2022 #COleg: New legislation exempts fire ponds from #Colorado water law — Heart of the Rockies Radio

Trout Creek Pass.

Click the link to read the article on the Heart of the Rockies Radio website (Joe Stone). Here’s an excerpt:

Governor Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 22-114 into law Wednesday, authorizing the designation of fire-suppression ponds that will be exempt from the Prior Appropriation System established by the Colorado Constitution. The law allows up to 30 acres of fire-suppression ponds per county and bars the Colorado Division of Water Resources from requiring the replacement of water lost to evaporation from those ponds.

Chaffee County Commissioner Greg Felt, a member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, supported the legislation…

[Terry] Scanga said the new law allows “clear injury to water rights. Our legislators can’t just wave a wand and magically say stealing water is okay.” The Upper Ark District, he added, will protest if someone tries to get a fire-suppression pond exemption in the Upper Ark Basin as it would injure water rights that the District was established to protect.

Scanga said Chaffee County already has a better system in place, requiring new subdivisions to install cisterns that store water for firefighting. Cisterns don’t lose water to evaporation, and they have firefighting hookups. Also, ponds ice over during winter months; cisterns don’t.

Felt said he can see why the new law is “problematic from a pure water rights perspective” but noted the increasing importance of considering forest health issues, a perspective reflected in support for the new law by “the big players in the South Platte Basin” – Denver Water, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Aurora.

“A very small and well-prescribed amount of injury is perhaps acceptable in order to mitigate the risk of catastrophic wildfire,” Felt said, noting that, to be eligible for the new designation, ponds “have to have been in place for at least 50 years.”

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