Steamboat Springs 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.