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Pipe Dreams and Schemes: Escalating Costs for Diminishing Returns

December 08, 2007
by John Weisheit

The Animas - La Plata Project is the Bureau of Reclamation's latest construction endeavor, which recently celebrated the final dump truck load for its earthen-fill dam. The reservoir is 500 feet above the Animas River and just outside of the city limits of Durango, Colorado. Across the river from a city park, where uranium ore was once processed, lies the pumping station that will lift the river water to the reservoir.

The price tag for this project has escalated from $338 to $564 million (does not include the energy cost to lift the water) and the water management gain is a mere 50,000 acre-feet. The water from this perched reservoir is dispensed by putting it back in the river to spread the consumption for downstream users on an annual basis. The activists who oppose the project call it "Jurassic Pork."

Thus the stage has been set for the development of Colorado River resources for the 21st century: big expensive projects for small amounts of water from a river that has absolutely nothing left to give.

Here is a list of some of the other Vitamin P (pork) projects for the welfare developers dependent on the Colorado River. For a complete list click here.

Drop 2 Reservoir
This project will store extraordinary irrigation water in a reservoir along the All American Canal in California. The water in storage (supplements from heavy rainstorms) will be transferred for consumption by Las Vegas from its pumping station next to Lake Mead. The projected cost for the Southern Nevada Water Authority to build this 8,000 acre-feet storage reservoir, is now projected to cost $206 million, according to the Associated Press on 12/7/07. This augmentation project is totally dependent on inclement weather and the annual yield for Nevada will range from zero to 40,000 acre-feet and for a cumulative total of 280,000 acre-feet.

Nevada Groundwater Project
The Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) proposes to build over 300 miles of pipelines from pumping stations at groundwater basins in Nevada for a total yield of 40,000 acre-feet annually for 10 years. Afterwards, SNWA will be allowed an additional 20,000 acre-feet annually from the basin based on the results of monitoring and impact analysis. Various newspapers have recently cited the project cost to be over $3 billion.

St. George Pipeline
The Washington County Water Conservancy District of southwest Utah proposes to build 160 miles of pipeline from Lake Powell with pump stations to lift the water over a divide (elevation of 6,240 feet) to St. George. The priority date for this water right is 1958. The annual Colorado River depletion for Washington County is 70,000 acre-feet, with a pipeline lateral to carry 10,000 acre-feet to Kane County. There is discussion for a lateral pipeline to carry 20,000 acre-feet to Iron County. The total projected price has been escalating over time and presently estimated to be $1 billion. For more information click here & click here. See also FERC (Docket # is P-12966).

Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project
The proposed pipeline and laterals (270 miles) would deplete 36,000 acre-feet of water annually from the San Juan River for the Navajo and Jicarilla Apache tribes and for the city of Gallup, New Mexico. The cost estimate is not precisely known and ranges from $700 million to $1 billion. For more information click here.

Navajo-Flagstaff Pipeline
A pipeline from Lake Powell (or Lake Mead) for consumption at Navajo and Hopi reservations, and various cities of Coconino County such as Flagstaff, Tusayan and Williams, and for a low ball cost estimate of $650 million. For more information click here. For Reclamation water study click here. (archive)

Flaming Gorge Pipeline
A 400-mile pipeline from Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to Fort Collins, Colorado. The depletion from the reservoir could range from 165,000 to 400,000 acre-feet at an estimated cost of $4 billion dollars. For more information click here.

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