Proposed measure favors West Slope residents

Sen. Jack Taylor sponsors water storage bill addressing mitigation issues

State Sen. Jack Taylor of Steamboat Springs is sponsoring a bill that aims to reintroduce a water storage measure Colorado voters overwhelmingly squashed in the last election cycle.

But Taylor's proposal differs from Gov. Bill Owens' failed Referendum A because it addresses mitigation for a basin of origin when water is diverted away from it, the senator said.

Critics of Owens' water storage bill said the proposal would have benefited the thirsty Front Range cities without offering reward to the western half of the state where much of the water resides.

Voters crushed Referendum A by a vote of 578,704 to 288,191.

"Basin of origin protection is one thing that never got on the (Referendum A) ballot and that's one reason it failed," Taylor said. "There's nothing in place right now that protects the Western Slope."

Water from the Yampa River, which runs through Steamboat Springs, and the Green River, which travels through northwest Colorado, probably wouldn't be diverted over the Continental Divide, Taylor said.

But other waterways nearer the Front Range may be drawn down as the demand for water there increases. That would leave less for the Western Slope, which depends on water for agriculture and tourism needs, he said.

"I like to believe that people on the east are just as concerned about the future of water here as we are," Taylor said. "They visit here and if it's not green they're not going to come."

But Taylor predicted a long journey for House Bill 1040. He plans to draft a formal proposal in a couple weeks, after which it will have to pass through the House, Senate and the governor's desk.

"There's not a unanimous vote on this anywhere," Taylor said. "We just want to have a seat at the table."

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at ahatten@craigdailypress.com

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