01. How do you pronounce ‘Shoshone’?2024-01-30T21:26:05+00:00

Shoshone – ‘shoh-shOH-nee’ or ‘shə-shō′nē 

Etymology: The name “Shoshone” comes from Sosoni, a Shoshone word for high-growing grasses. Some neighboring tribes call the Shoshone “Grass House People,” based on their traditional homes made from sosoni. Shoshones call themselves Newe, meaning “People.”

02. What are the Shoshone water rights?2024-01-30T21:27:40+00:00

The Shoshone water rights call up to 1,408 cubic feet of water per second (cfs) – or 1.02 million acre feet per year – to the Shoshone Hydroelectric Plant for electricity generation, providing power for 15,000 customers in Colorado before flows return to the river. The largest and most senior non-consumptive water right of 1,250 cfs appropriated in 1902 together with a junior 158 cfs right appropriated in 1929, Shoshone commands water on the Colorado mainstem down through Glenwood Canyon, providing vital environmental, economic, and community benefits upstream, downstream, and across the state.

03. What is the Shoshone Water Right Preservation Campaign?2024-01-30T21:26:13+00:00

On December 19, 2023, the Colorado River District and Public Service Company of Colorado/Xcel Energy  signed a Purchase and Sale Agreement (PSA) to transfer ownership of the historic Shoshone water rights to the Colorado River District. These rights command significant flows upstream and downstream of the Shoshone Hydropower Plant on the Upper Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon, and are essential to the communities and economies not only on the West Slope, but across the state.

The signing of the PSA officially launched the public outreach and fundraising effort known as the Shoshone Water Right Preservation Campaign, the work to permanently protect Shoshone flows is not new. For over 20 years, 19 western Colorado governments and water entities – including Grand, Summit, Eagle, Garfield, and Mesa Counties and many of the municipalities therein – have been working together to secure Shoshone flow permanency.

04. What is the Shoshone Water Rights Purchase & Sale Agreement?2024-01-30T21:26:17+00:00

The parties who signed the historic PSA include the Public Service Company of Colorado (PSCo), its parent company Xcel Energy, and the Colorado River District. The multi-year campaign to bring Shoshone permanency to the finish line via fundraising, public outreach, and an Instream Flow Agreement and change case, however, is  a broad-based, statewide stakeholder partnership effort referred to as the Shoshone Water Right Preservation Coalition. 

The $98.5 million PSA to acquire the Shoshone water rights is no small price tag, but the one-time investment to protect Colorado River flows in perpetuity is a durable solution with priceless benefits for generations of water users to come.

To close the transaction and authorize the expenditure of public funds for the acquisition of the Shoshone Water Rights, the PSA contains four closing conditions that must be met by December 31, 2027, unless that deadline is extended by mutual agreement. The four closing conditions described in the PSA are as follows:

  1. Negotiation of an instream flow agreement with the CWCB. The PSA contemplates that the River District and PSCo will negotiate with the CWCB for an agreement that authorizes the CWCB to use the Shoshone Water Rights for instream purposes when the rights are not being used for hydropower generation.
  2. A change of water right decree. The PSA provides that the parties anticipate being co-applicants with the CWCB in the filing of an application for adjudication of a change of water right decree to allow the Shoshone Water Rights to be used by the CWCB for instream flow purposes in accordance with the terms of the instream flow agreement.
  3. Approval by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. The PSA contemplates that PSCo will petition the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to approve the sale of the Shoshone Water Rights and the disposition of proceeds.
  4. Secured funding. The PSA requires the River District to secure funding for the negotiated purchase price ($98.5 million) prior to the commencement of the PUC process.
05. What are the benefits of this water right purchase?2024-03-11T19:10:20+00:00

Permanent protection of the Shoshone Flows will secure multiple benefits to the West Slope and across the state such as:

Agricultural Benefits: Shoshone flows support Colorado’s $11.9 billion agricultural economy in a number of important ways. Water security for Western Slope agriculture is intimately linked to the Upper Colorado Endangered Fish Recovery Program where continued cooperative water management allows for streamlined ESA compliance. Additionally, Shoshone permanency preserves Green Mountain Reservoir’s Historic User Pool (HUP) water supplies. According to Colorado’s Division of Water Resources, without Shoshone flows, the downstream Cameo call would be longer and deeper each year (up to 2,260 cfs vs. 1,950 cfs), triggering less opportunity for agricultural diversions, a greater frequency of April calls, and an insufficient replacement of supplies for some West Slope augmentation plans.

Water Quality Improvements: Communities large and small along the Colorado River mainstem benefit from the enhanced water quality Shoshone flows provide, distilling pollutants in the source drinking water for towns like New Castle, Rifle,  Clifton, Parachute, and the greater Grand Junction area served by Ute Water Conservancy District. Without the higher flows of clean and cold headwater sourced supplies provided by the Shoshone call, a higher pollutant concentration creates increased costs for municipal drinking and wastewater treatment.

Ecosystem Benefits and Endangered Species Act Compliance: The Colorado River downstream of Rifle is habitat for four fish listed under the Endangered Species Act. Without the exercise of the Shoshone call, the stretch of the Colorado River known as the 15-Mile Reach in and around Grand Junction would have significantly less flow during large periods of the year, especially in dry years, when Shoshone can contribute half of the flow in the 15-Mile Reach.  All Colorado River water users rely upon the benefits of the Shoshone flows as a bedrock for the success of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program and continued compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which provides compliance protections for over 1,250 projects in Colorado.

Recreation Economy: Shoshone flows benefit Colorado communities both upstream and downstream of the call. Colorado’s robust recreational economy relies heavily on the Colorado River mainstem, with Shoshone flows strengthening the state’s iconic river recreation industry throughout Grand, Summit, Eagle, Garfield, and Mesa counties. River recreation in Colorado contributes $14.6 billion annually to the state’s GDP, with nearly $4 billion coming directly from the Colorado River basin on the Western Slope. As temperatures rise and streams diminish, Shoshone permanency provides security for this economic industry, protecting the recreational fishery and boating that sustain local businesses and attract water-based recreators.

Maintaining Stream Flow Through Upper Colorado River Wild & Scenic Alternative Management Plan River Sections: The Shoshone water rights command higher flows and associated lower water temperatures through key segments with recreational fishing and wildlife habitat identified as Outstandingly Remarkable Values (ORVs) of the Upper Colorado River. The Upper Colorado River Wild & Scenic Stakeholder Group’s Alternative Management Plan lists the Shoshone water right as one of four long-term protection measures for the streamflow influenced ORVs – thus providing a critical role in removing the burdens of a potential federal Wild and Scenic designation on the Colorado River from Kremmling to No Name.

06. What is the Shoshone Hydropower Plant?2024-01-30T21:26:29+00:00

Currently owned by Public Service Company of Colorado (PSCo), a subsidiary of Xcel Energy, Shoshone water rights call up to 1,408 cubic feet of water per second (cfs) – or up to 1.02 million acre feet per year – to Xcel’s Shoshone Hydroelectric Plant in Glenwood Canyon for electricity generation, providing power for 15,000 customers in Colorado before flows return to the river for the benefit of ecosystems and water users downstream.

07. Will the sale of the Shoshone water rights affect Shoshone Hydropower operations? Who will own and operate the hydropower plant?2024-01-30T21:26:35+00:00

A finalized agreement will only transfer ownership of the Shoshone water rights, not the Shoshone Hydroelectric Plant. The Colorado River District will make the purchased Shoshone water rights available to Xcel through a permanent lease, continuing the plant’s clean energy production for Colorado’s electric grid.

08. Who are the partners in the Shoshone Water Right Preservation Coalition?2024-01-30T21:26:41+00:00

The Shoshone Water Right Preservation Coalition is an inclusive, transparent, and diverse group of stakeholders committed to permanent protection of Shoshone’s essential flows and the upstream and downstream benefits the flows provide to all Colorado citizens. Seeds of this coalition took root when West Slope entities signed the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement (CRCA) in 2013. Since then, the current list of coalition partners continues to grow and includes: 

  • Board of County Commissioners, County of Eagle
  • Board of County Commissioners, County of Garfield 
  • Board of County Commissioners, County of Grand 
  • Board of County Commissioners, County of Mesa
  • Board of County Commissioners, County of Summit 
  • Colorado River Water Conservation District 
  • Middle Park Water Conservancy District 
  • Clinton Ditch and Reservoir Company 
  • Eagle Park Reservoir Company 
  • Eagle River Water and Sanitation District 
  • Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority 
  • Grand Valley Water Users Association 
  • Orchard Mesa Irrigation District 
  • Ute Water Conservancy District 
  • Palisade Irrigation District 
  • Mesa County Irrigation District 
  • Grand Valley Irrigation Company 
  • City of Glenwood Springs 
  • City of Rifle
  • Clifton Water District
  • American Rivers
  • American Whitewater
09. How much will it cost for West Slope interests to purchase the Shoshone water rights?2024-01-30T21:26:46+00:00

The purchase price for the Shoshone rights as agreed on in the PSA is $98.5 million.

10. Why is a large one-time purchase of the Shoshone water rights a good investment?2024-01-30T21:25:23+00:00

The proposed $98.5 million PSA to acquire the Shoshone water rights is no small price tag, but the one-time investment to protect Colorado River flows in perpetuity is a durable, actional investment in Colorado’s future – providing greater certainty and security for future Colorado residents, farmers, ranchers, recreators, and the native fish and wildlife relying on the success of Shoshone Water Right Preservation.

Fully funding the proposed water right purchase relies on a diverse partnership of local, state, and federal funding sources. The Colorado River District plans to invest $20 million of its own funds via the Community Funding Partnership which it anticipates committing upon execution of the PSA. Members of the West Slope Coalition anticipate contributing at least another $10 million. 

To truly achieve Shoshone water right preservation and its myriad benefits statewide, the greater Shoshone Water Right Preservation Coalition looks forward to partnerships with the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) and the Bureau of Reclamation to bring this unique, timely, and historic opportunity across the finish line for all of Colorado.  The West Slope Coalition will work tirelessly to secure funding commitments from the State of Colorado and the federal government.

To paraphrase Warren Buffet, “Price is what you pay, value is what you receive,” and the value of securing these flows on a permanent basis is truly priceless.

11. What about the Shoshone Outage Protocol (ShOP) agreement? Wouldn’t this be a cheaper solution?2024-01-30T21:25:29+00:00

ShOP is not a truly permanent solution. With a limited duration of only 32 more years, ShOP would not guarantee Colorado River flow security in the long-term, and today’s water managers need to be planning far beyond a few decades given the hotter, drier, and more uncertain water future. In addition, without an Act of Congress, the ShOP agreement will continue to be subject to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s 40-year water supply contract limit.

The flows managed under ShOP are also far less than the flows commanded by Shoshone’s water rights. When called and used fully, Shoshone commands 1,408 cfs (or up to 1.02 million acre feet of water per year) compared to the more limited to 1,250 cfs summer and 900 cfs winter flows volunteered by ShOP participants.

12. What measures will be in place to ensure that the Shoshone flows will be preserved over the long term?2024-01-30T21:25:40+00:00

The PSA contemplates the parties working with the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to protect the historic flow regime by adding an alternate use of instream flow in the 2.4 mile reach of the Colorado between the current diversion and the plant discharge to the existing non-consumptive rights.

The Coalition views the State of Colorado as an integral partner in this effort and looks forward to negotiating an Instream Flow Agreement between PSCo, the River District, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) before final sale under the PSA in order to protect the historic call regime in perpetuity.

1 From the Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade, 2019.

2 From the Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade, 2019.

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