Gov. should say ‘No’ to Flaming Gorge plan
Speaking at a conference in Colorado Springs Tuesday, Gov. John Hickenlooper talked of the need for more conservation to reduce demands on the Colorado River, according to The Denver Post, while suggesting new dams are needed to divert more West Slope water to the Front Range.
That’s worrisome enough, although there are ways to construct water projects so they protect both the interests of the Western Slope and the Front Range. Denver Water has proposed a plan for doing that in the past year.
However, even more troubling is the fact that Hickenlooper refused to rule out state support for either of two proposals to take water out of Flaming Gorge Reservoir on the Utah-Wyoming border, pump it through a pipeline across southern Wyoming, then south to serve the thirsty Front Range suburbs.
Come on, governor. Just say “No” to this bad pipedream.
We at The Daily Sentinel have repeatedly stated our objections to the Flaming Gorge pipeline proposal. We are far from alone. Various water organizations, environmental groups and local governments have voiced their opposition to the proposal. And two federal agencies have rejected permit applications to even study the project further.
Here are the primary arguments against it:
✔ Water availability. Promoters of the plan claim they would only take water from Flaming Gorge during wet years. But, if a certain amount of water did start flowing to the Front Range cities each year, imagine the outcry that would ensue from the other side of the mountains if their Flaming Gorge water were cut off in a dry year.
Moreover, although Flaming Gorge is on the Green River, it is part of the Colorado River drainage. Taking water from the reservoir, even in wet years, would reduce the total amount of water available to the Upper Basin states, including Colorado, under river law. And it’s not at all clear — especially in our era of reduced river flows — that there is sufficient water available in the drainage to meet the demands of the pipeline without cutting back on other uses.
✔ Downstream impacts. Just below Flaming Gorge are Dinosaur National Monument and Canyonlands National Park, endangered fish habitat, high-quality trout fishing and some of the most spectacular river rafting in the country. Reducing the flow of the Green River by as much as 25 percent to serve the pipeline could seriously affect all of these river uses. Federal agencies, among others, may raise strenuous objections.
✔ Cost. The estimates are somewhere in the billions of dollars and rising. There is no evidence that any of the presumed Front Range customers for the water will be able to pay enough to support that cost.
We know the Colorado Water Conservation Board is in the midst of a study of the pipeline proposal and its impacts, although this newspaper and other voices have argued that its a waste of money, based on the issues listed above and more. In any event, that study wasn’t instigated by the governor.
As governor, Hickenlooper should be leader enough to look at the multitude of evidence already available, acknowledge this is a bad project and publicly oppose it.