Colorado Legislature may take sides in Forest Service-ski industry water rights showdown

Interim committee of Colorado lawmakers to grapple with several water-related bills this week.

Interim review committee to discuss several water measures this week

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado lawmakers may weigh in on a dispute between the ski industry and the U.S. Forest Service with a resolution opposing the federal agency’s efforts to protect publicly owned water rights originating on national forest lands.

The proposed resolution, under review by an interim legislative committee, would oppose a new Forest Service water rights clause in ski area special use permits that would bar resorts from transferring certain water rights to third  parties.

The Forest Service clause also requires ski areas to transfer certain water rights to the United States or to subsequent special permit use holders if a permit is terminated.

The measure is one of several water bills on the agenda during a session of the interim Water Resources Review Committee. The bills will be discussed by lawmakers Thursday (Sept. 27) morning, with public testimony in the afternoon. The session will be streamed on the web. Go to this Colorado Legislature website and click on the House Committee 0112 link.

Links to all the proposed bills are listed at this Colorado Legislature web page (scroll down to the bottom).

One of the bills includes language that would guarantee water-rights owners a right-of-way through lands between the point of diversion and where the water is used.

Another bill under consideration, possibly prompted by this year’s drought conditions, could clarify when so-called graywater could be reused. The proposed bill includes a definition of graywater, “as water from sources within a residential, commercial, or industrial building that requires little or no treatment to meet the requirements, prohibitions, or standards for subsequent use adopted by the division of administration (division) in the department of public health …”

The measure would authorize the state to adopt guidance, including best management practices, for the use of graywater, and would also give counties and municipalities the discretion to authorize graywater use.

Yet another measure addresses enforcement of permit terms by ground water management districts for small-capacity well permits.

Another issue that comes up perennially is the use of severance tax funds for water infrastructure improvements, and one of the proposed bills claims that diversions of “significant sums from their originally intended purposes has had a devastating effect on the maintenance and development of water infrastructure in Colorado.”

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One Response

  1. [...] From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn): The proposed resolution, under review by an interim legislative committee, would oppose a new Forest Service water rights clause in ski area special use permits that would bar resorts from transferring certain water rights to third parties. The Forest Service clause also requires ski areas to transfer certain water rights to the United States or to subsequent special permit use holders if a permit is terminated. The measure is one of several water bills on the agenda during a session of the interim Water Resources Review Committee. The bills will be discussed by lawmakers Thursday (Sept. 27) morning, with public testimony in the afternoon. The session will be streamed on the web. Go to this Colorado Legislature website and click on the House Committee 0112 link… [...]

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