Rafting bill sinks in Senate

Sure enough, the bill guaranteeing rafting companies passage on established routes through private property died (at least for now) in the Colorado Senate, the Associated Press reported in the Aspen Times Friday. (See the most recent OTE post on the issue here.) Sparked initially by a fishing resort near Gunnison barring rafters on its private stretch of Class III water of the Taylor River, the Senate pushed for six months of study on the issue, meaning the debate won't be reopened until 2011.

From the AP story by Steven K. Paulson:

Sen. Bruce Whitehead, a Democrat from Hesperus in southwestern Colorado, said the debate has sharply divided Colorado's whitewater tourism industry, which brings in millions of dollars a year from fishers and rafters who are finding it increasingly difficult to share the rivers. He said it also pitted sportsmen against sportsmen.

"This is really a difficult issue that has split my community," Whitehead told the 35-member Senate.

Others basically say the study is a political punt that just delays crafting a compromise between the two sides who love to play in Colorado's creeks and rivers: rafters and anglers. As far as the original dispute on the Taylor, this likely means that rafting companies are going to have to look for alternate routes for rafting season in 2010, and possibly quite a bit longer -- like forever.

(Image from Zaskoda's Flickr Photostream.)

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