2017 #coleg: Gov. Hickenlooper signs HB17-1170 — Concerning the limited applicability of the Colorado supreme court’s decision in St. Jude’s Co. v. Roaring Fork Club, LLC, 351 P.3d 442 (Colo. 2015)

Here’s the bill summary from the legislature’s website:

Limited Applicability Of St. Jude’s Co. Water Case

Concerning the limited applicability of the Colorado supreme court’s decision in St. Jude’s Co. v. Roaring Fork Club, LLC, 351 P.3d 442 (Colo. 2015).

In the case of St. Jude’s Co. v. Roaring Fork Club, LLC, 351 P.3d 442 (Colo. 2015) ( St. Jude’s Co. ), the Colorado supreme court held that direct diversions of water from a river to a private ditch for aesthetic, recreational, and piscatorial purposes on private property, without impoundment, are not beneficial uses of water under Colorado water law.

The bill provides that the decision in the St. Jude’s Co. case interpreting section 37-92-103 (4) does not apply to previously decreed absolute and conditional water rights or claims pending as of July 15, 2015. The interpretation of section 37-92-103 (4) in St. Jude’s Co. applies only to direct-flow appropriations, without storage, filed after July 15, 2015, for water diverted from a surface stream or tributary groundwater by a private entity for private aesthetic, recreational, and piscatorial purposes.

From The Vail Daily (Scott N. Miller):

Colorado water law received some needed clarification in the 2017 session of the Colorado Legislature.

The legislature, this session, passed a bill in response to the 2015 Colorado Supreme Court decision in the case of St. Jude’s Co. v. Roaring Fork Club LLC. That decision held that direct diversions of water from a river to a private ditch for “aesthetic, recreational and piscatorial” purposes are not “beneficial uses” under state water law.

“Beneficial use” is a much-used term in state water law and originally encompassed primarily to agricultural and municipal uses. That definition has been evolving throughout the years — through both court decisions and legislation — to protect recreational uses, too, and the new legislation makes that clearer…

The bill was sponsored in the House of Representatives by Democrat K.C. Becker and co-sponsored in the Senate by Republican Jerry Sonnenberg. In a statement after Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the bill, Becker said the law “provides the needed certainty for water rights holders in Colorado.”

Eagle River Watershed Council Executive Director Holly Loff agreed. In an email, Loff wrote that the group is celebrating the bill’s passage.

“It protects the tools that local governments have at their disposal to protect flows — both recreational and environmental — which were threatened by the broad language in the (Supreme Court) case. Recreational and piscatorial uses are most definitely beneficial and we are happy to see those protected.”

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