The Colorado businessman proposing to build a 500-mile pipeline to carry water from southwestern Wyoming to Colorado's Front Range asked a federal agency on Friday to reconsider its rejection of his permit application.
Aaron Million, of Fort Collins, filed a reconsideration request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The agency last month dismissed his application, saying it was premature and lacked specifics about the proposed pipeline.
Million proposes to draw from the Green River at Flaming Gorge Reservoir in southwestern Wyoming. His plans have drawn opposition from Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, as well as county and local governments in southwestern Wyoming and conservation groups.
Million said his project is essential to helping Colorado meet its increasing water demands and would allow the state to draw more of its share of water from the Colorado River system. The state of Colorado is evaluating the merits of the pipeline concept independently.
Million initially asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review his plan but withdrew that application last year after saying the pipeline could generate hydropower.
The permit application Million subsequently filed with FERC spelled out plans to construct a system of turbines and reservoirs along the pipeline to generate electricity. While he has said the project wouldn't generate more electricity than it would need to pump the water, he says hydropower would help cover the pumping costs.
"We asked for a clarification, and rehearing of the preliminary permit application," Million said Friday.
Million said he's trying to follow the approach of the Lake Powell Project in Utah, for which FERC is also the permitting agency. That project involves a proposed $1 billion pipeline that would carry 100,000 acre-feet of water a year to southern Utah, generating electricity as the water flows downhill in places.
Despite FERC's rejection of his permit application last month, Million said he still believes he could be three years from securing the necessary permits to start construction. "Frankly the only reason for a preliminary permit is it kind of gives you a standing to do the resource reports, and move through the process," he said.
Million emphasized that he has filed applications for water rights and intends to continue to move through the permitting process. "FERC is required by federal law to handle the hydro power piece. The question will be what part of the project they will be involved with," he said.
Million said some federal agency ultimately will serve as a leader in preparing a full environmental impact statement of his proposal.
"As far as the federal EIS process, it's a little bit arduous, like riding a horse through a blizzard," Million said. "But we'll stay on the trail and get it home at some point, at least that's our hope."
Million said the prospect of generating hydropower from the pipeline could have military applications, because it would create a source of power for military bases in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming that would be independent from the larger electrical grid.
Michael Hiatt, a lawyer with Earthjustice, issued a statement calling Million's proposal "one of the biggest, most environmentally damaging water projects in the history of the western United States." The group had intervened in the last FERC application process on behalf of many conservation groups opposed to the pipeline.
Hiatt called Million's application for a rehearing a waste of taxpayer dollars.
"The federal agency got it right the first time when it recognized that this pipeline is nothing more than a speculative pipe dream," Hiatt said. "This request for a rehearing is the same rancid wine in the same bottle -- we do not expect the federal permitting agency to reverse course."
Million's latest application to FERC called for constructing a reservoir on the slopes of Sheep Mountain, west of Laramie. It proposes to generate electricity by pumping water into the reservoir and having it flow through turbines on its way downstream to another lake nearby, Lake Hattie.
Erik Molvar, a biologist with the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance in Laramie, issued a statement saying that FERC was correct to reject Million's application in the first place.
"We hope that FERC will reject this appeal, and the project will die a much-deserved death," Molvar said.