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Developer says pipeline could move less water

Developer says pipeline could move less water

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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) -- An entrepreneur proposing to build a multi-billion-dollar pipeline to carry water from Wyoming to Colorado says he's considering reducing the amount of water he's seeking.

Aaron Million of Ft. Collins, Colo., has proposed building a pipeline to carry up to 250,000 acre feet of water from the Green River in Wyoming to Colorado's Front Range. An acre foot is about 325,000 gallons of water, the amount that would cover an acre to a depth of one foot.

"If we were to end up with a permit on the maximum size, I have personal concerns that it would impact the river, and I don't want to do that," Million said Friday.

Million said he is re-evaluating what would be a reasonable size for the pipeline project. He said he doesn't have a figure yet of how much water he may apply to take from the river if he reduces his application.

Million hasn't modified his original applications to divert water, still pending with the Wyoming State Engineer's Office. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is preparing a detailed environmental study of Million's original proposal.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last month filed comments with the corps saying the environmental study must address the possibility that pumping water from the river could hurt federally protected fish species.

Million's plans also have run into stiff opposition from residents in southwestern Wyoming. Many have said they're concerned that pumping water from the river could hurt fishing and recreation.

Million has said his planned pipeline would carry water more than 500 miles, east across Wyoming and then as far south as Pueblo, Colo. He has said that if the environmental review finds his project would harm the river ecosystem in ways that couldn't be mitigated, he wouldn't proceed.

Million has said the pipeline would meet only part of the growing demand for water along the Front Range. He's applying to draw water that's part of Colorado's allocated share under the Colorado River Compacts.

"It will be the Corps of Engineers and the federal permitting agencies that will make the final decision as to size," Million said of the amount of water the pipeline could draw. "But we also want to honor and respect the concerns of the communities of Green River and Rock Springs."

Million said he wants to move all his planned water diversions downstream from the town of Green River. He said he's now looking at a diversion point on the river below the town and another within Flaming Gorge Reservoir.

Brett Johnson, attorney for Sweetwater County, said Friday that county commissioners as well as city officials in Green River and Rock Springs openly oppose Million's project.

"The county is certainly concerned on the effects of taking the water out of the river and the effect that that will have on the Flaming Gorge and the uses that we have here -- obviously fishing and recreation," Johnson said.

Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal also has come out against the pipeline project. He has said he opposes trans-basin diversions of water and also believes that Million should disclose exactly where the water would be used.

The Corps of Engineers announced recently that it will require Million to identify his potential customers in coming months. Million has said that he has talked to municipalities and other possible water customers in Wyoming and Colorado, but has declined to name them so far.

Whatever amount of water Million ultimately applies for, he said it would take decades once the pipeline comes online before it would operate at full capacity.

Million said the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has determined that there's a surplus of water in the Green River even after the needs of endangered species and other water uses are met. He said the analysis found that there's a minimum of 165,000 acre feet of water left over that would be available for the pipeline project.

Rena Brand, project manager for the Corps of Engineers in Littleton, Colo., said Friday that her agency is talking to the Colorado Division of Natural Resources about becoming a cooperating agency in handling the pipeline project's environmental review. She said there's been no final decision on that prospect yet.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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