On Wolcott Reservoir | VailDaily.com

On Wolcott Reservoir

Roger Brown

In my efforts to learn more about the issues, I have run into some misconceptions about the pros and cons of the Wolcott Reservoir. It’s an important issue for all us. You need to get the story straight.One, the Wolcott Reservoir will allow for more Colorado River water to be diverted to the East Slope urban corridor; mainly to Denver. Denver will then sell the water to nearby suburbs. This water will be taken from the headwaters area, probably the Williams Fork and Dillon reservoirs. This means there will be less water in the Colorado from there on down to Mexico.The 50 miles or more stretch of the Colorado River that is in Eagle County above Dotsero will have a lot less water, and there are no established minimum flow requirements in place to protect that stretch of the river. The fishing and rafting could be severely compromised. Hypothetically if it’s running 3,000 cubic feet/second (cfs) now it might be reduced to 2,000 cfs after the reservoir is built.How does this work with Wolcott? Eagle River water will be stored in Wolcott and then released to satisfy senior downstream rights that have been short-changed by the headwaters diversions. In this sense, Walcott is the same as a transmountain diversion. The communities in the Eagle River Valley will also be able to use some of the water from Wolcott, which is the main reason many people in Eagle County want the reservoir. So this is the trade-off: less water in the Colorado River above Dotsero, more water for pipes in Vail and other valley towns. But this is not the whole story.The sleeper problem comes from the lower basin states: California, Arizona, Nevada, Mexico, etc, that have rights for a fixed amount of Colorado River water regardless of whether it’s a dry or a wet season. The lower basin rights are senior to East Slope (Denver) rights. Guess who gets caught in the squeeze? Us. Our rights here on the Western Slope are to some degree senior to both Los Angeles and Denver rights, but it is not easy for a little valley of 30,000 or 40,000 people to win a fight with cities whose populations number in the millions. So every time we let another part of the Colorado River water go east, we ultimately suffer the consequences.Transmountain water diversions are bad for the West Slope. They take water permanently out of the system. On the other hand, after we use the water here in our valley, it gets used over and over again all the way to Mexico.So I question if there can be any real net gains to West Slope water supplies from storage facilities that have a major purpose of supplying more water to East Slope cities.There are other ramifications to this issue that I will address in subsequent letters. This is enough to swallow for now, no pun intended.I know it’s complicated. Please feel free to ask questions.Roger Brown GypsumThe writer is a candidate for the Eagle board of county comissioners.

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