Statewide water agreement reached

Cliff Thompson

And just such an agreement – called the Colorado 64 Water Principles – has been reached. It will be used as a guide to crafting the state’s water policies an legislation.

The principles of the agreement are similar in significance, however, to the introduction of the Marquis of Queensbury rules in boxing, which limit the intensity of a boxing contest.

The rules were credited with bringing a small measure of civility to the sport of boxing because they required the opponents use boxing gloves and organizers break matches down into rounds of short duration. Basically, attrition drove establishment of the rules.

It’s the same now with water in Colorado, says Reeves Brown, president of Club 20, which represents the 20 Western Slope Counties and helped to forge the principles.

“Five years of drought helps build consensus,” Brown says. “We’ve never before gotten this far. A diverse group of metro and rural, east and western water users now have a basic starting point on water management.”

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The principles are specifically vague, Brown adds.

“The devil’s in the details, and we didn’t want the devil at the table – so we left the details out,” he says.

Water attorney Glenn Porzak, who has fought many water battles in and around Eagle County, says the principles are hard to criticize, indeed.

“It’s the beginning of a framing discussion, not an end-all answer,” he says, adding, however, that the lack of specificity may be both a strength and a weakness of the agreement.

“When I think back to the Clinton and Eagle Park reservoirs and things of that nature, we started with general principles like (Colorado 64) and worked through the details,” he says.

Eagle County Commissioner Tom Stone downplays the significance of the Colorado 64 principles, however.

“We’ve found that any time you come out in an adversarial approach, nobody gets anything done,” he said.

The decade-long administrative and judicial battle over the Homestake II Reservoir that proposed diversion of an additional 21,000 acre-feet of water from the headwaters of Homestake Creek, lasted nearly a decade and cost millions of dollars in legal fees. In the end, the rights of counties to control land development within their boundaries using their 1041 permitting process was upheld by the courts.

That decision, Porzak says, is more a watery landmark than is the Colorado 64 Principles.

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or

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