2014 #COleg HB14-1026: ‘…would turn Colorado’s time-honored anti-speculation doctrine on its head’ — Pueblo Chieftain

Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters
Straight line diagram of the Lower Arkansas Valley ditches via Headwaters

From The Pueblo Chieftain editorial staff:

THE WATER buffaloes are relentless in their devious pursuit of easier, quicker ways to take Colorado’s irrigated agricultural water and market it to the urban Front Range. If they have their way, these voracious urban-suburban interests would destroy rural communities while fueling lucrative but unwise population growth up north.

The latest wolf at the door is House Bill 1026, which cleared the state House Agriculture Committee on a 10-3 vote Monday. This so-called “flexible water markets” — or flex water rights — bill would turn Colorado’s time-honored anti-speculation doctrine on its head by allowing speculators to convert ag water rights to any use of their choosing — essentially at any time.

“Our big fear is that this could be a Trojan horse for municipalities to come in and take water from farms,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

We share Winner’s alarm at the threat of speculation, which current Colorado water law prohibits.

However, even if speculation somehow was prevented with a bill amendment, [HB14-1026, Water Flexible Markets] still would pose a grave threat to the Arkansas Valley’s rural economy and future viability.

House committee amendments that did make it into the bill were touted as making it more palatable. However, that’s just so much propaganda.

One amendment would allow a change to flexible markets water rights only within the basin of origin. This might prevent Aurora, which is in the South Platte basin, from raiding the Lower Arkansas Valley again. However, it wouldn’t stop the same damage from being inflicted within our basin by, say, Colorado Springs.

Another amendment would allow a water judge to reconsider previous approval of a “flex water right” to “remedy or preclude” injury to other water rights. But it’s stated in such convoluted language that the “big guy’s” high-priced water lawyers and experts would bury the opposition in court.

There’s a lot of other things wrong with HB1026 and absolutely no compelling reason to pass it. The wolf is again at the door and must be stopped before destroying its prey.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

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