Pipeline Déjà Vu: Proposed Flaming Gorge Controversy Sounds Familiar to Californians

The proposed “Flaming Gorge Pipeline” would divert 250,000 acre-feet of water each year from the Green River (the chief tributary to the Colorado) near Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Southwestern Wyoming. The Pipeline proposes to pump the water 560 miles up and over the Continental Divide and down to the Front Range of Colorado for future population growth. Similar to reaction to the proposed 15,000 cubic feet per second Bay-Delta tunnel project in California, opponents to the Flaming Gorge Pipeline have sited major harm to fisheries and recreation as well as exorbitant cost.

If constructed, it would become the most expensive water project in Coloradohistory, costing up to $9 billion. The project would irrevocably harm the environment, the fishery, and the recreational economy from Flaming Gorge Reservoir all the way through the Grand Canyon and downstream to Mexico. The proposed pipeline would reduce flows and ecosystems in Dinosaur National Monumentand impact ongoing recovery efforts for native fish in the Colorado River.

So, why do we care about a proposed water diversion inWyoming? In addition to the bad environmental precedent set, the proposed Flaming Gorge Pipeline could potentially trigger a “compact call” and thus a water war between the Upper and Lower Colorado River Basin states.  If this compact call is successful, Front Range water users in Colorado could also see a curtailment in their water supplies. California is one of the Lower Colorado River Basin states with a contractual right to Colorado River water.  It is a primary water source for Southern California and farmers in the Imperial and Palos Verde Valleys.

Better alternatives exist to meet Colorado’s future water supply needs including aggressive water conservation, better land-use planning and growth management, water re-use and recycling, and cooperative water-sharing agreements with farmers. 

A large coalition of 20 conservation groups in Coloradois opposing the pipeline project and they have created an online petition and are asking the public to sign on. 

The petition will close on Sept. 9th.  The vote by the Colorado Water Conservation Board — on whether to fund a study for the Pipeline — is on Sept. 13/14. Read more about it on the petition website.