The Flattops Water Company and Eagle River water districts have filed an application to store water, some of which would be leftover from irrigated fields near Toponas, in a yet-to-be-built reservoir.
The McNamara Reservoir No. 1 could hold about 500 acre-feet of water. It would be built in the Colorado River Basin drainage, so has "nothing to do with" the Yampa River, said Glenn Porzak, the attorney representing the applicants.
The Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District has filed in opposition to the reservoir. The reservoir itself is not a concern, said the district's attorney Bob Weiss, but the larger project the reservoir is connected to is important.
The applicants are the same that filed last fall for rights to 1,250 acre-feet of return flows, which then could be sold for about $5 million to the Eagle River water districts.
The return flows, which are from leftover water that seeps through the ground after irrigation and then shows up in streams, are especially valuable because they come from the Yampa River and end up in the Colorado River basin; this is because of the lay of the land near Toponas. Because the water is "imported" into the Colorado River basin, rights to it are considered to have precedence over other water rights.
The Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District claimed similar return flow rights a few years ago, Weiss said, but is involved in the Flattops Water Company filing to make sure that the company does not send more water to the Colorado River Basin than historically has been done.
"What we oppose is what we've opposed from the beginning, which is taking water out of the Yampa drainage and putting it into the Colorado (River) above water historically that's been removed," Weiss said.
The district does not have a problem with Flattops Water Company getting rights to return flows that historically have entered the Colorado River basin, he said.
"But if the irrigation patterns have been changed ... so that more irrigation has been done with the same water on the Colorado side, then the result of that is less water comes back on the Yampa side," he said.
The district might try to encourage the city and county to oppose the larger project filed last fall, he said.
Anyone interested in opposing the reservoir must file to the District 5 Water Court before the end of April. Anyone interested in opposing the larger case must intervene by asking permission from the water court through legal pleadings, which may or may not be granted.
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