Flaming Gorge pipeline: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission dismisses preliminary permit application in surprising announcement

flaminggorgepipelineearthjustice.jpg

Download the FERC order here http://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/common/OpenNat.asp?fileID=12900017.

Here’s the release from Western Resource Advocates (Jason Bane):

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has officially dismissed a preliminary permit application for the Flaming Gorge Pipeline in an order released this morning. This marks the second federal agency to dismiss an application from Aaron Million; in July 2011, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers terminated its review of the pipeline proposal.

“The Flaming Gorge Pipeline is no closer to reality today than it was 10 years ago,” said Stacy Tellinghuisen, Water & Energy Policy Analyst at Western Resource Advocates. “This denial essentially says that the pipeline proposal is nowhere near being ready for even a preliminary permit. We have always argued that there is no reason to spend taxpayer resources studying such a flawed idea, and we are pleased to see today’s ruling.”

Aaron Million, President of Wyco Power and Water, Inc., was seeking a federal permit from FERC to review his ‘Flaming Gorge Pipeline’ (FGP) proposal to pump water more than five hundred (500) miles from the Green River in Wyoming to the Front Range of Colorado—at a projected cost of $7-9 billion dollars. Western Resource Advocates (WRA) filed objections representing itself, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Colorado Environmental Coalition.

For More Information on the Flaming Gorge Pipeline, go to:
http://www.westernresourceadvocates.org/water/pipeline/million.php.

To read the FERC denial in full, go to: http://elibrary.ferc.gov/idmws/common/OpenNat.asp?fileID=12900017

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Water issues were front and center at Club 20’s meeting yesterday

powderhornskiarea.jpg

From NBC11News.com (Taylor Temby):

It would only make sense that it was one of the major focuses of Wednesday’s Club 20 meeting. One issue that hit particularly close to home was the Ski Area Water Rights Clause. “For years the ski areas and the forest service have gotten along fine with the ski areas acquiring their own water rights to operates, whether it’s wells for mountain restaurants or base areas or water supplies for base making,” [water law practitioner Scott Balcomb] said. But that changed last year. Club 20 is concerned the forest service is now looking to enforce a rule that would require ski areas to put any new water rights it develops in the name of the federal government in order to get a new permit…

This issue affects Powderhorn Mountain Resort because of its recent change in management. “Powderhorn is right on the cutting edge of this issue because of the change in ownership and the need to get a new permit last fall,” Balcomb said. Club 20 argues this would be taking the mountain’s property and worries similar rules could be implemented in other industries if it survives in the ski industry. One other reason Club 20 is concerned? An effort to change water rights in the state.

“[There are] two initiatives, Initiative no. 3 and no. 45,” Colorado Water Congress executive director Doug Kemper said. Kemper says these initiatives would make water rights subject to a second look, and could ultimately change who has access to public and private water. An appeal has been filed with the Colorado Supreme Court and Kemper says he’s concerned about three things. “The property rights, the access to land. It deals with the Appropriation Doctrine, so it deals with water rights and also with water quality act as well,” he said. This could be bad news for some property owners, because water running through private land could be open to the public.

More water law coverage here.

Snowpack news: Streamflow forecasts across the state are for below average flows

snotelwateryear2012precipitationpercentileranking02222012coclimatecenter.jpg

Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for a percentile ranking of water year precipitation from the Colorado Climate Center.

Here’s a report from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

Denver Water will issue its first spring reservoir outlook early next month after the March 1 snowpack figures have been compiled, and the National Weather Service this week issued its first outlook for flood potential.

No surprise, the spring runoff flood potential is slightly below average in the South Platte Basin, the Upper Colorado Basin and the North Platte Basin, including the headwaters tributaries in Grand, Jackson and Summit counties. “It should be noted that it’s still early in the snow accumulation season and conditions could change before the runoff begins,” hydrologist Treste Huse wrote in the bulletin.

Flooding is not likely because the snowpack in the Upper Colorado Basin and the North Platte Basin is only at 91 percent of average for this time of year — the second and third-lowest readings for those basins in the last 25 years.

The South Platte snowpack is at 82 percent of average, thanks to a powerful early February storm that blasted the Front Range. The highest snowpack readings are in the northern Front Range mountains, at 90 percent of average in the Cache la Poudre Basin…

Despite a snowpack that’s tracking on par with the drought year of 2002, reservoir storage levels are high, at 109 percent of average for the entire state and 119 percent of average for the Upper Colorado, or about 77 percent of capacity in the Upper Colorado storage system…

the mountain regions of Summit and Grand counties are showing as being in moderate drought on the U.S. Drought Monitor. The outlook is calling for cooler than average temps and above-normal precipitation for the next two weeks, but a return to warmer and drier than average conditions for the 30- and 90-day outlooks.

The story is similar to the west, where the outlook for the Yampa/White river system, the Green, Gunnison and Dolores and San Juan river basins are all expected to deliver below-average runoff.