Board considers water pipeline to Front Range

The Colorado Water Conservation Board is poised today to approve funding for a special panel to look at whether a controversial idea to pump water from southwestern Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range is feasible.

Some board members said they don’t necessarily support the idea of constructing a 570-mile pipeline from Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge Reservoir to the Front Range, but they agreed it is worth talking about.

The only question they had Tuesday during their two-day monthly meeting at the Ute Water Conservancy District office in Grand Junction was how much they should spend on an exploratory committee to study it for the next 18 months, and what would they get for their money.

“I think we’re at a point in the state’s history relative to water and natural resources where we know we’re going to have a (water) shortage,” said Mike King, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and a board member. “If this project is as bad as the environmentalists say, I think that in two years to be able to say that definitively, and that the state shouldn’t have a role in this, would have real value.”

The board asked supporters of the committee to work with its staff to come up with a more clearly defined plan at a lower cost, which it is to vote on at the end of today’s meeting.

There are two ideas in the works. One, from Fort Collins businessman Aaron Million, initially proposed building the pipeline from the reservoir along Interstate 80 to Laramie, Wyo., and then as far south as Pueblo, delivering water to users along the way. Meanwhile, the Colorado-Wyoming Coalition, a group of water providers in the two states, is eyeing a similar plan. Each could cost as much as $9 billion.

Those two proposals prompted the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority to ask the water-conservation board for $240,000 to create an exploratory committee to see if either is feasible. The authority’s plan is to create a 25-member panel of Colorado water providers and users to see if the idea is doable, and to identify stumbling blocks to building it.

Environmental groups told the board they oppose the pipeline because it would do irreparable damage to the reservoir and the Green River that feeds it.

“I have never seen the environmental community coalesce so fast and intensely as it has around this project,” Gary Wockner of Clean Water Action said.


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