From email from Peter Roessmann (Western Resource Advocates):
FYI, the New York Times reprinted an article published in Land Letter about the Dominguez Canyon Wilderness Area’s proposed instream flow right. As you know, the CWCB voted last Thursday to initiate work on a state ISF for the wilderness to preclude the need for federal intervention. A group of organizations working on this resolution issued a statement last Thursday afternoon about the CWCB’s vote (pdf).
Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times (Phil Taylor):
In a decision hailed by environmental groups and supported by BLM, the Colorado Water Conservation Board last week advanced an unconventional plan that would be one of the first variable water rights ever granted in the state. The plan — modeled after a proposal BLM pitched to the board earlier this year — would protect the seasonally changing flows in the canyon while balancing the needs of upstream landowners who depend on the same source of water to graze cattle. While typical in-stream water rights in Colorado assign fixed flow rates for specific periods of time, the Dominguez proposal would allocate a fixed amount of water for upstream users and send all remaining water — regardless of volume — to Big Dominguez and Little Dominguez creeks. “The board’s decision is great for Colorado,” said Bart Miller, water program director at Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates. “Declaring an intent to appropriate water is the first, most important step in protecting streams in the Dominguez Canyon Wilderness that sustain the area’s beauty, wildlife and recreational value. These streams are the lifeblood of this very special place.” Barring any significant opposition, the Water Conservation Board could finalize the proposal at its July 20 hearing, triggering a formal water rights filing before a state water court.
The proposal would be the first in the state to ensure flows for a federal wilderness area, said Steve Smith, assistant regional director for the Wilderness Society in Colorado. “I’m delighted that we were able to team up with water developers and local governments to craft the federal legislation [creating Dominguez] in the first place,” he said. “It directed the BLM to negotiate with the state over a water right for the wilderness.” If finalized, the water right would be owned by the state and would eliminate the need for the Interior Department to declare its own water right — a politically contentious move in water-strapped Western states.
More instream flow coverage here.