January 29, 2024—The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) has voted to recommend $20 million in funding to the Colorado River District as part of the annual Water Projects Bill contributing to a larger funding effort to secure Shoshone permanence and foster water security on the Colorado River.
“The CWCB Board considered this funding application very carefully. This is a significant step towards maintaining historic flows on the Colorado River,” said Lauren Ris, CWCB Director. “As an agency, we will continue to do our due diligence in this process, with the hope that these efforts can benefit the environment and give West Slope water users more certainty.”
The decision follows a special workshop held on January 25, and a final vote during CWCB’s January Board Meeting. On December 19, 2023, the Colorado River Water Conservation District and Public Service Company signed an agreement that would allow the River District to purchase the water rights associated with the Shoshone power plant. The River District is also planning to seek funds from the Bureau of Reclamation and others.
In the coming months to years, CWCB will work with the River District to negotiate an instream flow agreement. If approved, the two entities would then seek a change in water right decree through Colorado Water Court. The CWCB’s Instream Flow Program secures instream flow water rights to protect streamflow to preserve the natural environment of streams and lakes where fish and other species live. The integrity of this long-standing program depends on a thorough review, so it’s critical CWCB staff follow public processes.
“We also greatly appreciate the hard work and dedication of CWCB staff in this effort and their positive recommendation of funding to the Board,” said Andy Mueller, Colorado River District General Manager. “We consider the state an integral partner in protecting Shoshone’s flows in perpetuity, and the $20 million funding milestone brings this generational investment in Colorado water security one step closer to the finish line.”
“If completed, Shoshone water right preservation would help maintain flows on the Colorado River, and support the system as a whole,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “Securing this water right and negotiating an instream flow use agreement could mean supporting healthy agriculture, providing clean drinking water, fostering healthy environments, and more. We look forward to working with the Colorado River District and Xcel Energy as this process enters the next phases of evaluation and approval.”