Coloradans Continue to Pursue a Colorado-Wyoming Water Pipeline

Generally, all prospective plans to bring water from Wyoming to Colorado involve the Flaming Gorge Reservoir and the Green River. The most well known plan for a pipeline comes from Aaron Million and his company Wyco Power and Water Inc. Million wants to build a pipeline to bring water to the front range, store water in new and expanded Colorado reservoirs, and create hydro-electric water along the way.

Both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), most recently in May 2012, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in July 2011, denied Million’s plan. Both agencies denied the plan for lack of information, lack of feasibility, and basically for being a poorly presented plan. The Army Corps of Engineers also stopped reviewing Million’s plan when its primary purpose changed from water supply to electrical power generation. FERC denied Million’s permit beforehand so the July 2011 denial was at a rehearing. FERC denied Million most recently because Million did not provide enough specifics and could not demonstrate any foreseeable authorization for the pipeline’s planned route and water conveyances, which was magnified by the extensive opposition and controversy to the plan.

Other Coloradans are also looking at diverting water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir to Colorado. These include the Parker Water and Sanitation District and a large state task force of water interests from throughout Colorado.

The main question for the pipeline proposals, that many seem to overlook, is whether the state of Colorado has the right to draw any more water out of the Colorado River system. Colorado proponents considering the issue think Colorado has a right to the water. However, those in Wyoming, including Wyoming Governor, Matt Mead, disagree.

The Colorado River Compact of 1922 predates the Federal Government’s official declaration of the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in 1968. Thus, the Colorado River Compact allocated water before the Reservoir was created. However, it is important to remember that the U.S. Supreme Court and Congress can also help resolve water conflicts between states, and that the federal government, with its current expanded powers, could begin to regulate water like other survival needs like food production, air quality, etc. Additionally, Wyoming is no stranger to pressuring the federal government to act in Wyoming’s interest. In 2010 Wyoming threatened to sell state-owned land in Grand Teton National Park to private sources spurring the federal government to pay a fair price for those pieces of land.

Wyoming residents are, by a strong majority, against this plan and see it generally as a growing and poorly designed city’s attempt to take advantage of a sparsely populated state. The pipeline would potentially take water from a much beloved and used recreational area in southwestern Wyoming and destroy the environment in the process.

Wyoming currently has a “surplus water situation” because it does not use all of its allocated water under the Colorado River Compact while Colorado, with its growing urban sprawl, sees a future of water deficit. However, some politicians and Wyoming citizens think that Wyoming does use all of its allocated water, for recreation and outdoor sports in additional to communal and farming uses.

Many environmental groups and outdoor enthusiasts also oppose the pipeline because it would do severe and irreversible damage to the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, the animal and marine life, and the Green River.

It may not be Aaron Million who next petitions the federal government for approval to bring Flaming Gorge Reservoir and Green River water to Colorado, but it will happen again, and in the near future.