Monday, February 14, 2005
Steamboat Springs The Colorado Water Congress will support Senate Bill 62, state Sen. Jack Taylor's legislation regarding recreational in-channel diversion rights.
The group voted to support Taylor's bill Monday after hearing a presentation by Taylor and Steamboat Springs attorney Tom Sharp. "That's a broad spectrum of support from an awful lot of people who represent water interests across the state," Taylor said.
Recreational in-channel diversions were authorized under state Senate legislation in 2001. The diversions are a water right allowing municipalities and other entities to request a certain amount of streamflow to support recreational activities such as kayaking on a specific river or other waterway.
The city of Steamboat Springs has filed for a RICD on the Yampa River, requesting water rights of up to 1,700 cubic feet per second in June, the peak of kayaking season. The Steamboat Springs City Council approved spending up to $10,000 on lobbyists to defeat Taylor's bill.
Also on Monday, a Denver attorney representing Steamboat Springs in its RICD application said Steamboat would not be exempt from a cap of 350 cubic feet per second if Taylor's bill is approved. Glenn Porzak, who has represented several communities in filing RICD applications, said the language in Taylor's bill means no RICD that has not already been approved will be exempt from the cap.
Last week, Taylor announced several changes to his bill, including the cap. But he said RICD applications filed before Jan. 1, 2005, would be exempt from the cap. Steamboat Springs filed its RICD application in December 2003.
"Water diverted for a recreational in-channel diversion in excess of 350 cfs shall conclusively be deemed to be wasted and not placed to beneficial use," the bill states, "except that such limitation shall not apply to the administration of a decreed water right or conditional water right for recreational in-channel diversions purposes whose application was filed prior to Jan. 1, 2005."
The language means that the water right must be decreed in order to be exempt, Porzak said.
"(The bill) is a way to absolutely get at the Steamboat application," Porzak said. "This whole bill is crafted to look as unobtrusive as possible, but provide (RICD opponents) with a whole host of legal theories to defeat Steamboat's application and every other RICD that hasn't already been granted."
Porzak said for a water right to be decreed it must have been approved in court and survived appeals.
Steamboat Springs' application has not been approved. The Water Conservation Board, the Upper Yampa Conservancy District and upstream communities have challenged the city's application. The case is scheduled to be heard in August in district court.
City representatives have said 350 cfs is not enough for a quality recreational experience for kayakers on the Yampa. City Council President Paul Strong said 350 cfs on the Yampa provides the equivalent of a "bunny slope" to kaykers.
Taylor referred questions about the 350 cfs cap to Sharp, who was unavailable for comment Monday.
"I'm not a water attorney," Taylor said. "But I can tell you that all of these changes were an effort to compromise with Porzak. Apparently, he does not want to compromise. He just doesn't want the bill."
Porzak also argued against a portion of Taylor's bill that would require the Colorado Water Conservation Board to weigh future impacts on upstream users in considering RICD applications. Such a requirement goes against the very purpose of Colorado water law, Porzak said. "You can't deny a present use based on a future potential use," Porzak said.
Taylor's bill will be introduced Thursday in the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee. The committee meeting starts at 1:30 p.m.