Craig: Yampa/White River Roundtable recap

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From the Craig Daily Press (Andy Bockelman):

At its Wednesday night meeting at the Holiday Inn of Craig, the group of regional water experts unanimously tabled discussion for at least two future meetings after hearing a presentation from Steamboat Springs water attorney Tom Sharp.

In [his proposed Yampa Doctrine], Sharp wrote that Article XIII of the 1948 Upper Colorado River Compact — which requires that the state of Colorado not cause the flow of the Yampa’s Maybell gauging station to drop below 5 million acre-feet during the course of 10 years — among other things, needed closer, more specific regulation to ensure that Colorado is responsible for the curtailment of its own water should the Lower Basin states require it.

Sharp said the Yampa’s flow is 1.2 million acre-feet and users only require about a tenth of it. But he said modern users could be vulnerable since its water is now needed for regional power plants, reservoirs and other such uses, as opposed to the pre-1950s period when it was primarily used for irrigation and other agricultural purposes.

Attendee Eric Kuhn, of the Colorado River District — who said he wasn’t officially representing the group — spoke against the Yampa Doctrine, saying he didn’t think passing it would better the issue of water rights and regulations. “I’m not sure I agree that the state will be jumping quickly into rule-making,” Kuhn said.

I missed this story Tuesday. It’s a preview of yesterday’s Yampa/White River roundtable meeting where local water attorney was Tom Sharp to present his “Yampa Doctrine” methodology to protect Yampa irrigators if there is a call on the Colorado River from downstream Colorado River Compact states. Here’s the report from Mike Lawrence writing for Steamboat Today. From the article:

The Yampa Doctrine is an effort to protect local water users in the event of a worst-case scenario for the Colorado River system: a so-called “compact call,” a case of extreme water shortage in which the 1922 Colorado River Compact is enacted and Lower Basin states — Nevada, part of Arizona and California — call for their allocated water from Upper Basin states including Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, part of Arizona and New Mexico. Sharp said Monday that there is not yet a specific plan for how state water officials would acquire the allocated water — in other words, who gets shut off — if such a call occurs. “What (the Yampa Doctrine) would do would be to protect the Yampa Basin users from being forced to curtail their use, to stop their use, when there is a Lower Basin call and the Upper Basin has to deliver up water at Lee’s Ferry (in Arizona),” Sharp said.

Sharp said Yampa River users could be vulnerable to state action because regional reservoirs and power plants have “very junior water rights.” “We need to be prepared to make the Yampa Doctrine argument as a defense to being the youngest guy on the block,” he said.

State water officials have not agreed with his interpretation of water policy language, Sharp said. “Nobody else particularly thinks that’s appropriate,” he said of the Yampa Doctrine.

More Yampa River Basin coverage here.

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