In a move that's either desperate or practical, proponents of southwestern Colorado's Animas-La Plata water project applied "tough love" to their aging proposal and unveiled a leaner alternative in early July.
The reservoir and
pumping project that was supposed to provide water for irrigators
and cities in Colorado and New Mexico is also key to a 1988
agreement that settles claims to the region's water by the Ute
Mountain and Southern Ute tribes. But for three decades it has been
Last fall, Colorado Gov. Roy Romer
called project backers and critics to the negotiating table (HCN,
11/11/96). After months of talks, participants decided that the two
sides should produce dueling alternatives to the $744
"A-LP Lite" shrinks the
project's water diversion from the Animas River by a third and cuts
the cost to an estimated $300 million dollars.
most, A-LP Lite would take 57,100 acre-feet a year from the Animas
River, the maximum allowed under a 1991 U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service opinion aimed at protecting endangered fish. Two-thirds of
the water would belong to the Ute tribes instead of one-third as in
the earlier version, but A-LP Lite would still protect existing
non-Indian irrigation from senior Ute claims. And, according to the
Durango Herald, irrigators hope that if this smaller project is
built, they may still manage to build the full project in the
Now the ball is in the opponents' court.
Taxpayer and environmental groups immediately criticized A-LP Lite
- officially the Animas-La Plata Reconciliation Plan - saying it's
still too expensive, still threatens elk winter range, fishing and
rafting, and still uses taxpayer money to subsidize municipal and
suburban water users.
Talks resume in August.
Meanwhile, a Senate appropriations subcommittee added $6 million to
a spending bill to keep the dam and diversion project alive through
1998. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has already spent $62 million