Water storage study on Northwest Colorado forum agenda
September 16, 2010
Steamboat Springs — The search for a water storage facility in the neighboring Yellow Jacket Water Conservation District will be among the topics of discussion Sept. 24 when the Community Agriculture Alliance, the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Yampa-White-Green River Basin Roundtable hosts a water forum in Craig.
The roundtable recommended funding a $220,800 water storage feasibility study in the Yellow Jacket District south of Craig, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board approved it in January.
The study is under way, and project consultant Mike Applegate is among six speakers slated for the forum.
Applegate said Wednesday the Yellow Jacket Board, which oversees a district primarily in Rio Blanco County, but including small portions of Moffat and Garfield counties, is a long way from building a water storage facility.
"I know there's concern among some people who are fearful bulldozers will show up and begin building a dam sometime in the next few months," Applegate said. "This is a study to determine what's feasible, and for a feasibility study you have to look at a variety of options and ask, 'Is there a better way to do that?'"
Forum organizer Marsha Daughenbaugh, executive director of the Ag Alliance, said the approach to the forum is to present a top-to-bottom look at water issues, from regional and statewide to local issues.
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Speakers on the agenda include Dan Birch, deputy general manager of the Colorado River District, who will speak about issues facing the Colorado River.
Jacob Bornstein, of the Conservation Board, will discuss Colorado's water for the 21st century.
"He'll talk about where future water demand is coming from and where it will come from," Daughenbaugh said.
She also expects him to address the possibility that Colorado's budget crisis will threaten funding for water roundtables all across the state.
Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray will talk about the collaborations the Yampa-White-Green River Basin Roundtable has been able to form.
Michelle Garrison, a water resource specialist for the Conservation Board, is expected to talk about the amount of available water in the Colorado River and how Colorado's obligation to downstream states will be met in the future.
She also might discuss the impact climate change could have on the water supply, Daughenbaugh said.
Kevin McBride, of the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, will talk about projects being taken near the headwaters of the Yampa River.
Water for ag and shale
The board of the Yellow Jacket Water Conservation District made it plain in a September 2008 filing in Water Court that it seeks to ensure adequate water supplies for agriculture, but it's also determined to create adequate supply for a growing oil shale industry in the region.
Applegate said the goal of protecting agricultural water is sincere.
"If you don't figure out in advance how to supply water for (energy development), the result can be a 'buy and dry agriculture'" approach to securing water for energy, he said.
In their 2008 filing, the Yellow Jacket Board members anticipated building Thornburgh Reservoir and filling it with conditional water rights from nearby creeks via pipelines.
West Milk Creek Canal, for example, is estimated to be able to supply 90 cubic feet per second of water.
Axial Creek Canal could be counted on to supply as much as 315 cfs during its peak, the court filing anticipated.
Applegate said the system of creeks and canals feeding an offline reservoir (built in a ravine without live water of its own), is just one possibility that will be looked at in the feasibility study.