Water board aims to delay case

Water conservation board seeks ruling on Gunnison case first

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The Colorado Water Conservation Board has asked the Division 6 Water Court to wait to hear the city's water rights application until a final decision has been made in a Gunnison case.

On June 15, the state water board filed a motion to stay proceedings, stating the issues argued by the city for recreational water rights are the same issues that are before the Colorado Supreme Court in the Gunnison case.

Both recreational water right applicants have debated the constitutionality of Senate Bill 216, which requires the state water board to make a recommendation to the court on all recreational water rights and limits the amount requested "to the minimum amount necessary for a reasonable recreational experience."

Steamboat and Gunnison also have argued that the water board is acting outside its authority.

On May 27, the conservation board made a decision to recommend the court deny the city's water rights application, which filed for water rights on the Yampa River for two river structures: the D Hole and Charlie's Hole.

The two structures are kayaking play holes, but the city's application indicates that the water right also would benefit other recreational uses such as boating, tubing, rafting, floating and canoeing.

The city's application has a maximum request for 1,700 cubic feet per second in the first half of June and a minimum request for 120 cfs from July 15 to Oct. 31.

In December, the Division 4 Water Court granted the city of Gunnison its full recreational water right request.

In the Gunnison case, the water board approved the application, but under the condition it lower its request to 250 cfs. The Gunnison Conservancy District requested a maximum of 1,500 cfs and a minimum of 270 cfs for the Gunnison White Water Park.

The Colorado State Water Board has appealed that decision. The state water board is asking the court to hold off on hearing the Steamboat case until the issues are resolved at the Supreme Court level.

"A stay would reduce the issues that would need to be tried, thereby reducing the scope, length and expense of any trial. Until those issues are definitely resolved, it would be a great waste of time and resources to try this case in water court prior to a ruling on constitutionality of SB 216 and the proper role of the CWCB in RICD cases," the water board's motion reads.

The motion also states that the city has indicated it is interested in pursuing a settlement with the water conservation board, as it did with the Longmont and Pueblo cases. The motion to stay the case would give both parties time to pursue settlement and avoid trial, the motion states.

While the motion said the stay would benefit the city of Steamboat Springs, the city's water attorney, Glenn Porzak, said the city is objecting to it.

The city also is working on settlements with those who have opposed the city recreational water rights application.

City Attorney Tony Lettunich told the council that the city has been moving ahead with the settlement discussions.

Lettunich did not comment on the specifics of the settlements but said they are similar to what the council had discussed previously.


-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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