Feds stand by Flaming Gorge pipeline denial

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) stood firm today in its previous decision to deny a rehearing of Aaron Million’s preliminary permit application. Million wants to build a profitable 578-mile pipeline that would pump water from Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge to Colorado’s Front Range.

FERC deemed the application from Million’s company, Wyco Power and Water Inc., inadequate in February but Wyco returned the next month asking the agency to reconsider.

“We are not persuaded by any of Wyco’s unsupported arguments that it should be issued a preliminary permit for its proposed Regional Watershed Supply Project,” the commissioners wrote in their decision. “Therefore, we affirm the February 23 Order and deny Wyco’s request for rehearing.”

The region’s conservation community is aghast at the prospect of the pipeline sucking 81 billion gallons of water each year from the Green River, a tributary of the depleted Colorado River.

A section of the Green River below Flaming Gorge and above the Colorado River. (Photo by Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism)

“The Flaming Gorge Pipeline has been rejected more often than a freshman before prom,” Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates analyst Stacy Tellinghuisen said in a press release. “It doesn’t matter how you try to alter the proposal, or whose name is on top. You can change the wording. You can change the font. You can print it on a different color paper. It’s still too expensive, too harmful to the environment, and just not necessary for meeting future water demands.”

Pipeline opponents are calling on state officials to send a similar message to Million.

“The thousands of people in our region whose jobs depend upon a strong Colorado River system dodged another bullet today, but it’s time to move beyond this threat once and for all,” said Molly Mugglestone, coordinator of Protect the Flows, which is a a coalition of over 400 businesses. “Enough time and public money has been spent fixating on this one controversial idea, it’s time to bring people together to come up with a smarter way forward.”

State officials have assembled a special task force to study the viability of the Flaming Gorge pipeline. The task force commenced in January and is set to finish its work in December of this year. The pipeline would include three reservoirs, nine natural-gas-powered pump stations and six hydropower facilities.

A diverse collection of voices are speaking out against the threats to the Colorado River and its tributaries that support jobs and have a meaningful economic impact.

Million’s pipeline would take water from the Green River, which this week was ranked the second most endangered river in America in large part due to development pressures. In addition to Million, Parker Water & Sanitation District manager Frank Jaeger and others have similar ideas.

“Enough is enough. This is a strong signal to the state of Colorado to focus more time and attention on proposals that — unlike the Pipeline — are more ripe for serious consideration,” said Robert Harris, an attorney with Western Resource Advocates.

Wyco officials could not be reached for comment.

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