Session “eerily quiet” as work proceeds


Kelly Sloan

Kelly Sloan, The Business Times

Western Slope lawmakers describe the legislative session as “eerily quiet” even as they detailed some of the measures in which they’re involved.

State Rep. Jared Wright and State Sen. Steve King, both Republicans from Grand Junction, joined State Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, and State Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango at the latest legislative briefing hosted by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.

Coram discussed a proposed bill to use water produced in oil and natural gas production and stored in evaporation ponds to be used for dust mitigation. He said current regulations from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) apply drinking water standards to such uses.

Coram also discussed a measure to prohibit an entity, such as a federal government agency, from demanding that a party relinquish privately owned water rights as a condition for issuing or renewing a special use permit or right-of-way. The bill stems from a move by the U.S. Forest Service last year to require Powderhorn Ski Resort to turn over water rights to the agency as a condition to renewing the permit for the resort. Although a U.S. District Court judge overturned the Forest Service’s demand on procedural grounds last December, the agency has initiated steps to reinstate the rule.

Mesa County Commissioner Steve Aquafresca said the Colorado River District supported the intent of the bill, but opposed the wording of the legislation as initially drafted. “The River District is adamantly opposed to what the Forest Service is doing, as it subverts state water law and private property rights,” Aquafresca said, characterizing the agency’s actions as “egregious.” He said the river district was a party to the lawsuit that temporarily overturned the rule, but added that the proposed bill  “was so poorly worded that it posed some unintended consequences on private water rights holders.”

Coram said the bill had been amended in committee.