From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
A pared-down flex marketing bill meant to encourage alternative transfers of water swirled away in committee last week.
The Senate agriculture committee voted 5-4 to kill the bill, despite testimony in favor of HB1038, which passed in the state House last month.
The revised bill restricted the flex right to a 10-year trial period in the South Platte River basin to avoid opposition from the Western Slope and Arkansas River basins.
Sen. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, voted against the bill.
In the Arkansas River basin, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District had condemned the bill as another form of buy-anddry, while The Pueblo Chieftain editorialized against the legislation.
Attorney Andy Jones compared the bill to an urban setting where the owners of rent-controlled apartments could keep their valuable capital asset by agreeing to rent out only half to high-end renters.
“This provides the opportunity for the agricultural user to change his water right up to the 50 percent level,” Jones said.
While some who had objected to last year’s flex regulation because it appeared to foster speculation — illegal under Colorado water law — backers of the bill thought those questions had been answered. The new bill required specific end users, kept water in its basin of origin and prevented “stacking” a court decree with a substitute water supply plan.
Todd Doherty, Boulder water resources manager, said the bill would not foster buy-and-dry and was needed in the South Platte.
“Water market prices are heating up for permanent transfers,” Doherty said. “This approach could be helpful.”
But there were indications at the hearing that the bill would not stay in the South Platte. Dick Brown, lobbyist for the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority, said he was “disappointed” the bill would not apply in the Arkansas River basin as well and joked that his clients might apply for “de-annexation” if flex marketing proved beneficial.
More 2015 Colorado legislation coverage here.