Flaming Gorge pipeline hydroelectric generation project update: Aaron Million switches federal agencies and anticipates cutting the environmental review time from 7 years to 2.5

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million said Friday he is terminating the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ environmental re-view of the Regional Watershed Supply Project and transferring that review to another federal agency that regulates hydro-power projects. The agency switch could reduce the environmental review and permitting time for the project from more than seven years to about two and a half years, he said…

Million envisions the pipeline generating more than 1,000 megawatts of hydroelectric power as it tumbles from Laramie to Fort Collins – the primary reason the federal agency conducting the environmental review of the project had to be switched, Million said. He said he plans to submit a permit application for the pipeline to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, next week and officially terminate the Army Corps’ review of the project at the same time…

FERC spokeswoman Celeste Miller said Friday she did not know what conversations Million has had with the agency about the feasibility of FERC reviewing the pipeline proposal. She said she does not know if it is possible for FERC to complete its environmental review of the pipeline in two and a half years. “There is no way to know at this point,” she said. “We have nothing before us. We have nothing to look at.”

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“We’ll be able to move a lot of the work from the Corps study over. The project and analysis will remain the same,” Million said. “The time line will shorten dramatically.” The Corps process would have taken at least five more years, even though the study began in 2008. Million said he expects the FERC process for his proposal to be done in a short time because of the groundwork that already has been done.

Million is following a model chosen by Utah in 2008 for a $1 billion pipeline from Lake Powell to serve water users in that state. Utah applied through the FERC to address the hydropower aspects of its pipeline, but concerns of other federal agencies are addressed through the process. The entire process is expected to be completed in 2012, according to the Utah Division of Water Resources website. Million’s proposed pipeline would generate about 70 megawatts of power in-line, and has the potential for 500 to 1,000 megawatts of pump-back storage generation, he said…

Million’s project faced opposition under the Corps proposal from some counties in Wyoming and regional environmental groups. They plan to oppose a FERC proposal, as well.

From email from Western Resource Advocates (Peter Roessmann):

Aaron Million, proponent of the Regional Watershed Supply Project, or “Million Project” has announced that he will switch permitting agencies from the Army Corps of Engineers to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), in hopes of expediting the permitting process. The FERC environmental review, however, should be just as rigorous as the Corps’ review – this is essential for protecting all stakeholders’ interests in Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah.

Western Resource Advocates has the following statements:

– “The FERC environmental review is not just switching horses in mid-stream, it starts the NEPA process over again. Stakeholders in Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado deserve the opportunity to weigh in on the “new” form of the project. We expect whatever agency takes a close look at the proposal will reveal Million’s empty promise that the project could generate hydroelectric power—it will be net power user.”

– “Today, the Million project is no closer to delivering water to Coloradoans than it was two years ago. It’s time for water providers to focus on real solutions that can meet Colorado’s future water needs. This is yet another example of why the proposal is not-ready-for-prime-time, and why Colorado should not establish a “task force” to pursue a similar project.”

– “Million is now taking FERC on the same snipe hunt he’s led the Corps on for two years. Coloradoans should be outraged at this wasteful use of limited resources.”

From the Summit County Citizens Voice:

Million has been touting the pipeline for many years , but it’s not clear if the project is viable financially, or if it could deliver as much water as promised. Several regional and state groups have taken early looks at the proposal, but as yet, nobody has stepped forth to fully claim and embrace the long-distance pipeline. In making the switch, Million may be aiming at presenting the pipeline as an energy project, but conservation advocates pointed up that, even with a hydropower component, the pipeline would use more energy than it produces.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

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