County gives pipeline thumbs down

Following in the footsteps of the Grand Junction City Council, the Mesa County Commission voted Monday to oppose a proposed 560-mile water pipeline from Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge to Colorado’s Front Range.

The commissioners said the pipeline idea is ill-conceived and far more expensive than other alternatives.

“This is probably overdue,” Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said of the resolution opposing the project. “There are plenty of folks in the state, myself amongst them, who are asking why the state is expending scarce dollar resources on a water proposal that’s by and large looked upon by much of the water community on both sides of the mountains as somewhat of a pipe dream.”

Fort Collins entrepreneur Aaron Million is proposing to build the pipeline from the Green River in southwestern Wyoming, run it east along Interstate 80, and deliver it to Front Range cities from Fort Collins to Pueblo.

But commissioners said the project would cost an estimated $7 billion to build and about $123 million to operate, making any water delivered to the Front Range the most expensive in the state’s history.

“The Front Range is hungry for water, and this proposes to divert West Slope water across the Continental Divide and make it available largely for urban use on the Front Range at a very high cost,” Acquafresca said.

Additionally, the commissioners said taking that much water from the Green River could result in a call of water from lower Colorado River basin states, meaning senior and junior water rights owners on Colorado’s Western Slope would have to forfeit their own water to make up for what’s diverted.

Acquafresca and Commissioner Craig Meis voted in favor of the resolution. Commissioner Janet Rowland was out sick and did not vote.

The Grand Junction council approved a similar resolution earlier this month, but left open the option of changing its stance if concerns by the Colorado River Water Conservation District are addressed.

Last week, a coalition of 10 conservation groups in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and Arizona moved to intervene in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s review of the pipeline. The commission currently is reviewing a permit to use the pipeline to develop hydro-electricity.

In July, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers canceled plans to perform an environmental impact statement on the proposal because Million kept changing his application for an EIS review.


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