US Senator Bennet calls for passage of SB 384 — The ditch irrigation bill

Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water
Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water

From The Greeley Tribune (James Redmond):

Bennet visited a farm west of Eaton early Monday afternoon to learn about ditch irrigation, hoping to take what he learned back to Washington to help pass Senate Bill 384, known as the ditch irrigation bill, an effort to amend the tax code to facilitate water leasing and water transfers to promote conservancy and efficiency. The bill would allow mutual ditch irrigation companies, which are nonprofits generally owned by local farmers, to lease water to local entities to earn revenue. The revenue would go toward the repairs and replacement of irrigation ditches.

Under the tax code, implemented in 1986, the companies would lose their nonprofit status by profiting from water leasing.

Brian Kuehl, director of federal affairs for K-Coe Isom, a national food and agriculture consulting firm, said losing the nonprofit status would be detrimental to the companies.

Kuehl explained the bill is important because when something goes wrong with a ditch system it’s on the mutual ditch irrigation company, or the local farmers, to fund the very expensive repair — even in the case of a natural disaster, such as the big floods in 2013, which caused a lot of ditch damage in Weld.

Local producers know the repairs and updates are necessary in northern Colorado.

“The reservoirs and canals were constructed in the late 1800s, so our facilities are in need of major repairs, and the revenue to make those repairs comes from shareholder assessments,” said Russ Leffler of Vic Leffler and Sons, where Bennet was visiting.

“The revision in the tax code is going to allow us to use other revenue to make repairs and replacements of deteriorating facilities,” Leffler said.

The bill made it through the Senate last year before it was killed in the House. It was attached to the highway bill, which was stripped of any extras before begrudgingly passing through the House.

Supporters of the bill would like to see SB 384 go through with either the highway bill or some tax credit extenders next year. Bennet, along with U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, will have their names on the bill when it’s introduced to the Senate in February.

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