Colorado residents have been trying to find a remedy from the National Forestry Service’s grab over water rights since 2011. Senator Jerry Sonnenberg has been introducing legislation to combat the feds over this very thing since 2013, and has continued his fight for water rights against eminent domain since 2007. His latest bill, SB064, continues the fight against the federal government’s complete disregard to property rights protected by the state Constitution.

According to Colorado law: “It is important to remember that a water right is a property right and therefore, it can be bought and sold, moved, and put to different uses without limitation so long as that change does not injure the vested rights of others.”

In a 2013, an article from the Durango Herald, noted how the feds were treating private property. “In 2011, the Forest Service issued a policy that forbids ski areas from selling their water rights to anyone other than the next operator of the ski area.”

SB064 recognizes the following as interferences of a water right:

Based on the tenets set forth in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subsection (8), rules, policies, or directives that limit, prohibit, or encumber a water right owner’s ability to divert the full amount permitted under the water right decree; reduce the yield available to the water right owner; or interfere with the alienability of a water right; deprive the water right owner of the full property rights associated with the water right owner of the full property rights associated with the water right in that they:

(I)Deprive the owner of all economic value associated with a portion of the water right that can no longer be put to beneficial use:
(II)Are so burdensome as to hinder the property interest to the same extent as physical appropriation of the property; and
(III)are per se unreasonable.

Therefore, the federal government may not just take private property away from the individual

“If the federal government desires additional water for a secondary purpose of the reservation, the federal government must acquire the additional water in the same manner as any other public or private appropriator in accordance with the laws of the state of Colorado.

The bill states in subsection 10(b) states that if the federal government does not meet that demand, then the state will nullify.

Each of the conditions set forth in paragraph (a) of this subsection (10) are void and unenforceable as against public policy

Subsection 10 (a) states,

“As a condition of granting a right of way or special use permit, neither the United States forest service nor the Federal Bureau of Land Management shall:

(I)Demand that the owner of a water right or conditional water right assign to the United States Forest Service or the Federal Bureau of Land Management partial or joint ownership of the water right:
(II)Impose limitations on a water right that restrict the water right owner’s ability to receive fair market value for the water right; (III) Impose limitations on the alienability of a water right; or (IV)

This has been a long fight for property rights in the state of Colorado. This bill currently resides in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Natural Resources, & Energy, and it needs your help to move forward.

Kelli Sladick

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