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Water district opposes Shell Oil request

The Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District announced Friday its opposition to Shell Oil’s request for water rights on the Yampa River. The towns of Yampa and Oak Creek also have expressed opposition.  

Yampa River rights under contention would be used for oil shale development

 — The Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District filed a statement of opposition on Friday to Shell Frontier Oil and Gas’ Dec. 30 request for substantial water rights on the Yampa River.

“We’re in it to look after the constituency and our district,” Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District General Manager Kevin McBride said. “It doesn’t do the Upper Yampa any good to be taking water out.”

The water district is joined in its opposition by the South Routt towns of Oak Creek and Yampa. Although upstream of Shell’s proposed diversion in Moffat County, town officials worry that the company’s request could affect future water rights and development across Northwest Colorado.

The term “opposition” can be a bit misleading, McBride said.

“Filing an opposition could mean anything from an entity having a real opposition to simply wanting to be notified of the proceedings,” McBride said. “If you want to be notified of the proceedings, you have to oppose.”

Town officials in Yampa and Oak Creek, both of which piggybacked on the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District’s opposition, have made it clear that their opposition is more than just a way to stay informed.

“A future demand on this over-adjudicated river will just make things tougher,” Trustee Tom Yackey said at Yampa Town Board’s Feb. 4 meeting, when the board preemptively agreed to sign on to any future opposition. “Any new rights that are filed on it stand to make us vulnerable.”

Shell’s filing would allocate the Yampa River “basically to 100 percent,” affecting future water rights, Oak Creek Trustee Josh Voorhis said Thursday, when the Oak Creek Town Board agreed to join the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District’s pending opposition. The deadline for oppositions on the matter is today.

Shell Oil’s filing for 375 cubic feet per second was made Dec. 30 in the District 6 Water Division office in Steamboat Springs. The water, which would be drawn from the Yampa during high flows fed by snowmelt in the spring and early summer, would fill a proposed 45,000 acre-foot reservoir for use in the oil shale development.

That amount represents a minority of the Yampa’s peak spring flows, which commonly exceed 11,000 cfs west of Maybell, where the river is about to meet its confluence with the Green River. The 375 cfs being sought by Shell is comparable to the typical mid-July flow of the Yampa River at the Fifth Street Bridge in Steamboat Springs.

The reservoir would be built off the main stem of the Yampa in the Cedar Springs Draw in Moffat County. The proposed reservoir’s potential 45,000 acre-foot size compares to the 33,275 acre-feet in Stagecoach Reservoir and 25,450 acre-feet in the newly expanded Elkhead Reservoir between Hayden and Craig.

— To reach Melinda Dudley, call 871-4203 or e-mail [email protected]

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