2011 Colorado legislation: HB 11-1289 (Water Supply Structure Historic Register)

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From The Fort Morgan Times (Marianne Goodland):

Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, this week has quickly marshaled through a bill that would require consent of users of historic water structures when the state historical society wants to place the structure on an historic register. House Bill 11-1289 passed the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee on Monday, received approval from the House on second reading on Wednesday and got a 51-12 vote from the full House on Thursday. It now heads to the Senate…

There are more than 22,000 ditches and reservoirs in the state, Shimmin said, and the document [History Colorado put out a 70-page document, prepared several years ago by an architecture professor at the University of Colorado Denver] suggests that all of them might qualify for historical designation on the National Register of Historic Places. “It raised the level of concern in the water user community” because it seemed to designate every ditch and reservoir as an historic structure, he explained. The potential for listing includes regulatory implications, Shimmin said. Any project with federal action, money or property and that requires a federal permit has to go through historical preservation review.

If a third party requests the listing and the owner objects, it can`t be listed, he said, but it can be designated as eligible for listing at the national level, and that triggers the same federal regulations, including control over maintenance or repair. That would include anything in the structure along the system — from headgates right down to the cottonwood trees along the ditch — and implies that every feature is somehow historically significant. “It scared the holy heck out of the owners of the ditch and reservoir systems” that a new wave of federal or state regulations was coming that would impact any act of maintenance, repair or other operating changes, he said.

Under HB 1289 the society must get consent from anyone who has a property interest, including water rights, in a water supply structure, prior to the structure`s nomination on the state or national register. In addition, the state engineer would also have to give his consent. Water users were excluded from the public process, and no public hearings were held by the history society, Shimmin said.

Democrats, however, objected to the bill, stating that requiring permission from the users would permanently end any efforts to put a structure on the National Register.

The four structures already designated as historical are two segments of the [Grand Diversion] structure in the Palisade Canyon along I-70, the San Luis Peoples Ditch and Smith’s Irrigation Ditch in Denver (now known as Denver Ditch).

Steve Turner from History Colorado said that 800 water structures have been reviewed in the past five years and that 200 are considered historic and could be considered for inclusion on the state or federal registers. Sonnenberg said currently there are no plans to put any historic water structures on the state or federal register. “This bill is proactive,” he said, and added that HB 1289 has the support of Gov. John Hickenlooper.

More 2011 Colorado legislation coverage here.

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