Colorado’s latest proposal to divert water from the Western Slope is a complex, disputed set of pipes
Northern Water wants to flood a valley southwest of Loveland, but the water comes from Grand County, prompting lawsuits over what some say is a devil’s bargain
Sometime in the middle of next year, if Northern Water gets its way, the bulldozers will start piling earth and rock 25 stories high to plug this dry basin southwest of Loveland forever.
Four miles to the south, they’ll build another dam to keep their newly-made bathtub from leaking out the back toward Lyons. Drill crews will bore a massive pipeline through the hogback making up the east edge of the bathtub, in order to feed Carter Lake a few hundred yards to the east.
They’ll move a power line. Help build a surrounding open space park. Upgrade a sewage plant in Fraser. Four years later, they’ll close dam gates reinforced to hold back 29 billion gallons of life-giving water.
Then the hard part begins.
To fill this new water bucket, enough snow must fall on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park, 50 miles away, to first fill Lake Granby and give those holding more senior water rights their due. Water left over for Northern, paid for in the 1980s, would then spill into the Colorado River. Then into Northern Water’s Windy Gap Reservoir, which infuriated Grand County anglers when it dammed their sacred stretch of the Colorado in 1985.
Then the water would be pumped back uphill to Lake Granby, into Shadow Mountain Reservoir, and finally flow into Grand Lake. There it would drain into the 13-mile Alva B. Adams Tunnel carved under the Continental Divide. The newly-captured water would spill out of that tunnel and through three more lakes of the Colorado-Big Thompson pipeline and a couple of hydropower plants on the way downhill to hundreds of thousands of Front Range water taps.
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