West slope to east slope water transfers, IBCC/roundtables and State Rep. Sal Pace’s proposed mitigation legislation debated

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We already have a bureaucratic effort to achieve the same goal,” said Harold Miskel, vice-president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “I worry about legislation like this, given the sensitivities between the Eastern and Western slopes, that it may exacerbate that other effort. It’s an additional lever and a threat.” Miskel was reacting to a proposal by state Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, which he said will encourage collaboration to mitigate the impact of moving water from rural areas to cities, when water is transferred between state water divisions.

Pace has been promoting a concept to allow conservancy districts to negotiate mitigation in lieu of stricter court provisions. Pace plans to pattern the new provisions after the 1937 Conservancy District Act, which allows judges to consider court mitigation. Miskel said the solution to project urban shortfalls of water supplies could involve more transfers of water from the Western Slope, an issue that is already being addressed by the Interbasin Compact Committee and the Colorado Water Conservation Board…

“The IBCC never was given statutory authority,” Pace said in response to Miskel’s comments. “There’s a need for state legislation that provides for voluntary agreement. . . . If we’re going to have third-party mitigation, wouldn’t you like to be at the table?” Pace added that at least one legislator, whom he did not name, is looking at a proposal to disband the IBCC…

“I would not contest that the IBCC moves at glacial speed,” Miskel said. “But this effort was to encourage the Arkansas basin and the South Platte basin to talk to the Western Slope.”

Pace said his proposal would not harm that effort. “What I envision this bill doing is to encourage collaboration, to encourage outside applicants to work with local districts,” Pace said. “I’m not trying to do an anti-metro bill. Pace has not drafted a bill yet, and instead has chosen to talk with water boards all over the state – he also traveled to Salida Thursday afternoon to talk with the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District – to gain input. A draft version of the bill will be distributed through Colorado Water Congress. The biggest problem Pace is facing is how to deal with leases, saying cities and water sellers could avoid the community impact question with long-term agreements rather than outright sales. “I do not want to discourage fallowing programs,” Pace said. Pace added his bill would not stop water transfers or spell out what types of mitigation could be negotiated. “Transfers are not shut down and water sales cannot be stopped by conservancy districts (under the concept), Pace said.

More transmountain/transbasin diversions coverage here.

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