State budget crisis effecting DNR water enforcement

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The Colorado Department of Water Resources is cutting back on overtime for and new hires, according to a report from Charles Ashby writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Department of Natural Resources wants to hike water permit fees to raise nearly $2.5 million. At the same time, it’s proposing not to fund about $250,000 in overtime pay for its 120 water commissioners around the state at a time when a freeze in new hires has prevented the Division of Water Resources from filling 25 positions, including nine ditch riders whose jobs are to ensure that everyone’s water rights are respected. The proposed fee increases, which could go into effect as early as next month, had several state lawmakers up in arms when they first learned about them Wednesday…

Theo Stein, spokesman for the department, said that the bad economy and the need for all of state government to make more than $1 billion in cuts this year and next is driving these proposals. “DNR is looking at some very difficult decisions on how to allocate limited resources,” he said. “The overtime, it’s probably one of those programs that in a tough year you have to take a second look at.”

Meanwhile, the department is proposing a slew of fee increases – including hiking new well fees from $300 to $665 and general substitute water supply plan fees from $300 to $2,000 – but that additional revenue is not being directed toward the water commissioners. Other proposed fee increases include late registration, monitoring well and change permit fees, which can be as low as $60, would go to as high as $665. The department also is proposing to hike fees for extensions and requests to determine water rights from $60 to $760. Lawmakers said that while some fee increases may be appropriate, these seemed exorbitant.

In addition to the nine water commissioner positions that have been frozen, the division also has openings for division engineers, well inspectors, hydrologists and other support staff that are subject to the hiring freeze.

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