Ken Brenner: Just say 'no' to water plan

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There will be a presentation at 6 p.m. today in Craig at the Holiday Inn. The presentation is by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District to the Yampa/White Roundtable.

The district will describe a study of a proposal to pump Yampa River water from Maybell to the Fort Collins area. This water diversion will be the largest one in Colorado, 300,000 acre-feet, if it is built. Here are a few reasons why I think this proposal is a bad idea:

First, there may not be any water in the Yampa River that we won't need in the future. Additional uses for water in Northwest Colorado to meet future demand include municipal, industry, agriculture, energy development and non-consumptive uses. A nonconsumptive use would be for recreation, in-stream flows and the environment, such as protecting our water quality and riparian habitat. Tourism is our biggest industry and these flows ensure a healthy living river. Good news, there is a proposal by the YWR for an additional study to try and quantify the amount necessary for our future demand that includes all of these uses.

Second, climate change has been widely recognized as affecting the amount and type of precipitation that we will receive. More of our moisture will come in the form of rain and less from snow pack, this means less water produced in the form of runoff. The upper Yampa snow pack at Crosho (Flat Tops) is below the 2002 level and a dry spring is predicted, again.

The 800-pound gorilla in the river is the annual Colorado River Compact obligation to the lower basin states (Arizona, California and Nevada) of 8.25 million acre-feet of water. Colorado must deliver 53 percent of that amount. We are precariously close to not delivering our required amount, which is why Lake Powell is half empty. If the lower basin states come looking for this water, a Colorado Compact call, Colorado will lose that battle.

Finally, what do we value, conservation or exportation? The Yampa is widely considered the longest tributary to the Colorado that remains in a free-flowing state. Why would we support the largest pump-back in Colorado from the Yampa River to the Eastern Slope? It would allow local governments on the Eastern Slope to continue their irresponsible land use decisions. Greeley was announced as the fastest growing city in the nation last week, a population increase of 31 percent since 2000. This type of growth is typical of Weld County and many eastern slope communities. The Yampa will water their bluegrass lawns. The damage to the Yampa River below Maybell, which is up for a "Wild and Scenic River" designation from the Bureau of Land Management, would be catastrophic.

You may agree with me, maybe not. Either way, learn more about this very important issue by attending the meeting in Craig or contact me at kpbrenner@yahoo.com.

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