Monday, April 19, 2010

Dispute threatens Colorado’s rafters

For years, Mark Schumacher has guided white-water rafts up and down the Taylor, a swift-moving river that cuts through the canyons and cliffs outside Gunnison. So when a wealthy developer who had bought a swath of nearby ranchland told local rafting outfitters last year that they could no longer float through his property, Schumacher was aghast. “Locals have been running this river since the ’40s,” he said, “and here was this guy who was going to use every legal means to shut us down.” Now, the dispute over the Taylor is reviving an old battle in Colorado, long a mecca for white-water rafting. At issue are the state’s water and property laws, which say that while the water in local rivers and streams is public, the beds and banks belong to whoever owns the adjacent land. “The problem is that they want unlimited rights,” Dick Bratton, a lawyer for the developer, Lewis Shaw II, said of commercial rafting companies. “We’re saying they need to modify this and take into consideration the landowner’s rights also.” Among Shaw’s concerns, Bratton said, is a fear that rafters will interfere with the fishing he wants to offer as an incentive for people who are thinking of buying lots and building homes on his land. Lee Spann, a cattle rancher whose land abuts a number of Colorado rivers, worried that expanding access for rafters would limit his ability to protect his property and would disrupt his private fishing business. “Until now, we’ve had virtually no problems,” Spann said. “They come and talk to me and say, ‘We’d like to float through.’ I say, ‘Fine, as long as you stay off the bank and stay off the bottom.’”...more

1 comment:

johnr said...

The ditch act of 1866 now known as RS 2477 may apply here if that river crosses any federal lands