Taylor co-sponsors basin of origin bill

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State Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, has co-sponsored a bill aimed at protecting basins of origin when water is transferred from one area to another.

Taylor is sponsoring House Bill 1040 with Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa.

"They just can't come and say, 'OK, we're going to take your water,'" Taylor said. "We want to give a little guidance as to say when (a transfer of water) happens, there would be some consultation with the affected parties."

The bill would require mitigation of economic, social and environmental losses suffered by the basin of origin in a water transfer.

Mitigation would come in the form of financial compensation, construction of new storage systems or other measures, Taylor said.

The idea for the bill came out of Referendum A, a proposal to create a $2 billion loan program to finance water projects that failed during the 2003 election. Taylor opposed Referendum A.

Referendum A failed in part, Taylor said, because there was no basin of origin protection.

Without basin of origin protection, Taylor envisions a Yampa Valley in which water used to irrigate fields is sold, turning hay fields into fields of sagebrush and harming the agricultural and tourism economies.

The bill protecting basins of origin should be attractive to residents of Colorado's eastern and western slopes, Taylor said.

"I maintain (that) people on the Eastern Slope should be as concerned about maintaining these basins as people on the Western Slope because they love to come over and play in these valleys," he said.

Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said the bill was hotly debated during talks at a meeting of Colorado Counties Inc. attended by representatives from many of Colorado's 63 counties.

When a vote was taken to determine whether the organization should support the bill, there was a one vote spread. Western counties, he said, supported the bill.

Although Routt County doesn't have many opportunities to export water, Monger said he supports the bill because, "it would make sure that certain impacts would be addressed during the decree phase and not just whitewashed and not just slipped under the rug."

The bill was introduced to the House and assigned to the Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee on Jan. 7.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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