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Water Blog

A blog that focuses on legal developments affecting the water community in Colorado and other western states.  We also post news about water rights, water quality, and natural resources.  If you have a suggestion for a post, please contact us.


Grand County secures grant funding for whitewater park on Colorado River

Posted February 8, 2013

On January 29, 2013 the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) approved Grand County’s application to fund a portion of the County’s planned Gore Canyon Whitewater Park at Pumphouse on the Colorado River in the amount of $500,000.  Grand County has already invested matching funds and will also make additional investments to the project.  The Whitewater Park will include in-channel structures that will provide “park and play” recreational opportunities and attract boaters and spectators to promote tourism, new jobs and boost the local economy.  The County is in the process of adjudicating a recreational in channel diversion water right (RICD) for the Whitewater Park.  A water right for the Whitewater Park—which will be the first RICD water right on the Colorado mainstem—is an important component of implementing the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement.  An RICD water right provides protection to water in a flowing stream to be used for non-motorized boating recreation, and is essential to both protecting the County’s investment in the Whitewater Park and preserving its priority under Colorado law.  The County has worked closely with the CWCB and local water users to ensure that concerns regarding the Whitewater Park and its water rights are addressed, and has been successful in this collaborative approach to securing broad support for the project.  The CWCB’s grant of funding of this rural, recreational project demonstrates the CWCB’s commitment to supporting non-consumptive beneficial use projects in Colorado.

New Colorado Supreme Court decision re: corrections to water decree

Posted January 22, 2013

The Colorado Supreme Court opinion in Town of Minturn v. Tucker involved the issue of whether the trial court could correct substantive errors in a decree regarding consumptive use factors, and whether correction of those errors was an improper modification of a stipulation entered into with opposers of Minturn’s application.  Minturn had stipulated (agreed without a trial) to a decree that contained certain consumptive use factors used to limit diversions of Minturn’s water rights to new uses.  After entry of the decree, Minturn realized that some of the factors were incorrect, and petitioned the water court to correct the errors.  Only one opposer to Minturn’s application, Tucker, objected to the proposed correction, arguing that the change violated its stipulation with Minturn because it modified the stipulated terms.  The water court corrected the decree and Tucker appealed.

 The Colorado Supreme Court upheld the water court’s decision and concluded that a “no less restrictive” clause in a stipulation did not prohibit the water court from entering a decree with terms and conditions differing from those in the stipulation.  The Colorado Supreme Court held that the intent of the stipulation was to prevent injury by using consumptive use factors predicated on Minturn’s actual usage, so the correction of the factors to correspond to that actual usage was consistent with the stipulation.  Under this opinion, water courts may consider the intent of the parties in determining whether a decree is contrary to a stipulation and will not automatically find a violation if the decree differs from the stipulation.  Read the full court opinion here.

Minute Order 319 establishes new Colorado River sharing for U.S. and Mexico

Posted December 20, 2012

On November 20, 2012, the United States and Mexico signed Minute Order 319 (an amendment to the 1944 Water Treaty) and embarked on a five-year venture to improve Colorado River management.  Under Minute Order 319, the United States will allow Mexico to store limited volumes of water in Lake Mead, and both countries will share water in times of surplus and shortage.  The agreement also outlines mechanisms to promote environmental benefits, including restoration projects, and promises that a pulse flow will reach the Colorado River delta.  Minute Order 319 also provides for United States investment in water infrastructure in return for a one-time allotment of 124,000 acre-feet of water from Mexico.  Through these and other measures, both countries hope to increase regional climate change resilience.

While Colorado water users are unlikely to feel immediate effects from Minute Order 319, the bi-national agreement is an example of the same negotiated approach to water shortages that is taking place throughout Colorado.  Although certain water disputes will continue to require judicial resolution, we are encouraged whenever parties come together to develop agreements for sharing water resources.

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