article photo 1

Protect Recreational Water Rights in CO

Posted: 10/24/2005
by Thomas O'Keefe

Colorado enjoyed a great boating season this past year attracting paddlers from across the country who came out to enjoy many of the wonderful rivers the state has to offer. While we were all out on the water, however, leaders in the state legislature continued to work on the recreational water issue that we all remember as Senate Bill 62, a bill which our community pulled together to defeat last legislative session. Once again, there are now immediate steps paddlers in Colorado can take to protect recreational water rights.

Over the summer, the interim water committee has continued to meet and discuss the recreational water issue. A draft bill has been introduced and the interim committee will vote on it Wednesday the 26th.

Our partners in Colorado believe that the draft bill will not adequately protect recreational water rights and have worked in good faith to come up with suggested changes that will protect recreational water.

If this flawed bill gets seven out of ten votes next Wednesday, it will be introduced as is next session.

We need river recreationists willing to speak on behalf of the rivers they enjoy. Please review the talking points below, and then call as many of the interim committee members as you can and urge them to support the proposed amendments. If one of your representatives is on the committee start with him or her. (To find out who your representatives are go to <vote-smart.org>.)

Senate President Fitz-Gerald (303) 866-3342
Representative Curry (970) 209-5537
Senator Isgar (970) 385-7664
Representative White (303) 866-2537
Representative Butcher (719) 561-2746
Senator Entz (719) 754-3750
Representative Hodge (303) 659-3298
Senator Grossman (303) 866-4852
Senator Taylor (970) 879-1880
Representative Hoppe (970) 522-3237

Be sure to tell them why recreational water rights are import to Colorado's economy and quality of life. For example:

  • Whitewater recreation provides a sizable source of income for many Colorado communities.
  • The City of Golden estimates that its recreational water park brings in $1.4 million to $2 million annually. And Pueblo is seeing a return of a downtown with the construction of their Riverwalk, which includes a kayak park.
  • Water-based recreation and tourism contribute significantly to Colorado's economy and quality of life.
  • With the increasing popularity of recreational activities such as kayaking, rafting and tubing, today recreational water rights are a very important component of Colorado's water law.
  • Many paddlers from across the country came to Colorado this past season to enjoy the great on-water recreational opportunities that were available, resulting in a significant impact on local community businesses.

To see the bill (pdf) as introduced visit: <tinyurl.com/8jk3f>

Suggested amendments:

  • Ask committee members to oppose language that would limit flows to less than what is historically in the river at least 40% of the time.
  • Request that current language removing the public hearing at the Colorado Water Conservation Board stay part of the bill. This provision removes the lengthy and expensive requirement that RICD proposals go through two hearings--one at the CWCB and another at Water Court.
  • Ask committee members to clarify that this new legislation does not apply to existing water parks.
  • Request that the language regarding "control structures" be consistent with requirements for all other surface diversion structures in the state.

This alert comes to us from Kevin Natapow <kevin@cecenviro.org> (Water Caucus Coordinator, Colorado Environmental Coalition). AW is seeking volunteers willing to represent AW as this issue progresses. If you would like to represent AW on state-wide issues in Colorado please contact National Stewardship Director Kevin Colburn <kevin@amwhitewater.org>. If you learn any new information in your conversations with elected officials please let us know.

Creator of reach
Kevin Colburn
302 Donnybrook Dr
Asheville, NC 28806-9518