed public hearings, from Gilcrest to the Dakota Hogback, where citizens shared their views of the project.

    That’s why groups as diverse as Trout Unlimited, The Sierra Club, The Greenway Foundation and Western Resource Advocates have joined the members of our bipartisan Colorado congressional delegation to back this project in support of farmers, families and the environment.

    Click here to view a letter of support from the Gunnison Basin Roundtable.

    The Greeley Tribune editorial board has come out in favor of the project as well. They write:

    Water storage projects are never easy. Public support can be splintered; permitting can take years; environmental concerns frequently surface; they are expensive. You’ll never hear anyone say that a water storage proposal is a slam dunk. But from where we sit, the proposed expansion of Chatfield Reservoir southwest of Littleton is at least an uncontested lay-up, and we’re hoping the project wins quick approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

    More Chatfield Reservoir 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.


    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.


    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.


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

    March 23, 2012

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

    Fort Collins businessman Aaron Million on Friday filed the reconsideration request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The agency last month dismissed his application, saying it was premature and lacked specifics about the proposed pipeline…

    Million says his project is essential to helping Colorado meet its increasing demand for water. The state of Colorado also is evaluating the project’s merits.

    From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

    As he indicated in late February, Million has submitted a new application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the project, challenging the same agency’s previous rejection of the application by requesting a rehearing and clarification.

    In the new document, Million says it would be prohibitively expensive to secure pipeline permits without first “confirming the locations of the associated hydroelectric facilities.” The application also claims that, for the purposes of the preliminary permit he’s seeking, “sufficient information and maps associated with the pipeline alignment have been provided to the Commission.”

    Million also charged that FERC’s rejection is inconsistent with other preliminary permits issued by the agency.

    More Flaming Gorge pipeline 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 opposition talking point: Outdoor recreation supports 52,000 jobs in Wyoming

    February 12, 2012

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    From the Wyoming Business Report (Wyoma Groenenberg):

    The group said it has gathered resolutions from West Slope governments opposing the pipeline, which is proposed to transport 80 billion gallons of water annually, which could negatively impact the region’s recreation industry. The coalition plans to lobby Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to drop the project…

    Protect the Flows plans to spend the year reminding 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.

    Outdoor recreation supports 52,000 jobs in Wyoming, according to the January edition of the Wyoming Business Report. That means that about 1 in 11 Wyoming residents works in that industry. In Colorado, about 107,000 jobs are in outdoor recreation, according to a 2006 economic impact report from the Outdoor Industry Association.

    More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


    Brian Werner: ‘Tell me when the next big drought comes, and you’re going to see people screaming about storage’

    February 1, 2012

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    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

    “Tell me when the next big drought comes, and you’re going to see people screaming about storage,” said Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District in Berthoud. “Their willingness (to consider building new reservoirs) ebbs and flows based on when your last drought was.”

    The uncertainty about the mountain snowpack, which fluctuates every year, is the primary argument for building new reservoirs in the West, said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University. “The amazing thing is, it comes down to three or four big storms every year, whether they get them, or they bypass us,” he said…

    One of five major proposed water storage projects in Larimer County that are in various stages of planning, [Northern Integrated Supply Project] calls for storing about 170,000 acre-feet of Poudre River water in the proposed Glade Reservoir north of Ted’s Place. A final decision could come sometime in 2013 or 2014…

    The other four proposed projects include expansions to Fort Collins’ Halligan Reservoir and Greeley’s Seaman Reservoir, the Chimney Hollow Reservoir west of Carter Lake and the more uncertain Cactus Hill Reservoir proposed for a site on the Weld County line between Wellington and Nunn. If those projects are built, Waskom said, it’s hard to conceive of other such large projects being built in Northern Colorado regardless of the need because there are few other places to build them, at least in Larimer County. “Unless we can get Aaron Million’s project or a West Slope diversion built, we don’t have any more water left,” he said…

    “All the easy projects have been built,” [Waskom] said. “Now we’re dealing with the hard projects. What comes after the projects, that’s the question, right? Where’s the water and reservoir sites, and where’s the political will to build projects?”

    More infrastructure coverage here.


    Flaming Gorge task force meeting recap

    January 14, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The task force met Thursday at Silverthorne to organize its work over the next six months. Members from the Arkansas River basin include Gary Barber, chairman of the roundtable; Betty Konarski, former mayor of Monument; and Reed Dils, who is representing environmental and recreation interests. Other members represent roundtables from throughout the state, as well as various water interests. “Today, we went through a lengthy discussion of protocols and got to know each other,” Barber said. “We decided which documents, reports and studies we need to look at.”

    The group agreed to review preliminary findings with the roundtables before hosting larger public meetings, and to invite the project’s proponents and Wyoming water interests to address the task force.

    More Flaming Gorge task force coverage here.


    Basin Roundtable Project Exploration Committee: Flaming Gorge process meeting Thursday in Silverthorne

    January 11, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The task force is scheduled to meet from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday at the Silverthorne Town Pavilion to identify interests, existing studies and priorities as it works to complete a report to the state by June. The task force was formed last year at the request of the Arkansas Basin and Metro roundtables to evaluate proposals to build the 500-mile pipeline. First proposed by Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million, the idea is also being studied by the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition…

    [John Stulp, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s water policy adviser] explained that the task force will not endorse a Flaming Gorge project, but will identify the issues that are associated with any large-scale diversion from the Colorado River to the Front Range…

    “It is important that the idea for the task force came from two roundtables that thought they needed more information,” Stulp said. “While this task force is looking specifically at Flaming Gorge, the information gathered will be applicable to other transfers out of the Colorado River, and will work toward answering the question of how much is left for Colorado to develop.”

    Here’s the draft agenda for the meeting. Here’s the December 13 meeting summary.

    More Basin Roundtable Project Exploration Committee: Flaming Gorge process coverage here. More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


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

    December 23, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Other objections include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

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

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

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

    More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


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

    December 22, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The coalition’s intervention comments can be downloaded here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


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

    December 17, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Read the motion to intervene.

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

    “This project would cut a vast swath across southern Wyoming, with the potential for huge impacts in many significant sectors of our economy and aspects of critical resources to Wyoming and Colorado,” Mead wrote…

    “Although in its proposal a hydroelectricity angle has been attempted, it is important to note that hydroelectric production is a minor purpose of the project,” Mead wrote. “The project first, foremost and always is a water supply project.” Mead stated that it appears Million shifted federal agencies “to short-circuit the regulatory process and/or sidestep fundamental issues.”[...]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


    Green River: The Sweetwater County Board of Commissioners unanimously adopt a resolution opposing the Flaming Gorge pipeline proposed by Wyco Power and Water

    December 8, 2011

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    From the Green River Star (David Martin):

    Wyco Power and Water Inc. filed a application for preliminary permit to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and FERC is seeking public comment about the proposal. The proposal would include hydroelectric power generating developments north of Green River, however it would also pump approximately 250,000 acre feet of water per year from the Green River basin, through eastern Wyoming and into Colorado’s Front Range.

    According to the document, an imbalance greater than 3.5 million acre feet of water could exist over the next 50 years due to potential changes in climate. The commission argues that if such imbalances are possible, the water demands of local and regional entities should be placed above transbasin needs.

    The commissioners also said the population of the Colorado River basin is rapidly growing, creating an increasing demand for water. However because of the population increases, they claim water needs for the Colorado Basin are not fully understood and allowing the project to move forward could compromise the potential for growth through the basin.

    The commission’s resolution claims the water added to the Colorado River Basin could impact programs aimed to mitigate endangered species by altering the temperature and water quality of the river.

    Finally, the resolution claims a proposed pump reservoir on White Mountain could compromise at least four high-pressure gas lines, fiber optics cables and the water line to the Jim Bridger Power Plant.

    More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


    Mark Pifher (Aurora water): ‘We don’t plan to buy or lease any more water in Arkansas basin in the near future’

    December 8, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Aurora’s water rights include nearly all of the Rocky Ford Ditch in Otero County, about one-third of the Colorado Canal in Crowley County and water from 1,750 acres of ranches in Lake County. Those rights provide an average yield of 22,800 acre-feet per year — the equivalent of 80 percent of the potable water used by Pueblo each year.

    - Aurora also uses the Homestake Project, Twin Lakes, Busk-Ivanhoe diversion and the Columbine Ditch to bring water from the Western Slope through the Arkansas River basin and into the South Platte basin. The average yield of those water rights is about 21,500 acre-feet annually.

    - The city can reuse its Arkansas and Colorado basin water imports, and has built the $650 million Prairie Waters Project to directly recapture flows, rather than exchange them.

    - Aurora’s South Platte water rights include wells, ranches, ditches and direct flow from the South Platte. They total about 46,000 acre-feet annually.

    - Aurora has an agreement to trade 5,000 acre-feet of water a year with Pueblo West from Lake Pueblo to Twin Lakes beginning next year. It will replace a similar agreement with the Pueblo Board of Water Works that expires this year.

    - The Pueblo water board sells Aurora 5,000 acre-feet of water each year.

    - Aurora has a contract with the Bureau of Reclamation to store 10,000 acre-feet of water in Lake Pueblo and to move the same amount to Twin Lakes by paper trade.

    - The water is moved from Twin Lakes to Spinney Mountain Reservoir through the Homestake pipeline system…

    “We don’t have any current plans beyond what we’re already doing,” said Mark Pifher, director of Aurora water. “We don’t plan to buy or lease any more water in Arkansas basin in the near future.”

    Instead, the city will continue developing Prairie Waters, a reuse project that pumps sewer return flows through a filtration and purification system, only at about 20 percent capacity so far. Aurora calculates that its average yield from its Arkansas River basin water rights is about 22,800 acre-feet annually. That’s roughly one-fourth of its total yield from its entire system, which includes South Platte and Colorado River basin rights. From a practical standpoint, Aurora does not move all of its water out of the Arkansas River basin each year.

    More Aurora coverage here and here.


    The strategy of switching federal agencies for the permitting of the Flaming Gorge pipeline project may not lead to a faster approval

    November 29, 2011

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    From WyoFile (Allen Best):

    “(Million) has been suggesting that he could get this project done in a significantly shorter amount of time (through FERC). My [Matt Rice, director of Colorado conservation for American Rivers] first reaction is this: He’s totally forgetting about the federal hydropower licensing requirements under the Federal Power Act. The process can be incredibly complex, especially for a project of this size, geographic scope and complexity.”

    Based on his experience working on hydropower projects seeking permits in South Carolina and Alabama, Rice expects a process that lasts at least a decade. “I wouldn’t be surprised if this project took at least 10 years…and more like 12 to 15 years,” he says. “Augusta, Ga., just got a license for a small project, and that process took more than 30 years.”

    And before a permit is awarded by FERC, it must also get review under the applicable environmental laws – possibly including the Clean Water Act, which is what had triggered the original review by the Army Corps.

    Million needed a section 404 dredge-and-fill permit under the provisions of that law because of proposed use of fill at Flaming Gorge Reservoir for his proposed take-out structure and possibly at other wetlands locations along the pipeline route.

    A spokeswoman for the Army Corps describes a process that was delayed because of Million’s foot-dragging. “It had to do with the many delays and the applicant continuing to ask for more extensions and more time,” says regulatory specialist Rena Brand. “Toward the end of July, his group explained that they were thinking about moving to energy production.” And that, she said, meant a new purpose and need.

    More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


    The Castle Pines Metropolitan District nixes participation in the WISE project

    October 19, 2011

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    From the Aurora Sentinel (Sara Castellanos):

    In a letter sent Oct. 12 from Paul Dannels, district manager of the Castle Pines Metropolitan District, to Rod Kuharich, executive director of the [South Metro Water Supply Augthority], Dannels said the board of directors decided not to proceed with the project. “Simply stated, the high cost of the Project and the uncertainty of water delivery do not make sense for the District at this time,” Dannels wrote in the letter. “We wish you great success with the Project which appears more feasible for larger users. They can deal better with both the uncertainty of water availability and the high Project costs than smaller users such as the District.”[...]

    Greg Baker, spokesman for Aurora Water said the project, dubbed the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency partnership, doesn’t require that all 15 entities of the SMWSA take deliveries for the project to be successful. Roxborough and the East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District have already indicated that they had other resources they could develop and wouldn’t take water from the WISE partnership, Baker said. “Each member of the SMWSA must assess the value of participation in relation to their individual systems and needs,” Baker said. “SMWSA has indicated that the commitments from many of the other members have already met or exceeded the initial 10,000 acre-feet provided for by the proposed delivery agreement.”

    More Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency partnership coverage here.


    The Castle Rock town council hears the pitch from the WISE partners touting the project as a long-term source to replace non-renewable groundwater

    October 15, 2011

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    From the Parker Chronicle (Rhonda Moore):

    Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer made the opening remarks to introduce the team that presented the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency proposal, the last of four bids submitted to the town of Castle Rock. The WISE proposal is a partnership between the Denver and Aurora water departments and the South Metro Water Supply Authority, a co-op of 15 Douglas and Arapahoe county metro districts and municipalities. The authority, which includes the towns of Castle Rock and Parker, has been working since 2008 with Denver and Aurora to draft the WISE proposal, touted as a financial boon for Aurora Water and a first-of-its kind regional water partnership for the Front Range…

    The presentation was made before a joint meeting between the town’s utilities commission and Castle Rock town council, which will eventually make the decision on which provider reaps the benefits of an investment worth millions in the town’s long-term water future…

    If Castle Rock opts to go with WISE, it will be a permanent agreement and water will be delivered to a master meter. The authority’s cooperating agencies will be responsible for delivery of water from the master meter to their respective customers. The estimated cost to Castle Rock residents to complete that cycle is expected to be upwards of $200 million, said Ron Redd, Castle Rock utilities director and executive director of the South Metro Water Supply Authority. The final estimate will be assessed when the town’s utilities department compares the bids on the table for council recommendation, he said, and it is possible the town could ask voters for a tax increase to finance the long-term water plan. The cost of water purchased in the WISE plan will vary from year to year, depending on rates determined by Denver and Aurora. Water rates will be based on a calculation that compares to that used to calculate cost to the providers’ existing customers, said Mark Pifher, director of Aurora Water…

    “Both Denver and Aurora are longtime commitments. We’ll be here a long time,” Pifher said. “You’ll know where to find us 50 years from now if you have a problem under the contract. When you look at WISE, it’s the quintessential conservation project, it maximizes the efficient use of resources we already have.”[...]

    Town councilmembers asked the utilities department to arrange public hearings to gauge input from the community before making its decision. Town staff plans to meet in the coming weeks to decide on the next steps and timelines for bringing the water provider information to residents, said Kim Mutchler, Castle Rock spokeswoman.

    More coverage of the WISE project from Sara Castellanos writing for the Aurora Sentinel. From the article:

    Aurora struck a tenative deal Oct. 4 that will grant water to 15 water providers in Douglas and Arapahoe counties in times when Aurora has excess, and that will likely be most of the time. Aurora Water Spokesman Greg Baker said the proposal is momentous. “What makes it historic is the fact that you had all these entities and they came to a consensus on how to solve an issue of this scale,” Baker said.

    Aurora Water, Denver Water and the South Metro Water Supply Authority — which represents 15 water providers in Douglas and Arapahoe counties — formed a partnership that will provide the southern metro water authority with at least 5,000 acre-feet of water per year by June 2013 and at least 10,000 acre-feet per year by 2020. The amount of water delivered annually could eventually equal up to 60,000 acre-feet per year. Denver Water will also be able to access its unused water supplies in the South Platte River to make it available to water entities in the water authority or use the same infrastructure to use the water in Denver for emergency use. Denver Water can also provide 3,000 acre-feet of water currently allocated to DIA. The partnership is dubbed WISE, Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency.

    The partnership is crucial for the authority, which has historically been mostly reliant on groundwater and deepwater nonrenewable aquifers. The aquifers, and wells, are hundreds of feet deep into the ground and extract water as old as the glacial period, Baker said. It takes decades and sometimes even centuries for the water to replenish, Baker said…

    Aurora will receive a substantial revenue stream from the deal — equal to a net revenue of about $10 million per year after 2020. The water authority is paying for a $20-million expansion to Prairie Waters slated for completion by 2020, and they are leasing the water at a rate of $5.38 per thousand gallons, which is more than the $5.27 that Aurora residents pay for water rates. The deal will benefit Aurora residents in that their water rates will remain stable, Baker said.

    More WISE project coverage 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.


    Castle Rock is moving to secure long-term renewable water supplies, receives bid from the South Metro Water Supply Authority

    October 8, 2011

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    Castle Rock is on the hunt for a renewable supply and the South Metro Water Supply Authority wants to be the provider. Here’s a report from Rhonda Moore writing for the Castle Rock News Press. From the article:

    Years after launching plans to invest in the South Metro Water Supply Authority, Denver and Aurora Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency project to meet its long-term water needs, the town opened the door for bids from providers vying for a chance at a piece of a pie valued at hundreds of millions of dollars.

    The project will be the first investment to get Castle Rock to its goal of weaning itself from underground water and finding a source of long-term, renewable water. Town leaders aim to transform Castle Rock’s water consumption from 100 percent non-renewable, underground wells to getting 75 percent of its water from renewable sources, said Ron Redd, Castle Rock utilities director…

    Castle Rock opened the process up for bids after hearing from other water providers interested in a chance to come before town council with a proposal. That process resulted in three bids presented Sept. 14 in a joint meeting with town council and the utilities commission. Each presenter was given 30 minutes at the podium as councilmembers heard from Renew Strategies, owned by a partnership that includes former Gov. Bill Owens, Stillwater Resources, which acts as a broker to match providers with municipalities like Castle Rock and United Water, which serves public water districts such as the East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District and the South Adams County Water District.

    The Denver, Aurora and South Metro Water Supply Authority WISE project could not meet the mid-September deadline because the draft proposal had yet to gain approval from city councils at Denver and Aurora. WISE will get its 30 minutes at another joint meeting between Castle Rock Town Council and the utility commission. The meeting is open to the public and will be at 6 p.m., Oct. 11, in council chambers at Town Hall, 100 N. Wilcox St.

    Here’s a list of the Castle Rock’s potential suppliers from OurColoradoNews.com:

    Providers who submitted bids include:

    Renew Strategies, owned by a partnership that includes former Gov. Bill Owens.

    Stillwater Resources, which acts as a broker to match providers with municipalities like Castle Rock.

    United Water, which serves public water districts such as the East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District and the South Adams County Water District.

    The South Metro Water Supply Authority, a co-op of 15 south metro municipalities and metropolitan districts that includes the town of Castle Rock, Parker Water and Sanitation District, Castle Pines Metropolitan District, Castle Pines North Metropolitan District, Pinery Water and Wastewater District, Roxborough Water and Sanitation District and Stonegate Village Metropolitan District. The authority partnered with the Denver and Aurora water departments to draft the Water Infrastructure Supply Efficiency agreement.

    More South Platte River basin coverage here.


    Denver, Aurora and the South Metro Water Supply Authority make the WISE project official

    October 5, 2011

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency partnership between Denver, Aurora and the South Metro Water Supply Authority was announced Tuesday. The partnership could reduce pressure on agriculture in the South Platte and Arkansas river basins and the need for diversions from the Colorado River.

    “I think it’s a step in the right direction,” [John Stulp, water adviser to Gov. John Hickenlooper and chair of the Interbasin Compact Committee] said. “I think it’s a unique way to share water and infrastructure. From what I understand, there is built-in drought protection. There are efficiencies and redundancies that can take pressure off ag communities.”[...]

    The WISE partnership will improve South Metro water supplies while maximizing the water resources and infrastructure of Denver and Aurora. The agreement is in a 60-day review period and must be approved by all of the parties. South Metro represents 15 municipal water suppliers in Douglas and Arapahoe counties…

    The backbone of the partnership is Aurora’s $659 million Prairie Waters project that allows return flows from treated wastewater in the South Platte River to be recaptured and treated. In Colorado, water from transbasin diversions and some water obtain through water rights transfers can be used to extinction. Aurora has built the first phase of Prairie Waters to treat up to 10,000 acre-feet of water per year, but it can expand to 50,000 acre-feet per year…

    There would, however, always be seasonal capacity in the Prairie Waters project to provide additional water for users in the metro area, because the project is scaled to meet peak demands, [Mark Pifher, director of Aurora Water] said. The proposed agreement will sell treated water to South Metro for $5.38 per 1,000 gallons, with minimum guaranteed deliveries of 5,000 acre-feet per year beginning in June 2013. That works out to about $8.76 million annually. After 2020, the amount would increase to 10,000 acre-feet per year. Eventually, systemwide improvements could provide as much as 60,000 acre-feet to South Metro, Pifher said. Denver also would gain a new water supply through recycling its flows through Prairie Waters. In addition, South Metro water users would agree to fund improvements to Denver Water and Aurora infrastructure with $15.4 million over eight years, which is the equivalent to a tap fee. The money would go for interconnections between the Denver, Aurora and other systems. The agreement also includes a $412,000 connection between East Cherry Creek Village and Aurora.

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

    The deal, which would pay Denver and Aurora water utilities $17.4 million a year, is one of the first of its kind in the nation. It lets water agencies that often compete for resources share without merging, and sustain more people without diverting more water from over-subscribed Western Slope rivers. Environmentalists and state leaders swiftly praised the emerging arrangement.

    “This type of water-sharing agreement is a critical step toward bolstering water supplies in the southern metro area while better utilizing water resources in Aurora and Denver,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said…

    Denver and Aurora would funnel as much as 1.6 billion gallons of purified water a year to suburbs by 2013, increasing to as much as 3.2 billion gallons by 2020. Engineers say necessary new pipelines and hook-ups eventually could send as much as much as 19.5 billion gallons — 60,000 acre-feet a year — to the suburbs. Denver Water, Aurora Water and 13 participating suburbs would have to replumb before the first water could be delivered — which could bloat water bills for residents of Castle Rock, Parker and other communities. Those communities already need more than the maximum amount of water deliverable under the current 22-page contract, said Charles Krogh, past president of the South Metro Water Supply Authority, who represented suburbs through lengthy negotiations. “Our demands now are about 70,000 acre-feet annually,” Krogh said. “This proposal allows us to get in the game for renewable water supplies.”[...]

    The replumbing would include a $412,000 hookup between Aurora pipes and an East Cherry Creek Valley pipeline and storage of water in Parker’s new Rueter-Hess Reservoir. To receive water, south metro suburbs would have to install additional pipelines “to connect ourselves all up,” at an estimated cost of $80 million, Krogh said…

    South suburbs, if they approve the contract, would be obligated not to divert water from Colorado’s Western Slope.

    More coverage from Sara Castellanos writing for The Aurora Sentinel. From the article:

    Aurora Water, Denver Water and the South Metro Water Supply Authority have developed a water delivery agreement that, if approved, would provide SMWSA with up to 5,000 acre-feet of water per year by June 2013, increasing to 10,000 acre-feet per year by 2020 as additional pipeline and other infrastructure are built. SMWSA represents 15 water providers in Douglas and Arapahoe counties. The amount of water delivered annually could eventually expand to up to 60,000 acre-feet per year…

    The new supply of fully treated water from Aurora’s state-of-the-art Binney Water Purification Facility will provide much welcomed relief to SMWSA and its members, who have been looking for ways to reduce their reliance on non-renewable underground aquifers, Baker said in a release. It also will reduce the need for the SMWSA members to pursue agricultural water rights in the South Platte River basin in the near term.

    More WISE coverage here.


    Castle Rock: Three water providers show up at public meeting to pitch solutions to the city’s long-term supply needs

    September 20, 2011

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    From the Castle Rock News Press (Rhonda Moore):

    Years after launching an effort to plan for a long-term source of renewable water, Castle Rock put out an invitation to hear from water providers that might be able to compete with the Water, Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency program, long touted as the solution to meet the needs of Castle Rock and several south-metro area municipalities.

    Among the water providers that submitted bids were Renew Strategies, headed by former Gov. Bill Owens; Stillwater Resources, which acts as a broker to match providers with municipalities like Castle Rock; and United Water, which serves public water districts such as the East Cherry Creek Valley Water and Sanitation District and the South Adams County Water District.

    WISE, a project from the South Metro Water Supply Authority, was not among the providers that responded to the request for proposal. WISE has long aimed to buy its water from Aurora and Denver and store it in the Rueter-Hess reservoir. The Army Core of Engineers earlier this year notified Rueter-Hess officials that the plan violates a provision of the reservoir’s federal permit, and town councils from Aurora and Denver have yet to approve a proposal for the WISE project.

    The responses included a proposal from Renew Strategies to acquire underground water from the Lost Creek Basin for between $23,000 and $24,000 per acre foot, plus infrastructure costs of up to $75 million; Stillwater’s option to purchase 4,000 acre feet of Boxelder farm water rights for about $21,000 per acre foot; and United Water’s proposal to sell South Platte surface water to Castle Rock for $23,850 per acre foot, which includes about $9 million in infrastructure costs.

    More Denver Basin aquifer system coverage here.


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

    September 19, 2011

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    From the Grand Junction Free Press (Sharon Sullivan):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.


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

    September 15, 2011

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    From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


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