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Twice Rejected, Developer Again Tries To Seize Water

How many times does Aaron Million need to hear the word, no?

The president of Wyco development corporation has twice been rejected by federal agencies in his attempt to build Flaming Gorge Pipeline—a massive trans-basin water supply project that would annually take approximately 81 billion gallons of water from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir and the Green River and pipe it more than 500 miles over the Continental Divide to Colorado’s Front Range.

Now, Million is back at it again, asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reconsider his application for a preliminary permit. Million’s request comes on the heels of FERC’s dismissal of his preliminary permit. You may remember that Million turned to FERC after an earlier attempt to permit this project was terminated by the Army Corps of Engineers last summer. That’s two no's in less than one year. Will a third do the trick?

This week, Earthjustice, representing 10 environmental groups, filed papers with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) objecting to a do-over by FERC. FERC’s decision to deny the permit was right on the money and should have been the end of this scheme. But, with at least $1.4 billion at stake—according to Million—it’s easy to understand why he isn’t giving up easily.

The Flaming Gorge Pipeline would have devastating impacts on the native fish and wildlife in the Green and Colorado rivers, batter regional recreational opportunities and jobs that depend on river flows, and potentially be a fatal blow to one of the West’s last great rivers. Earthjustice and our allies will continue to fight this project until Million understands that no really means no. Earthjustice staff attorney McCrystie Adams issued the following statement:

The Flaming Gorge Pipeline would be one of the biggest, most expensive, most environmentally damaging water project in the history of the western United States. FERC got it right when they dismissed the permit application. This project is nothing more than a pipe dream. Further, Aaron Million’s Wyco company request ignores the law and makes new, unsubstantiated arguments. There is no reason for FERC to even reconsider its decision, let alone alter the outcome.

Million paints a rosy picture of his progress to date and suggests that he is a short three years from completion of permitting. This assessment is flat wrong. The costs are too high, the benefits are too limited; it is a flawed concept that will not take root. Two years of work with the Army Corps of Engineers failed to even complete the first—and generally simplest—step of the federal environmental review process that this project must undergo. Over six months after filing for the FERC preliminary permit—a move which doesn't even mark the first step of the licensing process—Million has nothing to show for it.

Million’s plan is a blatant attempt to transform an important public good into billions of dollars of private profit. It is clear that Million sees the Flaming Gorge Pipeline as his Mega-Millions jackpot and hopes someone else will pay for his tickets. Fortunately, the odds of permitting this boondoggle are similar to winning the lottery.

Although sold as a magic elixir to cure the ills of the Front Range, we, and the many others who oppose this project, know it to be snake oil. We will continue to work to ensure that the Green River is protected and that this and other assaults on the West’s rivers do not succeed.

Earthjustice represents a coalition of ten conservation groups with interests throughout the Colorado River Basin: Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Rocky Mountain Wild, Save the Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, Wyoming Outdoor Council, Citizens for Dixie’s Future, Glen Canyon Institute, Living Rivers: Colorado Riverkeeper, and Utah Rivers Council.

Tags:  Water