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Utah protests plan to pipe Green River water to Colorado

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue, KSL  |  Posted Apr 5th, 2018 @ 4:11pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — The state of Utah is among multiple critics to the so-called Million pipeline project that proposes to divert Green River water to the Front Range of Colorado.

The Utah Division of Resources indicated in an official protest filed this week it has concerns over negative impacts to Green River water users, the ability to meet target flows for endangered fish recovery and questions over whether Colorado itself supports the project.

Multiple protests are on record with the Utah State Engineer's Office over a water rights application from Aaron Million's Water Horse Resources to export 55,000 acre-feet of water from Green River at two points near Utah's Browns Park in Daggett County.

The project envisions construction of a hydroelectric facility, likely in Wyoming, along with a network of hundreds of miles of pipeline to convey the water to Colorado's Front Range.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected Million's pipeline plan in 2012. At the time, Million sought a permit for a 501-mile buried pipeline that would be accompanied by seven hydropower projects before its terminus in Pueblo, Colorado.

The commission denied Million's preliminary permit application on the basis that it was incomplete.

Critics to the revised proposal include the Uintah and Emery county water districts, the Provo River Water Users Association, the Center for Biological Diversity and Trout Unlimited. The Utah Board of Water Resources also filed an objection.

The Center for Biological Diversity, in its protest, cited declining snowpack, warming temperatures and increased instances of prolonged drought in the Colorado River Basin, as well as potential impacts the diversion would have on the recovery of endangered fish species.

Paul Burnett, the Utah water and habitat program lead for Trout Unlimited, said he was a bit surprised to see the project resurrected.

"To us, this just looks like speculation," he said. "The proposal is lacking so much information we can't even put together a full protest on it. It is a lot of water and not a lot of information."

Million is a wealthy Fort Collins entrepreneur who formed Water Horse Resources to pursue the project again. This time, he's seeking much less water than the original 240,000 acre-feet and also changed the point of diversion from Flaming Gorge in Wyoming to the Green River in Utah.

The protest period ends Saturday.

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Amy Joi O'Donoghue, KSL
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