Skip to content

PRESS RELEASE: Battle Escalates in State Water Court to Save The Colorado River

For Immediate Release
Contact: Gary Wockner, Save The World’s Rivers, 970-218-8310

Battle Escalates in State Water Court to Save The Colorado River

COLORADO RIVER HEADWATERS in Grand County, CO: Last week, Save The World’s Rivers escalated the battle in state water court to protect the Colorado River and its tributaries by filing a “statement of opposition” to the “diligence application” for the “Troublesome Project” proposed by the Middle Park Water Conservancy District.

The “Project” has a water right priority date of 1959 which makes it 37 years past the 1922 date that enshrined the “Law of the River” on the Colorado River system. In a climate-changed world, these junior water rights in Colorado are at serious risk of being called downstream by the lower basin states according to a recent study from the Colorado River District. Further, according to the Save The World’s Rivers’ opposition filing, the applicant has done very little to actually be “diligent” towards developing the water right.

The Conservancy District’s diligence application is posted here.
Save The World’s Rivers’ statement of opposition is posted here.
Exhibit A, which includes a map and the original 1959 filing is posted here.

“We are escalating the battle to protect the Colorado River into state water court,” said Gary Wockner, director of the Save The World’s Rivers (previously named “Save The Colorado”). “Developing these water rights is of extreme legal and financial risk, as well as ecological destructive, and the state water court system as well as applicants need to know that watchdogs are engaging in these proceedings.”

The Project (see map here) includes the so-called “Haypark Reservoir” which would inundate up to 2.5 miles of the East Fork of Troublesome Creek, creating a 20,119 acre-foot reservoir north and east of Kremmling in Grand County. The Project would be built on and across both public and private land, and include other ditches, canals, and appurtenances. The Notice (posted here) claims that, “All structures are decreed for irrigation, stock, domestic, industrial, piscatorial and recreation.”  At the same time, rumors are swirling among locals that a wealthy water developer is trying to store the water to eventually sell it to Denver and the Front Range. The District’s diligence application refers to a “private party” who recently purchased “substantial tracts of land in the vicinity of the Troublesome Project,” and is now “exploring potential partnerships with MPWCD to construct Haypark Reservoir.”  (page 5)

Water court proceedings are usually the obscure but extremely important territory of specialized attorneys representing applicants and opposers, while the people of Colorado who actually own all of the State’s water under the public trust doctrine are mostly ignored in the process.  Through this process, Save The World’s Rivers is trying to help educate the public about the role that the public can, and should, play in doling out these water rights as well as the process’ impact on the state’s rivers.

“Any person can oppose a water right or reasonable diligence application through the water court by filing a statement of opposition,” said Gary Wockner. “We’re trying to open this process up to be transparent and accessible for the general public.”

“Further,” said Wockner, “law organizes power, and it’s Colorado’s water law system that organizes the power to destroy Rivers across our state. By intervening in these processes, we’re trying to chip away at the system that institutionalizes and legalizes the destruction of Rivers and Nature. We launched our ‘Rights of Nature for Rivers‘ program with the same intent, and while many people said it couldn’t be done, we are slowly doing it. Nothings happens until you begin it.”

Save The World’s Rivers filed the statement of opposition on behalf of its members in Colorado and in Grand County.  Save The World’s Rivers is represented by Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.



Back To Top