HB 10-1188 (Clarify River Outfitter Navigation Right): Colorado Water Congress’ Doug Kemper says the bill is, ‘is a failure to use the network’

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The head of the [Colorado Water Congress] said this has been a “failure” in water negotiations. While emotions run high over the bill, it is actually an example of how the connections often promoted by the CWC broke down in this case, said Doug Kemper, CWC executive director, at the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum at The Abbey this week. “HB1188 is a failure to use the network,” he said…

The House in February passed a version that gave both commercial rafters the right to float through property around obstacles. The Senate last month passed a different version of the bill, saying current law is unclear and ordering a study of the issue by the Colorado Water Congress to be completed by Oct. 31. The House has yet to reconsider the bill…

The original bill, drafted by Rep. Kathleen Curry, Unaffiliated-Gunnison, had warning flags for the water community, particularly in referring to English common law and the right of navigability, Kemper said. “The CWC came out opposed to the bill,” Kemper said. “Our concern was the word navigable has a meaning at the federal level that starts bringing in federal regulations. “We also wanted to make sure water rights operations were not impacted either with diversion structures or permitting on projects.”

In Colorado, the rafting issue is clouded by a state Supreme Court ruling that said there was no right to float across private property and a subsequent ruling by a state attorney general that said rafters made no criminal trespass if they float through private property, provided they do not touch the banks or bed of the stream…

Kemper said the various ballot titles might boil down to “two or three on each side,” and said regardless of which path the Legislature takes, some are likely to reach the ballot. “It’s coming down to rafters vs. property interests, and if that happens, it’s a failure of the network,” Kemper said. Kemper, who worked for the City of Aurora as it developed water interests in the Arkansas River basin, said the flow agreements and formation of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area show where cooperation can lead. “There has been too much hard work in the Arkansas Valley between rafting interests and the water rights holders for this to become a wedge,” Kemper said.

More HB 10-1188 coverage here.

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