James (Jim) Austin



“Over the river and through the woods to grandfather’s house we go” (Lydia Child, 1844). Fifty years later Pres. Theodore Roosevelt promoted and Congress authorized the construction of the Gunnison Tunnel. The Tunnel moves water from the Gunnison River to the Uncompahgre River. This happened because over a century ago a fellow named Abe Fellows thought, when it passed Montrose the Gunnison River was higher than the Uncompahgre River. The idea of an irrigation tunnel appealed to Teddy Roosevelt and the Gunnison tunnel was built (at the same time as the Panama Canal). The Gunnison Tunnel is our nation’s largest and longest irrigation tunnel.

Today, 100 years later, the Governor wants to move the Gunnison water to the Colorado River. Nobody seems to want to move water from the forest crown to the river. If we’re not careful the river is going to be a dry wash, the forest will burn and there will be a 50-50 chance that all that is left is grandfather’s fireplace chimney.

The Ridgway Reservoir is the only one out of nine proposed dams not killed by the Federal Government. Montrose is not just a town, it is the area from Telluride to Paonia, and it is a shared value. Montrose has always been able to think down the road. Project Seven is the only organization created to serve an entire Valley (Ridgway to Delta) without a dominant user. Montrose bought 15,000 acre-feet of Ridgway Reservoir water because the City Council believed the valley could possibly grow to 150,000 residents over the next century. No water crisis will occur because of this action.


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