Over the last few weeks, a handful of new and more complex bills have popped onto the horizon.
One of these new bills, which CWC supports, is HB17-1233, Protect Water Historical Consumptive Use Analysis. This bill seeks to prevent water that has been part of an approved conservation program, including pilot programs, from being lost through a calculation of historic consumptive use and expands this application beyond divisions 4, 5 and 6 (under previous law) to allow statewide application. This bill is expected to be through both chambers by the end of the week.
A second bill dealing with historical consumptive use is HB17-1289, State Engineer Rules Historical Consumptive Use. When a water right owner wishes to change a water right–whether a temporary change approved by the state engineer or a permanent change approved by a water judge–the determination of the amount of water that can be loaned or changed relies on a calculation of the historical consumptive use of that right. This bill is proposed by the State Engineer’s Office to provide a tool which may be used on a voluntary basis by applicants for a change in water right, although resulting calculations will carry no presumptive weight. The bill directs the State Engineer’s office to develop a methodology and prescribed approach that can be used to calculate historical consumptive use of a water right. Various factors, such as hydrology and soil moisture, are set forth as guidance for an historical consumptive use analysis including the lease fallowing tool used to analyze applications for fallowing and leasing pilot projects. CWC voted on this bill on Monday, April 10, and was unable to reach a position. Our State Affairs Committee requires a two-thirds vote to take a position on a bill, and it sometimes happens to be the most complex or contentious issue on which we’re unable to reach agreement
CWC is also working on a handful of bills that at first glance, do not appear to be typical water bills, however upon further inspection, could have a powerful impact on our water community, therefore, have occupied much of our energy lately. These bills include SB17-40 and SB17-235.
SB-40, Public Access to Government Files, applies CORA requirements to a variety of electronic files retained by governmental entities including state agencies, special districts, institutions of higher education, counties and municipalities. New definitions are added to cover the type of information stored in cell format (structured data) as well as documents and requires custodians of records to provide the information to requestors in searchable format. CWC provided opposition testimony and has also worked on amendment language to make the bill more palatable, if passed, to our members who are water suppliers.
CWC was originally opposed to this bill, but on Monday, April 10, our State Affairs Committee voted to reconsider it, and then to support it if the amendment we worked on, which was added in the Senate, is included in the final version. Our motion also carries that caveat that if our amendment language is removed, we will return to an oppose position and focus our lobbying efforts in that manner. The House sponsor, Rep. Dan Pabon, has called together a group of about twenty-five stakeholders to work with each other and share potential amendments, however it appears that opponents and proponents are having difficulty coming to an agreement. The next stakeholder meeting is on Thursday afternoon, April 13. Some proponents are hoping to pull any amendments added in the Senate from the bill, which would include CWC’s water infrastructure amendment. If the bill survives the House, it will go back to the Senate for concurrence or adherence, at which point CWC’s amendment may be added back into the bill, should it be stripped in the next week or so. CWC will cover this bill during our May webinar, so stay tuned!
SB17-235, Pilot Project Seaplanes in State Parks, which sought to allow Seaplanes to land on state park lakes, was postponed indefinitely in Senate Ag Committee on April 6. CWC opposed this bill and met with sponsors, House and Senate Ag Committee members, and proponents throughout the legislative process to discuss why this bill would have been detrimental to the water community. Current law only permits seaplanes to land on Lake Meredith and Kenny Reservoir. CWC opposed this bill because allowing seaplanes, which could potentially carry the aquatic nuisance species, Zebra and Quagga mussels on their pontoons to land on our state lakes, could infect our waterways and delivery systems and create an environmental and economic disaster for Colorado. The bill offers no remediation if a pilot infects a waterway, which is almost impossible to pinpoint. Colorado cannot risk the infiltration of these invasive species, and allowing seaplanes to land on our state park lakes poses that risk.
In the same vein, HJR-1004, Funding for Prevention of Aquatic Nuisance Species has passed through both houses of the legislature, and asks Congress to provide funding for boat inspection and decontamination stations. CWC supports this resolution, and the ANS issue is also on our Federal Affairs’ Committee radar.
With only 28 days left in the 120-day legislative session (but who’s counting?) and several new bills, there is much work to be done with bill sponsors, stakeholders, and our members to ensure that CWC is promoting healthy water legislation that will protect and enhance our water community.
Stay tuned for our May Webinar which will focus on the 2017 legislative session.
To see all the legislation that CWC is tracking and our positions, please visit www.cowatercongress.org/state-issues.html