Pipeline opponents send letter to governor

Quotable

“The state’s task force is focused only on one increasingly controversial idea — the Flaming Gorge pipeline proposal. But, to come up with the most effective solutions on future water usage we must apply a broader, more inclusive framework.”

— Protect the Flows Coordinator Molly Mugglestone

More than 100 Western Slope businesses sent a letter Tuesday to Gov. John Hickenlooper expressing opposition to the proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline, a 501-mile pipeline that would bring water from Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge to Colorado’s Front Range, the organization Protect the Flows announced in a news release.

All businesses involved in sending the letter are members of Protect the Flows, a coalition of businesses located along the Colorado River and its tributaries that economically depend on the river and its flows and believe the Flaming Gorge pipeline poses a threat to those flows while failing to address water usage issues.

The letter asks the administration to stop devoting state resources to studying the Flaming Gorge pipeline upon conclusion of the state's special task force examining the project's feasibility, slated to wrap up at the end of the year.

The letter also points out that troubling facts about the pipeline have continued to emerge while opposition to the pipeline has grown and federal agencies have continually denied all permit attempts for the project, according to the release.

“The state’s task force is focused only on one increasingly controversial idea — the Flaming Gorge pipeline proposal,” Protect the Flows Coordinator Molly Mugglestone said in the release.

“But to come up with the most effective solutions on future water usage we must apply a broader, more inclusive framework.”

The release cited a recent report from Protect the Flows stating that the Colorado River and its tributaries support a quarter million American jobs and generate $26 billion annually in total economic output.

In Colorado alone, the Colorado River supports about 80,000 jobs and about $9.6 billion in total economic output, according to the release.

Additionally, an economic study by Western Resource Advocates indicated that the pipeline would take nearly a quarter of the flow from the Green River, a tributary of the Colorado, which would result in a $58.5 million dollar annual loss to the region’s recreation economy, according to the release.

That same study reported that the water delivered by the pipeline would have to be sold at a price that is the most expensive in Colorado’s history — up to 10 times more than any existing project — because of the pipeline’s steep construction and operation costs, which Colorado officials believe could be as much as $9 billion.

“Construction of this pipeline would be devastating to the entire Colorado River System,” said Tom Kleinschnitz, President of Adventure Bound River Expeditions in Grand Junction, in the release. “The significant loss of flows in the Green River would dramatically impact the quality of river recreation and affect tourism for everyone downstream all the way to Mexico.”

Protect the Flows said it will spend 2012 telling Hickenlooper and state officials that public resources would be better spent on more affordable solutions that support recreation industry jobs, such as improving water conservation efforts, water reuse and recycling, and better land-use planning and growth management, according to the release.

The coalition also indicated it would be open to a dialogue on water that welcomes and fosters ideas beyond the proposed pipeline and adequately accounts for the economic interests of the recreation and tourism industry, according to the release.

To see a copy of the letter sent to Hickenlooper and a statement of opposition by the businesses, visit protectflows.com.

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