Going to war for our water
A new water war has erupted, with the village of Heeney and Green Mountain Reservoir right in the middle of it.
The Colorado River Water Conservation District is suing the federal Bureau of Reclamation, owner and operator of the reservoir, for short-changing Western Slope water users in favor of Front Range diverters.
All the details can be found on page A4.
The fight starts with the ancient landslide on the hillside above Heeney that reaches into the reservoir. The Bureau, worried that low water will exacerbate the slide, is restricting the amount of water that can be taken from the reservoir.
The concept is, the water helps hold the landslide in place, so the level cannot be drawn below 27,000 acre-feet.
The trouble is, the water being kept in the reservoir is being debited against Western Slope users, both locally and all the way to Grand Junction. Meanwhile, the water stored for Front Range communities is unaffected.
That is the basis of the lawsuit, and we believe it has merit.
Green Mountain Reservoir was authorized by Congress as protection for Western Slope water rights so that the Colorado-Big Thompson Project could be built to send water over the Continental Divide. The history of the first water wars over the Colorado-Big Thompson go all the way back to the 1920s.
Holding back Western Slope water, and not Front Range water, violates the letter and spirit of the authorizing legislation.
The lawsuit also begs another question: When will the Bureau of Reclamation have a plan in place to deal with the landslide? The Bureau has drilled and placed test markers to measure slide activity but, so far, the only solution is to keep water in the reservoir.
That’s not a long-term solution.
Opinions published in this space are formulated by members of the Summit Daily News editorial board: Michael Bennett, Jim Pokrandt, Jason Starr, Rachel Toth, Reid Williams, Aidan Leonard, Shauna Farnell and Martha Lunsky.
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