Colorado’s water future dependent on new transmountain diversions?

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The Colorado Department of Natural Resources is looking at four pipeline concepts and two agricultural fallowing and dry up concepts as possible solutions to watering the unbridled growth along the Front Range. Here’s a report, from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post, about the pipeline plans from Flaming Gorge and the Green River proposed by the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition and the Million Resource Group. From the article:

Colorado municipal water suppliers are in discussions with their Wyoming counterparts exploring the feasibility. Separately, a private entrepreneur’s proposal to build a pipeline is under federal review. Colorado government officials — who have met with both contingents and are talking with Wyoming officials — recently included the “Flaming Gorge concept” among four options for diverting Western Slope water to the Front Range…

Huge hurdles remain, including financing and Colorado’s and Wyoming’s obligations to downriver states under an interstate compact. Conservationists object to the potential environmental impact of withdrawing the water…

The pipeline concept originated with entrepreneur Aaron Million and his Million Conservation Resource Group. In 2008, the group applied for a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which regulates construction in waterways and wetlands. An environmental review has begun, and engineers are sifting through a deluge of public comments, said Rena Brand, regulatory specialist for the agency. “The majority of letters are against it” and “push for the idea of conserving more along the Front Range,” Brand said. Federal wildlife officials are among those questioning possible impacts on endangered species and migratory birds…

Million must provide a list of likely customers by January to establish a need for the pipeline, Brand said. Last week, Million said that “ongoing negotiations with 20-plus” potential customers in Wyoming and Colorado “are going well.” He declined to name them. The project could be done in five years, he said. He wasn’t invited to the municipal suppliers’ discussions at a country club, a slight he calls unfortunate. “The lack of collaboration is problematic. It was the private sector that developed the water in the West” before federal agencies got involved, he said. “This is a return to the historical development of water resources, using the efficiency of the private sector to get things accomplished.”

Meanwhile, the municipal suppliers’ group was to continue discussions in Wyoming this week. They are close to formalizing a coalition, Jaeger said. He declined to name participants.

Colorado’s top natural resources officials say they’ve talked with Million and Jaeger. The state’s emerging strategies for meeting projected demand — which include conservation, the re-use of water and rethinking low-density versus high-density growth — assume that importing some water between river basins will be necessary, said Harris Sherman, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “Whether it is a public or a private project, it must incorporate public benefits,” Sherman said. “Sometimes it’s easier to incorporate public benefits with a public project, because the sponsoring entity is the public, and it will be focussed on public benefits. But it’s not impossible for a private project to incorporate a wide variety of public benefits. “

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here. Colorado-Wyoming Coalition coverage here.

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