‘A stunning landscape is saved after a decade-long war over its water’ — Nature Conservancy Magazine


Here’s an in-depth look at how water served as the catalyst to unite San Luis Valley residents in opposition to plans to ship water to the Denver Metro area back in the 1980s and 1990s, from Nature Conservancy Magazine (Frederick Reimers). Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

In the early light of a spring morning in 1989 a fellow barged into the Crestone, Colorado, bakery where Christine Canaly worked, hungry for breakfast. The man, it turned out, was vice president of a company that planned to spend $150 million to drill 100 wells and pipe water from the rural San Luis Valley to the Denver suburbs, more than 100 miles away. Those suburbs, he said, would pay top dollar for the water, and the project would be a financial bonanza for everyone in the San Luis Valley…

…[Rancher Greg Gosar] had been chewing over a conversation that he’d had a year earlier. The principal owner of the sprawling, 97,000-acre Baca Ranch, a Canadian oilman named Maurice Strong, had been applying for extensive water rights in the valley. Gosar had asked Strong what he planned to do with the water. “Maurice told me, ‘We’re going to put in some potatoes, and we’re gonna plant quinoa,’” he recalls.

But Gosar didn’t quite believe it. And now, talking with [Christine Canaly], all the pieces began to fit together. Strong was the head of the same company that Canaly’s hungry visitor worked for. And if the massive water-export plan went through, there was a very good chance that the project would suck the valley’s farms and streams dry. Gosar was angry.

“Let’s go get these guys,” he told Canaly.


That was all she needed to hear. Within a few weeks, she and Gosar had formed a group called Citizens for San Luis Valley Water. Then, by happenstance, she met David Robbins, an attorney for the district that supplies water to local farmers.

“He’s this imposing, brilliant guy with a huge handlebar mustache,” says Canaly. “He told me they were already planning a lawsuit to stop the project. I asked him how he felt about citizens’ groups. He looked at me and said, ‘I love citizens’ groups.’”

More Rio Grande River Basin coverage here.

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