Yampa water flows to Eagle County
VAIL ” Three years after it was first proposed, a $5 million deal to bring water from the Yampa River to the Colorado River is close to being signed.
The water is being purchased by two water providers in the eastern half of Eagle County ” the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District ” from agricultural interests called the Flat Tops Ranches in Routt County. That water, 1,250 acre-feet, is enough for the annual needs of 5,000 people. A portion of the water will be used to fill a series of reservoirs on the property.
That Yampa River water will be used in part to bolster the flow of the Colorado River downstream of Burns, so water on the Eagle River can continue to be diverted for irrigation and domestic uses. But its primary purpose is as an exchange to repay the cities of Colorado Springs and Aurora, which release 1,000 acre-feet from Homestake Reservoir south of Red Cliff for use in eastern Eagle County.
That water will be diverted over a low spot on the divide between the two river drainages and will run down Egeria Creek, a tributary to the Colorado River. The Yampa flows into the Green River, which joins the Colorado River in souththeastern Utah.
The pending water purchase and trans-basin diversion brings to seven the number of counties that supply water used or controlled by the eastern half of Eagle County, said water attorney Glenn Porzak, who represents the two upper valley water districts. Water for use by Eagle County is stored in Homestake Reservoir, which is largely in Pitkin County; Black Lakes and Eagle Park Reservoirs in Eagle County; Wolford Mountain Reservoir in Grand County; Green Mountain Reservoir in Summit County, several reservoirs connected to the Yampa project that lie in southern Routt and northwestern Garfield County. Some water is also taken from extreme eastern Park County from a well that then pumps it over the Continental Divide into Eagle Park Reservoir.
Legal challenges to the diversion were quieted once downstream water users in the Yampa River were satisfied the trans-basin diversion would not harm their rights, Porzak said.
“We don’t need any more permits,” he said, adding that water could begin flowing through the system this autumn.
The $5 million cost of the project ” which works out to slightly more than $4,000 per acre-foot ” will be split between Eagle River Water and Sanitation which serves residents living east of Dowd Junction, and the Authority, which serves residents living from Dowd Junction to Wolcott. The two entities provide water and sewer service to a total of 22,000 people.
Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or firstname.lastname@example.org.