DENVER In a unanimous vote, the state House approved buying more water in the Animas-La Plata Project.
House Bill 1274 spends $14 million for water projects across the state, including $12 million so the state can buy water from the federal government in the reservoir southwest of Durango.
The state has the right to buy 10,460 acre-feet of water in Lake Nighthorse. If it refuses to make the purchase, the water would be split between the Ute Mountain and Southern Ute Indian tribes, which each own 33,050 acre-feet already.
The bill passed with little comment, except for a statement of support from House Minority Leader Sal Pace, D-Pueblo.
The state needs to act quickly under federal law to get some of this storage space for much needed municipal needs, Pace said. If we dont act quickly, the space will be lost.
The water purchase will cost around $36 million, which the state plans to pay in three yearly installments. The Legislature approved the first payment in 2010.
The Colorado Water Conservation Board will decide later this year whether to buy all the water or stop this year. The board has not decided yet how it will use the water, but it could serve as a hedge against lawsuits from downstream states to force the state to supply more water to the Colorado River system.
HB 1274 now goes to the Senate.
Reach Joe Hanel at firstname.lastname@example.org.