Rio Blanco estimates the permitting will take three to five years at a cost of $6 to $10 million.
But the decree, while granting Rangely-based Rio Blanco the amount of storage it was seeking, doesn’t allow the district all the water uses that it initially wanted.
Division 6 Water Judge Michael A O’Hara III, in a Dec. 23 order, determined that Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District has not provided enough evidence that its current existing water rights won’t meet demands in the categories of municipal, irrigation, domestic, in-reservoir piscatorial, commercial and augmentation for Yellow Jacket Water Conservancy District.
The documents, obtained through a Colorado Open Records Act request, also underscore the extent to which fear of a compact call is shaping this proposed dam and reservoir project between Meeker and Rangely.
But even after Rio Blanco reduced the amount of water it’s asking for by more than 23,000 acre-feet, a report from Colorado’s top water engineers indicates the district still largely has a project in search of a need.
For more than 4½ years, state engineers have expressed concerns that the conservancy district has not proven there is a need for the water, which would be stored in the proposed White River reservoir and dam project between Rangely and Meeker.
The Colorado Water Conservation Board has given four grants worth nearly $850,000 for a project the Colorado Division of Water Resources says is “speculative.”
A supporter of the project questions the project’s economic viability and its purpose and need.
Dams across the main stem of the White River ranging from 80 to 290-feet-tall are being studied and refined, with funds from the state.