Colorado Water Workshop recap: The Colorado River Cooperative agreement was a hot topic Friday


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Central characters of the agreement Friday dissected its creation for the Colorado Water Workshop at Western State College…

Barbara Green, attorney for the Northwestern Colorado Council of Governments traced the history of the conflict back to the 1970s. It was a time when some cities in the Denver metro area were growing at a rate of 10-15 percent and a strong environmental movement was developing as well-educated liberals moved into the state. Energy development also was focusing attention on water supplies in the Colorado River basin. “We were watching the beginning of a train wreck,” Green said.

At the same time, the federal Clean Water Act was enacted in 1972, and more local control was given to communities by the state Legislature in 1974 with the passage of HB1041. By the 1980s, Western Slope opposition had grown and united diverse interests like miners, ranchers and “hippie types,” Green said. “I call it fear and loathing in the ’80s. . . . There were bumper stickers that said, ‘Dam the Denver Water Board’ . . . People brought their guns to meetings,” Green said. “These were very strange bedfellows, galvanized by the Denver Water Board.”[…]

Peter Fleming, attorney for the Colorado River Conservation District, said the Western Slope also is interested in resolving the Blue River decrees. The river’s headwaters are largely claimed by Denver and other Front Range users. “Some of the most expensive water in the state is at the headwaters of the Blue River,” Fleming said, explaining that it sells for $30,000-$35,000 an acre-foot

The other major issue is the Shoshone Power Plant near Glenwood Springs, which can gobble up the Colorado River with its diversions during low flows. A complicated regimen of flow compliance — called by some a “virtual call” would help assure water stays in the river…

The agreement also affects others who wish to do business with Denver Water or divert from the Western Slope, said Mark Pifher, director of Aurora Water. “There is some precedent being set, but I don’t think that’s bad as long as we can remain flexible,” Pifher said. “There is some risk for third parties who weren’t a part of the agreement.”[…]

“Aaron Million doesn’t call me any more,” [Denver Water’s David Little] quipped, in response to a question about whether the state should ask the Fort Collins’ entrepreneur to build a pipeline from the Mississippi River instead of within the Colorado River basin.

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here

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