Wyoming state engineer rejects permits for pipeline to draw from Green River for Colorado



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CHEYENNE, Wyoming — An entrepreneur's dream to tap Wyoming's Flaming Gorge Reservoir to help feed Colorado's booming Front Range water needs has hit another snag.

Wyoming's state engineer has rejected Aaron Million's application to tap water from the reservoir and from the Green River itself near the town of Green River. The engineer, Pat Tyrrell, ruled he didn't have enough information, but Million has filed an appeal.

Million, of Fort Collins, Colorado, wants to build a 500-mile pipeline. He's sought local, state and federal permits for years but has had limited success. The Green River is a major tributary of the Colorado River.

Million had sought up to 250,000 acre feet of water a year — water that Colorado is entitled to under the Colorado River compacts, which are longstanding agreements among Western states over how to allocate water in the river and its tributaries. His pipeline plans have drawn opposition from Wyoming officials ranging from Gov. Matt Mead to city officials in Green River.

Million said he plans to reapply to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for an overall permit to build the multibillion-dollar pipeline. The agency rejected his initial application a few years ago.

"We've been working to get the mapping and engineering done right," Million said, insisting he has financial backers for the project.

Million wants Wyoming's permission to install two headgates to draw water from the Green River, which flows from its headwaters in Wyoming south into Utah, takes a brief turn into Colorado, then joins the Colorado River.

Tyrrell said Friday that he rejected Million's applications for the headgate permits after determining Million didn't provide enough project information.

"Earlier this year, we rejected that application, we've been seeking additional information, that ultimately in our view didn't come," Tyrrell said. "He has since appealed that to the board of control, and I believe the board has set a hearing for that in the fall, probably September."

Some Colorado municipalities have said they are interested in developing a similar pipeline project, but Tyrrell said he hasn't heard anything from them lately. "If they're working on that, it's pretty quiet right now," he said.

In addition to the state permits, Million would need federal approval for the pipeline because it would cross federal lands. He first applied to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but withdrew his application to that agency.

Million has said he believes the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is the appropriate body to consider the pipeline because it would feature a system of turbines and generators to generate electricity.

Million has said he plans to use natural gas to fire pumps required to get the water uphill and over the Continental Divide. 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.

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