Million: Flaming Gorge Pipeline unaffected by state water board decision

The developer of the proposed Flaming Gorge Pipeline denied Wednesday that the state’s decision to end funding for a group looking at the project would set it back.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board decided this week to discontinue $100,000 in funding for the Flaming Gorge Task Force. Members of the group, who began their work in 2010, had outlined the project’s benefits, concerns and challenges in a report to the water board.

Tuesday’s decision to halt funding represented a “critical wound” to the project, Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates said in a statement. Environmentalists oppose the project because they contend it would diminish Green River flows.

The decision “sends a strong message that it’s time to move on to other water demand solutions,´ said Drew Beckwith, the conservation group’s water policy manager. “No amount of discussion is going to make the pipeline less expensive or more realistic, and we applaud the CWCB for recognizing the need to move forward.”

Jennifer Gimbel, director of the water board, said the environmentalists’ comments were “misleading.”

The decision “doesn’t reflect the board’s position on the pipeline,” she said. “It doesn’t endorse it; it doesn’t deny it.”

The task force was formed to study issues surrounding the project, not to decide whether the project should move forward. After completing a report on the pipeline, the task force requested $100,000 to study “new supply projects in general” at Tuesday’s water board meeting, Gimbel said.

However, the Interbasin Compact Committee already is studying potential water supply projects, she said.

“The request from the Flaming Gorge Task Force is a bit duplicative of what we’re already doing in other state processes,” she said.

Aaron Million, principal of Wyco Power and Water Inc., called environmentalists’ characterization of the decision “grossly inaccurate.” The company has proposed building the pipeline to bring water from Wyoming to the Front Range, including Fort Collins.

“One of the reasons I think the environmental community’s been so vocal is that this project has a lot of merit to it,´ said Million, who contends the project would add to Poudre River volume.

Wyco is doing “further engineering” to respond to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s rejection of its proposal last year, he said.

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