Colorado Water Congress Public Trust Special Project Fundraiser Alert

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From email from the Colorado Water Congress (Doug Kemper):

After failing to collect enough signatures to place Public Trust initiatives in front of Colorado voters in 2012, the sponsors announced that they are redoubling their efforts to bring the issue to Colorado voters as early as 2014. “We will stay at this until we win,” their leadership stated.

The Colorado Water Congress has strongly opposed the Public Trust Doctrine becoming law for the last two decades. It is critical that we act now to prepare for the next round in the Public Trust battle. Failure to prepare will certainly leave us in a precarious position.

The Water Congress Board established a new Public Trust Special Project to fervently challenge upcoming ballot initiatives and, as importantly, to engage our water community in positive public communication about Colorado’s water future. Our two-year budget is $325,000.

The first phase of fund raising is the reason I am contacting you now. Please review the attached Public Trust Special Project overview, which provides a description of the issue, our position, and the very high stakes at hand. It also details the specific activities that your special fund contribution will support.

Time is of the essence. For public entities, this appeal is your only opportunity to financially contribute toward action on upcoming Public Trust initiatives. If they become certified for the ballot, your activities are severely restricted by law. Because the Water Congress receives a portion of its funding from public entities, we face the same restrictions

We hope that you will consider this issue a priority. If you wish to contribute to this project (in any amount), please click here. Thank you for your consideration.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

It’s kind of like watching thunderheads build over mountain ranges.

Colorado Water Congress is seeking to raise $325,000 to fight off the next attempt to apply the public trust doctrine to Colorado water law. The group took the lead role in 2012 to battle an initiative by Richard Hamilton of Fairplay that it claimed would have created legal turmoil over water rights. “We think this issue may be in front of us for some time,” said Doug Kemper, executive director of the CWC. “As the state is trying to develop a state water plan, this cuts the legs out from under it.”

For his part, Hamilton said he plans to launch a campaign to place ballot questions “exactly the same” as he attempted to place on the 2012 ballot.

In 2012, the ballot titles were challenged by the CWC, a process that cut four months off the six-month period to collect signatures, Hamilton said. In July, having collected only about 35,000 signatures of 86,000 needed to put the issues on the ballot, Hamilton withdrew the questions.

“The use of the public’s water is for the public’s good,” Hamilton said, saying Colorado’s constitution clearly says the state’s water is owned by the public. “It’s interesting that the state’s water interests try to block the initiative and refuse to have a full, open discussion with the public.”

Hamilton, a longtime lobbyist for water issues, has worked to place water issues on the ballot for the past 25 years. His concerns are rooted in the state’s priorities of placing development ahead of environmental and recreation concerns. “The water transfers that have happened in this state have benefitted real estate developers in Denver, Aurora, Colorado Springs and at times Pueblo,” Hamilton said.

The Water Congress is concerned about protecting water rights that have been in place for as long as 150 years, property rights associated with stream access and costly water quality legal battles, Kemper said. The fundraising effort will provide money for legal fights, surveying public opinion, tracking ballot issues and distributing information, Kemper said. “As a water community, we need to be organized,” he said. “Once a campaign begins, deadlines can be extremely short and time is limited.”

More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here.

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