Kayakers could lose water to other uses under SB 62 | SummitDaily.com

Kayakers could lose water to other uses under SB 62

Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk A kayaker takes a dip in Breckenridge's water park - back when water flows were higher. A new bill introduced in the state Legislature this month would curtail those flows even more.

BRECKENRIDGE – Earl Richmond, co-owner of Colorado Kayak, said business is down 25 percent in Summit County because of the drought – and it could get worse even if the water returns.”We used to paddle it (the Blue River) from April to July back in the day,” he said. “The Blue has not seen a decent flow in a couple of years. When the Blue ran from the dam to Columbine bridge, business was great. Not having the Blue run has impacted our business tremendously. It’s been horrible.”It would get worse if Sen. Jack Taylor’s Senate Bill 62 is approved in the Legislature this session.”It’s obviously very important to us as an outdoor retailer to have resources for customers to recreate in,” Richmond said. “Local paddlers are diminishing. They’re all becoming mountain bikers or trail runners or moving to states where there’s more water.”

Taylor’s bill, which was sent to the Senate last Friday, would limit the amount of water that can be claimed for boat courses to 350 cubic feet a second (cfs) – a volume many kayakers say is too little. It also would establish construction requirements for courses and require that at least 10 kayaks be in the water at any given time.The Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee amended the bill last week to exempt existing water parks.Taylor said he introduced the bill because he’s concerned that water used in kayak parks prevents municipalities from storing water upstream for municipal uses.”This bill is antirecreation,” said State Rep. Gary Lindstrom, D-Breckenridge. “And it’s silly. It says unless you have 10 kayaks in the water, it’s not a recreational use. Breckenridge could not keep the water unless there were 10 kayaks in the water.”

Richmond, who operates another kayak shop in Chaffee County, noted that the county commissioners there are trying to create a minimum flow baseline of 350 cfs when water is available.”We’re making sure that when water is tight that someone else can’t jump in line and say, ‘We want this water, too,'” he said. “The little mountain towns are trying to protect what used to be an obvious resource – of having at least something there, not only for kayakers to play, but for fish to live and other people to recreate.”Water flows of 350 cfs aren’t ideal – Richmond begins putting his customers on the Arkansas River at a minimum of 500 cfs – but that volume is better than nothing.”It is very wimpy,” he said. “But it’s like skiing Bonanza (a beginning ski run at Breckenridge Ski Resort) all day. Yeah, it’s boring, but it’s better than not skiing at all.”

Sen. Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Golden, said she’s heard from everyone who’s impacted by recreational water use in the High Country, some of whom are concerned about the potential impacts the bill could have on tourism.But she doesn’t think the bill will pass muster in the Senate.”I’m thinking it’s beyond fixable,” she said. “There are too many flaws. Sometimes, it’s just better to let a bad bill die and solve (the problem) some other way.”Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.

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