Reprinted with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. Not for republication by Wyoming media.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last week rejected a Colorado entrepreneur’s proposal to pump millions of gallons of fresh water from the Green River Basin in Wyoming to Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Front.
Aaron Million, owner of Wyco Power and Water Inc., asked FERC for a preliminary permit in September to study the feasibility of developing a 501-mile-long pipeline from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir and the Green River in Wyoming to a proposed reservoir near Pueblo, Colo.
The Regional Watershed Supply Project would include seven hydropower projects and pump 250,000 acre-feet of water annually across the Continental Divide to meet growing water demand in Denver and other Front Range communities.
Jeff Wright, the director of FERC’s Office of Energy Projects, said the application was premature because it didn’t specify when Million would obtain necessary permits to build and operate the pipeline, even though the project would cross federal, state, county, local government and private lands. Wright also wanted to know exactly where the hydropower projects would be located.
The permit wouldn’t allow Million to build or operate the pipeline, but would give him up to three years to study the feasibility of the site while pursuing a license.
“Until some certainty regarding the authorization of the pipeline is presented, Wyco will not be able to gather and obtain the information required to prepare a license application for a proposed hydropower project,” Wright said. “Therefore, there is no purpose under the [Federal Power Act] for issuing a permit to Wyco for its proposed hydropower project at this time.
“Million has been trying to move the idea ahead for years with little success. Last summer, the Army Corps of Engineers halted its review of the pipeline after Million changed the project to include hydropower.
Even so, Million said during an interview today that FERC’s decision is only a temporary setback and that he plans to address the commission’s concern and move the project forward.
“It was a nonissue for us,” he said. “The underpinnings [of the decision] were finality of routing and the timeline. We’ve been in discussions with FERC during the last couple weeks.”
FERC’s decision is simply “part of the permitting process,” and routing of a project can always change as a developer moves toward construction, he said. Million began looking for a firm today to help design, build, finance and operate the pipeline. Wyco Power and Water Inc. will accept applications through April 6, according to the request.
Opponents of the project say it’s highly unlikely that Million will secure approval from various states and federal agencies, or that he will comply with federal environmental statutes.
McCrystie Adams, a staff attorney for Earthjustice, said the pipeline would devastate the Green River, the main tributary of the Colorado River, as well as endangered fish in the waterways. Million will need to get approval from a host of federal agencies and states and make sure the project is legal before FERC reviews it, she said.
The list of approvals “goes on and on and on,” Adams said. “Frankly, we don’t think it’s possible to get them.”
Stacy Tellinghuisen, a water and energy policy analyst at Boulder, Colo.-based Western Resource Advocates, said in a statement that the project is no closer to reality today than it was a decade ago. “We have always argued that there is no reason to spend taxpayer resources studying such a flawed idea, and we are pleased to see today’s ruling.”
Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity agreed that FERC’s decision was a victory, saying it’s “hard to imagine a worse proposal in this era of global warming than burning fossil fuels to pump already-imperiled rivers hundreds of miles across mountains to fuel sprawl.”
Million can request a rehearing on FERC’s order within the next 30 days.
Click here to read FERC’s decision.