Lawmakers forward plan to restrict recreational water uses
DENVER – A House committee approved a plan Wednesday that would restrict the use of recreational water while still allowing kayakers and boaters to enjoy their pastimes.Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, amended the bill to bar recreational users from asking a water court to provide more water for nighttime events; recreational users said they would try to live with it.”I think parts of the compromise are a bitter pill to swallow, but we think a lot of recreational communities can get on board,” said Steven Bushong, who represents a number of recreational water groups across the state.
Bushong said communities sometimes hold events like water rodeos at night and those would be barred.”It’s tough for the recreational community to see why one use of water is treated differently than other uses. We allow virtually all aspects of the Colorado economy to benefit from the use of water, but on the recreational community, we’re imposing unprecedented limits,” he said.The bill (Senate Bill 37) now goes to the full House for debate, where it still faces an uphill fight from both sides of Colorado’s water wars.
The bill is an attempt to clear up some of the legal wrangling that has occurred since the Legislature passed a bill in 2001 making recreation an official “beneficial use” and giving it a right to water just like more traditional uses like agriculture.Unlike other uses, recreational users leave the water in the river allowing it to flow downstream to other users. Critics worry that decreeing too much water to water parks will hamper future water rights upstream and the state’s ability to comply with water compacts with other states.Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, said water providers, environmentalists and recreational users reached a compromise after months of fighting.
Peggy Montano, spokeswoman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, said her group gave up the right to go back and ask a judge to determine if the proposal worked as intended.Curry said the bill would encourage recreational users to limit the amount of water they ask for by allowing them to change the flow rates if they ask for 35 percent or less of the acre-feet available from April 1 to Labor Day, giving beginners and advanced boaters a chance to enjoy their sport.Groups that ask for more than that would be limited to one flow rate the entire season.
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