Garfield County commissioners oppose Flaming Gorge pipeline |

Garfield County commissioners oppose Flaming Gorge pipeline

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Garfield County commissioners are on record opposing a plan to divert 240,000 acre-feet of Western Slope water annually from Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge Reservoir to Colorado’s Front Range.

However, the decision to oppose the proposed 560-mile-long Flaming Gorge pipeline was not a unanimous one. The Garfield Board of County Commissioners voted 2-1 Monday to take the position against the controversial project.

Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said that, although philosophically opposed to Front Range water diversions, it’s too early in the process for the county to be taking a position on the controversial project.

“I do not like West Slope water going to East Slope,” Jankovsky said. “But I do feel this is premature.”

The county’s representative on the Colorado River Water Conservation District Board of Directors, David Merritt, also urged the county commissioners not to take a position at this time.

“This is such a long-term proposal, and it will go through a lot of iterations before it would ever become viable,” Merritt said. “It’s not good public policy to drive a spike in this at this point.”

But Commissioners Mike Samson and John Martin disagreed.

Samson has been pushing for the county to take a stance against the project, as other Western Slope governments, water users and conservation groups have done.

“We can’t continue to give West Slope water to Eastern Slope entities,” Samson said. “Enough is enough.

“I’m looking down the road to our future needs,” he said. “Western Colorado will grow and expand, and we will need that water. And once it’s over there, there’s no way to get it back.”

The estimated $7 billion pipeline proposal by Fort Collins businessman Aaron Million already faces some high hurdles. The proposal was rejected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, although that decision is being appealed.

A host of other federal and state regulatory agencies are still studying the proposal. The project is still several years away from any final decisions.

Garfield County’s resolution opposing the project questions the costs for the project, as well as the potential threats to the western Colorado and other downstream water users on the west side of the Continental Divide.

“The Flaming Gorge pipeline is not feasible without subsidies, with some estimates suggesting that the project would need as much as $370 million in state or federal subsidies,” the resolution states.

“Garfield County urges Colorado water leaders and policymakers to devote the state’s attention and financial resources on water projects and programs that are cost-effective and that do not pit one region of the state against the others,” it concludes.

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