Curry’s water bill passes first test
A bill that would allow private water rights owners like the Salvation Ditch Co. to temporarily lend water to maintain a higher flow in a stream like the Roaring Fork River passed an important first test in the Colorado Legislature this week.The House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee unanimously passed House Bill-1039. The bill was introduced by Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunninson, whose district includes the Roaring Fork Valley.”The bill provides a useful tool for willing parties seeking to temporarily loan water for in-stream loan purposes,” Curry said in a prepared statement.The bill would change restrictions on private water rights owners who wish to temporarily loan some of their water to the Colorado Water Conservation Board for in-stream flow purposes. Currently, agricultural water rights owners can temporarily lend water in the in-stream loan program only when the governor declares a drought.Curry’s bill would allow such voluntary loans for a maximum of three years during a 10-year period.Shane Harvey, a board member of the Roaring Fork Conservancy and attorney with Aspen’s Holland & Hart, testified at the committee hearing that the Salvation Ditch Co.’s inability to donate water to the Roaring Fork River as it dried up during the drought in summer 2002 served as an impetus for Curry’s bill.The Roaring Fork River’s flow through Aspen was low enough that a person could step across the stream during parts of that summer. Trout were isolated in pools and experts suspected a high mortality rate.The owners of the Salvation Ditch, which is east of town, were willing to contribute water to the river but were unable to because of state law.Curry’s bill does not allow donations to exceed the in-stream flow specified in state regulations for any particular body of water. In addition, the in-stream loan program is a voluntary agreement with senior water rights holders.The bill will advance to the floor of the House of Representatives, although that hearing has not yet been set.
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After nine months of being shuttered due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Wheeler Opera House will reopen for local acts. A touchless reservation system will be open to 53 people for in-person at the venue. Online live streaming also will be available.