Denver not about to drop water bid |

Denver not about to drop water bid

Greg Masse
Post Independent Staff

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Denver Water again has Colorado River water in its sights.

The state’s oldest and largest water utility is asking Xcel Energy to lower the spring water call at its Glenwood Canyon power plant so that water can be diverted into Denver’s reservoirs.

The Colorado River Water Conservation District board, which represents Western Slope water users, will discuss the subject in a meeting at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Hotel Colorado.

But the final decision rests with Xcel Energy, owner of the Shoshone Hydroelectric Power Plant and its 1905 and 1940 water rights, which are among the oldest on the river.

Xcel Energy spokesman Steve Roalstad said the utility likely won’t approve the water call reduction “until there is a general agreement” between Denver Water, Western Slope water users and Xcel.

Officials from communities around the Western Slope have said that relaxing Xcel’s water rights would set an adverse precedent.

But last June, Xcel set the precedent by reducing its Shoshone water call for about two weeks to benefit Denver Water. That boosted water storage in Front Range reservoirs, but cost the utility around $700,000 in lost energy production, Denver Water spokesman Dave Little said.

If the call is reduced again this spring, Denver Water will pay Xcel for lost energy production, Little said.

From mid-March through mid-April, Denver Water wants to store any Colorado River flows over 700 cubic feet per second, Little said. The total yield of the deal depends on how much rain or snow falls during that period and the speed of snowmelt.

“We’ll take as much as we can get,” Little said of the Western Slope water.

Denver Water’s call-reduction request for the Shoshone plant is the second in two months. Denver asked Xcel Energy to reduce its Shoshone call from late January through March, but was rejected.

If Denver Water’s latest request is approved by the Xcel Energy board of directors, the water will be used to speed the filling of Dillon Reservoir – which provides 47.5 percent of Denver Water’s total storage capacity. It could also increase storage at Williams Fork Reservoir, a reservoir near Kremmling that Denver uses to meet Western Slope water rights while it diverts water to the Front Range.

Little said the Western Slope will benefit as well.

“From a Denver Water standpoint, we would leave 10 percent of all water saved on the Western Slope,” he said. “Everyone’s betting that the snowpack is going to be good this year, but they’re ignoring the fact that Green Mountain Reservoir might not fill this year.”

There is still a chance Green Mountain Reservoir will fill naturally, Colorado River Water Conservation District spokesman Peter Roessmann said.

“If Green Mountain Reservoir fills, the benefits to the Western Slope are diminishing,” Roessmann said of Denver’s Shoshone request.

Another possible benefit would be the diversion of some water to the Wolford Mountain Reservoir, Roessmann said.

Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext 511

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