Here’s a guest column from Don Coram that’s running in The Durango Herald:
In my last column, I mentioned that Senate Bill 36, “Appellate Process Concerning Groundwater Decisions,” had recently passed the Senate 35-0. This exact bill passed the House last year with 60 votes, only to die in the Senate. Powerful men and big money did not offer any opposition in the House last year, but put a full-court press on Senate leadership to kill the bill.
This year is exactly the opposite. Water investors and municipalities have once again rallied their expensive lobby corps to pressure legislators. What amazes me is that people who voted for the bill last year, at least twice and some cases three times, are now suddenly opposed. Unconfirmed reports have told me that Northern Water in Weld County is the driving force behind the opposition.
As someone from rural Colorado, who understands the issues of rural Colorado, I am amazed that legislators who portrays themselves to be pro agriculture — as men standing up for the little guy, the second or third generation farmer or rancher who is just trying to survive and hopes that the next generation can pay off the mortgage — can be in opposition to this bill.
What has happened is investors buy ground water and then go to the Ground Water Commission and file for a change of use in hopes of exporting the water from the ground water basin and sell it to the municipalities. If the investors lose in the appeal process they claim new evidence. The farmer must hire a lawyer and water engineer to defend his water once again at thousands of dollars. One family has spent around $900,000 on attorneys fees. The fastest way to break a farmer is through litigation.
It is disappointing to me that a legislator can turn 180 degrees from one year to the next. The exact same bill should be treated the same. If you liked the bill last year, you should like it this year. Likewise, if you opposed it last year, I would expect the same this year.