Plant using river water right; no electricity produced

Water is flowing down the Colorado River as though the Shoshone Power Plant in Glenwood Canyon were operating.

Shoshone, however, is generating no electricity as Xcel Energy Inc. is conducting maintenance at the plant, which normally generates 1,400 megawatts of electricity by funneling water out of the Colorado River, down a pair of penstocks, or long tubes, and through turbines before returning to the river.

Normally, if Shoshone isn’t generating electricity, it can’t exercise its call for water.

Xcel officials said they couldn’t comment on the status of the plant, but a crane is visible there, and water officials said the plant and dam are undergoing maintenance.

The Colorado River, however, is being managed as though the power plant is operating, and the plant’s call for water, one of the oldest on the river, is in effect.

The reason is tied to the general agreement between the Colorado River Water Conservation District and Denver Water aimed at resolving a series of legal conflicts over management of the river, River District spokesman Chris Treese said.

Denver Water is a major transmountain diverter of water from the Colorado River Basin, and its battles with Western Slope water interests over much of the 20th century made “water wars” a common Colorado phrase.

Denver Water General Manager Jim Lochhead this summer told Western Slope water interests the two sides of the Continental Divide were close to a global settlement.

Shoshone began operating in 1909, and its ability to demand water from the high country near the Continental Divide protects downstream users, such as Grand Valley irrigators, from requiring water from lower-elevation sources such as Plateau Creek, which drains part of the north side of Grand Mesa.


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