2016 #coleg: HB16-1005 (Rain Barrels) is on its way to Gov. Hickenlooper’s desk

From The Denver Post (Joey Bunch):

“As a farmer’s daughter, I’m proud to have helped pass this common-sense water-conservation measure,” said Rep. Jessie Danielson, a Democrat from Wheat Ridge who was one of the bill’s sponsors.

Conservation groups hope the legislation encourages Coloradans to capture and use runoff from their rooftops on their lawns and gardens to help people recognize that water is a precious resource in this arid state, compared to the amount they would have used from their garden hoses, otherwise.

Photo via the Colorado Independent
Photo via the Colorado Independent

2016 #coleg: HB16-1005 (Rain barrels) passes initial Sen. vote

Photo from the Colorado Independent.
Photo from the Colorado Independent.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

Though many homeowners already do it, Colorado residents soon could be able to use rain barrels — legally — to collect water from their rooftops under a bill that won preliminary approval in the Colorado Senate on Thursday…

Sen. Michael Merrifield, D-Manitou Springs, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said the measure has been altered to address as many concerns as possible to comply with Colorado’s complicated water laws, including making it clear that the use of rain barrels does not constitute a water right.

Merrifield said a chief benefit of the bill is it will help educate Colorado residents about the importance of water, and how it is the life-blood of the state.

“It allows urban residents to connect themselves to the water system of our state,” he said. “We are not blessed with a huge amount of water. The more our urban residents understand the system, the better for all users.”

Under the bill, rain collection is limited to above-ground barrels and only for rooftops of single-family homes. It also bars homeowners’ associations from banning such barrels, although they are allowed to make rules governing the appearance of the barrels that are used.

While no one spoke out against the bill when it won a voice vote on the floor of the Senate, Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, expressed his opposition to the measure when it cleared the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources & Energy Committee on Wednesday.

“My concern here is that if indeed we have rain barrels that may cause depletions out of order of priority storage … the next person in line would be the one curtailed,” Sonnenberg said. “That’s a concern for me, given that agriculture has 85 percent of the water.”

To help address that issue, the bill was amended to require the State Engineer’s Office to report to the Legislature by 2019 whether there is any evidence that the use of rain barrels has caused injury to downstream users.

Also opposing the measure in committee were Sens. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, and Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs. Supporting it from the Western Slope included Sens. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, and Ellen Roberts, R-Durango.

The bill requires a final Senate vote before it heads to the governor’s office. It passed the House last month on a 63-1 vote.

No “Buy and Dry” and sprawl for Berthoud area farm

Berthoud Auto Storage back in the day
Berthoud Auto Storage back in the day

From the Berthoud Surveyor (John Gardner):

The property will continue to be farmed by a lease agreement with proceeds going back to the county’s Open Lands Department. This deal satisfies the sister’s dream of keeping the property a working farm.

“We just couldn’t stand to see it developed,” [Peggy] Malchow Sass said. “Knowing that it’s going to stay a farm is really satisfying to us.”

The water for the property fills the Handy Ditch that gets water from the Big Thompson River, Malchow Sass said, adding that it’s positive to keep the water with the land, not only for the farm, but for all the other nearby ranches and farms that utilize the Handy Ditch water.

“By leaving the water in the ditch enables many farmers along the way to get their water more easily; the more water there is in the ditch the more easily it is for farmers to get their water,” she said. “That’s a benefit directly to the Berthoud area.”

Per the agreement, the water will continue to be used on the property seven out of 10 years but will also be available to local municipalities during times of drought. Acquiring the water rights is an innovative aspect of the purchase, according to Larimer County Commissioner Tom Donnelly.

“I think this is a great opportunity to really talk about what we want to do with water and how we want to see water addressed,” Donnelly said. “The last thing we want to see is a lot of irrigated farm land bought then dried up. We want to make sure that we keep some of those resources with the land so that they can be used in perpetuity.”

Craig Godbout, program manager for the Colorado Water Conservancy Board’s Alternative Transfer Methods grant program, agreed with Donnelly, saying the CWCB’s mission is to help preserve irrigated Ag land. And this is one of the first agreements that will have the water available for use by municipalities during time of drought.

“[Agriculture] is our second biggest industry contributing to our economy here in the state, and this project fits in really well with the state water plan because it helps close that municipal-industrial gap without permanent Ag dry-up,” Godbout said.

This is only the second alternative transfer of water agreement that’s been completed, according to Godbout, and it also creates a new mechanism that can be used as a model for future projects. It’s also an innovative way for the county to explore partnerships with municipal partners and some local farmers, Donnelly said.

“I think we’re doing some groundbreaking work here,” Donnelly said.

The property consists of high quality agricultural soils, with approximately 188 irrigated, 18 pastures and five farmstead acres, according to a natural resources department report. Two homes remain on the property; one built in the 1860s and the other built in 1947. There’s also the scenic red barn, once used to milk cows, located at the farm’s entrance, and a beat shack that was built in the late 1800s.

This land adds to the county’s open space catalog. The county’s interest in this particular parcel grew from its updated 2015 Open Space Master Plan that included citizens’ request for preserving irrigated farm and agriculture land according to Kerri Rollins, Open Lands Program manager.

“When we looked at our inventory across the board, we’ve done a whole lot of ranchland, we’ve done a really good job with ranchland; we’ve bought a few irrigated farms and conservations easements that we own, but they are certainly much smaller,” Rollins said. “So this opportunity happened to come along at the right time and at the time of updating our master plan. We’re excited to be moving forward with it.”

Donnelly credited the county’s Agricultural and Natural Resources Department for its work on making this deal happen and said that this deal has a wealth of opportunities. One of those opportunities could include an educational site for the Thompson School District’s resurrected Future Farmers of America program, where students who could use the land for a hands-on approach to agriculture, or using the farm as an incubator for organic farmers.

The Malchow family has worked with the Berthoud Historical Society to preserve some of the property’s historic features, including the beet shack and a pioneer grave.

One of the oldest ditches in Larimer County, the Eaglin Ditch, is located on the property. And the property also is located within the medium-to-high regional trail priority area for the Berthoud to Carter Lake Regional Trail Corridor…

The county’s Open Lands Department is actively pursuing grant funding to reimburse a portion of the county’s investment to the conserve this property and has already received a $178,425 grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to develop the Alternative Transfer Mechanism and water-sharing agreement.

The county will pay $8.4 million for the land and its water shares with the intent of keeping it an active farm and making the water available to municipal providers in drought years. The land is valued at $1.6 million while the water rights are valued at nearly $6.9 million.

Rollins attended Tuesday’s Berthoud Board of Trustees meeting and requested a $100,000 contribution from the town’s Open Space Tax Dollar fund to help pay for the land acquisition. Trustees advised town staff to see what could be done to participate in this partnership.

The county is also seeking contributions through Great Outdoors Colorado and a private foundation, according to a report from the Department of Natural Resources. The land purchase will be finalized in April.

2016 #coleg: HB16-1005 (Rain Barrels) out of Sen. Ag. Committee 6-3

Rain barrel schematic
Rain barrel schematic

From The Colorado Independent (Marianne Goodland):

Good news for urban farmers. Colorado may soon lose its dubious distinction as the only state in the country to outlaw collecting rooftop runoff in rain barrels.

Today, the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee voted 6 to 3 to authorize rainwater collection.

House Bill 16-1005 would allow Coloradans to use up to two 55-gallon rain barrels to collect stormwater that rolls off of roofs. That rainwater can only be used to water lawns or gardens, under the bill.

The sticking point that killed the bill last year and held it up for the last week in the Senate: the impact such collection would have on the state’s water supply.

A study from Colorado State University, cited by the bill’s backers, said that rainwater collection wouldn’t impact water supply or long-held water rights.

The concern is centered around the backbone of Colorado water law, a doctrine called prior appropriation, which gives priority water rights to the first person to [apply a diversion to beneficial use].

In the House, the bill’s Democratic sponsors added amendments stating rainwater collection was not intended to interfere with prior appropriation.

When the bill was reviewed by the Senate Ag Committee last week, deputy state engineer Kevin Rein said if people claimed their water rights were being harmed, the state engineer would look first at junior water rights holders and not to rain barrel users.

Rein clarified those views today, pointing out the bill has no mechanism for tracking rain barrel use.

Under the measure, the state engineer would have the authority to curtail rain barrel use, but only if someone can point out which rain barrel is violating prior appropriation.

The bill drew “yes” votes from the committee’s four Democrats and from two Republicans: Sens. Ellen Roberts of Durango and John Cooke of Greeley.

Roberts has long been considered the swing vote on the committee in favor of the rainbarrel bill. She told The Colorado Independent after the vote, rainwater collection will likely have little more than minimal impact on water rights, the issue that halted the bill’s progress last year.

She doubts a flood of Coloradans will rush to buy rain barrels, which aren’t cheap. On the plus side, she said collecting rainwater will be beneficial as an educational tool for conservation.

One of the bill’s biggest backers, Pete Maysmith of the environmental group Conservation Colorado, said today in a statement the bill showed “just how bipartisan conservation issues can be. Both sides came together to craft language that recognizes prior appropriation but also acknowledges the shifting dynamics of water policy in the American West and the need to empower citizens to make change.”

Maysmith also thanked the committee’s chair, Republican Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling, for his “thoughtful consideration” and for allowing the bill to come to a vote.

Last year, Sonnenberg held up a committee vote on the 2015 version until the next-to-last day of the session, killing its chances of reaching a full Senate vote.

Sonnenberg was still a “no” vote Wednesday. He told the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Sen. Mike Merrifield of Manitou Springs,that he is still concerned that junior water rights holders will be shortchanged by rain barrel enthusiasts.

The bill’s House sponsors, Reps. Jessie Danielson of Wheat Ridge and Daneya Esgar of Pueblo, both Democrats, hugged when they heard the bill passed, according to a Tweet from KUNC reporter Bente Berkeland.

The bill now goes to the full Senate for debate and a possible final vote.

From The Denver Post (Joey Bunch):

[Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg] allowed a vote Wednesday, and the legislation passed by a 6-3 vote, according to the committee’s legislative council.

Sonnenberg was one of the “no” votes, along with Republican Sens. Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs and Ray Scott of Grand Junction.

“I think we have in front of us a product of good collaboration and open-mindedness,” said Sen. Michael Merrifield, a Colorado Springs Democrat and the bill’s main sponsor in the Senate, before the vote…

The Democrats’ bill now moves to the full Senate, where Republicans hold a one-seat majority.

The bill passed the state House with broad bipartisan support after the compromises, which prompted organizations that formally opposed it, such as the Colorado Farm Bureau, to become supporters.

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Tuesday said he is optimistic he will see a rain-barrel bill on his desk for him to sign into law this year.

“Sometimes Colorado functions like the way Great Britain says the United States did leading up to World War II,” he said. “Prime Minister Churchill said the United States could always be counted on to do the right thing, but only after they’ve exhausted the other possibilities.”

winstonchurchillquotesamericans

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Megan Schrader):

After two years of wrangling, a bill legalizing the use of rain barrels passed it’s biggest hurdle Wednesday and seems likely to become Colorado law…

Sen. Michael Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs, is among the bill’s advocates.

“I think we’re going to actually get it done this year,” Merrifield said. “A lot of people were not aware they were breaking the law. A lot of people were collecting rain water off of their roofs.”

Sonnenberg was concerned about the impact the urban rain barrels might have on the amount of water flowing downstream to farmers and ranchers with water rights dependent on high-flows during large rain storms.

Merrifield said he worked to alleviate those concerns, including amending the bill so the state engineer will investigate and report any potential impacts from the increased use of rain barrels.

“In a state that is so desperate for water as Colorado, I think it’s valuable that people understand water law and the scarcity of water and how water can be used efficiently, how to conserve,” Merrifield said. “The more we know about it, the better I think it is for farmers who really were those who had the biggest objections to this bill.”

The Farm Bureau supports the bill this year.

Single-family units or multi-family structures with four or fewer units would be permitted to collect up to 110 gallons of precipitation from the rooftop of the building. Collected water must be used for outdoor purposes, like watering the lawn or garden.

From The Durango Herald (Peter Marcus) via the Cortez Journal:

The political clouds in Colorado have parted in favor of allowing Coloradans to collect rain falling from their roofs.

Once a storm of controversy, the now-famous rain-barrel legislation cleared a Senate committee on Wednesday with bipartisan support. It heads to the full Senate, where the bill likely has the votes to finally pass after two years…

stopcollaborateandlistenbusinessblog

“We have a product of good collaboration and open-mindedness,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mike Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs…

One amendment would require the Division of Water Resources to curtail the use of rain barrels based on a determination of injury to water rights.

Other amendments include stating that using a rain barrel is not a water right and requiring the state engineer to evaluate if the use of rain barrels impacts water rights across the state…

…a study by Colorado State University found that allowing 110 gallons of rainwater storage per household would not decrease surface runoff by any detectable amount.

Learn about Castle Rock’s rebate program and watering restrictions — the Castle Rock News-Press

castlerock

From the Town of Castle Rock via the Castle Rock News-Press:

Before the spring landscape season gets underway, Castle Rock officials are reminding resisdents to conserve water by using some of the town’s conservation programs.

Town Council approved earlier this month the 2016 Conservation Rebate Incentive Program, which offers rebates as part of an overall water-conservation plan.

The incentive program rewards residents transitioning from high-water-use landscaping and inefficient irrigation to other water-smart alternatives. It’s funded with money from water restriction violations and tier-four conservation surcharges. Funds are limited, and rebates are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

A household can qualify for each rebate only once.

The rebate program includes:

· Smart irrigation controllers — 50 percent of the controller cost up to $300

· Rotary nozzle retrofit — up to $5 per nozzle

· Rain sensors — 50 percent of the cost of the sensor up to $50

· SmartScape renovations — $1 per square foot up to $1,500 for high-water-use plant material, such as Kentucky bluegrass, removed and replaced with either Xeriscape or hardscape.

Applications are available at http://CRgov.com/rebates.

Water plan

The Town Council also approved the 2016 Water Use Management Plan. Castle Rock Water uses watering restrictions to help residents efficiently use water outdoors during warmer months.

By staggering water use on an every-third-day schedule, Castle Rock Water can maintain positive pressures throughout the water system, ensure appropriate fire flows and allocate time for water reservoir recovery.

Restrictions will be in place during June, July and August. Residents must follow a circle, diamond, square schedule that will be mailed to their homes around May 1 and is posted at CRgov.com/waterschedule.

Also, to promote efficient water use, outdoor irrigation will not be allowed between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. However, there are no time or day restrictions associated with hand watering.

These restrictions allow residents to water only during cooler, more humid times of day. This is when evapotranspiration — a measurement of how much water needs to be used to replace water lost through evaporation and transpiration — is at its lowest, and watering is most effective.

Both the rebate program and watering restrictions are outlined in Castle Rock Water’s Water Efficiency Master Plan. Since the plan was adopted in 2006, Castle Rock residents have exceeded and maintained the conservation goal of 18 percent or 165 to 135 gallons per person per day.

An updated plan was recently approved in 2016 and sets a goal for an additional 18 percent (122 to 100 gallons per person per day) of water savings by 2055.

2015 #coleg: Rainwater harvesting bill stalls in #Colorado Senate — The Colorado Independent

Photo credit: Photo credit: Krzysztof Lis, Creative Commons, Flickr. Via the Colorado Independent.
Photo credit: Photo credit: Krzysztof Lis, Creative Commons, Flickr. Via the Colorado Independent.

From The Colorado Independent (Marianne Goodland):

A perennial bill that would allow Coloradans to collect rainwater from rooftops in two 55-gallon barrels for watering lawns and gardens was sailing toward the Governor’s desk to be inked into law. But the measure stalled out in the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee.

Just like last year, Eastern Plains Republican Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg said he worried rainwater harvesting would shortchange rural senior water-rights holders from what they were due, and the state would have no way to stop the harvesters from hoarding what the law states is not theirs.

Rainwater harvesting enthusiasts are now asking if anything could convince Sonnenberg that two 55-gallon rain barrels attached to downspouts per household would not put a significant dent into his rural constituents’ water rights.

In Colorado, whoever lays first claim to a water right, in a river, stream or ditch, gets their water first. Everyone else takes a back seat, and may get less water, especially in times of drought. This is the backbone of state water law, a doctrine called prior appropriation.

Sonnenberg and other rural lawmakers fear rainwater collection would impact those senior water rights. And those fears were not put to rest with testimony from the Department of Natural Resources.

Sonnenberg questioned Kevin Rein, the deputy state engineer, about how the department would shut down rain barrel use when someone with senior water rights claims they’re losing their rightful water supply. Rein noted the bill grants the state engineer, who monitors water usage, the authority to ensure everybody complies with Colorado water law.

That applies to rain barrel use, too. Just how that would work, however, wasn’t clear.

Rein pointed to a study from Colorado State University that claimed there would be little or no impact from rain barrel use.

That didn’t sway Sonnenberg, who suggested a hypothetical: What if the city of Greeley is losing 40 acre-feet of water, and believes it’s due to rain barrel use in Denver? How would the state engineer determine which rainwater harvesters were to blame, which barrels were holding what was due downstream That’s where things got messy. Rein said the first place he would look was not at rain barrels, but at water used by someone with a lower priority claim to the water. Crawling around through people’s alleys and backyards isn’t likely a workable way to figure out if that’s where the loss is coming from, Rein said.

When the bill was in the House, its sponsors, Democrats Reps. Jessie Danielson of Wheat Ridge and Daneya Esgar of Pueblo, worked with rural lawmakers, such as Rep. Jon Becker of Fort Morgan, to add language that said rain barrel use was not intended to harm senior water rights.

“It worries the heck out of me when the state engineer says when water is short,” if that shortage could be attributable to rain barrels, the person who pays for it instead is the junior water rights holder, Sonnenberg said. “That says the amendments put on in the House are lip service and not enforceable.”

Last year, Sonnenberg did exactly the same thing. He allowed testimony on the bill, which was heard in the Senate Ag Committee on April 16, then put it on hold until the day before the 2015 session ended, in effect killing the bill.

It’s not like there aren’t the votes in the Senate to pass it. The bill is supported by one of Sonnenberg’s Ag Committee colleagues, Senate President Pro Tem Ellen Roberts, a Durango Republican. Her vote, along with the committee’s Democrats, are enough to get the bill out of the Ag Committee. But only if the bill is allowed to come to a vote.

Those who advocated for the bill point to its popularity with Coloradans. Theresa Conley of Conservation Colorado told The Colorado Independent Thursday they’re encouraged by the bill’s broad support, which she noted included representatives from Greeley Water and the Colorado Farm Bureau. Both organizations opposed the bill in 2015.

It’s not always clear where to lay the blame when someone’s water rights are injured, said Conley. She vowed to sit down with Sonnenberg to figure out a way to address his concerns.

The bill’s Senate sponsor, Democrat Mike Merrifield of Manitou Springs, said he is confident the bill will eventually clear the committee and make it through the Senate.

“Citizens of Colorado want to be able to do this,” Merrifield told reporters Thursday. “Rain barrels are an efficient way to learn about water policy in Colorado.”

From Aspen Public Radio (Bente Birkland):

“I didn’t plan on today being Groundhog Day, I anticipated that the bill would pass,” said state Sen. Michael Merrifield (D-Colorado Springs), sponsor of House Bill 16-1005 [.pdf].

“Citizens of Colorado want to be able to do this,” Merrifield said. “A rain barrel is an efficient way for people to learn about water policy in Colorado.”

Opponents worry rain barrels would prevent some water from reaching downstream users. The bill already passed in the House where Democrats added changes to bring Republican opponents on board. One amendment would give the state water engineer the ability to shut down rain barrels if they are determined to impact downstream users. Another clarifies that having a rain barrel is not a water right.

“I indeed had high hopes that those were helpful,” said Senator Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling), chair of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Like many inside the capitol, he’s tired of having the rain barrel debate.

“I want to be done with this, but right now I’m not comfortable,” he said.

Sonnenberg disputes a study from Colorado State University water experts that found rain barrels would not hurt other water users, because that water would otherwise be absorbed in the grass and shrubs. Sonnenberg posed a hypothetical scenario.

“Say the town of Greeley looks like they get shorted 40 acre-feet and it can be attributed to rain barrel usage in the city and county of Denver,” Sonnenberg said. “How would you deal with that specific type of instance? You obviously can’t walk up and down alleys and see who has rain barrels to curtail them.”

Bill supporters say that scenario would never happen because rain barrels have no impact, but Sonnenberg still wants more information before voting. Colorado is the only state in the country that doesn’t allow rain barrels. Water experts say the measure’s time has come, and they want to move beyond this debate and start focusing on substantive policy changes to deal with projected long term water shortages.

Despite the hurdle in the committee hearing, Sonnenberg and others don’t think there will be a repeat of the bill’s 2015 fate; they expect something to pass before the session ends.

2016 #coleg: Sonnenberg tables HB16-1005 (rain barrels)

From The Denver Post (Joey Bunch):

Committee chairman Jerry Sonnenberg, a Republican from Sterling, tabled the bill after a list of people testified for it, including organizations that supported it a year ago.

Sonnenberg tabled the bill last year and never brought it up for another hearing. This year he pledges that there will be a vote, “even if I vote no.”

[…]

Sonnenberg said, first, rain-barrel users needed to recognize Colorado water law’s pecking order of water rights, known as the prior-appropriation system.

Sonnenberg also wants the state engineer’s office to maintain oversight, so that in times of drought rain barrels can be curtailed.

Kevin Rein, the deputy state engineer over water supply and litigation, told Sonnenberg Thursday that regulating rain barrels would be difficult. Beyond checking yards to find the rain barrels, engineers would have to determine if shutting those barrels off would increase water for water rights holders elsewhere.

“It gets more difficult than just checking back yards,” he said.

That gave Sonnenberg pause.

He said that without meaningful enforcement “it would make the farmer pay for that depletion rather than rain barrels. That’s outside the prior-appropriation system, and I haven’t figured out how I’m going to deal with that now.”

Water law experts say rain-barrels are only technically illegal, because proving they injure the water rights of other users is nearly impossible. Nearly all of the water would be absorbed in the ground by the downspout or in the ground in the garden, a Colorado State University analysis indicated.

“We do not think any changes to the water cycle could be accurately quantified or measured,” said Chris Olson, a researcher and program manager at the Colorado Stormwater Center at CSU. “The water is going to be infiltrated or evaporated … The only difference is the timing, a day, maybe two, before the rain barrel is emptied.”

Garin Vorthmann, who represented the Colorado Farm Bureau, testified earlier that the powerful organization supports the legislation now that it includes the House compromises.

“It’s time to find a resolution to this ongoing conversation,” she told the Senate committee.

Danielson expressed disappointment but patience about the Senate logjam.

“I respect Sen. Sonnenberg’s decision to take a close look at this,” she said. “I am hopeful that we, along with rain barrel supporters such as the Farm Bureau, will be able to make rain barrels a reality.”

From The Durango Herald (Peter Marcus):

The move drew criticism from supporters, who pointed out that Republican Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango supported the bill last year, and offered the swing vote again this year to advance the legislation out of committee.

The bill also earned overwhelming support in the House this year, where it started.

It marks the second time Republican Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling delayed a vote on rain barrel legislation. He did it last year when the bill moved through his Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee. It sat then for nearly a month…

The state’s prior appropriations system grants water rights to the first person to take water from an aquifer or river, despite residential proximity. A study by Colorado State University found that allowing 110 gallons of rainwater storage per household would not decrease surface runoff by any detectable amount on a typical lot.

On Thursday, Sonnenberg questioned Deputy State Engineer Kevin Rein about the Division of Water Resources’ ability to curtail the use of rain barrels based on a determination of injury, as the bill was earlier amended to require.

“It’s an overwhelming chore to go through all the yards in Denver. I think our first cut at that would be we would need to have some rain barrels identified that are resulting in a deprivation of water to the senior water rights downstream, and then we could make that evaluation,” Rein said.

Sonnenberg worried that farmers and ranchers would feel the pinch: “This could very easily go to the next guy, which may be that farmer in Brighton, and have to curtail him.”

Supporters of the bill hoped they would be able to convince Sonnenberg not to delay the bill because of compromises reached along the way. Amendments helped pass the bill in the House 61-3…

Unlikely groups who previously expressed concerns with the legislation have come on board, including Greeley Water and the Colorado Farm Bureau. “It’s time to find a solution in this ongoing conversation,” said Garin Vorthmann, representing the Colorado Farm Bureau.

But Sonnenberg wasn’t convinced, adding: “I want to be done with this … but right now, I’m not comfortable.”

Theresa Conley, a water advocate for Conservation Colorado, said she was “disappointed.”

“Fear is a very motivating thing,” she said. “Until the governor has signed this bill, I’m going to be working on it like it could die tomorrow.”

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Megan Schrader):

“There has been a lot of misinformation put out on this bill,” Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, said Thursday afternoon. “I’m not comfortable. I’m going to help get an extension and we’re going to lay this over until I can be comfortable, until we can make sure that someone else isn’t paying for someone else’s rain barrel.”

[…]

Sen. Michael Merrifield, a Colorado Springs Democrat and sponsor of House Bill 1005, said it’s like Groundhog Day (the movie) where the same day keeps being repeated…

“I had fully anticipated that the bill would pass and at least with a super-majority,” Merrifield said. “I’m still confident that we’ll pass a bill. I’d like to do it sooner than later.”

Merrifield said concerns could have been addressed on the floor with amendments.

Sonnenberg said he was thrown by testimony from the state water engineer Thursday and needs time to work out his concerns but he pledged to bring the bill for a vote.

“I’m tired of this,” he said. “I’m tired of this issue. I’m confident they have been very willing to work and talk and have these conversations. I think it’s fixable, I just honestly right now can’t think what that is. I will bring this to a vote even if I vote no. We will have closure on this.”

Photo via the Colorado Independent
Photo via the Colorado Independent