2014 Most Endangered Rivers from AmericanRivers.org #ColoradoRiver

April 9, 2014
American Rivers 2014 Most Endangered Rivers

American Rivers 2014 Most Endangered Rivers

Click here to go to the American Rivers website to view the list:

1. San Joaquin River

Outdated water management and excessive diversions leave the river dry in stretches, threatening water quality, fish and wildlife, agriculture, and leaving communities vulnerable in the face of drought.

2. Upper Colorado River

The river’s health, fish and wildlife, agriculture, and recreation are threatened by new proposed diversions and increasing water demands.

3. Middle Mississippi River

A proposed new levee would cut off the river from the floodplains that protects downstream communities from floodwaters and provide habitat for fish and wildlife.

4. Gila River

An unnecessary water diversion and pipeline would harm fish and wildlife, river health, and local economics dependent on outdoor recreation and tourism.

5. San Francisquito Creek

The 65-foot Searsville Dam blocks threatened steelhead from reaching habitat upstream, impairs water quality, and poses flooding risks for local communities.

6. South Fork Edisto River

Excessive agriculture withdrawals threaten the river’s health and downstream water users, including other farmers.

7. White River (Colorado)

15,000 proposed new oil and gas wells in the region threaten to ruin clean drinking water and fish and wildlife habitat.

8. White River (Washington)

Salmon, steelhead, and bull trout populations are often killed at the unsafe and outdated Buckley Dam.

9. Haw River

Drinking water and recreation areas for more than one million people are threated by polluted runoff and wastewater.

10. Clearwater/Lochsa Rivers

The Wild and Scenic rivers’ cold-water fisheries, scenery, and whitewater are threatened by industrialization that would bring huge mega-loads bound for Canadian tar sands onto narrow roads beside the rivers.

From USA Today (Doyle Rice):

The San Joaquin River in central California — one of the sources of San Francisco’s drinking water and an agricultural resource for the fertile San Joaquin Valley — is the nation’s “most endangered river,” according to a report from American Rivers…

Other rivers on this year’s list include the Upper Colorado River system in Colorado; a stretch of the Mississippi River in Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky; the Gila River in New Mexico and the San Francisquito Creek in California.

Rounding out the Top 10 are the South Fork Edisto River in South Carolina; the White River in Colorado; the White River in Washington; the Haw River in North Carolina; and the Clearwater/Lochsa Rivers in Idaho.

The list is not a series of the “worst” or most polluted rivers.

Three factors govern the rivers’ selections, according to Irvin: “One is the significance of the river for human and natural communities,” he says. “The second is the magnitude of the threat for a particular river, while the third is a major decision that the public can help influence in the coming year.”

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Leia Larsen):

The Upper Colorado’s primary threat is new transmountain diversions as the state’s metro population continues to grow.

“Having tapped the headwaters of the Colorado mainstem, some Front Range water interests are currently considering diversions from rivers farther away, like the Yampa and Gunnison rivers — rivers not yet impaired by transmountain diversions,” the American Rivers report said…

“The ‘America’s Most Endangered Rivers’ report is a call to action to save rivers that are at a critical tipping point,” said Ken Neubeck of American Rivers in a press release. “We cannot afford more outdated, expensive and harmful water development schemes that drain and divert rivers and streams across the Upper Colorado Basin.”

From Aspen Public Radio (Marci Krinoven):

A new list names the Upper Colorado River basin the second most endangered stretch of water in the country. The conservation group American Rivers released its annual “top-10” list Wednesday and local rivers like the Roaring Fork and Frying Pan are part of basin that’s threatened…

Neubecker says Front Range communities are desperately looking for new water supplies and that could come from the upper Colorado and its tributaries. He says the listing raises public awareness.

“There are an awful lot of people, especially on the Front Range, who have no idea where their water comes from. It’s getting better than it used to be. But, there are still a lot of people who don’t understand that every time they run their faucet, they’re draining the Colorado River system.”

One other river in the state made the list: the White River in northwestern Colorado. According to the list, it’s main threat is oil and gas drilling.


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.


Community Agriculture Alliance: The worth of water #COWaterPlan

February 7, 2014

Yampa/White/Green river basins via the Colorado Geological Survey

Yampa/White/Green river basins via the Colorado Geological Survey


From Steamboat Today (Brody Farquhar):

…we know the worth of water when it is gone, in short supply, polluted or tied up in a state or federal water court. Otherwise, we don’t give much thought to the water that shows up in our faucets, irrigation ditches, streams and rivers. We often take it for granted.

Yet we have learned through the work of the Colorado Statewide Water Supply Initiative, the Interbasin Compact Committee and the basin roundtables that our current statewide water trajectory is neither desirable nor sustainable. We know that the state must take a hard look at Colorado’s future water needs as a whole and plan for how they will be addressed…

The Yampa-White-Green Rivers Basin Roundtable is hosting four meetings, inviting the residents of Northwest Colorado to participate in the one nearest them. Each meeting is aimed at gathering public input toward the creation of a Colorado Water Plan. Routt County residents are encouraged to attend either one of the following:

• Feb. 13 in Steamboat Springs at the Steamboat Springs Community Center, 1605 Lincoln Ave.

• Feb. 19 in Craig, at the American Legion Hall, 1055 Moffat County Road 7.

Following this series of meetings, public input also will be welcome at the basin roundtable meetings held at the American Legion Hall in Craig on March 12, May 14 and June 18. All meetings begin at 6 p.m.

The goal is to have a comprehensive implementation plan submitted by the Yampa-White-Green Roundtable to Colorado Water Conservation Board by July…

Interested parties are basically anyone who drinks, uses or recreates in water. More specifically, that includes homeowners and small business owners, ranchers and farmers, recreationists, energy workers (miners, drillers and power generators), town and county officials, etc.

As noted by Tom Gray, former chairperson of Yampa-White-Green Roundtable and former Moffat County commissioner, “The influence always goes to those who make the effort to get informed and participate. This (Basin Implementation Plan) process is the chance for everyone in the basin to do just that.”

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Text of the Colorado Basin Roundtable white paper for the IBCC and Colorado Water Plan

December 3, 2013
New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

Here’s the text from the recently approved draft of the white paper:

Introduction
The Colorado River Basin is the “heart” of Colorado. The basin holds the headwaters of the Colorado River that form the mainstem of the river, some of the state’s most significant agriculture, the largest West Slope city and a large, expanding energy industry. The Colorado Basin is home to the most-visited national forest and much of Colorado’s recreation-based economy, including significant river-based recreation.

Colorado’s population is projected by the State Demographer’s Office to nearly double by 2050, from the five million people we have today to nearly ten million. Most of the growth is expected to be along the Front Range urban corridor; however the fastest growth is expected to occur along the I-70 corridor within the Colorado Basin.

Read the rest of this entry »


‘Don’t goddamn come here [#ColoradoRiver Basin] any more’ — Lurline Curran

December 3, 2013
Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office

Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

Here’s an article about the white paper approved last week by the Colorado Basin Roundtable, from Brent Gardner-Smith writing for Aspen Journalism. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

“Don’t goddamn come here any more,” was the way Lurline Curran, county manager of Grand County, summed up the roundtable’s position just before the group voted to approve a white paper it has been working on for months.

“We’re trying to tell you, Front Range: Don’t count on us,” Curran said. “Don’t be counting on us to make up all the shortages.”

The actual paper crafted by the Colorado roundtable states its case in a more diplomatic fashion, but it is still blunt.

“The notion that increasing demands on the Front Range can always be met with a new supply from the Colorado River, or any other river, (is) no longer valid,” the position paper states…

“There is going to have to be a discussion and plan for developing a new West Slope water supply,” the South Platte roundtable stated in a June memo directed to Committee.

Together, the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas roundtables are pushing that discussion. They’re asking the state to preserve the option to build “several” 100,000 to 250,000 acre-foot projects on the Green River at Flaming Gorge Reservoir, the lower Yampa River, and/or the Gunnison River at Blue Mesa Reservoir…

On Nov. 25, the members of the Colorado River roundtable clearly wanted to inform the Committee that they don’t support the idea of new Western Slope projects.

Jim Pokrandt, a communications executive at the Colorado River District who chairs the Colorado roundtable, said the group’s paper, directed to the Committee, was “an answer to position statements put out by other basin roundtables.”

The Committee’s eventual analysis is expected to shape a draft statewide Colorado Water Plan, which is supposed to be on the governor’s desk via the Committee and the Colorado Water Conservation Board in 12 months.

And while there has been a decades-long discussion in Colorado about the merits of moving water from the Western Slope to the Front Range, the language in the position papers, and the roundtable meetings, is getting sharper as the state water plan now takes shape.

“It’s not ‘don’t take one more drop,’ but it is as close as we can get,” said Ken Neubecker, the environmental representative on the Colorado roundtable, about the group’s current position.

The paper itself advises, “the scenic nature and recreational uses of our rivers are as important to the West Slope as suburban development and service industry businesses are to the Front Range. They are not and should not be seen as second-class water rights, which Colorado can preserve the option of removing at the behest of Front Range indulgences.”

That’s certainly in contrast to the vision of the South Platte, Metro and Arkansas basin roundtables, which in a draft joint statement in July said that the way to meet the “east slope municipal supply gap” is to develop “state water projects using Colorado River water for municipal uses on the East and West slopes.”[...]

The white paper from the Colorado roundtable states that “new supply” is a euphemism for “a new transmountain diversion from the Colorado River system.”

“This option must be the last option,” the paper notes.

Instead of new expensive Western Slope water projects, the paper calls for more water conservation and “intelligent land use” on the Front Range.

It goes on to note that Front Range interests are actively pursuing the expansion of existing transmountain diversions — many of which are likely to be blessed by the Committee because they are already in the works.

It says the Western Slope has its own water gap, as the growing demands of agriculture, energy development, population growth and river ecosystems are coming together in the face of climate change.

It calls for reform to the state’s water laws, so it is easier to leave water in Western Slope rivers for environmental reasons, and it rejects the Front Range’s call to streamline the review process for new water projects.

“Streamlining as a means of forcing West Slope acquiescence to any new supply project ‘for the good of the state’ is unacceptable,” the paper states.

Finally, the document advises the state not to endorse or get behind a Western Slope water project unless it “has been agreed to by the impacted counties, conservancy districts and conservation districts from which water would be diverted.”

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


‘Keeping the last wild river in the [#ColoradoRiver] Basin intact is important to a healthy environment’ — Susan Bruce

December 2, 2013
Yampa River Basin via the Colorado Geological Survey

Yampa River Basin via the Colorado Geological Survey

Here’s a post arguing to keep the Yampa River riparian system as a baseline for a healthy river from Susan Bruce writing for the Earth Island Journal. Here’s an excerpt:

Governor John Hickenlooper’s directive to the Colorado Water Conservation Board earlier this year to create a Colorado Water Plan by 2015 has put the Yampa, which has the second largest watershed in the state, under the spotlight.

Efforts to dam the Yampa go back to the proposed construction of Echo Park Dam, which Congress vetoed in 1952, bowing to a groundswell of public outcry led by David Brower, then with the Sierra Club. But in a compromise he later regretted, Brower supported the construction of two other dams: Glen Canyon on the Colorado River and Flaming Gorge on the Green River. The Green and Yampa rivers used to have similar flows and ecosystems. The construction of the Flaming Gorge Dam in 1962 modified the Green’s hydrograph, reducing sediment flow by half and tapering its seasonal fluctuations to a slower, more consistent flow, opening the way for invasive species like the tamarisk tree to crowd out native ones.

More recently, in 2006, there was a proposal to build a reservoir near Maybell, CO, and pump water from the Yampa to a reservoir about 230 miles away for municipal and agricultural use on the Front Range. But the plan was scrapped due to environmental and cost concerns; the reservoir would have cost between $3 billion and $5 billion.

The oil and gas industry is also eyeing the Yampa. Shell Oil had plans to pump about 8 percent of the Yampa’s high-water flow to fill a 1,000-acre reservoir, but it shelved the proposal in 2010, citing a slowdown of its oil-shale development program. Still, oil production in Colorado is at its highest level since 1957 and gas production at an all-time high. While industrial and municipal water needs are projected to increase with population growth, the largest water user, agriculture, will continue to divert the lion’s share of Colorado’s water, around 80 percent. All of which mean the pressure to suck up Yampa’s water is only going to grow.

The most unique characteristic of the Yampa is its wild and unimpeded flow, in particular the extensive spring flooding that washes away sediment, giving the river its brownish hue. This “river dance” helps establish new streamside forests, wetlands, and sandy beaches, as well as shallows that support species like the endangered Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker. By late fall, the water barely covers the riverbed in some stretches…

The rafting industry, which contributes more than $150 million to Colorado’s economy, has a strong voice when it comes to the Yampa’s future. Although damming the Yampa would provide a more consistent flow over a longer season, George Wendt – founder of OARS, the largest rafting company in the world – speaks for most outfitters when he says he would rather see the Yampa retain its natural state.

Conservationists also argue that the Yampa’s full flow helps meet Colorado’s legal obligation to provide water to the seven states within the Colorado Basin and Mexico. Measures being considered to protect the Yampa include an instream flow appropriation by the Colorado Water Conservation Board that would reserve Yampa’s water for the natural function of rivers, and a Wild and Scenic River designation by Congress.

Many proponents of keeping the Yampa wild point to its value as a baseline – an ecosystem naturally in balance. “If things go awry on dammed rivers, which they do, we have a control river, so to speak,” says Kent Vertrees of The Friends of the Yampa. “Keeping the last wild river in the Colorado Basin intact is important to a healthy environment and so future generations can experience in situ millions of years of history little changed by man.”

More Yampa River Basin coverage here and here.


School of Mines 33rd Oil Shale Symposium recap

October 21, 2013
Map of oil shale and tar sands in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming -- via the BLM

Map of oil shale and tar sands in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming — via the BLM

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

It could require less than half a barrel of water to buoy up a barrel of oil from the high desert of the west, Shell Oil Co. said. One barrel of oil could be produced from oil shale for as little as a third of a barrel of water, Tom Fowler, commercial lead for the Shell project, said at the 33rd Oil Shale symposium at Colorado School of Mines.

Water use has long been a point of contention in the running battle over the development of oil shale.

Shell’s announcement comes on the heels of its decision to shift assets away from oil shale in northwest Colorado to other assets, among them a $12.5 billion shale-to-gas plant in Louisiana.

“We were laser-focused on water,” and the techniques refined in Colorado “translate very well to other places, I’m specifically thinking of Jordan, where they also are very concerned about their water, Fowler said.

Shell’s new estimates are based on a project producing 50,000 barrels of oil per day.

One major factor in Shell’s reduction in anticipated water use was to switch from water cooling to air cooling, especially in the power-generation part of the process. Power is needed to heat the rock to about 700 degrees Fahrenheit to free kerogen from the rock. Vaporized kerogen condenses into crude oil that can be recovered.

Shell also reduced its estimates of water use by targeting the deepest, though not richest, layers of oil shale, Fowler said. By recovering oil from the deepest layers, which lie beneath groundwater, the company eliminated any need to steam-strip the area from which it removed kerogen. That, combined with other efforts to reduce and better manage water, could reduce the ratio of water to oil to 0.3 barrels of water to 1 barrel of oil. It also would leave the richest layers of shale still available for development with more refined techniques in the future, Fowler said. Shell’s estimates include domestic water and usage for reclamation and other purposes.

The most kerogen-rich oil shale in the world sits in northwest Colorado, under thousands of feet of overburden and Shell’s departure leaves one company pursuing development of shale in place, with little surface disturbance.

Two companies, Enefit American Oil and Red leaf Resources, are mining more shallow resources in Utah and heating them to recover oil.

Shell’s estimates don’t apply to those techniques, but Enefit American Oil says its methods will require between one and three barrels of water per barrel of oil, with the likely outcome closer to the lower end.

Opponents of oil shale development frequently cite a Government Accountability Office report, widely panned by industry officials, citing water needs at seven barrels per barrel of oil produced.

More oil shale coverage here via Gary Harmon writing for The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

While oil shale development in the United States suffered a blow when Shell Oil announced it was pulling out of its much-touted Mahogany project, other nations are encouraging industry development. Genie Energy, which is still moving ahead on its project in northwest Colorado, has a new project in Mongolia. Irati Energy, based in Canada, is moving ahead on a pilot oil shale project in Brazil. Enefit American Oil, a subsidiary of Eesti Energia, the world’s largest oil shale company, also has a concession, or lease, in Jordan, to produce electricity and oil from shale deposits there.

And while Shell pulled out of Colorado, it didn’t pull out of oil shale. The international energy giant still is working on an oil shale project in Jordan, despite abandoning its plans to produce oil from shale in the Colorado portion of the Green River formation.

China, Morocco and other countries are seeing development of their oil shale deposits, as well.

Northwest Colorado, the focal point of the richest, thickest deposits of oil shale in the world, however, is seeing no new interest in its deposit even as Enefit American Oil is working to produce oil from shale in neighboring Utah.

David Argyle organized Irati Energy to begin work on the Brazil project and he’s on the lookout for new resources. He’s not looking immediately at the U.S., however.

“We don’t have the time or patience” to work through the regulatory issues facing oil shale development in the United States, Argyle said, noting that he doesn’t reject development in the United States out of hand.

The industry, however, has to overcome emotional opposition, despite having a good environmental record, Argyle said.

“In Brazil, we’re getting quietly on with it. In Israel, they’re getting quietly on with it,” Argyle said of oil shale development.

Boom-bust cycles aren’t a major issue because the Brazil project anticipates a 200-year lifespan, Argyle said.

Another project in Brazil has a 300-year lifespan, he said.

The development around the world demonstrates that “oil shale has a global footprint” that is growing, Argyle said. That footprint expanded into Mongolia by accident, said Claude Pupkin, Genie Energy CEO. Genie Energy sent a geologist to Mongolia on an unrelated mission and he stumbled on a “world class,” previously unrecognized oil shale deposit, Pupkin said.

“We’ll do a pilot project that is smaller than AMSO,” Pupkin said, referring to the American Shale Oil project in Colorado.

In both cases, the projects will be in-situ, meaning that there will be little surface disturbance. Genie obtained commercial production rights and is working with the government in Mongolia to establish a regulatory system for development, Pupkin said.

Colorado’s deep oil shale deposits don’t fit with the retorting technology developed in Estonia, Enefit American Oil CEO Rikki Hrenko said.

Update: From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

With the shadow of Nazi occupation looming over the country, Sweden turned to oil shale in 1940.

“Oil shale got the Swedish economy through World War II,” Dr. Harold Vinegar said.

Vinegar outlined for the Oil Shale Symposium at Colorado School of Mines last week how Sweden exploited a low-grade oil shale deposit near the town of Kvantorp, using an in-situ process that bore a striking resemblance to the in-situ process Shell Oil Co. was pursuing in northwest Colorado. Vinegar is an oil and energy scientist who spent more than 30 years with Shell.

The Swedes already were mining the same oil shale deposit when they became frustrated by the cost and difficulty of digging to reach the shale they retorted to produce oil, Vinegar said.

Fredrick Ljungstrom came up with the idea of heating the shale in place and leaving the soil above it undisturbed. Ljungstrom drove heating elements in a closely spaced hexagonal pattern down into the shale and sunk a collection well in the center.

The heaters and wells were shallow, in the tens of feet instead of the thousands of feet below the surface in the Piceance Basin.

Making the project more difficult was the lack of electricity. Ljunsgstrom could only get electricity to heat the shale four months of the year, during the spring runoff, when hydroelectric power was available, Vinegar said.

During those months, Ljungstrom used a mobile transformer to direct power into the cells he was using at any given time to heat the rock to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

“It really was a brilliant idea,” Vinegar said.

And it worked.

The Ljungstrom process produced 90,000 barrels of oil from 1942 to 1945 and 1.5 million barrels during its production life that ended in 1959. The oil produced from Ljungstrom’s in-situ process was lighter and cleaner than the oil produced from the retort process on the same deposit, Vinegar said. Groundwater beneath the deposit was protected by an impermeable clay layer that prevented contamination, Vinegar said.

In addition to inventing what is known as the Ljungstrom process for oil shale, Ljungstrom was also a co-inventor, with his brother, of high-pressure steam boilers, steam turbines and steam locomotives.

He also was a sailing innovator and the Ljungstrom rig — an arrangement of sails — is named for him.

The land he used to produce oil from shale over the years has changed.

“The area revegetated naturally,” Vinegar said. “It’s now a park where the in-situ process was run.”

More oil shale coverage here and here.


Feds eye changes to Colorado River endangered fish conservation program

October 8, 2013

Originally posted on Summit County Citizens Voice:

Recovery team eyes White River Basin

sdf

The Colorado pikeminnow is one of four endangered species that could benefit from a proposed new plan to boost flows during critical seasons. Photo courtesy USFWS.

By Summit Voice

*More Summit Voice stories on the Colorado River native fish conservation program are online here.

FRISCO — State and federal biologists are considering some changes to the Colorado River Native Fish Recovery Program in the White River Basin after a discussion with stakeholders.

The endangered fish — colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, razorback sucker, bonytail — are already protected in the White River Basin, according to The Nature Conservancy. The changes would be a firming up of management expectations.

A similar approach has been used in other basins to ensure that current and future water needs are met for people and endangered fish.  The White River management plan aims to:

  • identify existing and some…

View original 365 more words


Parker-based Independent Energy Partners and the School of Mines are testing a new oil shale production technology

October 5, 2013
Geothermic fuel cell well field -- via Independent Energy Partners

Geothermic fuel cell well field — via Independent Energy Partners

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

A Colorado company is working with the Colorado School of Mines on the next stage of testing for a novel approach to developing oil shale. Parker-based Independent Energy Partners is pursuing the concept of using what it calls a geothermic fuel cell to employ heat to produce oil from shale in-situ, or in place, underground. Strings of fuel cells would be stacked in wells drilled into the shale.

The idea was first conceived by Marshall Savage, whose family has extensive land holdings in western Colorado’s Piceance Basin and who serves as IEP’s vice president of technology development.

A fuel cell can convert a fuel like natural gas into electricity through a chemical process. The patented, downhole heater being developed by IEP will use the waste heat to warm up the oil shale rock in what’s called a geothermic process, versus the geothermal one of tapping heat from the ground.

The company plans to use locally produced natural gas to get the fuel cells going, but under the concept the cells then will operate on gas generated along with oil in the heating process. Electricity production will be a side benefit of the process, and IEP President and Chief Executive Officer Alan Forbes said the process would be water neutral because water produced by the fuel cell would offset consumption. Carbon emissions would be minimal because there’s no combustion, he said.

The company had Pacific Northwest National Laboratory do work to confirm the concept’s technical viability, and had Delphi, a solid oxide fuel cell maker, make a downhole prototype. Now, IEP is paying about $900,000 for the School of Mines to do prototype testing at its Colorado Fuel Cell Center. The school received a small unit earlier this year and a stacked one more recently.

Initial testing will be followed next year by in-ground tests on campus, and then field tests in oil shale formations, with a goal of producing oil in 2015. IEP holds several leases on private property in Rio Blanco County.

“It’s kind of an exciting research project,” said Jeremy Boak, director of the Center for Oil Shale Technology and Research at the School of Mines.

Said Forbes, “We’re pretty confident it’s going to work fine, it will work as advertised.”

Boak said one challenge the company might face is rock shifting when heated and damaging heaters. He said he thinks Shell faced such problems but was able to solve them. [ed. emphasis mine]

The company is pressing forward even as Shell has announced the end of its Colorado oil shale research and development project, citing a desire to focus on other global opportunities.“I know that they haven’t been doing really well at a corporate level and I think they’re just readjusting their priorities,” Forbes said.

He said IEP’s work is “moving right along.”

“We’re quite pleased with the progress and the parties we’re working with right now.”

Those parties include the energy giant Total, which also is a partner with American Shale Oil in an in-situ project in Rio Blanco County and is invested in Red Leaf Resources’ project to mine and process oil shale in Utah.

“I think Total is very energized by this (IEP) approach and other approaches and is eager to see something proceed here,” Boak said.

More oil shale coverage here and 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.


Greeley: The health effects of hydraulic fracturing will be the topic for a forum on June 25

June 20, 2013

marcellushydraulicfracturing

From The Greeley Tribune (Sarah Moe):

The health effects of hydraulic fracturing will be discussed in Greeley on June 25. Speaking will be Rep. Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins, who serves on the House Health Environment Committee; Wes Wilson, a former geological engineer and water resources manager; and Phil Doe, an expert on agricultural water issues.

The experts were invited to speak because members of several grassroots groups — Weld Air and Water, Weld 350, Frack Files and Plains Alliance — want to educate the public about a process they think is moving too fast, said spokeswoman Hollis Berendt. She said some people in the community are concerned about the recent increase in fracking operations, noting that more than 100 people came to a Greeley City Council meeting when fracking was discussed — though most only listened. “We’re going at this too fast; we’re not using good judgment,” Berendt said.

She said the lure of fast money has distracted people from how little is known about the health and environmental risks posed by fracking. But many professors and experts have studied oil and gas development without choosing sides when it comes to fracking, countered Doug Flanders, director of policy and external affairs for the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, in a statement to The Tribune.

Green energy development has slowed, Berendt said, and increasing the use of fracking could cause “catastrophic climate change.” However, she said the focus of the Greeley forum will be the health risk of fracking — not the environmental impact.

Berendt accused the oil and gas industry of trying to make information about fracking vague and unavailable, and said even oil and gas workers don’t know all of the chemicals and risks associated with fracking.

Flanders said COGA is listening to the concerns of the public when it comes to fracking. “COGA acknowledges the concerns, risks and benefits associated with all forms of energy development. We value the conversations we have with concerned communities every day,” Flanders said. Flanders added that he thinks most Coloradans want to work with the oil and gas industry, and that the talk among most citizens is a calm and rational dialogue.

Health ailments can’t yet be proven to be linked to oil and gas because the list of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing was only recently released, Berendt said, but she thinks it’s more than coincidence when people who work at and live around fracking sites are afflicted with ailments such as worsening asthma and other breathing issues.

Because other Colorado cities have passed fracking bans, Berendt said, “People in Greeley are going to be guinea pigs, because we are continuing to do it.”

Flanders said fracking in the state is a complex matter, and that practical concerns shouldn’t be ignored when enacting bans. “… Banning a product we all use every minute of our lives is both short sighted and damaging to the Colorado way of life,” Flanders said.

State officials said regulations are constantly evolving to make oil and gas operations safer. The oil and gas industry is highly regulated to make sure it is safe, said Todd Hartman, communications director for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. He said the department is always alert for new information that could shape regulations, and that the oil and gas industry has operated safely and successfully in Colorado for more than a hundred years. “All the while, industry technology and regulatory requirements designed to reduce environmental and health impacts continue to advance,” Hartman said.

Ginal, a biologist with a doctorate in endocrinology, will recap the bill she presented last session, HB 1275. The bill, which died in committee, asked for a study to identify health aspects of oil and gas activity.

Wilson has a bachelor’s of science degree in geological engineering and a master’s of science degree in water resources administration. He was in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and worked for the Environmental Protection Agency in Denver until his retirement in 2010.

Doe is environmental issues director for Be the Change, a progressive grassroots political organization. He was formerly head of the policy office overseeing federal water subsidies to irrigated agriculture with the U.S. Department of the Interior. He was also a whistleblower against attempts by the agriculture industry to thwart congressional controls on agricultural water subsidies who appeared on “60 Minutes.” He has published a number of articles on water issues, including a recent EcoWatch article discussing fracking in Colorado.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.


Move water from west to east or dry up agriculture?

June 8, 2013

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Hannah Holm recaps the Gunnison Roundtable discussion of the proposed Flaming Gorge Pipeline in this column running in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. Here’s an excerpt:

One reliable way to rile up a room full of western Coloradans is to start talking about moving water from the Colorado River basin (“our water”) east across the Continental Divide for use by Front Range cities. You’ll hear lots of muttering, and someone will probably say something to the effect that not one more drop should go over while a blade of bluegrass remains in the Denver metro area.

It doesn’t even have to be water that resides in Colorado to get people’s backs up, as was demonstrated by the reaction to a proposal floated by entrepreneur Aaron Million to pump water from the Flaming Gorge reservoir in southwestern Wyoming east along the I-80 corridor and then south to a reservoir near Pueblo. In September 2011, billboards sprouted up along I-70 protesting providing funding to even study the idea. The billboards were funded by environmental organizations, but a host of resolutions approved by the City of Grand Junction, Mesa County and others roundly condemned the proposed project as well.

However, if Front Range cities can’t take water from our side of the hill, they have to look elsewhere — and that usually means “buying and drying” agricultural land. Since western Coloradans tend to like farms, even if they are east of the Divide, this creates a bit of a quandary. While some claim that ramped up conservation could preclude the need for more water transfers, it’s not easy to see how to push conservation far enough to close the 500,000-acre-foot gap between supply and demand that is forecast to afflict the state by 2050 if measures aren’t taken. Besides, if the Front Range has to dry up lawns, we might have to do the same — and that becomes a more complicated conversation.

Despite the billboards and resolutions, the state did fund a committee to study the potential benefits and impacts of the Flaming Gorge proposal. It included representatives from each of Colorado’s major river basins, including many highly skeptical of the proposal as well as potential beneficiaries, and it met once a month for a year. In short order, the committee broadened its mission and ended up developing a series of questions to be addressed for any proposed major movement of water across the Divide, as well as criteria for what would be a “good” project. This report was presented to the Gunnison Basin Roundtable and Gunnison “State of the River” meeting in Montrose June 3.

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


2013 Colorado legislation: SB13-019 moves along to the state house #coleg

March 26, 2013

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From The Aspen Times (Janet Urquhart) via the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

The drought-fueled measure, put forth by state Sen. Gail Schwartz, a Democrat from Snowmass Village, passed unanimously in the Senate last week and now moves to the House, starting with the Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee. Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, is the sponsor.

While the legislation, Senate Bill 13-19, was amended to gain the necessary support — losing its most ambitious provisions in the process, Schwartz on Thursday called the measure a critical first step and one that will lead to further conversations this summer about water conservation. With Colorado likely facing a second straight summer of severe drought, Schwartz said she hopes to encourage water conservation among agricultural users without punishing them in the process. “We need to modify our thinking and our attitudes about how we use water,” the senator said.

The legislation was originally to apply statewide, but concerns among the state’s seven river basins were varied and ultimately, the bill’s focus was narrowed to the Gunnison, Colorado main stem and Yampa/White River basins…

Under Schwartz’s bill, a water user who enrolls in various conservation programs could reduce their water use in drought years but the reduction would not be considered by a water judge in determining that user’s historic consumptive use. “What we’re trying to say is, ‘If you’re willing to do this, your historical consumptive use is protected,’” Schwartz said.

The conservation programs include those enacted by local water districts. Last year, for example, the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, which provides water to the eastern half of Eagle County and is a main user of water from Gore Creek and the Eagle River, worked with its customers to conserve water but also convinced other water diverters to do with less, according to spokesperson Diane Johnson. Entities such as golf courses and the town of Avon, which uses raw water to irrigate its parks, got on board, she said. Schwartz’s bill would mean those entities wouldn’t get dinged in a calculation of consumptive use if that voluntarily reduction is repeated, she said.

“Gail’s bill is quite significant,” said Basalt attorney Ken Ransford, secretary for the Colorado Basin Roundtable. The group is one of nine in the state that focuses on water-management issues under the umbrella of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Ransford has watched Schwartz’s legislation closely. Its passage would mean an important incentive for conservation, he said. “It’s a significant change in the law. It takes away a disincentive to a landowner who wants to enroll their land in a conservation program,” he said…

Gone from the legislation, however, are provisions that would have provided incentives to irrigators to increase the efficiency of their watering systems without jeopardizing their water rights.

More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.


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

February 15, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


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

February 4, 2013

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

From The River Blog (Jessie Thomas-Blate):

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

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

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

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

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


CWCB halts funding for phase two of Flaming Gorge Task Force

January 31, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A decision by the Colorado Water Conservation Board not to fund the second phase of a Flaming Gorge pipeline task force does not affect either project that wants to bring water into the state. The CWCB Tuesday turned down a $100,000 extension of the committee, saying its efforts duplicate the role of the Interbasin Compact Committee. Alan Hamel, of the Arkansas River basin, was the only member of the CWCB who voted in favor of continuing to fund the task force.

“I was surprised,” said Gary Barber, chairman of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, and a member of the task force. “The state still needs to proceed with water planning, but did not approve our approach for moving forward.”

The task force was formed to identify questions that would face any statewide water project, and from the start said it would not endorse or eliminate either of two proposals to build a Flaming Gorge pipeline.

“This decision sends a clear message that the IBCC needs to step up and do something about new water supply,” said Jay Winner, one of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable’s IBCC representatives.

Environmental groups this week tried to depict the decision as a defeat for Aaron Million’s proposal to build a 500­ mile pipeline from the Green River to Colorado’s Front Range. However, Million claimed last week that the neutral decision by the task force was a win for him. He is working on engineering needed to resume federal consideration of the project.

The Colorado-­Wyoming Coalition also is pursuing its version of a Flaming Gorge pipeline, but is still waiting on Bureau of Reclamation studies to determine if it will move forward, said Eric Hecox of the South Metro Water Supply District.

From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

The developer of the proposed Flaming Gorge Pipeline denied Wednesday that the state’s decision to end funding for a group looking at the project would set it back…

Tuesday’s decision to halt funding represented a “critical wound” to the project, Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates said in a statement. Environmentalists oppose the project because they contend it would diminish Green River flows…

Jennifer Gimbel, director of the water board, said the environmentalists’ comments were “misleading.”

The decision “doesn’t reflect the board’s position on the pipeline,” she said. “It doesn’t endorse it; it she said. “It doesn’t endorse it; it doesn’t deny it.”[...]

The task force was formed to study issues surrounding the project, not to decide whether the project should move forward. After completing a report on the pipeline, the task force requested $100,000 to study “new supply projects in general” at Tuesday’s water board meeting, Gimbel said.

However, the Interbasin Compact Committee already is studying potential water supply projects, she said…

Aaron Million, principal of Wyco Power and Water Inc., called environmentalists’ characterization of the decision “grossly inaccurate.” The company has proposed building the pipeline to bring water from Wyoming to the Front Range, including Fort Collins.

“One of the reasons I think the environmental community’s been so vocal is that this project has a lot of merit to it,” said Million, who contends the project would add to Poudre River volume.

From The Salt Lake Tribune (Brett Prettyman):

Charlie Card, northeastern Utah coordinator for Trout Unlimited, says the news from Colorado is good, but he has heard similar news before and knows not to let his guard down when it comes to water in the West.

“Million said about a year ago that in two years he would be ready to submit another proposal and there is another group out of Parker, Colorado, that has asked the Bureau of Reclamation specifically to give them the actual number of acre-feet of water that is available,” Card said. “The report from Colorado is nice, but the threat is far from over.”

Numerous recreational and financial impacts from proposed pipelines pumping water out of Flaming Gorge Reservoir, which sits on the Utah/Wyoming border, or the Green River above it have been revealed by Trout Unlimited and other concerned groups.

Among them:

• Wide fluctuations of water levels at Flaming Gorge would create ideal conditions for noxious weeds along the shore, affecting waterfowl, mule deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, sage grouse and other species. Open shorelines may become inaccessible for recreation.

• Diminished flows on the Green River below the dam will affect species of concern like the northern river otter, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, osprey, Lewis’ woodpecker, southern willow flycatcher and yellow-billed cuckoo.

• A reduction of flows into the reservoir will inhibit recommended flow levels out of the dam. The recommendations were agreed upon by multiple agencies to benefit endangered fish (razorback sucker, Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub and bonytail) in the Green River.

• The main sport fish of Flaming Gorge — kokanee salmon, lake trout and smallmouth bass — are already facing a number of challenges in a delicately balanced ecosystem that has been rocked by the recent appearance of illegally introduced burbot. Lower and fluctuating water levels will only add to the challenges.

• Access to the lake via existing boat ramps would likely not be possible if water as proposed in the Million project were removed from the reservoir. That impacts all businesses that rely on the reservoir including those on the shores of Flaming Gorge and including other towns and cities like Dutch John, Manila, Green River, Wyo., and Rock Springs.

Similar facts are presented on the ourdamwater.org/ website of Sportsmen for the Green.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The state’s most powerful water organization will spend no more money to study ways of piping water from the Western Slope to the Front Range, a move heralded by environmental organizations but one that might not squelch the idea. The Colorado Water Conservation Board turned away a request that it continue to fund a study of how to pursue large water projects, such as a proposed pipeline to the Front Range from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming.

The board’s decision was greeted as a victory by Protect the Flows, an organization of recreation, agricultural and other interests that depend on the Colorado River. “This decision tells Coloradans that (Gov. John Hickenlooper) and the water board know how much we value our superb recreation opportunities and the huge economy in Colorado generated by outdoor enthusiasts and tourism,” Protect the Flows spokeswoman Molly Mugglestone said.

Water board members noted that such projects would be more appropriately studied by the Interbasin Compact Committee, a 27-member committee established to address statewide water issues.

The proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline has been rejected on several levels and by federal agencies. It was criticized by government agencies, including Mesa County and Grand Junction, which cited unanswered questions about the effects of the project.

The Interbasin Compact Committee “has a new water-supply committee and this seems to belong to them,” said Chris Treese, spokesman for the Colorado River Water Conservation District. “I think that’s an important dialogue to have and it’s one we’ve been involved with all along.”

The water board’s decision amounted to an endorsement of the need for conservation over development, Protect the Flows said.

Abandoning talk of water-development projects is a non-starter, Club 20 Executive Director Bonnie Petersen said. “Given the drought situation,” Petersen said, “at some level it would seem we would have to talk about storage.”

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


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

January 30, 2013

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From email from Western Resource Advocates (Jason Bane):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


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

January 25, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


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

January 24, 2013

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

Recommendations

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

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

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

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

    More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


    Folks from both sides of the Great Divide are finding economic common ground around urging caution in the development of oil shale #coriver

    January 14, 2013

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    Here’s a guest column written by Deborah Ortega and Allyn Harvey running in The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

    It is not often that we find common ground across the Rockies on issues that affect our friends and neighbors. We sometimes think of issues as “ours” or “theirs,” though many issues transcend the mountains.

    Communities and local businesses across our state depend on clean, abundant water from the Colorado River Basin. There is no greater reminder of that fact than the current drought and the resulting economic impacts we are facing.

    It is with those challenges in mind that people in communities from the Western Slope to the Front Range — such as Carbondale, New Castle, Rifle, Grand Junction, Thornton and Denver — support a balanced, commonsense approach to oil shale that requires research prior to commercial leasing of taxpayer-owned land in the West.

    Oil shale development could pose a significant risk to the health of our rivers and the availability of water for agriculture, drinking supplies and local businesses. We need to know the risks ahead of any commercial development.

    Energy development in our state has always been a significant economic driver, but it must still work in concert with our other job-creating industries that rely on their fair share of the water supply. Impacts to our water sources could affect the livelihoods of millions of residents in every corner of our state.

    The technology to make oil shale viable still has not been developed. Since commercial technology does not yet exist, there is no possible way to know the impacts, especially on our water, that would accompany full-scale oil- shale development. All of us have a right to know the facts, so that municipalities, farmers and ranchers, as well as tourism and outdoor recreation businesses that depend on healthy rivers and safe drinking water supplies can plan and make wise decisions. Some have suggested that development will not use much water, and others say it will take too much. The only thing we know for sure is that we don’t know for sure.

    The Government Accountability Office reviewed a wide range of estimates that found that industrial-scale oil shale development would require as much as 140 percent of the amount of water Denver Water provides each year (or as much as a city 30 times the size of Grand Junction would use).

    There are also those who say that investing public land and water in oil shale will provide a worthwhile return in jobs on the Western Slope and energy for our nation. We hope they are right. We don’t know that for sure either. But we have 100 years of promises and a dismal record of failure with projects such as the Exxon Colony Project, which devastated the local economy after laying off more than 2,000 workers when it closed down on “Black Sunday,” May 2, 1982.

    No good investor would put money into a venture without first seeing the books. The Bureau of Land Management’s new plan does just that by requiring oil shale companies to do the research first, so we know just how much water would be needed and what the impacts to water quality would be, before going forward with commercial leasing.

    Our neighbors in Arizona and Nevada have also asked that we know the impacts to water — particularly the Colorado River — prior to commercial development.

    It was former Denver Water Manager Chips Barry — often heralded by those on both sides of the divide for bringing people together — who cited concerns that industrial-scale oil-shale development could prevent Colorado from fulfilling its obligations to downstream users. In 2009, he told The Denver Post, “That is a risk not only for Denver Water but for the entire state.”

    More than 100 business leaders, recreation organizations, farmers, ranchers and others asked the BLM to ensure that Colorado water is protected. Sportsmen have cautioned that reduced stream flows will negatively impact fish and the region’s outdoor-dependent economy. These businesses depend on healthy rivers and safe water supplies. We cannot afford to gamble the backbone of our economy without fully understanding the risk that oil shale poses to it.

    We have much to offer here in the West. People come to our communities to visit, and sometimes they stay and call it home, largely because of our big skies and outdoor recreation. We are all concerned about the potential impact on existing water rights throughout the Colorado River Basin once oil shale companies begin to exercise the senior rights they hold. In a worst-case scenario, this could turn the West Slope into an industrial zone, ruin the Colorado River and threaten drinking water supplies on both sides of the Copntinental Divide.

    As local officials, our responsibility is to ensure safe, healthy drinking water for our residents and a healthy community. With that in mind, both of our municipalities have taken positions supporting a cautious approach to oil shale. Given that a commercial industry does not yet exist, it is just smart planning to require that research of oil-shale technologies be completed first and impacts fully analyzed before moving forward with a commercial leasing program, as the federal plan suggests. That is an approach that puts the health of our water and the future of our communities first, to ensure that communities on both sides of the Rockies — and our entire region — continue to thrive.

    More oil shale — the next big thing for over a hundred years now — coverage here and here.


    Grand Junction: CMU 2013 Water Course – Feb. 11, 18, 25 #COriver

    January 11, 2013

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    Here’s the link to the announcement from Colorado Mesa University:

    CMU University Center Ballroom, Grand Junction, CO

    The public is invited to this evening seminar series on how water is managed in our region.
    Continuing education credits will be sought for water system operators, attorneys, realtors, and teachers. Certificates of completion will be provided.

    More education coverage here.


    ‘There’s been a great deal of speculation on water needs for oil shale, but it’s all based on unproven technology’ –Steven Hall

    January 9, 2013

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    Oil shale has been “The next big thing” in Colorado for over a hundred years now. Here’s an article exploring the water needs of oil shale development, from Judith Lewis Mernitc writing for the High Country News via the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. Click through and read the whole article, there is a lot of good detail there. Here’s an excerpt:

    Trapped in fossil-fuel purgatory, oil shale has to be heated to super-high temperatures, a process called “retorting” that requires enormous amounts of water. No one can even say for sure how much, although some energy companies try.

    Utah-based Red Leaf claims its technology needs only a tiny amount; other estimates say that full-scale development of oil shale in Colorado would require more water than all of Denver uses in a year.

    “There’s been a great deal of speculation on water needs for oil shale, but it’s all based on unproven technology,” says Steven Hall, Colorado spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management, which recently signed a lease with ExxonMobil for an experimental oil shale project in the Piceance Basin.

    “I don’t think the technologies those (low) water-use estimates are based on are commercially or environmentally feasible,” Hall said.

    In November, the BLM published a fresh analysis of oil shale development’s environmental impacts on Western public lands. Much of the analysis, which also looks at tar sands in Utah, is concerned with water — the lack of it in this arid region, the great need any energy-extraction technique has for it, and the vulnerability of freshwater aquifers to industrial contamination…

    Lawmakers including Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, warn that the BLM’s parent, the U.S. Department of Interior, stands in the way of economic progress. But not even the oil producers have figured out how to get the water to the rock without incurring huge energy costs — costs that may not pencil out in the final analysis.

    In other words, it may take more energy to get the water to the oil shale than anyone can actually extract from it…

    This problem with the so-far embryonic industry is what regulators and industry experts call an “energy-water nexus” issue: Just as water needs energy to travel from source to tap, nearly every form of energy needs water throughout its lifecycle, from mining to generation to reclamation.

    More oil shale coverage here and here.


    Silverthorne: The next meeting of the Flaming Gorge Task Force is January 3 #CORiver

    December 29, 2012

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    Here’s the agenda via email from Heather Bergman.

    More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


    Silverthorne: Next meeting of the Flaming Gorge Task Force December 18 #CORiver

    December 18, 2012

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    Here’s the agenda.

    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.


    How a Water District that Wasn’t Needed Had a Board that Wasn’t Legal & Tried to Take Half of a River for Technology that Doesn’t Exist

    November 10, 2012

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    Update: I added an article from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Scroll down to the bottom.

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

    The Colorado Supreme Court heard oral arguments today [November 7] in a case that has significant implications for the entire State of Colorado. The Yellow Jacket Water Conservancy District (YJWCD) of Rio Blanco County is appealing a Water Court ruling that strips the district of massive amounts of water rights intended to be leased for oil shale production.

    Today’s hearing comes just weeks after local residents filed a separate lawsuit alleging that the YJWCD is unlawfully taking budget action that has left the district hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

    “This is an odd situation to say the least,” said Rob Harris, Staff Attorney for Western Resource Advocates. “We’re talking about a water district that isn’t needed, run by a board that wasn’t legal, trying to gather water rights equal to half of the White River—all to meet the theoretical demands of an oil shale technology that doesn’t exist.”

    In 2009, the board of the YJWCD filed water court applications equal to almost half of the White River—with the expressed intent to lease that water for potential oil shale production. In 2011, Western Resource Advocates and a coalition of local residents, business owners, ranchers, and others (the Coalition) challenged the legality of these water rights applications. The YJWCD board voluntarily abandoned half of the contested water rights in the face of opposition, and the Coalition filed a legal challenge in regards to the other half.

    “The timeline is clear, and so is the law in this case,” said Mike Sawyer, one of the attorneys representing the Coalition group. “The Yellow Jacket board didn’t have a valid board to approve new office supplies, let alone a water rights application.”

    In July 2011, the Colorado Water Court stripped the YJWCD of the remaining contested water rights. Because only four of the nine seats on the YJWCD board were legally occupied in Sept. 2009, the board had no legal quorum when it filed for the contested water rights. After the Water Court denied a “Motion for Reconsideration” in Sept. 2011, the YJWCD filed an appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court.

    The Colorado Supreme Court did not render a decision following today’s oral arguments, but is expected to issue a written opinion within the next several months.

    On Oct. 18, two local residents and landowners filed a lawsuit against the YJWCD. Joe Livingston and Ted Edmonds are plaintiffs, which alleges (among other things) that the board has violated Colorado Budget Laws and TABOR requirements in running a debt that had reached ($142,257) by the end of 2011.

    “I take great offense that the board isn’t following the law yet continues to spend my tax dollars to no end,” said Livingston, whose family has owned and operated Big Beaver Ranch near Meeker since 1941. “It’s absolutely ridiculous.”

    ABOUT THE YELLOW JACKET WATER CONSERVANCY DISTRICT

    The YJWCD was created in 1959 with the intent of acquiring water rights that could be leased for future oil and gas production. Most of the district’s income is from a Rio Blanco County mill levy. The YJWCD does not own or operate any water facilities—it exists solely for the purpose of acquiring water rights. Since its inception, the district has spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars trying to adjudicate water rights for the oil shale industry.

    TIMELINE OF EVENTS

    - Oct. 2008: Terms of office expire for four of the nine YJWCD board members.
    - Sept. 2009: YJWCD submits diligence filings for certain water rights, despite the fact that only four of the nine YJWCD could authorize the filings (a fifth member of the board had resigned in Spring 2009).
    - April 2011: Western Resource Advocates joins a local coalition to file a Motion for Summary Judgment, arguing that the YJWCD board did not have a legal quorum to approve a water rights application.
    - July 2011: Colorado Water Court grants the Coalition’s “Motion for Summary Judgment,” and cancels the contested water rights application.
    - July 2011: Yellow Jacket files “Motion for Reconsideration” with Water Court.
    - Sept. 2011: Water Court denies “Motion for Reconsideration”
    - March 2012: YJWCD submits appeal for hearing by Colorado Supreme Court
    - Nov. 7, 2012: Colorado Supreme Court hears oral arguments from appeal.

    More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

    Colorado’s Supreme Court on Wednesday heard oral arguments by the Yellow Jacket Water Conservancy District, which is challenging a state water court’s decision rejecting its rights to 140,000 acre-feet of water from the river — water that otherwise would flow into the Green and Colorado rivers.

    Yellow Jacket has proposed to build reservoirs east of Meeker to store the water and make it available to oil and gas companies. The district also is talking with towns and irrigators, Yellow Jacket attorney Sarah Klahn said after the hearing.

    “There’s plenty of water in the White River,” Klahn said. “There ought to be an effort to keep water in this state, rather than letting it flow downstream to California.”

    A coalition of residents whose taxes fund Yellow Jacket, a governmental district, opposes the project…

    Justice Greg Hobbs questioned whether holdover status of board members could be a basis for forfeiting water property rights. Hobbs also asked why board members failed to fill positions…

    The court is expected to issue a written decision in a couple months.

    More coverage from Gary Harmon writing for The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

    Colorado’s highest court is considering a challenge to the water rights held by a Meeker-area water conservancy district for eventual use in energy development.

    Yellow Jacket Water Conservancy District is appealing a water court finding that canceled its right to about 140,000 acre-feet water in the upper White River Basin.

    The trial court had agreed with Western Resource Advocates in a lawsuit that when Yellow Jacket filed an application to maintain its rights, the action was invalid because some members of the Yellow Jacket board of directors had yet to be reappointed.

    Oral arguments were conducted on Wednesday in Denver.

    The district appropriated the industrial rights in the 1960s with an eye to using them in the event oil shale development took off.

    While there was always an understanding that the district, which collects $30,000 a year from property taxes, would partner with private industry to develop reservoirs.

    No such arrangement, however, exists, Glenwood Springs water attorney Scott Grosscup said., adding that the district’s efforts are aimed at “establishing resources to protect the White River Basin when there is demand” for water by oil shale development.

    While attorneys for the district said the suit amounted to an argument over a technicality, Western Resource Advocates attorney Rob Harris said there is more to it.

    “We’re talking about a water district that isn’t needed, running a board that wasn’t legal trying to gather water rights equal to half of the White River,” Harris said, “all to meet the theoretical demands of an oil shale technology that doesn’t yet exist.”

    Yellow Jacket’s attorney, Sarah Klahn, said Western Resource Advocates was “whipsawed” by precedent that allows Yellow Jacket to proceed with showing due diligence.

    Companies not registered with the Secretary of State’s Office have been found to have filed valid reports with the water court, Klahn said.

    “Where in Colorado water law does it say you have to have a fully appointed board as a precondition of a water- rights application?” Klahn said.

    The problem of having board members sitting on the board past the end of their terms has been rectified with their reappointment by district court, Klahn said.

    Appeals of water court rulings go directly to the state Supreme Court and no schedule for a ruling was set.

    More water law coverage here and here.


    Glenwood Springs: The next meeting of the Flaming Gorge Task Force is October 30

    October 26, 2012

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    Here’s the agenda for the meeting.

    More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


    ‘Water Wranglers’ is George Sibley’s new book about the Colorado River District #coriver

    October 10, 2012

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    Here’s the link to the web page where you can order a copy. Here’s the pitch:

    Water Wranglers
    The 75-Year History of the Colorado River District:
    A Story About the Embattled Colorado River and the Growth of the West

    The Colorado River is one of America’s wildest rivers in terms of terrain and natural attributes, but is actually modest in terms of water quantity – the Mississippi surpasses the Colorado’s annual flow in a matter of days. Yet the Colorado provides some or all of the domestic water for some 35 million Southwesterners, most of whom live outside of the river’s natural course in rapidly growing desert cities. It fully or partially irrigates four-million acres of desert land that produces much of America’s winter fruits and vegetables. It also provides hundreds of thousands of people with recreational opportunities. To put a relatively small river like the Colorado to work, however, has resulted in both miracles and messes: highly controlled use and distribution systems with multiplying problems and conflicts to work out, historically and into the future.

    Water Wranglers is the story of the Colorado River District’s first seventy-five years, using imagination, political shrewdness, legal facility, and appeals to moral rightness beyond legal correctness to find balance among the various entities competing for the use of the river’s water. It is ultimately the story of a minority seeking equity, justice, and respect under democratic majority rule – and willing to give quite a lot to retain what it needs.

    The Colorado River District was created in 1937 with a dual mission: to protect the interests of the state of Colorado in the river’s basin and to defend local water interests in Western Colorado – a region that produces 70 percent of the river’s total water but only contains 10 percent of the state’s population.

    To order the book, visit the Wolverine Publishing website at http://wolverinepublishing.com/water-wranglers. It can also be found at the online bookseller Amazon.

    More Colorado River District 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.


    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.


    Colorado, Wyoming and Utah and the remaining water under the Upper Colorado River Basin Compact

    August 8, 2012

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    Back in 1925 the Upper Colorado River Basin States united to fight the lower basin states over Colorado River projects like Boulder Dam unless the Colorado River Compact was signed. (Click on the thumbnail graphic for a graphic of The Denver Post front page from that time.) Fast forward to 1948 and the upper basin states inked the Upper Colorado River Basin Compact. With both compacts signed everyone would be buddy-buddy for all time, right?

    Maybe not, here’s a report from Bart Taylor writing for the Planet Profit Report. Here’s an excerpt:

    The Bureau of Reclamation estimates that demand on the Colorado River will significantly exceed supply in the coming years, and likely already has. This, along with drought and some rather dire climate change-related impacts, have forced state planners to reassess their Colorado River water supply and demand metrics. The Upper Basin has never fully utilized its full allocation of river water, either collectively or by individual state…

    It’s also begun to analyze its options to develop this remaining Colorado River allocation, and to the dismay of some in Wyoming and Utah (and Colorado, as I’ve written), one option involves a pipeline that taps the Colorado from its primary tributary, the Green River, at Flaming Gorge reservoir in southwest Wyoming and northeast Utah.

    For its part, Wyoming has also awakened to the tenuous future of its water resources. The Green has increasingly been identified as a river “at risk” – to the effects of drought, climate-change and a competition for water that’s reaching a fever-pitch throughout the region. Wyoming’s residents and politicians are therefore pushing back on what’s perceived by many here to be a water grab by Colorado – reminiscent of the threat posed by Lower Basin interest’s decades ago.

    According to my contacts, Wyoming water officials, including the state engineer, were initially neutral on the Flaming Gorge pipeline. Colorado is legally entitled to Green River water, and Flaming Gorge, like lakes Powell, Mead, Navajo and others, was built to implement the terms of the Colorado River Compact. To over-simplify greatly, the huge impoundments make it possible to even-out the distribution of water from wet years to dry for all parties to the agreement. Wyoming administrators initially had little reason (or recourse) to get worked up about the project, though from its source in Flaming Gorge, the pipeline would traverse the I-80 corridor west through Wyoming, then south to Colorado’s Front Range.

    Also, since Aaron Million conceived of a Flaming Gorge pipeline and reminded Colorado officials of the state’s right to file on the Green, most, but not all, water observers gave the project little chance of success. Building any water project, let alone a multi-state, multi-jurisdictional, trans-basin project, is daunting.

    Now, the political winds in Wyoming seem to blow hard against Flaming Gorge, the state engineer’s (yet unpublished) opinion notwithstanding. Ironically, Colorado water planners may be warming to the idea, again, driven by self-interest motivating all parties to the Compact. Colorado’s the fast-grower in the region and requires more water, even as it is entitled to more than its Upper Basin brethren. The state may simply not be able to turn its back on a huge, new source of water. (More on Colorado’s Flaming Gorge deliberations next time.)

    Utah’s perspective may also be changing. Within the last year, the state engineer approved water-transfer that will result in a new and fairly substantial appropriation, also from the Green River. As I outlined before, the premise is similar to that which may also drive Colorado to the Green – an unused portion of its Colorado River allocation.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


    Flaming Gorge pipeline task force update: Have the committee members been spending too much time on problems?

    July 16, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    “There was a great deal of negativism in the first meetings, but at the last meeting we had a bit of a turnaround because we realized that we had not considered any of the positive things that would happen if we built Flaming Gorge,” Betty Konarski told the Arkansas Basin Roundtable Wednesday. Konarski, a task force member who represents El Paso County on the roundtable, said the task force has been so busy trying to identify problems that it has neglected the other side of its mission: to evaluate the potential benefits of a new supply of water. The task force was formed to evaluate competing plans by Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million and the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition to build a Flaming Gorge pipeline.

    More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.


    Drought news: Fish in White River stressed by low streamflow #CODrought

    June 26, 2012

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    Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

    Due to low flows in the White River, Colorado Parks and Wildlife managers are requesting that anglers fish only during the cooler, early morning hours, or to look for alternative fishing locations that are not as significantly affected by the current climate conditions.

    An official, voluntary closure like the one implemented on the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs last week is not currently planned for the White River. Wildlife managers hope to avoid an official closure by asking for voluntary cooperation from local anglers.

    “The current situation is very stressful for fish,” said Bill de Vergie, Area Wildlife Manager in Meeker. “We ask the public to help us protect this fishery by honoring our request and avoid it during the hottest part of the day, or perhaps find a cooler, higher-altitude fishery.”

    Wildlife officials have observed water temperatures approaching dangerous levels for cold-water fish in the White River during the early afternoon and evening. Although water temperatures dip into the 50s overnight, the high daytime temperatures are a source of concern. Under these stressful conditions, hooked fish may experience mortality even if released quickly back into the water.

    It could take several years for an affected fishery to fully recover if a significant number of fish die due to the drought-like conditions

    Like many rivers and streams in western Colorado, the White River offers world-class fishing and attracts thousands of anglers each year, providing a source of income to hotels, outfitters and many other local businesses that depend on outdoor recreation.

    “Because of the importance of the river to our community, we believe that most anglers will cooperate,” said de Vergie. “As soon as we see a shift in the weather pattern, people will once again enjoy the great fishing in the White River.”

    For more information about fishing in places not affected by low flows, please visit: http://wildlife.state.co.us/Fishing/Pages/Fishing.aspx

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife was created by the merger of Colorado State Parks and the Colorado Division of Wildlife, two nationally recognized leaders in conservation, outdoor recreation and wildlife management. Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages 42 state parks, all of Colorado’s wildlife, more than 300 state wildlife areas and a host of recreational programs.

    More White River basin coverage here and 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.


    Runoff/drought news: Endangered fish program is short of water to operate some infrastructure this season

    June 19, 2012

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    From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

    … in key tributaries like the Yampa, and the fish could take another hit because there won’t be enough water during parts of the summer to operate fish passages that enable species like the Colorado pikeminnow to reach spawning areas.

    Biologists said suspending operation of the fish passages this summer will have a short-term impact on the endangered fish, but are more concerned about long-term impacts if the drought lasts another year.
    The endangered species evolved over millennia to survive extreme high and extreme low flows, but human activities have hit hard at the low end of the range, resulting in conditions that can’t sustain populations without help — like the fish ladders. Overall, recovery program leaders say they’ll manage the little bit water they do have based on experience from the drought in the early 2000s. “We’ve been there before,” program director Tom Chart said in a previous interview, explaining that this year’s low flows will likely result in a temporary setback for recovery efforts, especially in tributaries like the Yampa River…

    In a release, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service specifically identified the Grand Valley Irrigation Company Fish Passage, Grand Valley Project Fish Passage, and the Price-Stubb Fish Passage, all in western Colorado. The passages were built as part of the recovery program to give the fish access to important habitat extending from Lake Powell to Rifle on the Colorado River and from Grand Junction to Delta on the Gunnison River.

    On the Colorado River, agricultural irrigators in the Grand Valley are operating fish screens on their canals when conditions permit. The screens serve a dual purpose of preventing fish from entering canals and benefiting canal operations by reducing debris loads in the canals. “We have a history of cooperation with the Recovery Program that helps our water users and the endangered fish,” said Richard Proctor, manager of the Grand Valley Water Users Association.

    The Recovery Program is also coordinating with the Redlands Water and Power Company on operating procedures for the Redlands Fish Passage and Screen, located on the Gunnison River. The Recovery Program is working to minimize impacts to water deliveries to Redlands irrigators while continuing to operate the fish passage and fish screen, as conditions allow.

    From Steamboat Today (Scott Franz):

    “It’s a brutal year, and I don’t have anything good to say other than it is what it is,” [Pete Van De Carr] the owner of Backdoor Sports said Sunday as the river behind him ran at 111 cubic feet per second, well below its average flow of 1,810 cfs for June 17. According to a National Weather Service forecast, the Yampa River could slow to 85 cfs in Steamboat Springs as early as Wednesday. Once the river falls below that threshold, it essentially closes to recreation to protect wildlife and the river’s habitat.

    More endangered/threatened species coverage here.


    The Front Range Water Council has its eyes on water requirements for oil shale exploration and production

    June 19, 2012

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    Water supply planning requires forecasting demand decades into the future. The Front Range Water Council is wary of water requirements for oil shale — the “Next Big Thing” for over a hundred years now — since many of the water rights that oil companies have purchased are senior to most of the large transmountain diversion projects. Here’s a report from the Colorado News Service (Kathleen Ryan) via The Fowler Tribune. From the article:

    Jim Lochhead, president of the group and CEO of Denver Water, says half of the Denver water supply comes from the Colorado River, and he’s worried that oil shale production could overtax the river’s resources. “We’re concerned that the BLM and the United States not go too far too fast in their leasing program, before really understanding and quantifying these impacts on the river.”[...]

    According to a report from Western Resource Advocates, oil and gas companies hold some rights to Colorado River water which predate the rights held by cities for drinking water. The BLM is expected to have a new plan in place by the end of the year.

    More oil shale coverage here and here.


    Flaming Gorge Pipeline: ‘Colorado has water available under the Colorado River Compact’ — Nathaniel Budd

    May 31, 2012

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    Here’s a guest column written by Wyco Water and Power, Director of Business Development, Nathaniel Budd, running in the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the column:

    Colorado has water available under the Colorado River Compact, a 1922 agreement among seven Colorado River basin states governing allocation of water rights for the Colorado River. Until Colorado’s apportionment is fully developed, the Lower Basin (California, Nevada, and Arizona) will benefit at the detriment of Colorado. For 90 years, our region has over-delivered to the Lower Basin, largely because the infrastructure does not exist to utilize the water supply available to this state. The water belongs to Colorado, not California…

    Rather than develop waters allocated for the state’s beneficial use nearly 100 years ago, opponents of the Regional Watershed Supply Project would prefer to stunt economic growth and endanger the Upper Basin’s future water supply. If Colorado’s forefathers had been of this mindset, the eastern slope communities and the multi-billion-dollar agricultural base that supplies open spaces, preserves western culture, and provides innumerable environmental benefits would not exist as we know them today.

    Meanwhile, here’s a report about FERC’s latest rejection of the pipeline’s preliminary permit, from Mary Bernard writing for the Vernal Express. From the article:

    Aaron Milllion’s hydropower and water supply project, renamed the Wyco Power and Water Project was denied by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on May 17. That’s the second refusal of the project’s preliminary permit request from FERC, preceded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ termination in 2011. FERC refused a rehearing on the decision saying, Million’s arguments were unsupported and no preliminary permit for its proposed Regional Watershed Supply Project would be issued…

    The project has received widespread resistance from the private sector throughout the tri-state area. Formal opposition from Daggett and Uintah Counties, the Wyoming communities of Green River and Rock Springs, Sweetwater County, Wyo. and Moffatt County, Colo.

    Local fly fishermen openly opposed the water project saying it would draw down reservoirs and destroy world class fisheries on the Green River and Flaming Gorge. High Desert Anglers president Jeff Taniguchi warned that the “Million Project would absolutely decimate one of the most beautiful places in Utah, and compromise every downstream user of water on the Green.”

    Western Resource Advocates filed objections representing itself, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Colorado Environmental Coalition.

    More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


    Routt County contracts with groundwater consultant to set up monitoring program for oil and gas exploration and production

    May 25, 2012

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    From Steamboat Today:

    Routt County Planning Director Chad Phillips confirmed Wednesday that the Board of Commissioners approved plans to retain groundwater quality consultant Tom Myers, of Reno, Nev. Myers’ role will be to advise the county on requirements that will be used in the future to guide when and how energy companies drilling oil and gas wells here will be made to install test wells to detect any pollution of aquifers resulting from their activities.

    More oil and gas coverage here and here.


    White River basin: In the event that an economic oil shale production process is developed, is there enough water available?

    May 25, 2012

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    Here’s a guest column written by Colorado River Basin Roundtable member, Greg Trainor, running in the Grand Junction Free Press that looks at the question. From the article:

    In Northwest Colorado, where energy development is a major industry and we hear a constant buzz about oil shale (will it or won’t it take off?), the Yampa-White and Colorado Basin Roundtables determined that water demands from the energy industry must be estimated and a plan developed for where this water might come from. The roundtables commissioned an extensive study to find the answers.

    The study showed that water use for oil shale has the potential to dwarf all other energy sector demands for water — but that these needs can probably be met with water from the White River Basin through existing and new reservoir projects.

    The technology of a future oil shale industry is uncertain, so future water demands are also uncertain. Past industry efforts and current experimental development employ an array of above-ground and in situ (in place) technologies to extract oil from rock, and projected water use varies among these technologies. The study developed high, medium and low oil production and water use scenarios to develop a range of plausible water use estimates.

    The study’s high water use estimate uses data from Dutch Shell’s in situ conversion process, which requires electrical heating and cooling. Water needs include water related to supplying electricity as well as directly in the extraction process. At a high production scenario of 1.5 million barrels/day of oil production, this scenario yields an overall estimate of 110,000 acre-feet of water use per year.

    This final “high” estimate is significantly lower than the one generated in the first phase of the study. The earlier estimates assumed all energy needs for extracting oil from shale would be met by coal-fired power plants, while Phase II more realistically assumed that the industry would use gas-powered plants, which use much less water.

    The study identified three water supply projects in the White River Basin that could potentially meet an annual demand of 110,000 acre feet/year. These three projects are not the only water supply option available, but do demonstrate that the water needs can be supplied from the White River, via development of junior decrees, with reasonable development costs.

    More oil shale coverage here and here.


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

    May 23, 2012

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    Here’s the release from Protect the Flows.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


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

    May 19, 2012

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

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

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

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

    From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

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

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

    From the Colorado Independent (Troy Hooper):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

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

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

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

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

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

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

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

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

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

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

    From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

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

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

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

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

    More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


    Flaming Gorge Pipeline: Aaron Million’s homes in Fort Collins are in foreclosure, ‘This is completely isolated from everything we’re doing on the business side,’ — Aaron Million

    May 1, 2012

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    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

    Owing about $1.8 million on two Fort Coll-ins properties, water project financier Aaron Million’s two Fort Collins homes are listed in foreclosure, which includes a West Oak Street home listed as the business address for Wyco Power and Water, according to Larimer County Assessor and Colorado Secretary of State records…

    Larimer County property records show a home owned by Million Agricultural Investments Ltd. at 1436 W. Oak St., was listed in foreclosure in February with a scheduled sale set for June 6. The property is listed as a home and business address by Million with the Colorado Secretary of State. County records show Million is delinquent in his payments on the property, for which Million Agricultural Investments owes $553,814 to Verus Bank of Commerce. The home, he said Monday, is a personal residence owned by a partnership with his parents, who have fallen on hard financial times. Knowledge of the foreclosure, which is public record and has been published in legal ads in at least one other regional newspaper recently, “has effects on my kids and my family,” Million said. “This is completely isolated from everything we’re doing on the business side.”[...]

    Million’s 9,900 square-foot-home on Stargazer Court in northwest Fort Collins also is listed in foreclosure, with a scheduled sale date of Oct. 31.

    More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


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

    April 30, 2012

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

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

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

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

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

    More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.


    IBCC: The Flaming Gorge Task Force March 27 meeting notes are hot off the press

    April 27, 2012

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    From email from Peak Facilitation (Heather Bergman):

    …please find the summary of the March 27 meeting of the Basin Roundtable Project Exploration Committee: Flaming Gorge here.

    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.


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