MOAB, UT, Feb. 2, 2010 -- Two Utah based conservation groups filed a challenge in Colorado Water Court to three water right permit applications for ground water that is tributary to the Dolores River today. The subject of the challenge is an application for three ground water right permits needed for development and processing at the proposed Pinion Ridge Uranium Mill in Paradox, Colorado. The proponent of the mill -- Energy Fuels Resources, LLC is applying for a little over 500 acre feet of ground water which is tributary to the Dolores River to process the ore and another, almost, 500 acre feet in the form of captured rain water needed to prevent water discharges from the site.
The conservation groups, Red Rock Forests and Living Rivers filed a "Statement of Opposition" in Division 4 of the Colorado Water Court in Montrose County stating, among other things, concerns about the lack of a an "augmentation plan" for the water right, that the proposed use may violate the anti-speculation doctrine by under the Colorado Water Code and violations of the public.
Harold Shepherd, Acting Director for Red Rock Forests located in Moab says that "We are concerned about the speculative nature of uranium mining and milling in the Southeastern Utah and Western Colorado and whether the Company will hold the water under the application without ever developing the Mill. Also, as future years, in the area become drier, should we be adding new stresses to the river system that will compound the impacts of climate change on instream flows and existing water rights."
If the case goes to trial, it may require addressing multiple issues including uranium extraction and health impacts, hydrology, geology, aquatic habitat, wild and scenic river issues and other topics. John Weisheit, the Conservation Director for Living Rivers states "Because the Dolores river is in one of the most scenic and popular places for white water rafting and hiking in the western United States, it is currently being considered by the Bureau of Land Management for designation as a federally protected Wild and Scenic River. We believe that diverting water from the river for use in the Mill will threaten that status."
The case is likely to last at least the next 18 months. The proposed mill is also undergoing review by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment for a radioactive materials license application that that Energy Fuels filed in October.