Public Trust Water Ballot Initiatives Withdrawn, but has the Issue Fizzled?

Phil Doe speaks on a panel about the Public Trust Doctrine Ballot Initiatives

The two ballot initiatives that aimed to change water management in Colorado were dropped this week when proponents of Initiatives 3 and 45 withdrew their bid, realizing they wouldn’t be able to collect enough signatures this year. Backers Phil Doe of Littleton and Richard Hamilton of Fairplay had until August 6 to collect at least 86, 105 valid signatures for support. As the Denver Business Journal reported:

Richard Hamilton, who worked on drafting the initiatives, said Monday that supporters decided it “would be a near impossibility” to get the needed number of signatures. But he said that supporters will continue work on them, hoping to submit similar proposals for the 2014 ballot.

During a panel discussion at the Colorado Water Workshop last week, it was clear that the environmental and recreational interests are not going to disappear in Colorado– but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Coloradans need to overhaul the state constitution.

During the discussion Doe described the Public Trust Doctrine, “What the Public Trust Doctrine would do is say the public can intercede on behalf of nature,” he said. “You just can’t change nature. That’s all it does, and it gives the public the right to enjoy nature.”

Ken Neubecker with the Western Rivers Institute said that although he did not support the ballot initiatives, he understands the values behind them. Many people do– which is why organizations like the Colorado Water Trust are working within Colorado’s prior appropriation system of water management, using tools that are already available to put water back into streams and rivers.

Amy Beatie, Executive Director of Colorado Water Trust encouraged folks to invest in groups like hers that are being creative and using existing tools to protect environmental interests. “You can make a difference in the things that you care about,” Beatie said.

Perhaps that difference will continue to happen through support of organizations like the Colorado Water Trust, or perhaps 2014 will bring a reintroduction of the initiatives. The two sides:

“41 states out of 50 have a Public Trust Doctrine,” Doe said. “This is not something totally radical. This is simply trying to preserve what we have.”

“The pressure for significant and fundamental change has grown and will continue to grow,” Neubecker said. “We and our children will be much better served through an evolution of water policy and law rather than a revolution which turns it all on its head.”

What do you think?

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