McLachlan: Progress on clean water, housing, water storage

Friday, April 13, 2018 7:03 PM
Barbara McLachlan

Two bills I am shepherding through the Legislature will have a positive impact on Southwest Colorado; a third was just signed into law.

The first, HB18-1301, will help ensure our rivers are never again polluted by acid mine drainage. The bill will prohibit new mine owners from self-bonding; they cannot simply promise to pay for soil and water remediation after they leave the mine, but will have to have recoverable assets put up front. When the mine company leaves, the water must be flowing clean, with no perpetual water treatment.

Taxpayers will save the millions of dollars that must be spent every year when mining operators declare bankruptcy, leaving no resources to clean up their mess. Many Colorado taxpayers do not know that in 2022, we will be on the hook for $2.2 million every year for the Summitville Mine perpetual water treatment.

The bill will not affect historical mines and it will not prohibit mines from opening again. It just clarifies what the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Act already does with soil remediation, making sure that water is included as well.

The bill, which I am sponsoring with Rep. Dylan Roberts (D-Eagle), has passed through the House Agriculture, Finance and Appropriations Committees.

I am also working on a bill to help minimize the housing shortage in rural Colorado. HB18-1315 will give tax relief to people buying manufactured homes. Currently, owners pay a sales tax when they purchase one of these homes, just like they would if they buy a bicycle. But they are taxed twice, as the homeowners also pay the same property and other taxes owners of traditional houses do.

Manufactured homes do not have wheels. They are not small homes, modulars or trailers; they are made off-site and taken to a concrete slab. Manufactured homes make up about 4 percent of private homes in Colorado and are primarily in rural areas where land is more available.

The average manufactured home costs about $66,000, and the homeowner averages a $30,000-a-year income. They will save about $1,000 with this tax break, money that could be used to help pay the mortgage, buy furniture or add to a savings account. This bill is designed to help hardworking Coloradoans become homeowners.

The bill passed through the House Finance and Appropriations Committees this week. Rep. Jon Becker (R-Fort Morgan) is my co-sponsor.

The governor signed another bill I sponsored with Rep. Marc Catlin (R-Montrose) on Monday, which will be a tremendous help with water storage in Colorado. The Ground Water Commission now has permission to research aquifer storage and recovery plans and will create an application for those interested.

Aquifer storage and recovery is when reclaimed or potable surface water supplies are directly injected into an aquifer for later storage and use. Rivers are not dammed and reservoirs don’t need to be built; they are an efficient use of resources.

I am enjoying being a voice for Southwest Colorado, a part of the state particularly interested in clean water, affordable housing and water storage.

Barbara McLachlan represents State House District 59. Reach her at