HB 10-1159: Mitigation for water exports

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From The Durango Herald (Joe Hanel):

Geography trumped party when the House Agriculture Committee voted 9-4 Wednesday to approve House Bill 1159 by Pace, D-Pueblo. Pace got support from most Democrats, plus Western Slope Republicans Scott Tipton of Cortez and Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs. Meanwhile, Eastern Plains Republicans and a Denver-area Democrat joined against it. Pace’s “little water bill” would place new requirements on anyone – namely Denver, its suburbs and other Front Range cities – who wants to import water from out of the basin. The bill would require importers to work with water conservancy districts in the basin of origin to figure out a way to compensate for the loss of water.

On the Western Slope, a conservancy district could require the Front Range cities to pay for a new reservoir in the originating basin. On the Eastern Plains, where cities have been buying up farm water rights for years, mitigation could mean payments to school districts for lost tax revenue from the dried-up farms, Pace said. But the bill would not block water transfers. “If I were running the perfect bill, we’d be stopping the transfer of water. This bill does not stop the transfer of water,” Pace said…

“Your ideal bill would be the bill from hell for the Lower South Platte,” said Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling…

Pace’s bill would send the cities to local water districts to strike a deal, but if an agreement couldn’t be reached, a water court still could impose a solution. But that process could get in the way of longstanding Colorado water law, said Sara Duncan of Denver Water. “This is a very difficult bill to make consistent with the prior appropriation doctrine,” Duncan said.

Meanwhile, The Aspen Daily News’ Brent Gardner Smith caught up with Representative Kathleen Curry to talk about her switch from the Democratic party to unaffiliated late last year. From the article:

So now when the 27 Republicans and 37 Democrats in the House huddle behind closed doors, Curry is left behind, like a nerdy student alone in study hall while all the cool kids are at football practice. But the former Democrat and rancher from Gunnison County doesn’t sound like she minds all that much. “I just feel that voting as a bloc is not how I want to do the job,” she said. “I’m really happy with my decision. And I’m just kind of running my life the way I always have, which is hectic.”[…]

Curry’s legislative effectiveness will be put to the test on Monday when the Judiciary Committee hears her proposed “Commercial Rafting Viability Act,” [HB 10-1188] which seeks to clarify existing Colorado law on whether commercial raft companies can float down a river that happens to run through private land. “There are a lot of people who feel there are two sets of rights,” Curry said. “But I feel we ought to find a way to make it work for both. And I think the committee will give it a fair hearing.”[…]

“I will be voting the way I think is best for my district,” Curry said this week. “If it happens to be Republican, then so be it. I think these bills should be looked at their own merit and not based on how the party votes on them.”

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

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