Flaming Gorge Pipeline: Denver scoping session

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I attended the Flaming Gorge Pipeline (Regional Watershed Supply Project) scoping session in Denver tonight. Rena Brand from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers introduced the project to the group. She explained that their involvement stemmed from their regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act. Aaron Million and the Million Conservation Resources Group (MCRG) have applied for a permit from the Corps and the scoping sessions are the first pass at getting input to design the environmental impact statement for the project.

Ms. Brand stressed that the Corps was, “neither a proponent or opponent of the project.” They are charged with doing a thorough assessment of the project and that a project of this magnitude required their most stringent review — hence the EIS. She says that they hope to have the draft EIS ready by 2012 with a record of decision in 2014. However that is a very preliminary timeline and much could change, she said.

She listed some of the entities that will be involved, including, the Bureau of Land Management, Reclamation, USFS, EPA, USFWS, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Moffat County (Colorado), Sweetwater County (Wyoming), and the National Park Service. AECOM from Fort Collins won the competition for the RFP for the science and engineering for the EIS which will be funded by MCRG.

Our old friend the Colorado River Compact was discussed by Jim Paulson from AECOM. He detailed the division of Colorado River flows between the upper basin and lower basin (7.5 million acre feet each). He also talked about the Upper Colorado River Basin Compact which divvies up the 7.5 million acre feet to the upper basin states by percentage. The Upper Colorado River Compact also allows a state to move its water from another state if need be.

Aaron Million spoke about the project. There was really nothing new from him for Coyote Gulch readers but he did say, after detailing the findings of Reclamation on available water, that, “If the supplies and surplus [are] not there this project will not be built.” Later in the session he was asked about cost projections. He stated that so far they are looking at $2.2 to $3.0 billion.

Ms. Brand then invited attendees to comment. I was pretty sure that the crowd would be friendly to the project since Million is targeting the Front Range. I was wrong.

Mark Squillace — Professor of Law and Director, Natural Resources Law Center at the University of Colorado — said that it may be too early for an EIS. He asked, “Does the group have water rights?” He made the point that moving water out of Wyoming requires the approval of the Wyoming legislature. (He was corrected later on by a Denver University law professor who said that the approval is required to move water belonging to the state of Wyoming and that Million would be moving Colorado water.)

Professor Suillace also brought up the anti-speculation doctrine under prior appropriation. He cited the High Plains decision by Division 2 Water Court judge Dennis Maes in 2004 which was upheld by the State Supreme Court in 2006. The test a transfer must pass, according to one of my sources, “is to have an ‘end user’ who ‘can and will’ beneficially use the water. Those are the key legal terms. In the High Plains case, the list of end users was so vague and broad that the judge (and justices) were unable to make either of those decisions.”

From the paper, The Anti-Speculation Doctrine in Water Law: Ghost-busting, Trust-busting, or Ensuring Reasonable, Beneficial Use?, written by Sandra Zellmer, University of Nebraska College of Law:

The various anti-speculation provisions are intended to keep the reviled Robber Barons of yesteryear in their place and prevent them from coming back to haunt us as modern-day Water Barons. This talk considers whether restrictions against speculation in water serve a continuing public purpose or, conversely, are an archaic relic of times past. Is there a current need to prevent speculation and monopolistic behavior (trust-busting), or are we merely chasing ghostly apparitions of fictitious Water Barons while discouraging socially beneficial water transfers?

Many scholars of law and economics argue that restraints on water transfers should be removed to allow water marketing to take its place among an array of collaborative, conservation-oriented strategies for water management. Yet because market forces tend to focus only on short planning cycles and fail to prevent the imposition of harmful externalities on non-parties, market transactions have significant potential to compromise the needs of current and future generations of water users and to undermine governmental authority over essential water resources. To the extent that society envisions water marketing as a tool to reallocate water supplies, governments must continue to play a significant role in overseeing water transfers – particularly speculative transactions that fail to put water to reasonable, beneficial uses – to ensure that the interests of affected third parties are protected and that water remains available for the public good.

Million clearly has not identified his customers. Ms. Brand assured Frank Jaeger (Parker Water and Sanitation) later on in the session that the Corps will consider this in the EIS.

Professor Suillace’s third point was the possiblity of litigation by the lower basin states if the upper basin states fail to deliver the required 75 million acre feet of water at Lee Ferry over any 10 year period — as required by the compact. He was reminded later on — again by the DU professor — that the upper basin states have over-delivered every year of the compact.

Bruce Lytle, President of Lytle Water Solutions, LLC, told the Corps that the Flaming Gorge Pipeline is, “Not the right project,” since it is being done, “by a private water speculator.” The Corps needs to identify the, “purpose and need,” for the project and it, “should be based on contractual demand,” he said. He added that, “We don’t know how much water is going where.”

Parker’s Frank Jaeger added, “I have a real concern when it comes to speculation, particularly the costs to end users.” Later on he told me that a, “project for the public good should be controlled by a public entity.”

Afterward I talked briefly with Jim Eddy, one of Million’s partners. Eddy dismissed the idea of collaborating with public entities saying that the project would languish while trying to get different groups to agree. He feels that the only way to get a pipeline built is by a small private group with deep pockets.

We spoke briefly about powering the pipeline. The design right now calls for the firm power to be supplied by natural gas. The corridor they plan to build in has several major natural gas pipelines. He expects to look seriously at wind power and less so at solar. Their engineers are also optimizing the route for the generation of hydroelectric. Eddy feels that in some areas they may generate extra power over the pumping needs.

Make sure that you get your comments to the Corps of Engineers ( https://www.nwo.usace.army.mil/html/od-tl/eis-info.htm ). Comments at this stage of the project are used to set the scope of the EIS. As we’ve seen with the Northern Integrated Supply Project it’s better for the Corps to know up front what the concerns are. Readers may recall that the Corps is going to release a supplemental EIS for NISP sometime next year after receiving scathing comments from the EPA and others on the original EIS.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Clear Creek watershed: Molson Coors donates $30,000 to Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

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Here’s a release from Molson Coors via PRNewswire.com:

Molson Coors Donates $30,000 to Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

Brewer Continues to Invest Locally in Improving Conditions of Colorado Clear Creek Watershed and Its Tributaries as Part of Overall Commitment to Water Stewardship

Molson Coors Brewing Company (NYSE: TAP; TSX) today announced a $30,000 donation to the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation (CCWF), a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the ecological, aesthetic, recreational and economic conditions in Colorado’s Clear Creek watershed, which is used for drinking water, agriculture and recreation. This donation will go toward the CCWF’s efforts to stabilize and renew the Clear Creek watershed slope with the introduction of new vegetation, mitigate the impact to the watershed from abandoned mines and continue the foundation’s education and outreach programs.

Today’s donation continues Denver-based Molson Coors’ support of CCWF as part of the brewer’s larger commitment to environmental stewardship and advocacy for pure, accessible water.

“The mission of the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation is to promote sustainable natural resource management throughout the watershed and serve as a model for the arid mountain west,” said Ed Rapp, the foundation’s president. “We are proud to have a partner in Molson Coors who shares this mission. We are grateful for their continued commitment to our goals and for their financial support.”

Molson Coors’ history with The Clear Creek Watershed Foundation began in 1991 with the Clear Creek Watershed Initiative (WIIN), a joint project between Coors Brewing Company and the Center for Resource Management. The goal of the initiative was to pioneer the coordination of environmental and recreational improvements in the Clear Creek Basin.

Today, Molson Coors and its family of brewers continue their commitment to the CCWF both financially and through employee volunteer time. Recently more than 40 Miller Coors employees in Golden, Colo. volunteered to work on the Cumberland Gulch watershed restoration project along with their friends and family members – a project sponsored by the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation, the National Forest Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service.

“As a global brewer, we are committed to safeguarding the quality and quantity of water available in our communities,” said Bart Alexander, vice president, global alcohol policy and corporate responsibility for Molson Coors. “Pure, clean water is an essential part of the brewing process and is absolutely vital to the quality of our beer. Protecting this critical resource, through partnerships with organizations like the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation, is a priority in our global business practices.”

Since 2005, Molson Coors has worked to establish overall standards for energy conservation, water stewardship and waste reduction at its 18 breweries across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. To effectively track progress, Molson Coors has been score carding water usage at each brewery, and in 2008, the company set a global target to reduce water usage by four percent. In September 2008, at the Tremblant Forum in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, Molson Coors chief executive officer Peter Swinburn officially endorsed the United Nations’ CEO Water Mandate, along with its call to action and framework for businesses to address water sustainability in their operations and supply chain.

In addition to its investment and commitment to the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation, Molson Coors is also an active member of the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER). The group brings leading global beverage companies together to define a common stewardship framework and to drive continued improvement in industry practices and performance. BIER also works to inform public policy in the areas of water conservation and resource protection, energy efficiency and climate change mitigation.

For more information about Molson Coors and its global responsibility initiatives, please visit http://www.molsoncoors.com/responsibility. The more we listen, the more we learn – please give us your feedback at http://www.molsoncoors.com/responsibility/feedback.

About Molson Coors Brewing Company:

Molson Coors Brewing Company is one of the world’s largest brewers. It brews, markets and sells a portfolio of leading premium quality brands such as Coors Light, Molson Canadian, Molson Dry, Carling, Coors, and Keystone Light in North America, Europe and Asia. It operates in Canada, through Molson Canada; in the US, through the MillerCoors joint venture; in the U.K. and Ireland, through Coors Brewers Limited. For more information on Molson Coors Brewing Company, visit the company’s Web site, http://www.molsoncoors.com. For more information about the company’s commitments to corporate responsibility, visit http://www.molsoncoors.com/responsibility.

About the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation:

Incorporated in 1997, the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to improving the overall conditions in the Clear Creek Watershed through comprehensive and cooperative efforts with watershed community stakeholders. This includes, but is not limited to, improving the water quality of Clear Creek and its tributaries. With a varied “menu” of 60+ current and potential projects to facilitate and/or implement, the Foundation has plenty of opportunities! The overall approach of the Foundation is to create “culture of cooperation” with knowledge sharing, collaborative strategies that lead to long term solutions. For more information, visit the Foundation’s Web site, http://www.clearcreekwater.org.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline (Regional watershed project): Pueblo scoping session

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From the Pueblo Chieftain: “A plan to build a 560-mile pipeline from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range will be discussed by the Army Corps of Engineers in Pueblo this week. The scoping meeting is scheduled 6:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Risley Middle School, 625 N. Monument Ave.”

Note: There is a scoping session scheduled tonight at West High School in Denver, 951 Elati St, Denver, CO‎ – (720) 423-5300.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Pueblo: Arkansas River flow program

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Here’s a background piece on the Arkansas River flow program, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Since the program was set up under a 2004 intergovernmental agreement, nearly 30,000 acre-feet of water has been released through Pueblo that might not have been otherwise. More than half of that came in 2005, when water providers were figuring out how the program would work. About 56 percent of the water released under the flow program came from mandatory curtailment of exchanges – out-of-priority diversions that are accompanied by an equivalent release of water downstream to satisfy other water rights. Those primarily affected Colorado Springs and Aurora. The remainder were releases of water, primarily by the Pueblo Board of Water Works and Colorado Springs, for special events like kayak races. About 71 percent of the water has been recovered downstream and used in later exchanges. In the process of running the program, the water users have learned how to keep water in the river and still make the numbers work, said Alan Ward, water resources administrator for the Pueblo water board…

For the past two years, the partners in the flow program have agreed to keep 100 cfs in the river and rebalance the accounts with paper trades at the end of the winter water storage season after March 15. That has meant less water lost to program participants while preserving the benchmark flows, Ward said.

In recent weeks, the program has surfaced as a core issue in Pueblo County conditions for SDS. Pueblo West filed a lawsuit for exemption for the program, because it could reduce their future water supplies. Pueblo County officials say the Pueblo West claims of losses are exaggerated. Pueblo City Council President Vera Ortegon last week said preservation of the Pueblo flow program was the main reason council voted to reaffirm parts of the 2004 IGA, including Aurora’s right to use the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, a disputed point in a federal lawsuit. The Pueblo water board and Colorado Springs have signed an agreement that would put water into the Arkansas River – something they were never required to do under the 2004 IGA – if flows reach below 50 cfs. The cities would maintain a 3,000 acre-foot pool for that purpose, but would not be required to contribute in the driest of years.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.