Rafting bill faces hurdle on Capitol Hill today

A rafting bill working its way through the state legislature that would allow for rafters to float through private land -- and even portage on private land in the event of low water -- faces a key test in the House Judiciary Committee today.

A response to a Gunnison County landowner recently blocking an outfitter from a longtime route on the Taylor River, House Bill 10-1188 protects the right of commercial operations to run historically stretches of river on private land. The controversy is pitting private fly-fishing operations against rafters

From the Aspen Daily News Online:

[State Rep. Kathleen] Curry's legislative effectiveness will be put to the test on Monday when the Judiciary Committee hears her proposed "Commercial Rafting Viability Act," which seeks to clarify existing Colorado law on whether commercial raft companies can float down a river that happens to run through private land.

"There are a lot of people who feel there are two sets of rights," Curry said. "But I feel we ought to find a way to make it work for both. And I think the committee will give it a fair hearing."

The bill would allow commercial outfitters to float through private land and allow for incidental contact due to low water with either the river bank or with rocks in the river.

And it also allows portaging around an obstruction or a hazard "if the portage makes the minimum possible use of the bed or banks that is necessary to safely avoid the hazard or obstruction."

The Colorado Independent covered the story last month, and here are links that illuminate both sides of the argument: the rafters' point of view, from the AVA blog, and the private-land side, courtesy Gunnison water attorney John Hill in this story.

"There isn't any right to float in Colorado," Hill said. "That's folklore."

(Image: Zaskoda's Flickr Photostream)

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