Rio Blanco estimates the permitting will take three to five years at a cost of $6 to $10 million.
Another question is: If there is a compact call, how would state engineers administer it so that already water-short basins aren’t forced to cut back even more?
Other findings of the report are consistent with what River District and agriculture representatives have been saying since the state began its demand-management discussions in 2019: A program must not lead to the permanent dry-up of Western Slope agriculture, and additional diversions to the Front Range are in direct conflict with asking Western Slope water users to save water.
Because the river is classified as impaired, city officials expect that when CDPHE issues a new discharge permit for the city’s wastewater-treatment plant, it will include more-stringent water temperature standards.
Some who attended the hike — which attracted about 20 people — questioned the concept of taking more water from the headwaters of the Colorado River over to thirsty and growing Front Range cities in the face of a climate change-fueled crisis.
The three reservoirs are part of the Colorado River Storage Project, and their primary purpose is to control the flows of the Colorado River; flatwater recreation has always been incidental. But the releases at Blue Mesa illustrate the risks of building an outdoor-recreation economy around a highly engineered river system that is now beginning to falter amid a climate change-fueled drought.
The goal of the project is to prevent the UVWUA — one of the big senior water rights holders in the Gunnison River basin — from placing a call on the river.
The lack of consensus or recommendations underscores how difficult it is to answer the thorny question at the heart of the issue: How can the government balance protecting a public resource from profit-seeking investors without infringing on private-property rights?
That means if there is below-average runoff again, some contract holders who own water in Ruedi could have to take shortages, something that has never happened before, Miller said.
Some have expressed frustration with what they say is the state’s slow pace of a program rollout and want to begin pilot projects to test the program’s feasibility.