South Platte bill a victory for whole state

The Durango Herald

The unanimous passage of House Bill 16-1256, the South Platte River Water Storage bill, shows that the Colorado Legislature can put politics aside, come together, and get behind an issue that is critical to every square inch and every person in Colorado. I don’t call HB 1256 my bill; it is our bill – all of Colorado’s.

I am especially grateful to the majority leadership in the House and a few House Democrats who got behind the bill, early on, when it was first heard in the House Agriculture, Livestock, and Natural Resources Committee. The majority had first planned to send it to the House State Affairs Committee, known as a “kill committee” and I am thankful that the leadership was willing to listen to me and send it instead to the Agriculture Committee. I am also appreciative of those in my own party who rarely vote for anything that will cost money but can see the need for water storage and its beneficial use which otherwise is wasting out of the state.

Also, I want to thank the water community: Colorado Water Congress, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the state engineer’s office, agriculture, environmentalists, towns, cities, counties, businesses, water districts, water roundtables and water utilities from the Western Slope, Front Range, Eastern Plains and every corner of the state of Colorado for their support.

Finally, I want to thank all of those who spent hours and hours putting together the Colorado Water Plan. One e-mail I received said that HB 1256 “put life into the water plan.” I sincerely hope and pray that the bill will help us to find the answer to our water needs of year 2050 and beyond.

Colorado is making history with the House passage of HB 1256. We have always depended on Washington, D.C., for our water storage needs. It is plain to see that we can’t depend on the federal government to take care of us, nor should we. Last year, almost 2 million acre feet of water wasted out of Colorado in the South Platte River – water that could have been stored and put to beneficial use in Colorado. This is water that can be used to stop the buying of water for municipal needs and drying of productive Agriculture land. It will help to sustain agriculture, which is the second leading industry in the State, contributing $40.3 billion to our economy. It is water that can be used to satisfy the urban needs for water created by the population growth on the Front Range of approximately 15,000 people per month. And it is water that will curb the need for Western Slope transcontinental diversions leaving more water in the streams of the Colorado River Basin. The amount of water stored and banked in Lake Powell on the Colorado River and used to satisfy the entitlement and demands of California, Arizona and Nevada, is at an all-time low.

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg will usher HB 1256 through the Senate. Again I want to thank all of those that helped.

J. Paul Brown represents House District 59 in Colorado’s General Assembly. The district encompasses La Plata, Archuleta, San Juan, Ouray and Hinsdale counties and part of Gunnison County. Reach him at