2012 Colorado November election: Farmers are eyeing initiatives 3 and 45 warily

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From The Fence Post (Eric Brown):

Initiatives 3 and 45 — proposed citizen-sponsored legislation pieced together and filed by Richard Hamilton of Fairplay and his attorney, Phil Doe — seek to apply the public trust doctrine to Colorado water rights through a constitutional change.

[Gene Kammerzell], a Weld County produce grower who owns Arborland Nursery and is a member of the Colorado Farm Bureau Water Committee, has joined a number of other farmers, ranchers and agricultural organizations — as well as the Colorado Water Congress — in fighting the initiatives because they could cause chaos with state water rights, according to the opponents. Both sides agree in that the initiatives would override the state’s current prior-appropriation system — which states that those who own older water rights have a higher priority in using them — and 136 years of case law that have also helped define how water may be used in Colorado.

In addition to invalidating water rights, the proposed measures, if voted into law, would allow anyone to use the state’s water and then leave it up to the public to determine if the water is being used for the common good, Hamilton explained in a phone interview Wednesday. If members of the public were to determine the water isn’t being used for the common good, they could file a lawsuit in effort to curtail or prevent further water use in that capacity.

Hamilton, an aquatic microbiologist who has been a lobbyist in the environmental and natural resources industries for nearly 40 years, said the purpose behind his initiatives — in addition to placing control of the state’s water into the general public’s hands — is to prevent further contamination of water, often seen in return flows to the rivers following industrial use, and prevent the further depletion of the state’s rivers, caused by increased municipal, industrial and agricultural use. “Water is a public right,” Hamilton said, “and if you want it, don’t overuse the resource … and don’t send it back to the public filled with crap.”

More 2012 Colorado November election coverage here.

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