Flaming Gorge pipeline: The CWCB will discuss funding today for the Flaming Gorge Task Force

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for the image of the billboards on display in Grand Junction this week. The Colorado Environmental Coalition, Save the Colorado [ed. be careful clicking on this link at work] and Western Resource Advocates are hoping to influence the vote. The photo is from Peter McBride and is of the dry Colorado River estuary in Mexico. The Colorado River is now an ephemeral stream at its terminus.

Here’s a report detailing the state of the battle over moving water from the Green River basin to slake the thirst of the Front Range, from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

The Colorado Water Conservation Board is meeting Sept. 13 in Grand Junction to decide whether to spend $150,000 in taxpayer dollars on a special task force to further study the feasibility of the project, projected to cost as much as $9 billion to construct.

One big goal of the billboards is to raise public awareness. In the past, many major water projects received little public scrutiny in the early stages. By the time formal public comment periods are announced, the projects have already taken on a life of their own.

“At a time when government budgets are in deficit and we need to create jobs, it makes no sense to spend $9 billion on a pipeline that will hurt our economy,” said Bill Dvorak, owner of Dvorak Expeditions. “If we drain billions of gallons out of the Colorado River basin, fewer people will come out here to fish, boat and hike – businesses like mine will suffer and the West Slope will lose jobs.” Dvorak’s company leads boating expeditions on the Green River, which is a tributary of the Colorado River, and other rivers in the region.

Colorado Environmental Coalition, Save the Colorado and Western Resource Advocates joined forces to unveil the billboards, which display an image of a dried-up river bed with the message, “This will only cost you $9 billion.”

More coverage from NBC11News.com (Scott Aldridge):

…the chairman of the Colorado Wyoming Coalition, Frank Jaeger says he doesn’t know where they are coming up with those numbers, because their initial studies aren’t even done yet. “As far as numbers that others have thrown out there or published, I can’t speak to that…Right of way is going to be of immense concern, cost of pipeline, cost of pumping, electrical cost, all of these things are going to be reviewed in a study that we’re proposing to get those answers to…All of those issues have to be answered before you can put numbers on the table.”

Yet the Colorado Environmental Coalition is convinced the impacts would be devastating to Western Colorado. “Many aquatic habitats being devastated, all the great fishing on the green river would be hugely impacted.” Argues Wedemeyer.

“The Colorado River is the lifeblood of this community, we use it for our winery’s, we use it for tourism, for rafting, fishing, it’s the most important thing to our economy, and protecting water on the Western Slope is crucial to our livelihood.” Says Claudette Konola with Western Colorado Congress of Mesa County.

But Jaeger asks, how can critics cite these problems if the proposed study to find problems hasn’t even been done yet?

“Well it’s premature in that when we started this process two and a half years ago we went immediately to the Bureau of Reclamation first to find out if there’s adequate water. We are still waiting to determine that because the Bureau of Rec started a study to determine what the hydrologic amount of water would be on the reservoir, we don’t have that information yet…Until you’ve done a full investigation of a project how can you tout the pros and con’s if you don’t have the answers? I mean it’s kind of nonsensical to me for people to sit on the outside and say this is bad or that is bad, they don’t know what all the issues are.”

More coverage from KJCT8.com (Honora Swanson):

[Save the Colorado’s Gary Wockner] says the pipeline would cost between seven and nine billion dollars, making it the most expensive water in Colorado’s history. He says instead of a pipeline, the state should pursue conservation and recycled water.

More coverage from Alan Prendergast writing for Westword. He’s linking to Joel Warner’s in-depth piece from 2009 about the proposed pipeline. Here’s an excerpt Mr. Prendergast’s article:

The Colorado Water Conservation Board has pegged the cost of the pipeline at somewhere between $7 billion and $9 billion, up to triple the cost of Million’s own estimates. Despite that daunting figure, the CWCB is looking into spending $150,000 on a task force to study the project.

When board members arrived in Grand Junction to take part in that discussion, they were greeted by three billboards erected by a cadre of conservation groups, including Western Resource Advocates, Save the Colorado and the Colorado Environmental Coalition. The signs feature the dried-up, parched delta where the Colorado River supposedly (but only rarely) reaches the Sea of Cortez and refer viewers to an online petition at a website address — which, according to WRA spokesman Peter Roessmann, shut down at midnight last night after collecting 21,300 signatures protesting the plan.

More Flaming Gorge Task Force coverage here.

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