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Kevin Moloney

reminded of an annual boating festival, the Gore Canyon Race, and how releases from Green Mountain might adversely affect it. “If they are going to do something funky, they work around our races,” says Lisa Reeder, a part-owner of Timberline. Another new twist is a recommendation by a group of federal, state and local agencies, along with environmental and recreational interests, that would affect 54.4 miles of the river, from Gore Canyon through Glenwood Canyon. The group proposes this segment be managed to protect and perhaps enhance the existing “outstandingly remarkable values” as defined by the federal Wild and Scenic River Act, but without formal designation. Instead, they’re suggesting something similar to the model used to ensure water for endangered fish while retaining flexibility for water users and yields for water projects. True, these are far more complex times for the Colorado River than in the 1860s and 1870s, when Colorado’s original

Eric Kuhn heads the Glenwood Springs-based Colorado River Water Conservation District, comprising 15 West Slope counties.

used again and again “to extinction.” In addition to water offered to Summit and Grand counties for environmental, municipal and snowmaking purposes, Denver Water will provide use of its vast collection system, including Dillon Reservoir, as a means of storing and moving water for headwater communities. “This makes it possible to have water for future growth here,” says attorney Barney White, who represented Summit County in the negotiations. “Without this agreement, it’s difficult [for Summit County] to get any firm yield above Dillon.” With Denver’s help, the yield in Clinton Reservoir on Freemont pass will be enhanced, providing additional snowmaking water for

laws for administration of water were institutionalized. It’s still first in time, first in right—but now there may be asterisks. Eric Kuhn, manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, sees the weekly teleconference as reflective of the changes he has observed since the late 1970s. “In 1977, Denver’s demands were not what they are today, because they were serving 700,000 to 800,000 people, not 1.4 million. Things were not as tight.” The future, as Kuhn points out, will be one of greater finesse yet. “It is continually evolving, but those [phone] calls have been very, very helpful in having the various parties understand the limitations and the problems they face—and really leading to a lot of cooperative effort on an annual basis, not in the sense of agreements and decrees, but in the operational sense. I actually see them becoming more valuable as things get a little more complicated and a little tighter in the future.” q

the major ski resorts in the area. And in Eagle County, Denver agrees not to pursue any water supply project without the express support of the county and the various water entities operating there. Another $8 million will go into a pot to subsidize projects for West Slope water users. And there will be another $10 million for wastewater treatment improvements to address nutrient-loading in water bodies throughout the river basin. For both the middle river near Glenwood Springs and the lower river’s Grand Valley, the most important element of the agreement revolves around protecting the Shoshone hydroelectric plant’s historic call for water. The Xcel Energy-owned plant, which has a senior right for 1,250 cubic feet per second, pulls relatively clean water steadily down from the headwaters, says Mark Hermundstad, who represented several Grand Valley entities in the negotiations. Shoshone outages have temporarily affected the river—when the plant is out, it can’t call for water—with greater frequency, and those who rely on it fear the possibility that it could go out of business or that Denver could ultimately buy the water right, though Xcel has said it is not for presently for sale. In the agreement, all parties consent to mimic the Shoshone call as though it is always on except under extreme drought circumstances—if Denver were forced to ban outdoor watering. An additional operational agreement is being developed for Green Mountain Reservoir that would ensure water that is supposed to be stored there for West Slope users is actually accounted for and available through the reservoir’s releases. In some years, under certain conditions, Denver Water stores

water in Dillon Reservoir, which sits upstream of but has a junior water right to Green Mountain, that should have been released to fill Green Mountain, says Hermundstad. “We want to make sure [Green Mountain] gets its legal fill every year.” In September 2010, the proposed agreement was filed with the federal court where the case is pending. The agreement has yet to pass review by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Colorado State Engineer’s Office, two organizations critical to its implementation. According to Little, as it is currently structured, the agreement will either be 100 percent successful or 100 percent failure. As those sitting outside the confidential negotiating room, including the Colorado Basin Roundtable, worried from the sidelines, they were assured that their concerns were being represented. Those of the “not one more drop” camp may, however, be disappointed by the outcome, says Jim Pokrandt, who chairs the Colorado Basin Roundtable and works as the Colorado River District’s communication and education specialist. But failing to negotiate a settlement could have cost the West Slope much more than agreeing to support Denver’s plan to take more water from the headwaters of the Colorado River and to expand its service area one last time. Little believes the long-term relationship that has been fostered through more peaceful negotiations—as well as the environmental improvements that are part of the deal— would have lost out if litigation ensued. At the end of the April press conference, Grand County Commissioner James Newberry said, “We talked about trying to get peace in our time. This is a great step toward that.” q

Headwaters | Summer 2011


Profile for Water Education Colorado

Headwaters Summer 2011: The Mighty Colorado  

As the Colorado River flows through its seven-state, canyon carving traverse, it is tapped and retapped-- supporting acres of irrigated agri...

Headwaters Summer 2011: The Mighty Colorado  

As the Colorado River flows through its seven-state, canyon carving traverse, it is tapped and retapped-- supporting acres of irrigated agri...

Profile for cfwe