Feds again reject Flaming Gorge pipeline plan

Thursday , May 17, 2012 - 5:25 PM

Ben Neary

CHEYENNE, Wyo.— A federal agency for the second time has denied a permit requested by a Colorado businessman who wants to build a 500-mile pipeline to carry water from southwestern Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday refused a request from Aaron Million of Fort Collins, Colo., to reconsider its February denial of his permit. In denying Million’s application in February, FERC said it was premature and lacked specifics about the proposed pipeline.

Million proposes to draw water from the Green River in southwestern Wyoming and pipe it as far as Pueblo, Colo. His plans have drawn opposition from Gov. Matt Mead as well as county and local governments in southwestern Wyoming and downstream states.

“I continue to oppose this particular proposal and continue to believe that FERC is not the regulatory body to review Mr. Million’s proposal,” Mead said Thursday. “I am glad that FERC denied the request for a rehearing.”

Million said Thursday he regards FERC’s denial as essentially a clarification of the agency’s position. He said he’s working to secure funding for the project and intends to reapply.

“We anticipated that they would not change the direction from the original response, part of the request frankly had to do with a clarification of issues related to their original decision,” Million said. “And indeed, they did clarify several things, and we now understand the rationale, in essence. They said the application was too broad.”

Million said he has spent the last several months developing a larger application document for FERC, which he said will address the agency’s concerns. He said he’s working to get multinational corporations interested in a design-build contract for the multi-billion-dollar project.

Million has applications pending with Wyoming state government seeking up to 250,000 acre feet of water a year. He has said he’s seeking water that Colorado is entitled to under the Colorado River Compact, an agreement among Western states over how to allocate water in the river and its tributaries. The Green River flows into the Colorado River.

The Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, one of the many conservation groups opposed to the project says the pipeline would hurt endangered species and cost local jobs.

“We are very pleased that FERC denied this permit,” said Duane Short, Wild Species Program director for the alliance. “Had this huge pipeline project been approved, everything from endangered species to local livelihoods would have been devastated.”

Million initially asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review his pipeline plan. He withdrew his application to that agency last year after saying the pipeline could generate hydropower.

Million’s first application to FERC spelled out plans to construct a system of turbines and reservoirs along the pipeline to generate electricity. He has said the project wouldn’t generate more electricity than it would need to pump the water, but has said hydropower would help cover the pumping.

Million has said he’s trying to follow the approach of the Lake Powell Project in Utah, for which FERC is also the permitting agency. That project calls for piping 100,000 acre-feet of water a year to southern Utah, generating electricity as the water flows downhill in places.

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