Water bill would not affect current rec water rights
Heaven knows, there have been enough wars over water in Colorado, so there’s no need to start another one – between recreational and agricultural users in my own state Senate district.That’s why I’m carrying a proposal in the Legislature to strike a balance among those and other uses of our most precious resource. My goal in sponsoring Senate Bill 62, which passed a key committee last week with bipartisan support, is to respect the historic rights recognized under water laws.That means looking out for all the users of our reservoirs, rivers and streams while also making sure none of their uses is jeopardized by future uses downstream, including in lower Colorado River Basin states. By assuring that everyone using Colorado’s water plays by the same rules, my bill doesn’t tilt against any community or any particular kind of water use, including whitewater sports. Some recent fears I’ve heard to the contrary are way off base. I know of no one in the General Assembly who understands better than I do how vital year-round recreation in the High Country is. I’ve made sure the bill’s limitations on higher-capacity recreational in-channel diversion rights – intended to protect water flow for sports like kayaking and canoeing – specifically exempt communities that have filed applications for such rights before Feb. 17.And SB 62 has no effect whatsoever on recreational water rights held by ski areas to make snow. This bill is an attempt to define some reasonable parameters for recreational diversions before it’s too late. If we don’t act, those diversions could threaten not only rural needs for water but also the needs of the cities that are trying to support recreational water uses. The Colorado Water Congress, the Colorado River District, the Upper Arkansas Conservancy District, the Upper Yampa Conservancy District and the Routt County commissioners, to name just a few, are among the entities that have endorsed my bill.We’re all in this together. For the sake of future generations in our communities, we must work together to avoid gridlock on our waterways – and an end-run on a system of water laws that have served Colorado for a very long time.
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