Romano: Update on Colorado River Access

A couple of months ago I reported here on the ongoing legal battle over Colorado’s water law. Specifically whether boaters … Continued

A couple of months ago I reported here on the ongoing legal battle over Colorado’s water law. Specifically whether boaters have the right to float through private property.

Colorado is one of the only states in the West that doesn’t protect boaters rights to float through private property. While the water law in Colorado is muddy to say the least, there has been a long-standing precedent that if the river or stream is navigable, boaters and fishermen are allowed to float through private property without touching the bottom or banks.

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Now a small coalition of landowners is trying to shut down the floaters. Private property flanks pretty much every river in the state somewhere along it’s banks, which means this law would thwart recreational and guided float fishing. It would also affect whitewater rafting – a $140 million a year industry in Colorado.

The whitewater industry has fought back by introducing a bill to protect the right to float, even with the incidental touching of riverbanks. The bill passed the House with support from Democrats and Republicans then was shut down in the Senate. Neither seems to be coming to an agreement any time soon.

Both sides are readying for battle with many citizen-sponsored initiatives trying to get on the ballot. Only time will tell what will happen to our waterways.

From my vantage point, the more river access, the better. If we want to get kids outside, people interested in cold-water conservation, and grow fishing, shutting down most of Colorado’s river access for an elite few seems stupid and short-sighted to me.

Anyone out there got any skin in this game? What are your thoughts on the matter?

TR