Grand County fishermen celebrate: Ritter signs instream flow legislation into law
Gov. Bill Ritter signed HB 1280 into law Monday.The legislation, dubbed the Protect Lease Instream Flow Water Right Bill among supporters, allows water rights owners to leave their water in a stream or river without the risk of losing it, said Kirk Klancke, Winter Park Ranch Water & Sanitation District manager.Klancke said Ritter, who is a fly fisherman, announced after signing the bill that he loves it.We knew he was going to sign it, Klancke said. It is official now We all shook hands and congratulated each other.Afterwards, Klancke told the Colorado Water Conservation Board to roll up their sleeves because theres a lot of work to be done.Water right owners can now keep water in the river by working with the state through the Colorado Water Conservation Board, an entity that since 1973 has been the only body allowed to acquire water rights for the sole purpose of letting water continue to flow downstream.The conservation board acquires these rights in a number of ways, by grants, purchases, donations or leases.Klancke plans to approach municipalities and private landowners to initiate a contract.Everyone has some water they can leave in the stream, Klancke said. Everyone doesnt need all of their water all of the time.Some people will be paid to leave their water in the stream, but others will do it for free to improve the rivers health, he said.Im just optimistic that a lot of the municipalities would be elated to have their water rights protected, he said.Legal contracts range from $5,000 to $10,000, he said. The Colorado Conservation Board has a bill in process that could raise $1 million for legal fees. Trout Unlimited also has volunteered to help with legal costs, Klancke said. This is the first water law of its kind to encourage ranchers and municipalities to keep water in the river.In 2005, American Rivers named the Fraser River the third most endangered river in America because of the amount of water diverted out of it.One of the most important beneficial uses we have is to leave our water in the stream, Klancke said. By pulling it out of the river we were weakening the health of the stream.
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