LETTER: No move by feds to control state water
I’m pretty amazed with the continued lack of understanding about how water works in Colorado by our elected officials.
Minimum in-stream flow rights, like any other water right, are held within the state’s system of priority. While these rights are intended to protect the environment “to a reasonable degree,” they are usually very junior and are often called out, doing no good whatsoever for their intended purpose.
I was also surprised at comments made by Commissioner Martin. He seems to think that if you have a gun it’s OK to act outside the law and take water. So Garfield County is the Wild West where we glorify outlaws? John, this isn’t a movie.
Commissioner Martin also shares an unwarranted paranoia about the federal government. There is no “move to make sure that all water in Colorado is controlled by the federal government.” That’s just tea party nonsense and is simply not true. The federal government can obtain water rights for beneficial use on public lands that they manage, just like anyone else in Colorado. That right is guaranteed in the state Constitution, which says that the right to divert water from a natural stream to a beneficial use “shall never be denied.” This applies to anyone, including the feds. Like any other water user in Colorado, the feds need to obtain a water right, through the state Water Court, and are subject to state laws regarding water. They can’t simply “move” to take over all the water in Colorado.
Just because water might be needed for federally owned public lands doesn’t automatically mean it’s evil. Sometimes those federal uses and rights are pretty senior in the appropriation system. The federal government has been managing the lands that we all own for a long time. Legitimate water needs by the feds or the environment aren’t any less “beneficial,” necessary or legal.
We have these laws for a reason. That stock pond diversion without recognized water rights needs to get properly adjudicated. Who knows, it might turn out to be pretty senior. But leave the guns at home.
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