Shoshone Hydroelectric Plant, Glenwood Canyon
Fly the Shoshone Hydroelectric Plant as it is undergoing a widely supported water rights transfer. We flew with conservationists and stakeholders involved in the transfer of water rights from the operator to the River District, and media writing to educate the general public on the hydroelectric operations.
Completed in 1909, the small Shoshone Hydroelectric Plant in Glenwood Canyon is at the center of a consequential water rights transfer with major implications for downstream water users. The Shoshone Plant operates by diverting water from the Colorado River near Dotsero and piping it through a gravity-powered system of turbines that generate electricity. The water is released back into the Colorado River with no water loss.
Although the water goes back into the river, the diversion still requires a water right, and this water right is one of the oldest and largest in the state! For years, downstream communities and water users have worried what might become of the river if Shoshone or its water rights were acquired by any entity who might want to permanently divert the water. A permanent diversion would significantly reduce in-stream flows and put downstream water users at risk in low-water years.
A broad coalition of water users, including recreationists, agricultural irrigators, and residents have come together under the leadership of the Colorado River District to support a water rights transfer that would allow the River District to purchase Xcel's water right, then permanently lease it back to them for as long as they want to operate the Shoshone plant. The River District would otherwise keep the water in the river for the benefit of the water users it represents and the river's ecosystem and wildlife, including several species of endangered fish.
The water rights transfer is in its final stages, and has broad bipartisan support across the Western Slope.