Rafters float the Yampa River near Maybell in June 2006. Officials with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which includes eight counties on the Front Range and in northeastern Colorado, said they have no immediate plans to move forward with a potential project that would transfer Yampa River water across the Continental Divide.

File Photo

Rafters float the Yampa River near Maybell in June 2006. Officials with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which includes eight counties on the Front Range and in northeastern Colorado, said they have no immediate plans to move forward with a potential project that would transfer Yampa River water across the Continental Divide.

Yampa pumpback stalled

Front Range water district not yet pursuing pipeline project

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Large, rolling sprinkler systems - or circle pivots - are used to water crops west of Maybell in this 2006 photo. Agriculture is one of many regional uses of Yampa River water, which could stay on the Western Slope if plans for a proposed pipeline to the Front Range do not move forward.

— A potential project to pump water from the Yampa River near Maybell east to the Front Range has stalled after its initial conception and a successful feasibility study.

Conceptual plans for the nearly $4 billion project were introduced in 2006. But officials at the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which services eight counties on the Front Range and in northeastern Colorado, have announced they will not pursue the plan in the near future - but it might be advanced by other agencies. Original plans for the project called for at least one reservoir to be built north of Maybell in Moffat County. It would store water that would be pumped more than 200 miles east across the Continental Divide to a lake north of Denver. The plans included three proposed pipeline routes that all would have passed through Routt County. An engineering study for the entire project had an estimated completion date of 2023.

Carl Brouwer, project manager with the Northern Colorado district, said last week that his office is busy with other projects and will not be pursuing action in the near future.

Local officials have expressed concerns about the project in the past and said they have not heard any more plans for the project recently.

"We're not necessarily against either of the projects, but there are huge concerns," said Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger, referring to the Maybell pumpback and a separate pipeline - called the Green River Diversion Project - proposed by Aaron Million of Fort Collins.

Monger said he has three issues: if water rights for such a pumpback are granted now, there will not be enough remaining for future growth needs in the Yampa Valley; the impact of the pumpback on local, endangered fish; and the effects of the pumpback on recreation in downstream areas, such as Dinosaur National Monument.

Monger said his message to the water boards was, "We're willing to work with you, but this is water we're talking about here."

Ken Brenner, a former Steamboat Springs City Council president and now a candidate for the state Senate, was less flexible about the idea.

"The big elephant in the middle of the room is if there is any water, period. I am one of the folks over here who is certain there is not," he said, referring to water allocations mandated by the 1922 Colorado River Compact.

Because water rights are based on the year they were established, if a pumpback pipeline was created on the Yampa, it would impact any future claims on Yampa River water, in Steamboat Springs or elsewhere.

Eric Wilkinson, general manager of the Northern Colorado district, said he still is giving presentations to interested water groups such as the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

It is the same presentation given to local groups in the past, and no changes have been made. The board may choose to pursue the project or call for more detailed surveys after the presentation.

Wilkinson said he does not expect any progress on the pumpback for at least one or two years.

Comments

another_local 5 years, 9 months ago

We should kill the idea as soon as possible. People need to move to the water not the other way around in today's world.

How much energy would be used to pump this water? Who pays for that? This should not be a publicly funded project at all.

Front range people should conserve water rather than waste money and energy moving water backwards over the divide.

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rsssco 5 years, 9 months ago

This statement is of concern:

"We're not necessarily against either of the projects, but there are huge concerns," said Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger, referring to the Maybell pumpback and a separate pipeline - called the Green River Diversion Project - proposed by Aaron Million of Fort Collins.

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madmoores 5 years, 9 months ago

The people of the communities along the Yampa river killed a process years ago to dam up the Yampa out by Cross Mountain in western MC, they will not let this happen either...I hope. The Yampa remains one of the last un-dammed, free flowing rivers in the western United States and the people that live along it should group up again and oppose this silly idea so that it stays that way. What will the greedy, grubby fingered front range folks demand from us next...pipe in our clean air to replace their dirty air? Oh, I know, our dirt is better than theirs and they want to propose digging up Rio Blanco County to get it? As has been stated...move to the friggin water or conserve what you have, not our fault the river runs where it does, or in your case, doesn't. We should divide the state down the middle, they get their dirtbowl, we get....this, paradise to some. I like that idea, we can simply call it "West Colorado", kinda like "West Virginia".

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grannyrett 5 years, 9 months ago

Better yet madmoores, give the east part of this state to Kansas, and just keep paradise--western side--for Colorado.

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bigwave 5 years, 9 months ago

You mentioned that the Yampa is one of the last undammed rivers. I mentioned this to my father the other day and acknowledged that I hear this a lot. I know that Stillwater Reservoir is on the Yampa...Stagecoach and Catamount too. Is there a standard I am missing as I have heard the Yampa is free flowing for a long time...but clearly I don't understand what that means with the three reservoirs I know of.

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pearl_han 5 years, 8 months ago

I am happy to read the comments that everyone has posted. As a river guide in Dinosaur National Monument I make my living on the Yampa and Green rivers and it would break my heart if I could no longer share the beauty and excitement of these canyons with people. I just hope that everyone realizes where the water in their houses comes from.

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