Some folks riled over Xcel-Denver deal
A renewed agreement between Xcel Energy and Denver water sparked heated reaction Monday at a Colorado River Basin Roundtable meeting in Glenwood Springs.Under the agreement, which will be inked in early 2007, Xcel would release part of the water it uses to run the Shoshone hydroelectric plant in Glenwood Canyon, enabling Denver to store more water from the Colorado River in upstream reservoirs, such as Wolford Mountain and Dillon.The original agreement extended from 1986 to 2006Xcel would not give up its senior right but would take less than it is entitled to, enough to run only one of two turbines, or 704 cubic feet per second, giving Denver a chance to fill its reservoirs during spring runoff. The call would be relaxed from March 21 to May 21.Denver in turn would compensate Xcel for the lost revenue and make some of its extra stored water available later in the year.Xcel would relax its water right only during times of water shortage, said Bill Bates, water resource engineer for Denver Water. Specifically, a water shortage would take place when reservoirs were less than 80 percent full by July 1 and runoff is predicted to be 85 percent of normal in a given year based on periodic snowpack reports.”According to water records between 1969 and 2005 of historic runoff, only two years met those criteria, 1977 and 2003,” Bates said. In 2003, as a response to a severe drought, Xcel agreed to relax its Shoshone call and let Denver use the freed water to fill its reservoirs on the West Slope.Two local men spoke out strongly against the agreement at Monday’s roundtable meeting, saying it opens the door for Denver to take more water from the Western Slope.”This matter makes me blue in the face,” said Chuck Ogilby, who represents Eagle County at the roundtable. “Denver comes in with this deal kind of behind our backs. This is a blatant misuse of your power,” he said of Denver Water.”(This agreement) greatly impacts Garfield County, both for recreation, tourism … and domestic water,” said Louis Meyer, a principal with Schmueser Gordon Meyer, a Glenwood Springs engineering firm. He also said the agreement was made with no public participation in the process.”I think the process was flawed,” he said. “I believe … something this important should have had more public process.”At the time of the 2003 agreement between Xcel and Denver, “we thought you were turning the spigot on and once it was on it wouldn’t be shut,” Meyer said.He also said the city of Rifle is already feeling the effects of the oil and gas industry on its municipal water supply, and further curtailing Colorado River flows would only exacerbate the problem.During periods of low flows in late winter and early spring, Rifle draws its drinking water from the river. During that time silt increases as does the salinity of the water, which puts an added burden on its water plant.”Rifle is spending $10 to $20 million to retrofit its plants to deal with that,” he said. “This will certainly impact those low flows.”Bates also pointed out that the agreement is not part of Xcel’s franchise agreement with Denver, which allows it to access rights of way in the city to deliver its services. Nor does the Shoshone agreement require a vote of approval by Denver voters.The agreement will extend from 2007 to 2027.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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