Water bill sinks in House

A bill restricting recreational water rights died on the state House floor Tuesday, much to the relief of city officials.

The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Jack Taylor and was being opposed by the city of Steamboat Springs, failed on a second reading by a slim margin.

Steamboat budgeted $10,000 to lobby against the bill. It also has spent more than $200,000 in its application and fight for a recreational in-channel diversion on the Yampa River. But the bill's defeat just means one obstacle is out of the city's way; it doesn't mean the city's fight is over.

"The defeat of this bill ultimately doesn't mean we get the RICD, and that really should have been council's (focus) all along. I am glad the distraction is set aside and, mentally, we can gear up for the presentation in front of the Water Court," City Manager Paul Hughes said.

As first proposed, the bill would have severely limited the city's request for a RICD. As the bill passed through the Senate, amendments excluded Steamboat's RICD request.

RICDs are water rights that ensure a minimum stream flow in waterways for recreational uses such as kayaking.

The bill before the House on Tuesday would limit any municipality from filing for a future RICD for more than 350 cubic feet per second and would require the structure controlling the water to have two sides and a bottom.

In December 2003, the city applied for a RICD with a maximum diversion of 1,700 cfs during June, the peak of kayaking season. The city's RICD application is scheduled to be heard this summer in District 6 Water Court.

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