February 12, 2010
Colorado Could Soon See Changes in River Access Law
By Tim Romano
Colorado's House Judiciary committee voted seven to three this past monday night in favor of (HB 1188). The "Clarify River Outfitter Navigation Right Bill" helps uphold commercial rafters rights if floating through private property. It now goes to the House floor.
The current law (which stems from the English Common Law) gives any boaters, private or commercial the right to float through a piece of private property as long as the river is deemed navigable and they don't touch the bottom or banks.
This new bill, pushed through by the whitewater guiding industry, states, "that a guide employed by a licensed river outfitter and the guides passengers may float on waterways that have historically been used for commercial float trips without committing civil or criminal trespass if they gain access to the waterway from public land or from private land with the consent and make only incidental contact with the beds and banks of the waterway while floating and portaging;". This wording does not specifically name fishing guides or private boaters as being protected, but does help firm up current laws for whitewater guides.
The bill came about in response to a civil suit threatened by a Texas developer, Lewis Shaw II, who has property on the Taylor River near Gunnison, Co. Shaw's 2,200 acre ranch is used as a private fishing resort. He contents that rafters interfere with the fishing and wants the right to legal action if the rafters touch the river banks or bottom while floating through his property.
As a Colorado resident, angler, oarsman, and someone who wants to promote fishing and protect our resources for future generations I think it would be prudent if both private boaters and fishing guides were included conclusively in this bill.
What do you say? Do you have a stake in this battle here in Colorado? If not what are your states water laws like?