Sierra Club to fight Shell’s application for a diversion on the Yampa River

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The Sierra Club has a record of defending northwestern Colorado (see Green River through Dinosaur National Monument). It looks like they are going to help with the opposition to Shell’s filing on the Yampa River, according to All American Patriots. From the article:

The Sierra Club is fighting to protect a key river in northwestern Colorado from a water grab by the oil industry…

In an effort to protect the Yampa River and the fish, wildlife, and communities that depend on it, the Sierra Club filed a statement of opposition in Colorado Water Court today to block Shell’s request. “Communities, ranchers, fish and wildlife all rely on the Yampa River. It doesn’t make sense to hand over our scarce water just so an oil company can squander it on a pipe dream like oil shale,” said Sierra Club Representative Eric Huber.

Meanwhile here’s an editorial call to arms for residents and government entities in the Yampa Valley to get involved with water policy for the area, from Steve Aigner writing in the Steamboat Pilot & Today. He writes:

Colorado and Yampa Valley water experts voice increasing concern about previous optimistic beliefs about the reliable yield of the Colorado River system and our valley’s Fish Creek Basin, rivers and creeks. In Colorado, we believed we had an estimated 600,000 AF to develop, but during a 2007 trial between Denver Water and several Western Slope communities, experts on both sides agreed in their testimony that Colorado had only 159,000 AF left to develop, according a recent article in the High Country News.

We have endured the worst 10-year drought in the Colorado River’s recorded history of a long wet cycle. Now, we wonder about the potential impact of a drier climate. Still, contrary to the very optimistic belief that Steamboat Springs “has sufficient water rights to service a community of 100,000+ people under drought conditions for 35+ years,” the city’s first Steamboat Water Supply Master Plan in December says we need a redundant water supply. By 2027, the increase in water demand from the estimated buildout and population growth of the west Steamboat Springs area will more than double, from 3,141 AF to 7,206 AF. Because the reliable firm yield of Fish Creek Basin is only 7,000 AF, we will need to rely on the water supply cushion of 3,000 AF to 6,500 AF offered by the Yampa River Basin and conditional rights to Elk River water.

We face several uncertainties — a drier climate, a fire in the Fish Creek Basin and a call on the 1922 water compact from lower basin states. Incidentally, the water level of Lake Mead, a reservoir on the Colorado River, is only 1,112 feet above sea level. At 1,050 feet, the federal government will cut water to seven states dependent on the Colorado River, perhaps triggering the water call, according to a Bloomberg News article Friday.

A small quibble with the Mr. Aigner: A water call this year is highly unlikely. A call would be triggered if the upper basin states failed to deliver the running 10 year average of 7.5 million acre feet per year. We’re not close to that yet.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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