Winter Landscape

By Shannon Mullane

Every day about 19,000 vehicles zip past the Shoshone Power Plant, tucked into Glenwood Canyon by Interstate 70. But few of those travelers have any idea of the history-changing deal being crafted here, where Colorado River water churns through electricity-producing turbines before returning to its channel about 2½ miles downstream.

This year Western Slope leaders, led by the Colorado River District, struck a $99 million deal to buy the tiny hydro plant’s water rights from Xcel Energy and lease the water back to Xcel to generate electricity. As part of the deal, Shoshone’s rights would become the largest, most influential environmental water right in state history.

The change would protect fish and habitat, but it would also beef up water security on the Western Slope by protecting reliable westward flows for farmers and tourist economies. Many western Coloradans are thrilled to see this important water right protected from any future sell-off by Xcel, the state’s largest electricity provider.