Flaming Gorge pipeline: ‘A Water Pipeline No One Can Afford’ — Western Resource Advocates

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The Colorado Water Conservation Board will take up the question of funding a Flaming Gorge Task Force at their next meeting but meanwhile, economist Geore Oamek, put a pencil to the project and determined that it will produce the most expensive water in Colorado history. Here’s the release from Western Resource Advocates (Stacy Tellinghuisen):

The most expensive water in the history of Colorado. That would be the dubious distinction of the proposed Flaming Gorge Pipeline. A new report written by economist George Oamek outlines the costs of the proposed pipeline to Front Range water users, impacts on the tourism and recreation economy on the Green River, and some of the financial risks that Westerners would bear.

The proposed Flaming Gorge Pipeline would move 81 billion gallons each year 560 miles from southwestern Wyoming to cities along Colorado’s Front Range. The concept is proposed by both a private developer, Aaron Million, and a group of municipalities in Douglas County.

The project – estimated by the Colorado Water Conservation Board to cost $7 to $9 billion – would provide water two to 10 times more expensive than water from other proposed or recently developed water projects. The report finds Flaming Gorge water would cost up to $4,700 per acre-foot per year, compared to several other proposed projects expected to cost less than $700 per acre-foot per year.

“Flaming Gorge pipeline costs would be completely out-of-whack with what Coloradans can afford and should have to pay, especially when there are cheaper alternatives.” said Stacy Tellinghuisen, a water and energy expert with Western Resource Advocates.

Other recent water projects in Colorado have had substantial impacts on ratepayers. Colorado Springs’ Southern Delivery System, which, at just under $1 billion is a relative bargain compared to the proposed Flaming Gorge project, has led to multi-year, double-digit rate increases for customers, long before construction began. The Flaming Gorge Pipeline would result in even greater rate impacts.

Water providers and project proponents in Douglas County would be unable to foot the bill. Neither federal nor state government agencies are poised to subsidize enormous new water projects. The State of Colorado faced a 715 million dollar budget shortfall in 2011, leaving no funds available to pay for a multi-billion dollar water project.

The cost of this pipeline project will not only be paid by those who use the water. The report finds that for the recreation-dependent economy in the rural region surrounding the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, the impact of losing nearly a quarter of the Green River’s flow would reduce the region’s recreation revenue by $58.5 million per year, roughly a 19% hit to this economic sector.

“Local businesses like mine depend on the same water that the Flaming Gorge pipeline wants to divert away,” said Zeke Hersh, the owner of Blue River Anglers. “The recreation industry supports a lot of working people in rural Colorado, and if visitors aren’t drawn out here for the fishing and rafting, they won’t be around to eat in local restaurants, shop in our stores , or stay in local hotels. Businesses here will take a hit.”

The Colorado Water Conservation Board, when it meets on September 13th in Grand Junction, is considering whether to spend $150,000 to fund a task force to study the Flaming Gorge Pipeline.
“The proposed task force would squander taxpayer dollars,” said Elise Jones, of the Colorado Environmental Coalition. “The State of Colorado should be looking at projects that are affordable, viable, and collaborative, not spending money on gold-plated pipedreams.”

More coverage from the Associated Press (Catharine Tsai) via NorthernColorado5.com. From the article:

In a study commissioned by Western Resource Advocates, economic consultant George Oamek said diversions could reduce opportunities for fishing, rafting and camping and in turn reduce business for hotels, restaurants, and commercial outfitters and guides. It estimates regional expenditures could fall by about $39 million annually, representing less than 1% of the regional economy.

More Flaming Gore pipeline coverage here and here.

August in Salida: Temperatures up over average, precipitation down 55% from average

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From The Mountain Mail (Ericka Kastner):

Total precipitation during August in Salida was down 55 percent from the historical average, but average temperature was higher than in the same month in previous years. In August this year, Salida recorded .71 inch of precipitation, down .86 of an inch from the historical average of 1.57 inches. Measurable moisture was recorded on 9 of 31 days in August, with the greatest amounts falling Aug. 2 with .13 inch, Aug. 3 with .22 inch, and Aug. 31 with .12 inch. Four days were reported as having received a “trace.” The average temperature in August was 69.7 degrees, up from the historical average of 64.05 degrees.

Progressive 15 Fall Conference to be held in Wiggins September 14-16

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From email from the Progressive 15:

Your 2011 Progressive 15 officers invite you to attend the 2011 Fall Conference.

Lt. Governor Joe Garcia; Senator Michael Bennet; and U. S. House Representative Cory Gardner are just some of who you will interact with. Additional speakers, workshops and activities make this a don’t miss event.

Here’s the agenda. Here’s the registration page.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

Energy policy — oil and gas: There will be a public working session to discuss oil and gas regulations for El Paso County Thursday

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette:

Commissioners’ work session will begin at 2 p.m. Thursday, following the board’s regular 9 a.m. meeting. The work session will be in the hearing room of Regional Development Center, 2880 International Circle.

At the El Paso County assessor’s office, the number of mineral rights leases recorded for crude oil and natural gas is nearly twice that of last year. Leasing activity has jumped from 20 in 2008, to 215 in 2009, then 320 in 2010. This year’s tally: 611, with more than three months to go, according to County Assessor Mark Lowderman.

The office recently hired an oil and gas coordinator to handle valuations of the industry. “It’s everywhere out east,” Lowderman said last month of leasing activity. “We’re trying to educate ourselves and quickly get a handle on this because we haven’t dealt with it before.”[…]

Unlike other parts of the state, El Paso County has never had a commercial gas or oil well in production. There have been about 100 exploratory drills here, including two last year, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Castle Pines and the Castle Pines North Metropolitan District have spent upwards of $500,000 since early 2010 over the potential dissolution of the district

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From The Denver Post (Carlos Illescas):

The city says that by integrating the metro district into the city, it will be able to provide services at a cheaper rate and save taxpayers money. But the metro district doesn’t trust the city and thinks Castle Pines isn’t working with them to come up with the best solution…

The metro district provides services that include water, wastewater, storm draining, and parks and open space to about 3,200 customers. The district was formed in 1984 and has provided services for Castle Pines residents since then. After residents voted in 2007 to incorporate as a city, leaders envisioned consolidating the district into the city, but keeping related taxes to provide services or to fund other improvements. The metro district recently received an extension until February to come up with a dissolution plan. Should the judge approve it, the issue will be decided by voters…

Dwight Kemp, a Castle Pines North Metro District board member, said some of the animosity stems from the timing of the dissolution by the city. Both sides had been discussing how to proceed, he said, when the council suddenly moved to eliminate the metro district altogether…

More Denver Basin aquifer system coverage here and here.

Over 7,000 attend telephone town hall meeting about the proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline

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Here’s the report about the meeting from Western Resource Advocates. Here’s an excerpt:

Residents of the West don’t want their rivers dried-up, their recreation ruined, and special places destroyed. They especially don’t want their taxpayer dollars to support irresponsible projects. That was the feedback received through a telephone town hall meeting that provided 7,400 members of the public the opportunity to learn and ask questions about the proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline.

The controversial pipeline is a 560 mile-long project that would remove a massive amount of water from both the Green and Colorado Rivers. The water would be used for future growth along Colorado’s Front Range. The audience uniformly expressed concern and consternation about this proposed pipeline that would from stretch from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in southwestern Wyoming to cities in the South Denver Metro region.

A panel of experts, including WRA Water Program director Bart Miller, laid-out what’s behind the proposal and what it means to residents in a three-state region. Callers lit-up switchboards to ask questions about how much the project would cost, who would benefit, and remark how little information has been publicly available up until now.

Participants sent a clear message: they are not convinced that the pipeline should be built at all. It would transport the most expensive water Colorado has ever seen, use a huge amount of energy, and have severe negative economic impacts to the region around Flaming Gorge Reservoir. The proposal also ignores less expensive and less controversial solutions for meeting water needs, such as conservation, efficiency, reuse, and other smaller projects.

In mid-September, the Colorado Water Conservation Board will determine whether they will continue to use taxpayer dollars to fund a task force looking into the viability of the Flaming Gorge pipeline. Upon gathering feedback from the public at the town hall forum, this appears to be a very unpopular idea.

Click through for video from Peter McBride.

More Flaming Gorge Pipeline coverage here and here.

South Platte River basin: The State Engineer’s office is looking to account more accurately for flows leaving the state to Nebraska

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A study by Halepaska and Associates for the Weld County Farm Bureau and Colorado Corn Growers found that deliveries of water to Nebraska have significantly increased since 2006. As much as 600,000 acre-feet of water more than necessary under the South Platte River Compact flowed out of the state in 2010 because of artificial recharge ordered by the state, the consultants said. The study found elevated groundwater levels and recommended better procedures for measuring the relationship between surface and underground water supplies. “One conclusion is that by neglect, inadvertance or mistake the state of Colorado is assisting the irrigation community of Nebraska, causing the economic dislocation of thousands of Colorado irrigators,” John Halepaska said.

Wolfe said other factors could be in play, and while the state is reviewing the analysis, it doesn’t necessarily agree with the conclusions. “What we’ve been trying to do is get a common understanding,” Wolfe said. “For instance, this year we’ve seen a huge amount of precipitation and a small amount of recharge (from past years).” Wolfe said he plans to meet with the groups in the next few weeks to assess the situation, but his initial assessement was that the study “oversimplified” the state-generated data it used.

The South Platte River Compact [is] indefinite on how much water Colorado is required to deliver, he said. The compact requires curtailment in Colorado if the flow at the state line is below 120 cubic feet per second from April 1 to Oct. 15. The compact requires Colorado to meet deliveries that would have been available at the time of Nebraska’s claim, June 14, 1897…

Wolfe said the state is conducting studies in Northeastern Colorado to refine measurements of how aquifers are recharged, as suggested by the consultants. The state is also developing better management tools for managing water accounting.

More South Platte River basin coverage here and here.

Drought news: August was fourth warmest on record for Boulder

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From the Boulder Daily Camera (William Callahan):

Locally, our August was hot and dry. Denver had its warmest August on record, a record that goes all the way back to 1870. It was hot in Boulder as well. The month was the fourth-warmest August on record. There were two record-high temperature readings. Aug. 23 hit 98 degrees, eclipsing the record of 97 set in 1949, and Aug. 25 hit 96, beating out the 95-degree reading in 1953…

There have been at least three dozen Augusts that were drier than this year’s. But August was even drier than it looked because the 0.38-inch tally for Aug. 1 really fell on July 31, after the 5 p.m. reporting time.