Upper Yampa conservancy district forming mission statement amid regional demands | SteamboatToday.com

Upper Yampa conservancy district forming mission statement amid regional demands

Water pressure rising

Mike Lawrence

— A regional water supplier is formalizing its future goals as pressure for water mounts on both sides of the Continental Divide.

The Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District already has announced plans to raise Stagecoach Reservoir in South Routt County, adding nearly 3,200 acre-feet of water storage capacity to the reservoir's existing 33,275 acre-feet. Work on that project will begin this summer. On Sunday, general manager Kevin McBride said the district also is taking steps toward a mission statement and, eventually, a master plan. Those steps include public input, beginning with the district's board meeting later this month.

McBride said developing a mission statement and master plan will help formalize, among many district goals, "how we will protect the water resources of the Yampa Valley in light of the pressures outside of the district."

Those pressures continue to intensify.

They include three proposals, in various stages of planning and feasibility, for massive pipelines to transfer water from the Yampa River, Green River or Flaming Gorge Reservoir to Front Range communities. Such proposals have been floated for several years, but the demand for such a large-scale transfer was highlighted in March when the Colorado Water Conservation Board released its Colorado River Water Availability Study for public comment.

Local water attorney Tom Sharp noted that the study provides a range of zero to 1 million acre-feet of remaining, developable water in the Colorado River system, depending on climate and consumption projections.

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The interesting thing about that range, Sharp said, is its low end.

"Until this study, no study had been done by any regional or state government saying that the number remaining for Colorado River development could be zero," Sharp said.

He added that in some of the climate change models, "it could be that we've already developed all the water that we can safely develop on the Colorado."

Combine the pipeline proposals and state projections with population growth and the potential for increased energy development on the Western Slope, and the need for formalized planning is clear.

There currently is no comprehensive, guiding document specific to the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, which oversees Stagecoach and Yamcolo reservoirs and supplies untreated water to local municipalities, agricultural users and Tri-State Generation and Transmission's Craig Station power plant. McBride said the district has founding documents, various objectives and some principles for projects and transactions, but nothing under one roof, so to speak.

McBride said Conservancy District officials will make a presentation to Steamboat Spr­ings City Council on May 18 in Centennial Hall on 10th Street. The district's board meets at 3 p.m. May 19 in the Routt County Courthouse, in the Commissioners Hearing Room on the third floor.

"We'd love to have people come and give any input they would like," McBride said.

The board then has a retreat May 22 to discuss a mission statement, he said.

"A lot of people tend to glaze over at mission statements, but it's a good time to take a 10,000-foot view of things," McBride said. "All comments are welcome."

If you go

What: Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District board of directors meeting

When: 3 p.m. May 19

Where: Commissioners Hearing Room on the third floor of the Routt County Courthouse in downtown Steamboat Springs

Contact: The Conservancy District at 970-871-1035

Energy Summit 2010

The potential effects of energy development and proposed pipelines on regional water resources is one of many topics on the agenda for Yampa Valley Partners’ fourth annual Fueling Thought energy summit, which includes events, speakers and more Wednesday through Friday in Craig. Registration is open for the summit. Members of the public can register at the door. Visit this site for a full agenda and registration information. Call Yampa Valley Partners at 970-824-1133.


Download and comment on the Colorado River Water Availability Study on the Colorado Water Conservation Board website, http://cwcb.state.co.us/. The public comment period ends July 21.

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