Flaming Gorge pipe dream taxpayers’ nightmare

Flaming Gorge Reservoir in southwest Wyoming. Click to enlarge.

Apparently unaware that Wyoming legislators can make it rain (or snow) by pumping $14 million into cloud seeding, Colorado businessman Aaron Million is pressing ahead with his proposal to pump water some 500 miles from Flaming Gorge Reservoir over the Continental Divide to Colorado’s Front Range.

In a bit of procedural sleight of hand, Million has shifted his application from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, now claiming the project will produce hydropower. In doing so he seeks whichever federal agency is most likely to give the plan a favorable review.

Former Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal opposed the pipeline, as does his successor, Gov. Matt Mead. Sportsmen from southern Wyoming and northern Utah also have ridiculed the plan, which would divert 250,000 acre feet of water — or about 30 percent of the storage capacity of Jackson Lake, for a comparison — from the Green River Basin each year, into the eastbound Platte Basin.

The staggering price tag — $3 billion by Million’s estimation, up to $9 billion by other projections — regulatory hurdles and widespread doubts make it unlikely the pipeline ever will be built. But we never can be too vigilant, so click here to submit an eComment to FERC. The docket number for the Flaming Gorge Pipeline is P-14263, and the deadline is Dec. 16.

Irrigating the desert near Moab, Utah. Conservation groups argue Colorado could save as much water as the proposed Flaming Gorge pipeline would deliver.

WyoFile has a thorough story on the pipeline and background of Western water projects, although it seems to hold Million, arrested earlier this year for allegedly stalking his ex-girlfriend — in too high regard.

What’s really galling is that this proposal already has consumed several years of “study” by the Army Corps, at considerable expense to taxpayers. The Colorado Water Conservation Board has allocated $72,000 out of a possible $250,000 to investigate it further.

At what point is a scheme so outlandish that it can be dismissed out of hand? If I proposed dismantling Pikes Peak, stone by stone, and reconstructing it next to the Grand Teton to meet increased demand for tourism and recreation, would the U.S. Forest Service and Park Service spend years considering the idea?

Million has pitched his plan as a public-private partnership, and we all know who usually winds up with the tab. In this case, with federal and state agencies continuing to squander resources pondering a pipe dream — funds every bit as precious as water in the desert — taxpayers already have lost.


Posted under Economy, Environment, Politics, Sports, Wyoming

8 Comments so far

  1. dave November 28, 2011 5:26 pm

    wow, that will cost even more than the home ranch bathrooms! thumbs definitely down.

  2. RT November 28, 2011 9:04 pm

    Fracking needs lots of water. Millions of gallons go used in a gas field.

    Farming needs millions of gallons of water.

    People need millions of gallons.

    It all adds up. Water is money.

  3. D November 29, 2011 9:28 am
  4. AB November 30, 2011 11:34 am

    If you want to leave a comment on the Flaming Gorge Pipeline, as Jim suggested, you need to enter this complete number for the docket # P-14263-000. Thanks Jim for the great work!

  5. js November 30, 2011 12:03 pm

    AB, I submitted a comment without the “-000″ suffix, and it has been entered into the public record in FERC’s eLibrary. Just below yours, actually. So both work. Thanks for the heads-up, and your input.

  6. ZZZZZZZ November 30, 2011 7:20 pm


    ALL WATER USERS, including the gas industry, are part of the demand side of the equation.

    “The oil and gas companies are acutely aware of the current fresh water shortage situation that they are facing now and in the future” ….”We are standing on top of an ocean of brackish water and producing billions of barrels of unusable water associated with oil and gas production” – As folks in Texas see it.

    Water rights in the USA are valuable and outside of the taxpayer support of a private enterprise, I haven’t seen a good legal reason to oppose the pipeline or any reservoir. Impinging on the legal water rights of others won’t get you very far.

    What’s the commotion all about? You want the water for recreation and others want it for drinking? Why should I comment into the public record?

  7. D December 1, 2011 8:42 am

    Your right but my point was with or with out Fracing the same issue would be faced, and has been faced in the past. Like I stated Natural supply vs over demand is the issue. The over demand part remains even if you take Fracing out of the equation. My point could have been clearer.

  8. David Stubbs December 1, 2011 2:22 pm

    Zzzzzz: Who said anything about recreation? What about ecological health? Grandfathered water rights and development unchecked by water supply are issues that need to be challenged regardless of legality. Slavery and the denial of suffrage were legal once too.

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