From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
A late bill in the Colorado Legislature would allow the Colorado Water Conservation Board to administer three pilot projects to test water leasing strategies. The bill, HB1248, was introduced earlier this month and is sponsored by Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, and Sen. Gayle Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village. They chair legislative agriculture committees. As written, the bill applied only to the Arkansas River Basin. Fischer sent it to a subcommittee to rewrite the bill to apply it to the entire state and to clarify the role of the state engineer in approval of plans. It should be heard in committee this week.
The bill would give the CWCB authority over the pilot projects for one 10year period to demonstrate how irrigated agricultural land could be fallowed and the water temporally leased for municipal use, along the lines proposed by the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch. CWCB board member Alan Hamel said the board already has funded several projects looking at the impact of leasing programs like Super Ditch.
A similar bill, HB1130, seeks to extend state engineer approval of interruptible water supply agreements for up to 30 years. The agreements now can be operated three years out of a 10-year period. The bill would allow that period to be renewed twice. The bill, backed by Aurora, passed the House last month, but has yet to be heard in the Senate ag committee.
Other water bills:
● SB19, allowing water rights to be temporarily used for conservation purposes without penalty to consumptive use calculations, passed the Senate, but reportedly has been amended in the House to exclude water divisions 1, 2, 3 and 7.
● SB41, protecting stored water for drought and long-term needs, passed both houses.
● SB74, concerning ambiguities of water rights, passed both houses. The bill was amended from its original form to give water judges leeway in determining how much acreage historically was irrigated.
● SB181, the water projects bill, passed the Senate and is in the House ag committee. It includes $72 million in water projects administered by the CWCB.
More 2013 Colorado legislation coverage here.