In a victory for endangered fish and other river species, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has — for a second time — rejected a permit for a massive, controversial pipeline that would be a disaster for the Colorado and Green rivers. The Flaming Gorge pipeline would suck an astonishing 81 billion gallons of water from the Green per year, dealing a potentially fatal blow to one of the West’s last great rivers — as well as to razorback suckers and Colorado pikeminnows.
After legal intervention in the pipeline’s permit process by the Center for Biological Diversity and allies, the commission said the project was poorly defined and that its proponent, Wyco Power and Water, Inc., was dismally unprepared to get all the authorizations needed to build it. That means this outrageous attempt to deplete two rivers should be dead in the water.
“The Flaming Gorge pipeline proposal would be a disaster for the Green and Colorado rivers and the species and communities that depend on them,” said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigns director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Pumping already-depleted rivers hundreds of miles across mountains with planet-warming fossil fuels is a uniquely bad idea — we hope today’s ruling marks its end.”
Large, warm-water fish, razorback suckers are native to the Colorado River basin. Construction of more than a dozen dams throughout the lower basin has left little natural habitat for the fish and has blocked important spawning areas as the dams de-water rivers and change flooding cycles. Once common throughout the river basin, the sucker is now reduced to less than a quarter of its former range . Its presence is rare in most areas and the remaining fragmented wild populations are in serious jeopardy.
The Center for Biological Diversity has long led efforts to protect sucker habitat and restore important desert rivers. Their successful campaign to protect and begin to restore Fossil Creek, a tributary of the Gila River, may offer a glimmer of hope for the razorback sucker and other native fish; it led to the decommissioning of a diversion dam and environmentally destructive power plants that depleted Fossil Creek water. The Center has also reined in excessive livestock grazing that degraded water quality there. Recent efforts have begun to reintroduce native fish to the creek, which contains suitable habitat for the sucker.
Read the Center’s press release and learn more about saving the razorback sucker, including the Center’s campaign to get endocrine-disrupting poisons out of our waterways and ecosystems which also benefits the sucker. In 2009, the Center requested that Nevada add contaminated areas around Lake Mead — where a small number of razorback suckers remain — to that state’s list of impaired waters due to pollution by endocrine disruptors, and is pushing the state to establish and enforce limits on its chemical discharge.
Photo of Flaming Gorge Reservoir courtesy of Flickr user carfull...Wyoming on Flickr Commons.