Legislation limiting white-water park flows gathers steam | AspenTimes.com

Legislation limiting white-water park flows gathers steam

Dennis Webb
Glenwood Springs correspondent

State Sen. Jack Taylor’s bill to limit water diversions for white-water parks won support in Denver and Glenwood Springs on Wednesday.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board, meeting at the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood, endorsed Taylor’s bill in its amended form. Meanwhile, the Colorado House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee approved it on an 8-2 vote at the state Capitol.

Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, represents Senate District 8, which includes Garfield County. His recreational in-channel diversion bill would limit diversions for white-water parks to 350 cubic feet per second, and in some cases, less. The water conservation board’s decision Wednesday came as little surprise, as the bill’s flow limit is consistent with the board’s policy on the issue of recreational diversions.

The bill has encountered heavy opposition from communities seeking to boost their economies through the creation of white-water parks.

Ted Kowalski, an attorney for the water conservation board, said the bill will help the board as it seeks to interpret a 2001 bill that allows for recreational diversions.

“The board is struggling to understand what their role is,” he said.

The board has held four hearings so far on diversions, in cases involving Gunnison, Steamboat Springs, Longmont and Pueblo. When a water court granted a recreational water right in the Gunnison case, the water conservation board appealed. The state Supreme Court sent the case back to the water court, finding that both that court and the water conservation board had erred in their handling of the case.

Kowalski testified before the House agriculture committee this week that Taylor’s bill establishing flow limits “will prevent expensive litigation, and more importantly, will provide an objective limitation that the applicants often refuse to recognize in their applications for water rights.”

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