Water users reach agreement over Green Mountain Reservoir
DENVER ” Western Slope water users and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation have reached an agreement over how slowly water from Green Mountain Reservoir would be released to prevent landslides near the town of Heeney.
The agreement, announced Friday, calls for conservation measures, finding alternative sources of stored water, and sharing any shortages should the bureau need to slow the release of water from the reservoir.
Western Slope irrigators and the Colorado River Water Conservation District, which manages the Colorado River, filed a lawsuit in 2003, arguing precautionary rules to prevent slides shortchanged them of water they were entitled to. At the same time, they say water diverted to the Front Range remained untouched.
Drought conditions in 2002 created a greater demand for stored water and residents of the town noticed that houses were slipping, well pipes were leaning and foundations were slipping as reservoir levels fell.
Officials contend a direct link hasn’t been found between the slide and reservoir levels. But the bureau enacted new rules that would not draw down the reservoir by more than a half-acre foot daily to keep pressure against the bottom of the slide area.
“This is truly a landmark settlement and shows the willingness of eastern and western Colorado to find, through cooperation, ways to address our individual needs and concerns in a mutually beneficial way,” Eric Wilkinson, general manager of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, said in a statement.
The reservoir north of Dillon was developed as part of a compromise between Front Range and Western Slope water users in the 1930s to make up for the water being diverted to the eastern half of the state by the Colorado Big Thompson Project.
“I am pleased we have been able to arrive at this settlement that addresses the allocation of shortages while maintaining operational measures for public health and safety,” said Reclamation Commissioner John Keys said.
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