Request denied for Weld County farms to pump wells
June 20, 2012
GREELEY, Colo. (AP) — Gov. John Hickenlooper has denied a request to let Weld County farmers temporarily pump water from irrigation wells in the South Platte River basin, as farms try to save their crops from drought.
The state’s courts have ruled that farmers who take water from underground wells must replace what they take, so that there’s enough water left for holders of senior water rights. That’s been difficult in dry conditions.
Weld County commissioners this month issued a disaster declaration due to drought conditions and asked Hickenlooper to issue an executive order easing restrictions on pumping. Attorneys with the state attorney general’s office said in an informal memo Monday that Hickenlooper doesn’t have that authority. They said Hickenlooper can suspend state laws and rules but not judicial orders, judgments or decrees. They also said an order like one Weld County is seeking could create conflicts with Colorado water law.
Weld County commissioners said Tuesday they disagree but understand Hickenlooper is in a tough position.
“Pray for rain for the farmers,” County Commissioner Sean Conway said. “That is really all we are left with now.”