Friday, June 8, 2012
Colorado Considers Adopting Public Trust Doctrine?
I came across this link courtesy of Aquadoc's Weekly Round-up of water news. Seems a few people in Colorado are dissatisfied with their current system of reasonably secure property rights in the use of the state's water. They are placing initiatives on the ballot later this year that would formally adopt a strong public trust doctrine. The texts of the proposed initiatives can be found here and here. Essentially what this would do is still allow you to have your water rights - whether derived from prior appropriation or whatever. But those rights would always be subject to rights of the state to protect the water on behalf of the people. So if someone decides that a world-class trout fishery is more important to the state than a valley full of farmers, the state could step in (theoretically) and tell the farmers to stop diverting water for irrigation so that the trout stream can thrive. This is a concept that exists in many places but only rarely has it been found to trump existing property rights. In this case, the wording of the initiative states pretty clearly that the public trust is superior to private property rights. I don't see this going very far.