Published: May 8, 2024 By

On May 6th, 2024 the Colorado Legislature passed HB24-1379 – a bill designed to protect the wetlands and streams at risk after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Sackett v. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). The passage of the house bill saw overwhelming support from the regulated community, environmentalists, and concerned citizens.

HB24-1379 would not have been passed if not for the hard work and dedication of the bill sponsors; Speaker Julie McCluskie, Senator Dylan Roberts, Representative Karen McCormick, and Senator Barbara Kirkmeyer. These sponsors worked tirelessly to advocate for our state waters by compromising with and listening to stakeholders throughout the session.

Colorado is one of the first states in the country to pass legislation to restore protections to wetlands and streams from development activities. Other states will be able to model the stakeholder engagement process utilized by the bill sponsors to provide protections from unmitigated development.

The Protect Colorado Waters Coalition was the primary driver behind the campaign which helped HB24-1379 cross the finish line. Both Kristine Oblock, Campaign Manager with Clean Water for All and Josh Kuhn, Senior Water Campaign Manager with Conservation Colorado, upheld the coalition and worked behind the scenes to have foundational elements included in the legislation. For example, the coalition was successful in keeping the current definition of state waters. The bill sponsor went a step further to directly include wetlands within that definition to permanently expand the scope of covered waters. As we detailed in previous posts, the more comprehensive definition of state waters removes the need to quibble over jurisdiction and streamlines the permit process for applicants. Additionally, the coalition advocated for the federal 404(b)(1) guidelines to act as the floor rather than the ceiling for environmental review of permit decisions.

We, here at the Getches-Wilkinson Center, are ecstatic to see the coalition's efforts result in meaningful legislation designed to protect our aquatic ecosystems for generations to come. Our mission is to promote the sustainability of the lands, air, and water in the Western United States and HB24-1379 aligns with that mission. We look forward to the rulemaking process where the Water Quality Control Commission within the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment will promulgate rules to establish how permits are issued, and the requirements applicants must follow.