Robbins Urges Proactive Water Protection Legislation on the Dolores

According to a recent Cortez Journal article, David Robbins, a prominent Colorado water attorney, concluded that a proposed national conservation area on the Lower Dolores River is a good way to protect local water rights against perceived federal threats. Robbins analyzed and provided in a 14-page legal review, of the various federal risks to local water rights on the Lower Dolores River including a National Conservation Area (NCA), national monument, wilderness area, wild and scenic river, and the Endangered Species Act, plus others. “The challenge for (local counties) is not if additional federal land management actions will be proposed and occur, but when and in what form,” Robbins wrote.

“There is really only one effective way to deal with the potential effects that federal land management designations can have on state water rights: Local stakeholders must work with Congress to craft specific legislation unique to the river.” He said a draft bill released this summer proposing a NCA and wilderness area on the Lower Dolores River is the “appropriate approach to resolve the significant conflicts.” The proposal would create an NCA along the river corridor from McPhee Dam to Bedrock that protects ecological values and local water rights. As part of the bill, the Dolores Canyon Wilderness Area would also be established, encompassing Slickrock Canyon but excluding the river. In exchange, the draft bill would drop the river’s suitability status as a wild and scenic river, which if designated by Congress could come with a federally reserved water right. Robbins urged compromise and warned against a futile fight against long established federal mandates adopted by Congress to protect the environment.