Whitewater bill passes state Senate
Senate Bill 62, a controversial bill which would limit recreational water rights, passed through the Colorado Senate by one vote Feb. 28.In order to become law, the bill will have to pass through the House of Representatives, but no timetable has been announced yet for that vote.The bill was presented by Sen. Jack Taylor of Colorado’s District 8 (which includes Eagle County), as an effort to define what “reasonable use” of a recreational water right should be. The bill limits all recreational water rights to 350 cubic feet per second (cfs) or less, and requires a control structure (essentially a dam) to be placed in the river to “control” the river.Vail Resorts, the Town of Vail, Eagle River Water and Sanitation, County Commissioners Arn Menconi and Peter Runyon, along with a statewide group of tourism and recreation entities, have come out against the bill, saying it threatens the recreation industry.County Commissioner Tom Stone voted to support the bill through his role on the Colorado River Water Conservation District.Recreational water rights came into being in 2001, when the state assembly passed Bill 216. The rights are called Recreational In-Channel Diversions (RICDs), and are necessary in order to create a legal, in-channel water park. Eagle River Water and Sanitation and the Town of Vail have a water right for 400 cfs at the Vail Whitewater Park. In a last-minute amendment, existing water parks (such as Vail’s) were grandfathered into the new bill, so they won’t be affected by the 350 cfs rule if the law passes.Water attorney Glenn Porzak, who is leading opposition to the bill, said it will be more difficult to pass the bill through the House of Representatives than it was to pass it through the Senate.The bill has found support in agricultural communities, Front Range Municipalities, and among developers. The current legislation, Senate Bill 216, allows for more of Colorado’s water to stay in-channel. If Senate Bill 62 passes, developers and other consumptive water users will increase their opportunities to pull water from the streambed. TB
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