Colorado River Cooperative Agreement: Deal lauded as win-win at the ‘Summit State of the River’ meeting

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

[Colorado River Water Conservation District general manager Eric Kuhn] sat on a panel with Denver Water manager Jim Lochhead and Summit County manager Gary Martinez, as well as the Summit County commissioners, together outlining the give and take of the deal that clears the way for Denver Water’s proposed expansion of its Moffat Tunnel collection system in Grand County — a project still under scrutiny by federal and state agencies, including the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The Moffat Tunnel project wouldn’t directly take any new water from Summit County, but because of the complex plumbing involved, it would result in increased diversions from the Blue River Basin — 5,000 acre feet, taken during spring runoff in wet and average years…

“Long-time disputes were resolved,” said County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier, adding that Denver Water will impose a West Slope surcharge on certain types of water sales, potentially providing an ongoing source of funding for environmental projects, including forest health work.

At one point, Lochhead was asked by an audience member how much of Denver Water’s total usage — about half — goes to outdoor lawn irrigation. “We’re not going to dry up all the bluegrass lawns on the Front Range, we’re not going to get that,” said Commissioner Thomas Davidson. What you’ve got to understand is what we’re getting in this agreement is far more than what we could have gotten in water court from a judge,” Davidson said.

From Steamboat Today (Mike Lawrence):

Local water policy experts say the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, announced Thursday in Tabernash and touted as a historic framework for future collaboration between Front Range and Western Slope water interests, has little, if any, direct impact on the Yampa River and its tributaries in Northwest Colorado. The agreement primarily addresses Denver Water, metro area suburbs and their interaction with municipalities and river managers along the Colorado River…

While the Upper Yampa and Northern Colorado water conservancy districts are not participants in the agreement, the districts’ interests are deeply intertwined with those who are. In recent years, for example, the Northern Colorado water district has studied the potential for a trans-mountain diversion, or pumpback, of Yampa River water to the Front Range. One hypothetical project proposed diverting Yampa River water near Maybell, in western Moffat County.

Dan Birch, deputy general manager of the Colorado River District, said last week’s agreement, a deal several years in the making, cools pumpback [Yampa Pumpback] proposals. “I think it takes the heat off, for the time being, for trans-mountain diversions,” Birch said…

Talk of pumpbacks also has cooled recently because of the multi-billion-dollar costs of such projects, the recessionary economy and other factors. “I don’t know of anyone else stepping forward at this stage of the game seriously talking about a Maybell pumpback,” Birch said. “I just don’t see anything happening in the near-term out of the Yampa.”[…]

District officials plan to discuss water issues with the Steamboat Springs City Council on May 17 in Centennial Hall.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.

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