Colorado water officials will decide next month whether to pay $150,000 to study a massive pipeline from Wyomings Flaming Gorge reservoir to Front Range cities and farms.
Although the pipeline would be far away from Southwest Colorado, it involves Colorado River water, so it could complicate interstate agreements that require Western Colorado to leave water in the rivers for use downstream.
The Colorado Water Conservation Board will consider funding the grant at its Sept. 13-14 meeting in Grand Junction.
Environmental groups are urging the board to deny the grant, citing the high cost of the proposed pipeline and the possibility for damage to trout and endangered fish below Flaming Gorge dam.
The single most important element for those fish to continue is water, Bart Miller, of Western Resource Advocates, said during a telephone town hall last month. Theyve got to have water in the spring peak flow. Theyve got to have water in the base flow period when water is a little bit lower on the river. Theyve got to have it all the time.
The pipeline could carry up to 250,000 acre-feet 81 million gallons of water a year.
Two entities have proposed building a pipeline from Wyoming.
Aaron Million, head of the Million Conservation Resource Group, came up with the idea.
He noticed that a small part of the Green River flows into Colorado near Dinosaur National Monument, below Flaming Gorge dam. That quirk of geography means Colorado can use some water from the Green River, which merges with the Colorado River in Utah.
In July, Million backed away from an environmental impact statement he had asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to prepare for his proposal. Instead, he said he would ask the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to take over permitting, since the pipeline would generate hydroelectricity.
Million faces competition from several Front Range utilities that want to use the Flaming Gorge concept to build their own similar pipeline.
The grant at issue before the Colorado Water Conservation Board would not favor either concept.
Instead, it is designed to find solid data to make decisions on the general concept of a Flaming Gorge pipeline, said Rod Kuharich, chairman of the Metro Basin Roundtable, one of the regional groups that submitted the grant request.
It is not to move forward with the project. It is not to commit the state in any way, Kuharich said.
Water roundtables across the state have expressed support for the study, Kuharich said.
Its everybody working together, which is a significant step for the state, he said.
However, support for a study might not translate into support for actually building the pipeline, especially in Western Colorado.
A study called the Statewide Water Supply Initiative noted that a Flaming Gorge pipeline could get Colorado in trouble over the Colorado River Compact of 1922.
The compact sets out how much water the downstream states of California, Arizona and Nevada must get before upstream states can use water.
Although downstream states have never used the compact to demand more water, Western Colorado water experts worry that the state is close to exceeding its allotment, especially if a warming climate leads to drier rivers.
Reach Joe Hanel at firstname.lastname@example.org.