RICD trial begins
October 17, 2005
The city of Steamboat Springs and the Colorado Water Conservation Board were in court Monday for the first day of a scheduled seven-day trial about the city’s recreational water right application.
The city filed for a recreational water right on the C and D kayaking holes on the Yampa River in December 2003. Recreational water rights ensure a minimum stream flow in a waterway for recreational uses such as kayaking, rafting and tubing.
Monday’s District Water Court session opened with a series of motions, one of which could prove to be important for the city. Judge Michael O’Hara decided that the court would disregard the state’s claim that the recreational water right application, if granted, could have an effect on future river users.
The state’s claim is important because it has to do with two requirements the city must meet to be granted the water right. One requirement, called maximum utilization, means that the city’s right, if granted, would promote the best use of water as a resource. The state was attempting to prove that the city would not meet maximum utilization because the recreational uses could affect future water users.
Glenn Porzak, the city’s water attorney, told O’Hara that he thought the state’s claim was speculative.
Paul Benington, representing the CWCB, said that speculation is required on the part of the state.
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“Maximum utility’s all about what’s going to happen in the future,” Benington said. “The CWCB is required to consider that.”
O’Hara said he agreed with the city. The state did not explain what potential problems future users could create, he said.
The other requirement the city must meet is called “reach,” which means that the city must prove that the section of river in question is being used for specific recreational purposes. The city already has met three other requirements needed for the water right.
In the city’s opening statement, Porzak provided some background about the development of the section of the Yampa River that contains the C and D holes. He also went through a list of about 15 witnesses he planned to call to testify, naming each witness and describing the topic the witness would address.
In the state’s opening statement, attorney Susan Schneider said the city has gone too far in asking that the section of Yampa River in question not only provide quality recreation, but that it become a world-class summer sports destination.
Also Monday, the city called its first witness, Michael Neumann, the former open spaces supervisor for the city.
Neumann testified that river sports attract many out-of-town tourists, who create sales tax revenues that boost the city’s economy.
Kayaking holes C and D, which were built in 2003 and 2001, respectively, have enhanced the recreational experience people have on the river, Neumann said. He said he has seen people ride their tubes through the holes, get out, and ride through them again.
“They’ve been hugely popular and successful ever since they were built,” he said.
The trial is set to resume today with more testimony from Neumann.
— To reach Dana Strongin, call 871-4229 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.