Western Slope businesses tell Hickenlooper Flaming Gorge study should stop sucking up state funds

By Troy Hooper
The Colorado IndependentMay 24, 2012
More then 100 businesses on the Western Slope wrote Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper this week, asking that he stop devoting state resources to study the embattled Flaming Gorge pipeline proposal.

"The cost to Colorado taxpayers and our economy that would result from the development of the Flaming Gorge pipeline would be devastating. This project would also increase the risk of a compact call that would hurt our state's water users,” the letter (pdf) from 118 affected businesses reads.

Last week the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reaffirmed an earlier decision to deny a rehearing of Aaron Million's permit application to build a lucrative 578-mile pipeline, which would annually siphon 80 billion gallons of water from Wyoming's Green River to Colorado's Front Range.

The Green River is a principal tributary to the Colorado River. (Photo by Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism)

A state task force convened in January to review the proposal and it is set to finish in December.

Protect the Flows, a coalition of over 500 small business owners in the seven-state Colorado River region, recently released a report showing that the Colorado River and its tributaries support a quarter million U.S. jobs and generate $26 billion annually in economic output. In Colorado alone, the Colorado River supports about 80,000 jobs and about $9.6 billion in total economic output.

“The state's task force is focused only on one increasingly controversial idea — the Flaming Gorge pipeline proposal,” said Molly Mugglestone, coordinator for Protect the Flows, in a prepared statement. “But to come up with the most effective solutions on future water usage we must apply a broader, more inclusive framework, like the one that was applied in achieving the newly completed agreement between Denver Water and West Slope interests.”

A study by Western Resource Advocates indicated that the pipeline would take nearly a quarter of the Green River's flow, resulting in a $58.5 million dollar annual loss to the region's recreation economy. That same study reported that the water delivered to the Front Range by the pipeline would have to be sold at a price that is the most expensive in Colorado's history. The threat of diversions has made the Green the nation's second most endangered river, according to one group.

Messages left for Hickenlooper's spokespeople were not immediately returned.

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