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Well fees on the rise

The Colorado General Assembly is considering a bill that will significantly increase fees for well and other water permits.Senate Bill 09-216 increases the fee for a new well from $100 to $665. The bill also increases the following fees:

Replacement exempt wellFrom $60 to $365
Replacement non-exempt wellFrom $100 to $665
Late registration of an exempt wellFrom $100 to $365
Replacement plan in a designated basinFrom $100 to $600
Extension of time to drill a wellFrom $60 to $305
Substitute water supply planFrom $300 to $2,000
Determination of a Denver basin water right in a designated basinFrom $60 to $760
The bill had its third reading in the Senate on Feb. 19, where it passed 20 to 14.”These increases are exorbitant and make it cost-prohibitive for most rural well users to obtain water rights and replacement plans,” said Julia Murphy, a hydrogeologist who helps property owners apply for water rights determination in the Colorado Springs area.People have their water rights determined so they can maintain the uses to which they are accustomed, Murphy said. “They want to have their horses and grow some grass or hay. They’re retired people who are just trying to secure their property value.”Murphy said it would be reasonable to minimally increase the fees, if the increase is used for more “efficient” water management.The state engineers’ office has the authority to manage, but they have no money or manpower, she said.”I would like to see this money (the increase) or a big portion of it, going toward looking for a sustainable water supply,” Murphy said.But the bill doesn’t allow for that.Instead, the bill, which was written by the joint budget committee, is intended to help balance the state’s 2008-2009 budget.Marsha Looper, state representative for House District 19, said she intends to get the fee increases reduced in the House Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee, on which she sits.The reduction could be possible because Looper said she is getting the votes needed to cut the transfer of $13 million from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources that has occurred annually for the past several years.”If we can keep half of the $13 million in the Division of Water Resources, then the fee increases won’t need to be as big,” Looper said. “It costs the state about $250 to process a well permit, so I suspect we’re going to see that fee go up some.”Looper also is working on legislation authorizing the state engineers’ office to bill for all of their services, such as cistern applications.”I truly believe that most departments should be cash funded,” she said. “If you’re providing a service, whoever is utilizing the service needs to pay for it so the rest of the taxpayers who have absolutely nothing to do with that service aren’t picking up the cost.”In addition, Looper is composing legislation that assesses fines to those who violate Colorado water law. “Somebody puts in a well that doesn’t have a permit, so a neighbor calls the state engineers office,” she said. “Someone goes out and shuts down the well. That’s all they can do. They can’t charge a fine for violating the law. That’s ridiculous.”The interim water review committee will be working this summer on assessing fines on people who violate the law. And they’re not going to be small, insignificant fines. They’re going to be big fines.”

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