Don’t waste money on Flaming Gorge fiasco
When the Colorado Water Board Meets in Grand Junction next week, the state’s lead water agency will be asked to spend $150,000 to establish a task force to investigate the Flaming Gorge Pipeline proposal.
The water conservation board should reject the idea and keep the $150,000 in state coffers. At a time when all levels of government are struggling to make ends meet, it makes no sense to spend such money on the latest incredibly expensive and environmentally disastrous mega-water-project proposal.
The Flaming Gorge Pipeline is a plan to build a water pipeline from Flaming Gorge Reservoir on the Utah-Wyoming border, across southern Wyoming, then south to cities along Colorado’s Front Range.
That 560-mile-long pipeline would divert some 81 billion gallons of water a year from the Green River — roughly a quarter of the water in the major tributary to the Colorado River, according to the conservation group, Western Resource Advocates.
The Flaming Gorge Pipeline was originally proposed by Colorado entrepreneur Aaron Million, but the notion has been picked up by some water entities in Colorado. The request to the Colorado Water Conservation Board next week comes from the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority.
The project would cost $7 billion to $9 billion to construct, according to state estimates. And that would make it the most costly water project in the state’s history.
If it were constructed, the cost of delivering water through the pipeline would be so astronomical — up to 10 times more than any existing project — that municipal water customers along the Front Range could not afford to purchase it, according to a report prepared for Western Resource Advocates.
Neither the state nor federal governments have the resources now to subsidize those water costs, as federal agencies have on water projects in the past.
Proponents of the project may dispute those figures, and argue that’s why the Water Conservation Board needs to form a task force to study the proposal.
But, on top of the financial issues, there are serious environmental issues. Taking so much water out of the Green River will harm a spectacular trout fishery that exists just below Flaming Gorge. It will also reduce water flowing through Dinosaur National Monument and flows needed for maintaining habitat for endangered fish, two issues that make it highly problematic when it comes to review by federal government agencies.
Although proponents have claimed the project will only take water during wet seasons and years, when more is available, once water starts flowing to thirsty, growing cities, it will be difficult to say none is available during dry years. Because of that, the pipeline will reduce the amount of water available for Colorado, Wyoming and Utah to send downstream under the Colorado River Compact. That means western Colorado will have less water available to use to meet future development needs.
All of these issues combined should make the Flaming Gorge Pipeline a nonstarter. The Colorado Water Conservation Board should reject the funding request.