Grand County makes deal to enhance late summer river flows
June 26, 2008
At the end of Windy Gap’s pumping cycle, high river flows this season have satisfied water users, leaving room for Grand County to strike a deal with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy municipal sub district.
Commissioners voted Tuesday to spend about $57,500 for use of the sub district’s Windy Gap pumping facility in an effort to put aside 1,500 acre-feet of water in Lake Granby.
“It’s free river water, no one has ownership of the water at this time,” said County Commissioner James Newberry.
The water, to be used in 2008 only, may be stored for late summer, when Colorado River flows are the lowest.
“We’ll be able to release fresh, clean, clear water out of Granby Reservoir into the stream to benefit fish and the river itself,” Newberry said.
The county’s contracted water engineer Jeff Clark of Bishop-Brogden Associates Inc. in Englewood, broached the idea at a June 19 meeting with irrigators.
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The deal is considered a breakthrough that exemplifies how East Slope and West Slope water negotiators can come to terms, commissioners said Tuesday.
The county hopes the deal might serve as a template for future talks with Denver Water and Northern, both of which are mounting projects to firm up their water rights on this side of Continental Divide.
The price covers the cost only of powering the pumps. In other words, the sub district extended use of the facility “at cost.”
“We had completed our pumping for the year, our pumps were available, and an agreement was made between the county and sub district for the cost of energy,” said Noble Underbrink, Northern’s West Slope collections systems department manager.
The county will be able to have the water released at any rate of flow when it deems necessary.
“It’s cooperation rather than litigation,” said Grand County Commissioner Gary Bumgarner.
The municipal sub district within the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District was formed in 1969 to build the Windy Gap Project, completed in 1985. Windy Gap supplies water to municipal and industrial users in northern Colorado. In any given year, storage in Lake Granby must be available, and Colorado River flows must exceed 190 cubic feet per second at Windy Gap Reservoir before water can be pumped to Lake Granby.
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