HB 10-1159, HB 10-1188, HB 10-1190 and SB 10-052

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Here’s an analysis of the 3 House bills, from Joe Hanel writing for the Cortez Journal. From the article:

Lawyers, rafts and money. Those are the debates in store for Colorado’s water community this year at the Legislature. A Pueblo Democrat wants to make sure that water imports from wet basins to dry ones don’t harm people in the original basin. And a Gunnison representative wants to make sure rafting guides can float the state’s rivers, no matter who owns the riverbank. Both bills, though, could be overshadowed by the money crunch, which could hit irrigators and water users just as hard as the rest of the state.

More coverage from the Yuma Pioneer (Marianne Goodland). From the article:

The first water bill of the 2010 session got its first hearing last Thursday, January 21. The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee voted 6-1 to approve SB 10-52, which would make it clear that a final permit for ground water wells in a designated basin is final. It is on the Senate calendar for further debate in the Senate this week. SB 52 is sponsored by Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray and Rep. Kathleen Curry, I-Gunnison. Brophy said this week that SB 52 is designed to provide assurance for people who own large capacity ground water wells that those wells cannot be pulled out of the designated basin area. Under SB 52, the Ground Water Commission, which manages the eight designated basins along the eastern plains and the Front Range, could revise the basin’s boundaries to remove previously-included areas only if the area does not include wells that have had final permits issued…

Michael Bohnen of Bethune testified that his family’s surface water rights on the Republican River date back to 1904 and likened the bill to eminent domain. “Well users can pump the river dry,” he said. “Every well in the basin affects the flow of the river.” However, when questioned by Sen. Bruce Whitehead, D-Hesperus, both said they or their families did not object when the original boundaries were drawn back in the 1960s and 1970s.

Steve Sims, former water counsel for the attorney general and now with Brownstein, Hyatt & Farber, testified that senior water rights in the basin are not based on flowing streams and there would be no quantifiable injury to those surface water rights holders. SB 52 also provides strong language on the intent of the legislature regarding challenges to ground water well permits. The bill says that after a certain amount of time has passed, any request to pull out a well for which a permit has been issued should be considered a “collateral attack” on the original designation of the basin. However, the bill does not specify how long that time should be.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

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