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State Sen. Gail Schwartz hopes to build support for an agricultural efficiency bill

August 13th, 2013

Filed under In The News

From the Aspen Daily News (Nelson Harvey):

At the center of the discussion, held by a group called the Roaring Fork Watershed Collaborative, was an agricultural efficiency measure proposed by State Sen. Gail Schwartz of Snowmass Village. Schwartz has been criss-crossing Colorado this summer building support for the legislative bill, which would allow irrigators who adopt more efficient irrigation practices to leave unused water in the stream for environmental purposes. Critically, the bill would give those who conserve the legal authority to protect their saved water from other users to the edge of their property line. That would skirt Colorado’s “use it or lose it” water doctrine, which makes unused water immediately available to the holders of more junior water rights.

The lower Crystal is one of several “pinch points” in the Roaring Fork watershed where late-season flows have dropped low enough in recent years to threaten the health of fish and other species. In 2012, flows near the Crystal River fish hatchery south of Carbondale bottomed out at a trickling 1 cfs. Those low flows are largely the result of agricultural diversions in the Crystal River Valley. Despite the fact that the Colorado River Conservation Board, a state agency, holds a “minimum streamflow” right of 100 cfs on the lower Crystal River to help preserve stream health, the river seldom flows that high in the late summer and fall…

The irrigation measure that Schwartz is pushing is not new — it was dropped from a piece of water conservation legislation that she passed in 2012, due to strong opposition from cities and farmers on the Front Range. Those interests, represented by a group called the Colorado Water Congress, worried that Schwartz’s bill could be used to lock up water that would otherwise be available for diversion from the Western Slope to the eastern part of the state. They also showed a general resistance to any change in Colorado water management, according to Roger Wilson, a former Colorado representative from House District 61 who chaired Thursday’s water meeting…

The average water in Colorado is used five or six times on its way to the state line, according to Nichols, so any change to state water law is bound to be contentious. Still, Schwartz is hoping that the atmosphere during this year’s legislative session will be different. “I think we’ve changed the tone of the conversation [since last year],” she said. “The ag community is more engaged now than they were … we all know our economies rely on the flows in our rivers…

Schwartz is meeting with Front Range agricultural and municipal interests in Denver on Sept. 26-27, in an attempt to win their support for her irrigation efficiency bill.

http://coyotegulch.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/state-sen-gail-schwartz-hopes-to-build-support-for-an-agricultural-efficiency-bill-coleg/

State Sen. Gail Schwartz hopes to build support for an agricultural efficiency bill

From the Aspen Daily News (Nelson Harvey):

At the center of the discussion, held by a group called the Roaring Fork Watershed Collaborative, was an agricultural efficiency measure proposed by State Sen. Gail Schwartz of Snowmass Village. Schwartz has been criss-crossing Colorado this summer building support for the legislative bill, which would allow irrigators who adopt more efficient irrigation practices to leave unused water in the stream for environmental purposes. Critically, the bill would give those who conserve the legal authority to protect their saved water from other users to the edge of their property line. That would skirt Colorado’s “use it or lose it” water doctrine, which makes unused water immediately available to the holders of more junior water rights.

The lower Crystal is one of several “pinch points” in the Roaring Fork watershed where late-season flows have dropped low enough in recent years to threaten the health of fish and other species. In 2012, flows near the Crystal River fish hatchery south of Carbondale bottomed out at a trickling 1 cfs. Those low flows are largely the result of agricultural diversions in the Crystal River Valley. Despite the fact that the Colorado River Conservation Board, a state agency, holds a “minimum streamflow” right of 100 cfs on the lower Crystal River to help preserve stream health, the river seldom flows that high in the late summer and fall…

The irrigation measure that Schwartz is pushing is not new — it was dropped from a piece of water conservation legislation that she passed in 2012, due to strong opposition from cities and farmers on the Front Range. Those interests, represented by a group called the Colorado Water Congress, worried that Schwartz’s bill could be used to lock up water that would otherwise be available for diversion from the Western Slope to the eastern part of the state. They also showed a general resistance to any change in Colorado water management, according to Roger Wilson, a former Colorado representative from House District 61 who chaired Thursday’s water meeting…

The average water in Colorado is used five or six times on its way to the state line, according to Nichols, so any change to state water law is bound to be contentious. Still, Schwartz is hoping that the atmosphere during this year’s legislative session will be different. “I think we’ve changed the tone of the conversation [since last year],” she said. “The ag community is more engaged now than they were … we all know our economies rely on the flows in our rivers…

Schwartz is meeting with Front Range agricultural and municipal interests in Denver on Sept. 26-27, in an attempt to win their support for her irrigation efficiency bill.

http://coyotegulch.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/state-sen-gail-schwartz-hopes-to-build-support-for-an-agricultural-efficiency-bill-coleg/