The Shoshone Hydroelectric Plant, a $100 million water deal

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The Shoshone Hydroelectric Plant, a $100 million water deal

Date: 01/29/2024     State: CO     Issues: Renewable Energy, Watersheds     Partners: Roaring Fork Conservancy, Salazar Center for North American Conservation Airport Origin : Aspen, CO    

Mission


Fly the Shoshone Hydroelectric Plant with members of the media and conservationists to increase public knowledge of an upcoming $100 million Colorado River water deal. 

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 Colorado River District plans to purchase the water right for nearly $100 million, and they don’t plan to change a thing about how the water is used! The river district will continue to lease it to Xcel to produce hydropower, allowing for continued power production while ensuring the Colorado River water isn't sold off in the future to far away cities or developers.

The water rights transfer is in its final stages, and has broad bipartisan support across the Western Slope for the increased water security it will provide to farms and communities in Western Colorado.

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