Steamboat Springs: Five-party water rights exchange may net city 2,000 acre-feet of storage in Steamboat Lake

A picture named steamboatlake.jpg

From the Steamboat Pilot & Today (Brandon Gee):

Steamboat attorney and re gional water guru Tom Sharp has proposed a five-party water rights exchange that could prove to be a lower-cost alternative to solving some of the region’s water priorities.

If realized, one end result is that the city of Steamboat Springs would receive as much as 2,000 acre-feet of storage rights in Steamboat Lake to augment its 8 cubic feet per second flow in the Elk River. That would save the city the cost and difficulty of building its own new reservoir on the Elk. Augmentation of the city’s Elk River water right is necessary for the city to bring the water into the municipal water system, which is necessary for development in western Steamboat and the city’s goal of reducing its near sole reliance on the Fish Creek watershed.

Sharp said the city’s 1999 Elk River water right could be curtailed during low flows because the Colorado Water Conservation Board holds a 1977 in-stream flow right on the river. If flows in the Elk drop below 65 cfs, junior rights such as the city’s would be shut off — unless water could be released from a reservoir to augment flows…

City officials confirmed they are interested in the concept but said they will have to weigh it against all available alternatives. Public Works Director Philo Shelton said the cost estimate for a new 1,500-acre-foot reservoir is $12.5 million. Shelton said the city has not identified a location for such a reservoir, but he said it would be upstream of the city’s diversion point on the Elk River at Routt County Road 44…

The exchange involves the city, Xcel Energy, Tri-State Gen eration and Transmission, Col orado River Water Con serva tion District and Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District. Water rights would be shuffled between Elkhead Reservoir near Craig, Steamboat Lake in North Routt County and Stagecoach Reservoir in South Routt County…

Jim Pokrandt, spokesman for Colorado River Water Con servation District, said the district is interested in the proposal but needs to consider several issues and take the idea to its board of directors. The river district owns the rights in Elkhead Reservoir that would be leased to Tri-State.

Also through the complex exchange, Xcel Energy’s contract storage rights in Steamboat Lake would move to Stagecoach Reservoir, and the Upper Yam pa Water Conservancy Dis trict would receive the rights in Steamboat Lake that could be contracted to the city. Sharp said he thinks the exchange provides advantages to all five parties, but he also acknowledges there are several challenges to it including money and contract terms.

More Yampa River Basin coverage here and here.

Leave a Reply