Shell’s bid for water from river in western Colorado spurs opposition
DENVER, Colorado ” Shell Oil’s request for water rights from the Yampa River in northwest Colorado has prompted formal objections from federal, state and local agencies, businesses and environmental groups.
Shell applied Dec. 30 in state Water Court to use about 8 percent of the peak spring flow from the Yampa, Colorado’s last river with unclaimed water.
The water would be shipped to a reservoir for later use in oil shale production.
The Denver Post reported Monday that many of the letters of opposition are seeking more information. The Colorado River Conservation District wants more details about the effects on in-state water compacts.
Other objections were filed by a coal company, a power company, an agricultural irrigation company and Cross Mountain Ranch, a hunting resort.
Water lawyers say it could take a year for the water court to review Shell’s application and the letters of opposition.
“There is a big target on the Yampa. Everyone is looking to tap into it,” said Glenn Porzak, a water lawyer for the city of Steamboat Springs.
Critics of a federal management plan for developing oil shale on public lands say the process will use too much of the region’s scarce water. Some estimates say it could take up to three barrels of water to produce a single barrel of oil.
Shell says it believes its process, still in the experimental stages, will be more efficient. The company has said commercial development is likely a decade off.
Colorado, Wyoming and Utah are thought to hold 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil locked in shale.
Shell is seeking a conditional water right for up to 375 cubic feet per second.
“This would be a junior water right that would only be taken when the water was available,” Shell spokesman Tracy Boyd said.