State Representative Sal Pace plans to introduce legislation to reduce impacts of out of basin water transfers

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

State Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, on Friday pitched a concept for a bill that would encourage voluntary agreements for mitigation in water transfer projects from one basin to another, rather than court-ordered conditions. “With this bill, it is my hope that generations from today our grandchildren can still enjoy a vibrant rural Colorado,” Pace told the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board. Pace is trying to contact as many water groups as possible before developing a final draft, which he wants to have in hand by the end of November.

Earlier this week, the Pueblo Board of Water Works indicated it would like to see some version of the bill before supporting it. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District voted unanimously to support the concept of the bill. The Fountain Creek board reserved its comments until a more complete proposal is developed, although Pace said he would not change the basics of the bill he provided in an outline…

The bill would encourage mitigation between conservancy districts and those making water transfers between state water divisions. If agreements could not be reached, water judges could choose to apply the same sorts of conditions now available only to the Western Slope in transfers by conservancy districts under 1937 legislation…

“The traditional battle lines are municipalities vs. rural conservancy districts,” Pace said. “The bill would (provide incentives for) cooperation much like this board came together in a cooperative fashion.”

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board voted unanimously to back Pace’s concept for a bill that would encourage those who take water from rural areas to work with conservancy districts to develop mitigation plans. “Our mission is to protect the water in the Arkansas Valley,” said Reeves Brown, Pueblo County director. “This does that.”[…]

The idea is to provide an incentive for urban areas that purchase water rights in other basins to voluntary agree to mitigation, rather than “rolling the die” in water court, Pace said. “I want to insure that when water is moved in the future, it is done in a responsible manner, so we don’t look like Arizona, with pockets of communities and a lot of dry land in between,” Pace told the board. The bill would provide incentives, using existing provisions of law, rather than attempting to penalize violations after the fact. It would not interfere with the ability to sell water rights or how water rights are used, Pace said. “There’s no language to limit a person’s ability to buy or sell water,” Pace said…

Executive Director Jay Winner said Pace’s legislation is timely, given the potential pressure the Arkansas Valley faces. Winner, as a member of the Interbasin Compact Committee, sees no breakdown in the West Slope’s resistance to another transmountain water project. “There is nothing in place for slowing down or stopping more buy-and-dry. We need to put a fence around the Arkansas Valley,” Winner said.

A study of available water in the Colorado River basin will find there are at least 440,000 acre-feet of water to develop, but the West Slope will claim it needs it for future development, Winner said. Meanwhile, Denver-area communities become ever more thirsty, he said. Parker has built a 75,000 acre-foot reservoir and plans by the South Metro Water Supply Authority include pipelines into the Arkansas Valley. “When 2050 hits and the state’s population doubles, we need to think how we’re going to feed all those people. We need to keep agriculture in place,” Winner said. “Sal is moving in the right direction.”

More transmountain/transbasin diversion coverage here.

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