2020 #COleg: Western Slope lawmakers tout #ColoradoRiver #Drought Task Force bill — The #Montrose Press

Map of the Gunnison River drainage basin in Colorado, USA. Made using public domain USGS data. By Shannon1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69257550

Click the link to read the article on The Montrose Press website (Katharhynn Heidelberg). Here’s an excerpt:

Saying the state will fare best if it stands together when it comes to protecting Colorado River water rights, Western Slope legislators are hailing a bill that creates a drought task force.

“It’s to get Colorado to come to the table and start talking about what we can do, rather than somebody on the eastern side of the state, or the governor, talking,” Rep. Marc Catlin, R-Montrose, who was House sponsor of Senate Bill 295, with Rep. Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon, House speaker. “We’re trying to get people from the Western Slope, particularly since the Western Slope is going to have to deal with it.”

Senate Bill 295 passed 63-2, with Sens. Perry Will, R-Newcastle, and Dylan Robert, D-Eagle, carrying it in the Senate. The bill creates a Colorado River Drought Task Force, with subcommittees, to guide the development of water legislation. It is to include the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute tribes, regional water conservation districts, local government, farmers, ranchers, environmental nonprofits and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. Members are charged with developing steps and tools the legislature can use to address drought in the Colorado River Basin and commitments under the Colorado River Compact through conservation of the river and its tributaries, such as the Gunnison River and the Uncompahgre. If the bill creating the task force is signed into law, its members have a short window to act: between July and Dec. 15, they are to furnish their recommendations and a summary of their work to the legislative water resources and agricultural review committee…

The bill says recommendations need to be for programs that can be reasonably implemented in a way that does not harm economic or environmental concerns in any sub-basin or region in the state. The recommendations must also fall in line with the 2019 Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan. The recommendations must further ensure any program related to acquiring water rights is voluntary, temporary and compensated, while also looking at revenue sources for the acquisition of program water. [Perry] Will and [Marc] Catlin worry about entities that are purchasing farm land, as well as buying or leasing water, especially if they are not providing adequate compensation…

“The Uncompahgre (River), we’ve got the oldest, biggest water right on the Western Slope of Colorado. Certainly, there are people looking at us,” Catlin said. He said speculators need to understand that when they buy water, they are affecting the entire ag community, not just individual farmers — and that reality needs to be part of the conversation.

WAM bought this 57-acre parcel as part of a $6 million deal in January 2020, leading some to suspect the company was engaging in investment water speculation. WAM’s activity in the Grand Valley helped prompt state legislators to propose a bill aimed at curbing speculation. CREDIT: BETHANY BLITZ/ASPEN JOURNALISM

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