Why American Rivers Supports Proposition DD – and you should too!

In order to fully implement Colorado’s Water Plan, additional funding is needed to drive the Plan’s priorities.

Animas River, CO | Photo by Sinjin Eberle

Since its completion in 2015, Colorado’s Water Plan has been an essential roadmap for managing and improving Colorado’s treasured rivers, lake and streams – and establishing a future-forward path towards water security. The Water Plan has been essential in prioritizing the value of clean drinking water, promoting action around water conservation in cities, preserving Colorado’s agricultural heritage, improving vital river and watershed protection, and supporting flexible water policies across the state.

But to fully implement Colorado’s Water Plan, additional funding is needed to drive the Plan’s priorities. Earlier this year, the Colorado legislature recognized the importance of investing in our rivers and streams when they passed House Bill 19-1327, which would generate revenue for the Colorado Water Plan by legalizing sports betting in Colorado following voter approval of Proposition DD this coming November.

Montrose, CO -- photo credit to Scott Murphy
Montrose, CO, Uncompahgre River | Photo: Scott Murphy

Inherently, ballot language can be unclear, especially on measures that raise taxes. When passed, Proposition DD would allow sports betting in Colorado and impose a 10% tax of the profits casinos receive (after paying taxes and paying out winners). This tax would only affect casinos, not individual betters. The majority of the tax revenue received by the state – 93% – will fund Colorado’s Water Plan, with a small portion of the revenue from the tax allocated to regulate and enforce gaming. The revenue generated from Proposition DD is an important down payment on the funds needed to support the implementation of Colorado’s Water Plan.  

Similar in nature to how the state lottery funds Great Outdoors Colorado, Proposition DD would legalize sports betting and use proceeds of tax revenue on casinos to fund a share of Colorado’s Water Plan and will be an important down-payment on the total amount needed to support full implementation of the Plan.

Denver, CO, Colorado River | Photo: Brent de Vries
Denver, CO, South Platte River | Photo: Brent de Vries

All corners of Colorado have benefited from the implementation of Colorado’s Water Plan. Communities around the state like those in Yampa, Colorado, San Miguel, Roaring Fork, and Gunnison valleys, have developed stream management plans identifying specific projects to improve the health of their river and its surrounding lands. In Steamboat Springs, the local stream management plan developed actions to benefit the Yampa River through town by improving stream flows, restoring the river corridor, integrating green infrastructure and improving community education around river health.

Here is how Colorado Representative Dylan Roberts (D-Eagle) frames the issue –

Funding from Proposition DD goes to the Colorado Water Plan which is a bipartisan master plan that calls for projects across the state which are vetted by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and other entities and then approved by the legislature prior to being funding (kind of like a grant program.) The estimates of how much this change in law (if DD passes) would generate are a little hard to predict because it depends on how much people actually take part in the sports wagering but the models predict anywhere from $10 million-$29 million a year (which is a major improvement from the current $0 in guaranteed annual funding for water.)

Delores River, Colorado. | Photo by Jacob W. Frank
Dolores River, Colorado. | Photo by Jacob W. Frank

American Rivers, along with a broad coalition of environmental, agricultural, recreation and water user groups support Proposition DD because of the funding it will generate for the conservation and restoration of Colorado’s rivers.  Passage of Proposition DD will help implement critical activities like restoring river corridors, improving agricultural irrigation systems and keeping water in our rivers for people to swim, boat, and fish. American Rivers applauds use of these tax benefits from the passage of Proposition DD to support Colorado’s water future.

Want more views on Proposition DD? Take a look at these newspaper articles from some of the largest media outlets across the state:

8 responses to “Why American Rivers Supports Proposition DD – and you should too!

  1. My wife and I have already voted for it although I’m thinking it may include pushing for more dams which I likely would be against. Unfortunately some like my wife’s sister voted against it because they do not like gambling. So we will see. Hopefully it will pass.

    1. Good morning, Wayne –

      Thank you for your note. I appreciate your thoughts.

      With regards to your concern about pushing for more dams, as you can imagine that coming from American Rivers, the national organization who advocates for and are involved with more dam removals than any other organization, we would be extremely cautious about the possibility of new, large scale dams. In fact, last year we led an initiative to stop a proposal that would have authorized two new dams on Castle and Maroon Creek in Aspen, which would have not only dramatically altered those two streams, but would have also backed up new “lake” waters all the way up into the Maroon Bells Wilderness. In Arizona, we are taking action against the proposal to build two new pumped hydropower projects in the Little Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, and have been very active in opposing the Gila River diversion on the Gila in Southwestern New Mexico.

      The reality in Colorado is that it will be extremely difficult to build any new large-scale diversion projects. They are extremely expensive and harmful to the ecosystems we all care about, and many municipalities are putting their efforts into increased conservation initiatives as well as improving the efficiency and capabilities of existing built infrastructure.

      The Water Plan lays out all available options, but certainly when it comes to the selection of what priorities are selected for funding and implementation, groups like American Rivers and our partners are very involved with the CWCB to inform them of our priorities and wishes for keeping Colorado’s rivers healthy and flowing.

      Again, thank you for your comments – much appreciated!

      Sinjin Eberle
      Colorado Basin Communications Director
      American Rivers

    1. Ha! Great catch – you are totally right, Cynthia. It is the South Platte in front of the REI store, of course. Just an oversight, but thanks for the note!

  2. I disagree! First, the amount raised will hardly pay for a drop in the preverbal bucket to implement the Colorado Water Plan. Second, the tax rate is set at 10%, which is less than half the rate of the other gambling taxes passed by statewide election – if the tax was up there with marijuana or other gambling taxes, I might be persuaded, but its not. This is a give-away to the gambling industry pure and simple. Finally, because the revenue derived from this tax is so low, the State will eventually have to go back to the voters for supplemental revenue to pay the costs of various water project, and going back to the trough a second time for funding is going to be almost impossible to pull off. Voters will think they have already solved the funding problem for the State Water Plan – this will lead to organized opposition whining about mis-use of funds and irresponsible use of public funds on useless projects. American Rivers has made a contract with the devil on this one.

    1. Hey Rodney –

      Thank you for your note, and I appreciate your passion on this issue.

      While Proposition DD is far from a perfect solution, we have spent a lot of time mulling over our support for this measure, and have had strong internal debates on the merit and strategy of the proposal. In short, our thoughts come down to these main points:

      1) First and foremost, we (collectively, as a conservation community) spent a lot of sweat and treasure in the passage of the Colorado Water Plan, starting 5 years ago, and have spent even more time trying to find, secure, legislate, advocate, whatever, financial support for the implementation of the Plan. Now, is the Water Plan perfect? Of course not, but there are a lot of good things that HAVE come out of the guidance from the plan, most notably a number of stream management plans across the state (to better understand and protect our streams across the state, balancing needs of rivers, communities, and economies that depend on them) as well as other features like urban conservation in Front Range cities, and more thoughtful and inclusive management of the larger municipal water suppliers on the front range. Is it perfect, of course not, but it is the roadmap that we have, so we intend to support it.

      2) In terms of the taxation details, this was the hand the legislature dealt us. Could it have been more, probably. But my guess is that this is what they thought they could get passed, so it is the hand we are being dealt. In terms of the funding amount, it could be either a drop in the bucket (as you suggest) or it could actually be a pretty healthy kickstart towards full funding of the Water Plan. When comparing to other states who have gone down this path, the revenues see a pretty wide range. Estimates from the state look like it could be from about $10 million to as much as $28 million per year. With the estimated cost of the Water Plan being thought of at about $100 million per year, the upper end of those estimates is a pretty solid start to the fund.

      3) With regard to the public thinking that we have now solved the water problem and will be grumpy if we have to come back for more down the road, that is a very legitimate concern, and the one that we have debated the most. But it comes down to this – would we rather get a fund going, even if it is not fully funded, in order to get both some momentum towards funding the water plan, as well as working out any bumps in the road we may encounter with this smaller pool of funding? That is the calculus we are making – that while this is nowhere near complete, it is a good start, and we are going to learn a lot through this first bucket of funding. We hope that if we do have to go back to the public somewhere down the road, that they will be able to understand the wide range of benefits from the Water Plan implementation, and the progress that has been made in these initial years of implementation.

      4) Lastly, in thinking about the possibility of mis-use, this too is something we have kicked around internally a bunch. Basically, it is on us, the conservation community and the public, to be involved, be engaged, and be assertive with the CWCB that the funding that we do have is prioritized and used for the kinds of initiatives that we want. There are lots of bomb-throwers out there who just want to yell and scream about the worst parts of the Water Plan, without actually engaging and doing the hard work to encourage our civic leaders and staff within the CWCB to make the decisions we want, on behalf of our rivers across the state. Often people only engage in an election here or there, yet whine about their priorities being overlooked. But the reality is that people have to show up, spend the time, write the letters, and expend the energy to encourage our public officials to follow OUR lead, not the other way around.

      So, again, thank you so much for your thoughtful note. Your opinion is valuable, and I for one appreciate that you took the time to reach out to us on this issue. Thank you for your involvement.

      Sinjin Eberle
      Colorado Basin Communication Director
      American Rivers

      1. “In terms of the taxation details, this was the hand the legislature dealt us. Could it have been more, probably. But my guess is that this is what they thought they could get passed, so it is the hand we are being dealt.”
        Gambling idiom for a Gambling tax, you’re funny. But, seriously, thank you for some of the more concise and honest info about a complex issue. A possible 27mil is definitely better than $0 dedicated, but like you said, the CWCB and those that prioritize and allocate project funding need to be watched very carefully.

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