UDALL URGES FULL STUDY OF AURORA BID FOR WATER STORAGE IN PUEBLO RESERVOIR
Congressman Mark Udall (D-Eldorado Springs) today urged the Bureau of Reclamation to prepare a full environmental impact statement (EIS) of the City of Aurora's proposal for long-term contracts for water storage in Pueblo Reservoir.
The Bureau is currently preparing an environmental assessment (EA), which is less comprehensive than an EIS. But Udall said that a full study is preferable because of the controversies involved and to reassure those who have concerns about the proposal that the full environmental analysis will be undertaken. Some have also questioned whether the Bureau has the authority to enter into a contract with Aurora without new federal legislation, and Udall expressed concern that this question could divide the Colorado congressional delegation.
"The courts may ultimately decide whether the Bureau has exceeded its authority by even undertaking a limited environmental analysis. I haven't weighed in on that issue, but since the federal government is preparing an analysis, I believe the Bureau should do a study that meets the toughest public scrutiny," said Udall, who sent a letter to Robert W. Johnson, Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation.
The City of Aurora is seeking contracts of up to 40 years for storage and exchange rights in Fryingpan-Arkansas Project facilities, including Lake Pueblo and Turquoise Reservoir. Udall, who is a member of the House Natural Resources Committee's Subcommittee on Water and Power, said that this proposal will have big implications for water use in the Arkansas Valley and could divide Colorado congressional delegation, so all parties would benefit from an EIS.
"There's an old saying in the West that whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting. Water is a precious resource so we need to move carefully with issues related to water diversions, contracts and storage, especially in southeast Colorado where farmers have endured decades of drought and other rural and mountain areas which provide so much of the water to Front Range communities. If we bring all parties to the table and thoroughly study these proposals we can avoid conflict and move forward in a way that protects water rights," said Udall.