2014 Colorado legislation, HB14-026 (Flex marketing): ‘We still believe this is a trojan horse’ — Jay Winner #COleg

Flood irrigation -- photo via the CSU Water Center
Flood irrigation — photo via the CSU Water Center

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The state House approved legislation that creates a new type of water right called flex marketing last week and sent it to the Senate.

“We still believe this is a Trojan horse,” said Jay Winner of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “It allows speculation, and the cities could take water off the land 80 percent of the time.”

The bill, [HB14-1026], backed by water interests in the South Platte River basin, would allow farmers to designate their water for any beneficial use without identifying an end user. It would quantify consumptive use and allow that portion to be moved off fields in traditional fallowing programs and untested methods such as deficit irrigation or reduced cropping. While it requires action in water court to prevent damage to other water rights and requires that water stay in the basin of origin, it does contain enough safeguards to make sure agriculture remains the primary use, Winner said.

The Lower Ark district’s water attorney, Peter Nichols, suggested changes to the bill last month that would have restricted how often water could be removed from fields. The Lower Ark also objects to a bill that would put the primarily financial burden of water court on the farmers.

“We’re being ignored,” Winner said.

The Pueblo Chieftain editorial board opposes the bill because it would obliterate the anti-speculation doctrine, which has been key in stopping past attempted water grabs in the Arkansas Valley.

The House voted 47-13 to pass the measure. Rural lawmakers voted against the bill. Voting against the bill were state Reps. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, Ed Vigil, D-Fort Garland, and Clarice Navarro, R-Pueblo.

It is awaiting hearing in the Senate agriculture committee.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

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