It may seem strange for San Diego Coastkeeper to call a project happening almost 1000 miles away to your attention, but the Flaming Gorge Pipeline has a strong San Diego connection.
The Pipeline is a water project that would divert at least 250,000 acre-feet (81 billion gallons) of water annually from the Green River and Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming, across the Continental Divide, and down the Front Range of Colorado, a total of between 550 and 580 miles. The Green River is the chief tributary of the Colorado River, where San Diego gets half of its water supply. Check out this map of the area and proposed pipeline. The pipeline, a hydropower project as well as a water transfer, would generate up to 1000 megawatts, and the water is intended for future population growth. (Originally the project was solely for water supply, but it is now primarily a hydropower project.)
One complicated detail is the amount of water that will be delivered. Aaron Million, the Colorado businessman proposing the project, intends to transfer at least 250,000 acre-feet. A study by the Bureau of Reclamation, however, found that the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, where most of the water is coming from, has only a 165,000 acre-foot surplus. The remaining 75,000 acre-feet is coming from the Green River above Flaming Gorge. This will drain an approximate 20-25% of the Green River’s flow annually, which has negative impacts on both the environment and the tourist economy. The Colorado River Water Conservation District is opposed to the project, due to concerns about how much water can sustainably be delivered. Million believes that there is plenty of water in the Colorado River Basin for the project, and says that if major environmental problems are found, the project should not go forward. Million also claims that the project will cost only $2.8 to $3.2 billion, while the State of Colorado finds a figure of $9 billion far more likely. The water could cost up to $30,000 an acre-foot, the most expensive water in Colorado history.
A coalition of nineteen conservation groups is opposed to both the project and a $150,000 grant currently under debate that would set up a task force to consider the pipeline. Million himself estimates that $5 million has been spent already on studies, and that $8 million to $12 million more could be needed to finish studying the project. The coalition hopes to avoid spending more money on a project that should not even be considered, due to a number of problems including environmental issues and negative impacts on the tourist industry.
Whether we like it or not, San Diego will be affected by the pipeline. Since we get half of our water from the Colorado River, there is a potential for reduced water supplies or perhaps higher prices due to lower supply, if the pipeline goes through. The pipeline stands to drain all of the water that can be spared from Flaming Gorge, possibly more, which could lead to shortages throughout the Colorado River basin in dry years.
The coalition has a petition at http://StopFlamingGorgePipeline.org that anyone can sign, regardless of where they live. The petition closes September 12, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board votes on whether to fund a study of the project on the 13th and 14th. Sign now to show your opposition to the Flaming Gorge Pipeline!