Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District ‘strongly oppsoses’ another transmountain diversion #ColoradoWaterPlan

Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer's office
Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

From The Crested Butte News (Seth Manning):

The Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District has been busy developing a plan for future water use in the Gunnison Valley and, at the same time, watching other basins in the state to see where they expect their water to come from.

However, as the process of developing a statewide water plan starts to unfold, UGRWCD manager Frank Kugel said the conversation seems to be steering clear of the dreaded talk about trans-mountain diversion.

“Everyone acknowledged the 800-pound gorilla in the room—trans-mountain diversions,” Kugel said.

“For now everyone kind of decided to work around that.”

Basin representatives from around the state got together for a meeting hosted by the Colorado Water Congress in Denver on December 12. It was the first meeting of many to come related to the Colorado Water Plan and, more specifically, the Basin Implementation plans, which will be incorporated into the state plan over the next year.

“Once the plans are developed into a final draft form next July, we’ll present them to state water board for consideration,” Kugel said. “Then those plans will begin to be assimilated into a state plan, with an initial draft due by end of 2014.”

Kugel, who is also the chairman for the implementation planning committee for the Gunnison Basin Roundtable, says his goal for the process is to maintain water in our basin to be used, as it historically has been, for recreation, conservation and agriculture. And one of the best reasons to be close to the process, Kugel says, is to “make sure other plans do not put our plan at risk.”[…]

With a projected decrease in the amount of water that will fall in the state over the next 35 years and an increase in the state’s population, the plan is hastily being developed and battle lines are quietly being drawn, most noticeably along the Continental Divide…

“A key goal [of the plan] is to protect historic agricultural use and part of that is to minimize any future transfer of agricultural rights to municipal,” Kugel said. “So we’re very focused on keeping water on the land as it’s been done since 1875 in this basin.”
To help in developing its own Basin Implementation Plan (BIP), Kugel said, the UGRWCD hired Wilson Water Group as a consultant and has Greg Johnson helping them. He worked with the Colorado Water Conservation Board until July of this year.

“We feel very confident they bring a lot of expertise to this project,” Kugel said, adding the

Wilson Water Group is also the consultant for the North Platte Basin Roundtable. “At the same time they recognize the basin wants a bottom-up approach that is developed by our basin roundtable with help from all of the stakeholders.”

Having a plan that is written with an awareness of what other basins are doing could also help keep lines of communication open between the UGWRCD and other basins throughout the development of the Colorado Water Plan.

“[The state will] need to meld the basin implementation plans together to provide a basis for the state water plan and we will need to have clear conversations about how trans-mountain diversion might play into that plan,” Kugel said, making it clear that the UGRWCD would “strongly oppose” any attempts to divert water from the Western Slope. “Diversions from other basins could put ours in jeopardy … It could put us at risk of exceeding our compact allotment. So we have to be vigilant about how that process goes.”

Basin Implementation Plans will be presented to the Colorado Water Conservation Board on July 14.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

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