A New Era of Cooperation– Eagle Signs the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

Agreement signing

The crowd of water leaders present at the Eagle signing of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

It’s not the signing of the Declaration of Independence but this is a great moment in Colorado’s history—the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, an agreement that Denver Water reached with 39 Western Slope water providers, local governments and ski resort operators received its first signatures yesterday. Leaders from Eagle County, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and Eagle Park Reservoir Company gathered and signed the agreement.

“It’s precedent setting,” said Rick Sackbauer, Chairman of the Board of the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. “For generations and generations and generations to come this is absolutely huge.”

After five years of mediated negotiations and decades of tension, the agreement proposed in April 2011, focuses on cooperation—bringing traditional water foes together as partners for responsible water development benefiting both Denver Water and the Western Slope. The Cooperative Agreement outlines various actions for Denver Water and Western Slope entities to benefit both water supply and the environment. Read the draft agreement here.

Now that water leaders in Eagle have signed, 36 others will begin to sign onto the agreement—although when that will happen is anybody’s guess. “It’s important enough to begin the wave of signatures,” said Jim Pokrandt, Communications Specialist with the Colorado River District.

There are a couple issues that have yet to be resolved with the agreement– the administration of Green Mountain Reservoir and the Shoshone power plant in Glenwood Canyon. These two issues require agreement by the Bureau of Reclamation, the State Engineer’s office and the State Attorney General’s office, which could take awhile. Read Coyote Gulch’s coverage from the Grand Junction Sentinel for more.

Still, all stakeholders are committed to the agreement. “The agreement’s not up for discussion but it’s like, OK we have these great ideas, how do we make it work?” Pokrandt said.  The River District and Grand County entities plan on waiting and signing on once they’re certain that everything is done to their satisfaction, as others will surely do.

The Eagle signatures are a monumental start, said Pokrandt. “This certainly breaks the floodgates and is great progress in these talks.”

“It is precedent setting,” said Sackbauer. “We, as people that use water in the Colorado River Basin, have a plan and believe me, there was a lot of blood, sweat, tears and brilliance in it.”

Watch full coverage of the 2/21 meeting here or watch CBS Denver’s coverage.