05-16-18 West Slope Caucus Roundtable

West Slope Caucus Roundtable

Over one hundred members of the four West Slope Roundtables held a joint meeting or “Caucus” in Grand Junction on April 25, with good representation from the Southwest Basin Roundtable. It had been nearly three years since the roundtables last met together. The main topic was to review Phases 1 and 2 of the Colorado River risk study funded by the four roundtables, Southwest Water Conservation District and Colorado River Water Conservation District.

There was consensus that a Risk Assessment should be undertaken to evaluate probabilities of the elevation of Lake Powell falling below power generation levels or triggering a “compact call” if the Upper Colorado River Basin fails meet compact obligations to the Lower Basin based on a 10 year rolling average.

Historically, a primary West Slope concern has surrounded interest on the part of Front Range water users in diverting more Transmountain Diversion (TMD) water on top of the approximately 500,000 acre feet already being diverted across the Continental Divide.

The Interbasin Compact Commission (IBCC) formulated a “Conceptual Framework” to discuss TMDs which became part of the Colorado Water Plan.  Given low elevations in Lakes Powell and Mead, the focus has been on Principle 4: “A collaborative program that protects against “involuntary curtailment” of existing uses and some “reasonable increment of future development.”

The Risk Assessment that resulted from the 2015 Caucus, has competed Phases 1 and 2 which involved modeling probabilities of how often and how deep shortages could be under a range of future hydrologic conditions. Phase 3 of the Risk Assessment, will focus on what questions should be asked to be prepared to respond to a voluntary or involuntary curtailment.

Each of the four West Slope Basins has their unique circumstances and perspectives on what questions should be addressed in Phase III, now that the risk modeling is in place. On April 25 Caucus participants, got a review of the “Big River Issues”, relative to the Colorado River Basin, a panel on how the IBCC arrived at the Conceptual Framework and a draft set of Phase III Risk Assessment questions to consider.

In nearly two hours of discussion, the caucus reviewed draft questions on: Water Banking, Augmentation and Hydrology as well as Legal Political and Economic Questions. The discussion ended with unanimous consent to proceed with Phase III.  Phase III questions will be refined into a Scope of Work by a standing Technical Group and forwarded to each of the four West Slope Roundtables for input and a share of Roundtable funding to go with contributions by Southwestern WCD and the Colorado WCD.

The second major topic was a panel discussion of the 7 principles in the Conceptual Framework of the Colorado Water Plan. The panel included two water people from each the east and west slope. One major point was commonality of the four panelists concerned about further development of Colorado River water because it will potentially impact both existing west slope water users and diversions to the east slope. Lastly the Colorado River basin agreement completed in 2008 concerning joint operation of Lakes Powell and Meade will expire in 2025 and the 7 basin states are beginning the process the modify and extend that agreement.

The roundtables were formed in House Bill 1177 to provide grass roots involvement in Colorado water issues and the joint west slope roundtable caucus does that in spades.

For more information on the Colorado River Risk Study click here.

Summary of West Slope Caucus provided by, Mike Preston SWBRT Chair and Steve Harris, Harris Water Engineering