Let’s talk about water in the legislature


One could get the impression that there’s not much agreement on issues going on here at the Capitol.

In actuality, we should be reminded that both sides of the aisle generally agree on 80 to 85 percent of legislation.

This week, I would like to report on the work I’ve been doing on the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee, especially with respect to the water bills.

Every Monday morning, I meet with representatives of the Colorado Water Congress and continue to learn about Colorado water issues. The Colorado Water Congress is composed of various water districts, including the Southwest Water Conservancy District and the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District. At these meetings, we discuss pending legislation and significant water policy issues. Because the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee has only two lawyers out of eleven members, it is my intention to immerse myself in water issues and water law so that I can most effectively represent the 59th District. Water issues are economic issues.

SB13-041 is a bill to protect stored water and preserve supplies for draught and long term needs. Although I received some e-mails from constituents saying that this bill would encourage speculators and water hoarders to the detriment of all other users, we were able to amend the bill to ensure that the storage must be for firefighting or other applications which are rooted in an existing water right. With these amendments, SB-041 is a good bill, and I am pleased to vote in favor of it.

SB13-072 is a bill to delete the requirement for a final permit for all wells withdrawing designated ground water from the Denver basin aquifer. Essentially, many historical uses of Denver ground water were based on conditional permits, which have sustained extended historical use. Because this bill does not affect district 59 and will not result in the impairment of any of our water rights, I supported it.

HB13-1130 is a bill to address interruptible water supply agreements that authorize an agricultural user to enter into agreements for three years out of a 10-year period to “lease” their water rights to other users in times of draught or emergency need. Because this bill not only extends an existing program, but also results in the further protection of water rights that benefit agricultural lands, I supported it both in committee and on the House floor.

Another bill I supported both in committee and on the House floor is SB13-074. This bill resolves ambiguities in old water rights decrees regarding the place and use of irrigation water. To some extent, this bill and its discussion focused on the conflicts between Front Range water districts and agriculture use. After a full hearing and some amendments, we were able to pass the bill as amended. My reasoning, as with the other bills, was that this bill would add value to the rights of agricultural irrigators, provide stability to our system and encourage and protect the irrigators in the state of Colorado.

I thoroughly enjoy my work on this committee and will continue to strive to protect our agricultural and Western Slope water interests.

I have also been asked to co-sponsor the Habitat Stamp Bill with Rep. Hamner from House District 61.  As our hunters and anglers know, the habitat stamp allows for the acquisition of conservation easements, habitat acquisition and the protection of our wildlife. This bill is supported by many people in my district who understand how important it is to protect wildlife habitat for all of Colorado.

On Tuesday, I had the privilege of attending the annual Boys and Girls Club Colorado Alliance Youth of the Year awards ceremony at the Denver Art Museum. It is a wonderful organization that brings a great deal of support and opportunities to the bright young people in our state. Of the 13 award recipients this year, two were from the 59th district. Congratulations to Aleashea Prescott from the Boys and Girls Club of La Plata and Michelle Simmons from the Boys and Girls Club of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. Your hard work and bright future are an inspiration to all of us.

I continue to be honored to serve as your State Representative.  If you’d like to contact me during the legislative session, I can be reached at (303) 866-2914 or mike.mclachlan.house@state.co.us.