From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
A bill that changes water rights for flood water storage passed the House Friday after it was diverted to the House Local Government Committee rather than the Agriculture Committee so it would not be killed.
The bill, SB212, allows water from five-year floods to be stored 72 hours and for water from larger floods to be released as “quickly as practicable.” It also allows storage of runoff water from areas burned by wildfire.
“We believe this bill changes the prior appropriation doctrine,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “It’s very disappointing.”
Winner and Peter Nichols, the Lower Ark’s water attorney, worked to amend the bill to satisfy waterrights issues, but failed to prevail. Farmers from the Arkansas Valley testified against the bill in the Senate Agriculture Committee, saying it would deprive junior water rights holders.
The bill does exempt Fountain Creek, but it allows entities with a state discharge permit to operate under the new guidelines. That means Colorado Springs will be able to operate runoff detention ponds in connection with the burn scars from the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires, as well as stormwater detention facilities.
The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway district does not intend to use the provisions of the bill, opting instead to continue a water rights study that is looking at how to ensure any water stored in its future detention ponds will be shepherded to the owners of water rights that would have been in priority without storage.
State Sen. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, added the amendment exempting Fountain Creek. State Rep. Ed Vigil, D-Fort Garland, chairs the House agriculture committee, and was expected to kill the bill had it been assigned to that committee.
More 2015 Colorado legislation coverage here.