Water project backer and environmentalist face off | SummitDaily.com

Water project backer and environmentalist face off

LARAMIE, Wyo. – An environmentalist and the backer of a proposed pipeline that would ship water from southwest Wyoming to Colorado sparred over the $3 billion project during a debate at the University of Wyoming.

The proposed Regional Watershed Supply Project would tap Wyoming’s Green River at Flaming Gorge Reservoir and ship the water through a 500-mile pipeline, supplying communities and farmers along Colorado’s Front Range with up to 250,000 acre feet of water annually.

Hydrologist Dan Luecke, of Boulder, Colo., called it “one of the most damaging kinds of water projects” he can think of, saying environmentalists fear the pipeline would discourage conservation.

But Aaron Million, of Fort Collins, Colo., said at Wednesday’s event that users of water from the pipeline would have to comply with water conservation measures and that the pipeline would help Front Range farms.

If the project proves to be environmentally unsound, Million said, the pipeline should not be built.

Luecke also criticized the price of the water, which he said is estimated at $2,200 per acre-foot. New projects within Colorado could deliver water for $800 per acre-foot, he said.

An acre-foot is about 325,000 gallons of water, enough to cover an acre a foot deep and supply a family of four for a year.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is studying the potential environmental impacts of building the pipeline. The agency has invited the states of Colorado, Wyoming and Utah, 32 American Indian tribes and many other local, state and federal entities to weigh in.

The pipeline also needs congressional approval.

Sweetwater County and the cities of Rock Springs and Green River, all in southwest Wyoming, oppose the pipeline proposal. They are concerned about its likely effects on fishing and recreation and have agreed to pool money to fight the project.

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