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Polis signs housing bill in Dowd Junction, water bill in Glenwood Springs

May 22, 2023, 12:36 pm

Gov. Jared Polis on Saturday signed a bill to promote public-private partnerships using state land for workforce housing in Dowd Junction and other parts of the state (David O. Williams photo).

On Saturday, the Colorado General Assembly Democrats issued the following press releases on a flurry of bill signings by Gov. Jared Polis for legislation sponsored by local lawmakers and with local implications for housing and water infrastructure:

Today Governor Jared Polis signed a bill to encourage innovative, affordable workforce housing projects through public-private partnerships.

SB23-001, sponsored by Senators Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, and Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada, and Representatives Shannon Bird, D-Westminster, and Meghan Lukens, D-Steamboat Springs, provides $13 million in funding to help develop affordable workforce housing on state-owned land so that Colorado workers like teachers, nurses, and everyone in between can find housing that fits their budget.

“Across Colorado, local communities are exploring innovative projects to ensure everyone can have access to an affordable place to call home near where they work,” Roberts said. “This bill will help catalyze many projects across the state by eliminating one of the biggest barriers to affordable housing development: the cost of land. By allowing public-private partnerships access to underused state land, we can expect hundreds of new affordable housing units across the state in the coming years, including 80 units in my home of Eagle County. I am thrilled this bill is being signed after moving forward with bipartisan support.”

“We need to utilize every tool we have to address Colorado’s housing crisis, and by allowing public-private partnerships with this new law, we can increase housing opportunities while also creating more well-paying construction jobs,” said Bird. “This new law will make it easier for Coloradans of any budget or zip code to find an affordable place to call home.”

“The housing crisis is a top concern for the people of Colorado and the legislature alike,” said Zenzinger. “Constructing workforce housing was a key part of this year’s comprehensive work to address housing availability and affordability. Teachers, nurses, and everyone who helps keep our state running deserve to have an affordable place they can call home. Senate Bill 1 will be incredibly helpful in our efforts to ensure Coloradans can afford to live where they work.”

“Rural towns like mine are struggling to keep up with housing demands, which is displacing essential workers that are necessary to maintain the health of our communities,” said Lukens. “Land is a significant cost when it comes to building housing, so we’re allowing for public-private partnerships using state-owned land to make it easier to build housing that Coloradans can afford, helping us retain our workforce and boosting local economies.”

SB23-001 builds on work from previous sessions, HB21-1274 and SB22-130, regarding the inventory of underutilized properties and state-owned land. Of the total funding, $2 million will go towards the Dowd Junction project to facilitate development of 80 two-bedroom units, and $11 million will fund similar projects across the state.

Polis Signs Bipartisan Colorado River Legislation

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, CO – Governor Jared Polis today signed bipartisan legislation to create the Colorado River Drought Task Force, which will develop proposals to protect Colorado’s water future. 

“All of us on the Western Slope depend on a clean and reliable supply to power our economy and promote our way of life, but worsening drought conditions, exacerbated by climate change, are putting our water supply in jeopardy,” said Senator Dylan Roberts, D-Avon. “I am proud to sponsor this important legislation, which will bring us one step closer to addressing one of the most pressing issues our state has ever faced – the endangered Colorado River – and ensure every Colorado community has access to the water resources they need now and into the future.”

“The Colorado River captures the essence of the Colorado Way of Life,”said Speaker Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon. “We must be proactive to secure our water future, which is why we are creating a process that will bring every voice to the table to develop solutions to the devastating impacts of a hotter, drier climate. This collaborative approach will help communities in Colorado partner together to protect agriculture, outdoor recreation, and the freshwater we need, and create the foundation needed to proactively address the threats we face to our water and economic future.”

SB23-295, also sponsored by Senator Perry Will, R-New Castle, and Representative Marc Catlin, R-Montrose, creates the Colorado River Drought Task Force which will include representatives from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, regional water conservation districts, local governmental officials, agricultural producers, environmental non-profit organizations, and others that have diverse experiences with complex water issues.

By December of 2023, after an extensive stakeholding process open to public comment, the task force will make policy recommendations to the General Assembly to:

  • Proactively address the impact of droughts on the Colorado River and its tributaries,
  • Avoid disproportionate economic and environmental impacts to any one region of the state,
  • Ensure that any program related to the acquisition of agricultural water rights is voluntary, temporary, and compensated,
  • Assure meaningful collaboration among the Colorado River District, Southwestern Water Conservation District, and the State of Colorado in the design and implementation of drought security programs, and
  • Evaluate sources of revenue for the acquisition of program water.

A sub-task force consisting of representatives from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and the Department of Natural Resources will also provide policy recommendations to the General Assembly to address tribal needs. These recommendations will consider the unique nature of tribal water rights and tribal water use.

The Colorado River provides water to Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, California, Nevada, and Mexico. Over 40 million people rely on the Colorado River for their water supply, and record-breaking heatwaves and droughts in the Southwestern U.S. have only exacerbated water conservation issues.

SB23-295 will rely on water experts and relevant stakeholders to provide effective solutions to the General Assembly so our state can protect the Colorado River and its tributaries through meaningful collaboration with local voices and without disproportionate impacts on certain regions of the state.

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