Bill will strengthen programs for protecting and enhancing rivers
Colorado Council, TU
303/440-2937 x. 12
4/26/2002 -- Denver, Colo. -- By a 38-25 vote, the Colorado House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 156, a bill that will allow the State to acquire or accept donations of senior water rights to improve the health of Colorado’s rivers.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Ken Gordon (Denver) and Representative Matt Smith (Grand Junction), makes it clear for the first time in Colorado’s history that the state, through the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s instream flow program, can acquire water or accept donations of water in amounts appropriate to improve currently degraded environments. Current law limited acquired or donated instream flows to only minimum flows for the preservation of the environment. The bill also authorizes the CWCB to use any of its funding sources, except for the Construction Fund, on instream flow acquisitions and donations.
“This is the most significant legislation for Colorado’s rivers in 15 years,” said David Nickum, Executive Director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “It gives Colorado a powerful new tool to improve the health of its rivers, which is good for the fish, for the anglers, and for the economy.” Fishing in Colorado generates $1.3 billion in economic activity each year.
As introduced, the bill would have allowed individuals or entities other than the CWCB to convert their water rights to instream use. That provision provoked many opponents, and was removed in negotiations between Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Greg Walcher and Senator Gordon in early March. Since its revision the bill has won approval in the Colorado Senate and has gained the support of the governor, the Colorado Water Congress, and a number of groups including Club 20, Denver Water, the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, the Colorado River Water Conservation District, Environmental Defense, and Clean Water Action.
“We’re delighted that the bill passed the House,” said Melinda Kassen, Director of the Colorado Water Project. “Many rivers in Colorado are depleted, and this bill takes the vital step of allowing CWCB to enhance those degraded streams and not just preserve the status quo.”
One minor amendment was added to the bill by the House, so the revised bill will now return to the Senate for consideration. If the Senate accepts the revised bill, it will be forwarded to the Governor for signature.
Trout Unlimited is the nation's leading coldwater conservation organization and is dedicated to the protection and enhancement of trout and salmon rivers and streams and their watersheds. The organization has over 125,000 members in North America, including 8,200 members in Colorado.
For more information: Melinda Kassen 303/440-2937 x. 11