Unusual alliances give dams upgrades

“Conservationists, farmers and governments work together so that everyone benefits. . .” Denver Post-

Denver Post story. By Mark Jaffe

I suspect there are folks on this blog who know the actual details who may have something to say about this “success.” Ralph Maughan



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  1. Tom Page Avatar
    Tom Page

    With respect to the projects on the Ruby and the Yampa, there are at least a couple things to think about when it comes to future water conservation projects around the west.

    Stored water is almost always the cheapest water available for purchase. It can also be released at designated times. This makes stored water the best candidate for improving critically low flows in areas with reservoirs or other impoundments. Non-profits are never going to be able to compete with the deep pockets of Denver, Phoenix, Vegas, etc., but when leverage is available (permit renewal or endangered fish agreement deadline, anyone?) the metro districts are willing to “sell” the water in exchange for the support of the conservation groups. If you realistically will never be able to buy senior rights, you might as well do what you can to keep water in the stream.

    It is also worth noting that these two deals (Ruby and Yampa) happened in states with progressive Instream Flow programs and legislation declaring environmental improvement as a beneficial (and legal) use of a water right. As noted on another thread, Idaho lacks the institutional building blocks for deals like this to happen here. Thankfully we do not have transmountain diversions or a major urban area to deal with, when it comes to rural water, but we still have low or nonexistent flows in many many streams. Without these mechanisms in place it will be increasingly difficult to keep water in the streams over the long term.

  2. jdubya Avatar

    Tom, you hit that right on the head. States that allow streams to be drained dry for irrigation purposes have little interest in accommodating the kinds of projects outlines in this article. You have to address that mind set (and laws that allow it) before you can progress to more “liberal” water uses.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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