Commissioners mull water bill

Colorado municipalities no longer will be able to obtain large water diversions for kayaking, if a bill the state Senate passed Monday becomes a law.

Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, authored the bill, which, if passed by the state House, will limit future in-current diversion requests for recreational uses such as kayaking to no more than 350 cubic feet per second.

"This bill is an attempt to define some reasonable parameters for recreational diversions before it's too late," Taylor wrote to the Craig Daily Press. "If we don't act, those diversions could threaten not only rural needs for water but also the needs of the cities that are trying to support recreational water uses."

Rocky Mountain communities such as Steamboat Springs, Gunnison and Salida are seeking recreational water diversion rights to ensure that kayaking parks maintain sufficient stream flows.

But communities such as Golden have requested -- and been granted by the courts -- water diversions that exceed the average monthly flow of their streams, according to Chris Treese of the Colorado River Water Conservation District. Golden's request of 1,000 cfs in Clear Creek during April has been recorded only once.

"Generally, (recreational in-current diversion) appropriators want to file for peak flows, but in so doing file for single, month-long flows. These often represent an amount in excess of what is, in fact, in the stream on an average day. Consequently, no one upstream has any opportunity to develop a new water right with the stream 100 percent controlled by the (recreational in-current diversion)," Treese said.

The Moffat County commissioners will consider supporting Sen. Jack Taylor's bill at their meeting today.

After the Senate's approval, the bill will advance to the state House.

Taylor's bill would not effect water rights applications filed before Feb. 17 of this year. That includes Steamboat's application for the right to divert as much water as 1,700 cfs during early spring.

The Steamboat City Council has allocated $10,000 to lobby against Taylor's bill.

The City Council says the bill would hurt the kayaking tourist industry.

The commissioners will consider whether to support the bill at 10:45 a.m.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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