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GREEN RIVER -- Thus far, it's been a battle of geography in the Million water war.

Entrepreneur Aaron Million's representatives have been working the east side of Wyoming, including Casper, in recent months drumming up support and possible customers for his proposal to pump water from the Green River to Colorado's Front Range.

On the west side of the state, however, locals are marshaling their own forces in fierce opposition to the project.

Municipal and Sweetwater County officials heading a coalition called Communities Protecting the Green River will meet Monday night in Green River to update area residents on the progress of their fight against the Million pipeline project.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Lincoln Middle School.

Residents will hear from area representatives working against the project and hear a presentation from Steve Wolff with the Wyoming State Engineer's Office, said Stephen Pyles, Green River's public information coordinator.

Southwest Wyoming officials decided last year there is strength in numbers and that the opposition to the proposal should be fought on a united front

"(The coalition) believes we can fight this ... in southwest Wyoming, we want to keep what we think is rightfully ours," Pyles said.

"People love the Green River, the residents believe (the water is) theirs and they're going to fight this project to the very end," he said. "And at this point, our goal is to start developing a strategy to do it."

Million, a Fort Collins, Co., developer, has proposed building a private pipeline to carry up to 250,000 acre feet of water a year from the Green River and the Flaming Gorge Reservoir south of the city of Green River.

He proposes moving 225,000 acre feet to Denver's Front Range and 25,000 acre feet to eastern Wyoming through an approximately 560-mile-long pipeline.

The pipeline would run from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, along Interstate 80 and then south to the Front Range and on to Colorado Springs.

Early on, the project ran into heavy opposition in southwest Wyoming, from both government, area industry and sportsmen.

Sweetwater County and its two largest municipalities, Green River and Rock Springs, are pooling hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight the project, citing concerns about its effect on growth, the economy, fishing and recreation in the area.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working on an environmental impact statement on the impacts of building the pipeline. Both Green River and Rock Springs have been granted cooperating agency status by the Corps for the study.

The agency held a contentious public hearing in April before hundreds of residents to unveil the Million Resource Group's proposal, where it was met with mostly outrage by local residents.

Million aims to take the Wyoming water under the terms of the Colorado River Water Compact. Wyoming and Colorado each have about 250,000 acre feet of water flowing through the Green River Basin, according to estimates. Each acre foot equals about 325,000 gallons.

Two of Million's representatives -- Jeff Fassett, former state engineer, and attorney Steve Freudenthal, brother of Gov. Dave Freudenthal -- told Casper City Council members March 8 the pipeline could help meet their city's future water needs.

Under Million's proposal, end users of the pipeline would have to apply, obtain and maintain their own water rights, which would ensure the end user's control over their own water supply.

Pyles said Million is relying on the "law of the river" to get approval for the project. "I think the whole (Communities Protecting the Green River) committee wants the public to understand just what that means," he said.

"This (project) could have a drastic, negative impact and change on the river, and that's something residents don't want," said Pyles.

Contact southwest Wyoming bureau reporter Jeff Gearino at (307) 875-5359 or gearino@tribcsp.com

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