As I understand it, precipitation that falls from the sky is legally the property of Colorado. So during last week's
snowstorms, I decided to give the state back its snow that fell on my driveway. The city then informed me it's illegal
to push snow in the street. How can the city tell me what to do with the state's snow? It's not even theirs! And if the
state claims it owns all the snow, why won't it come over and retrieve its property from my driveway? - Tired of
People are sick of dealing with all this white stuff.
Even the normally calm Mrs. Action Line had had it Friday morning after a foot more of the cement-like glop fell
overnight on walkways freshly cleared the previous evening.
When will it end?" she sighed, tears welling in her eyes turned skyward. When?"
Well, that's not really true. She was more irritated than woeful and used some descriptive phrases regarding the
But that's beside the point.
We got clobbered. Now what? Who owns the snow?
First, a bit about water rights. All water in Colorado is owned by the state," confirmed a representative at the local
Colorado Division of Water Resources who really didn't want his name in the paper.
Actually, it's owned by the people of Colorado," he added.
The state grants the rights for residents to use, or appropriate," water for beneficial use" based on a complicated
system that says, in essence, first in time, first in right." In other words, old-timers have dibs when rivers run
But the question about snow" is convoluted.
The state owns the 'water,' but snow is in a different form, though it eventually becomes water," said local water
attorney Barry Spear. But one could argue that snow is state property."
Fellow water attorney Geoffrey Craig pointed out that pushing snow into the street is not really returning" water back
to the state.
Moving the snow a couple of feet isn't changing where the water will end up, which around here is in the Animas."
But whoever owns" the snow is not important. We're looking at a trespass issue," Spear said.
When you push white stuff into the streets, which are owned by the people of Durango, you are obstructing or preventing
the public from the rightful use of their property.
Spear likened the situation to if trash were dumped in your yard. You can't simply huck the Hefty bag over the fence
onto the neighbors' property, claiming it never was your" garbage.
So yes, the city can tell you to stop pushing snow into the streets.
Steve Barkley, city code enforcement officer, confirmed that shoveling or blowing snow into the street is not legal,and scofflaws risk a citation.
However, the city also understands that many folks have run out of room this winter.
Put the snow on the side close to the curb. We just ask that you don't dump snow in the middle of the road," he
But what about when a city truck plows in your driveway? Isn't that
Technically yes, said Spear. But it's called a taking" whenever a government prevents you from using your
So let's get this straight.
The state doesn't really own the snow, but it does own the water in the snow.
The city doesn't care whose snow it is. Just don't put it in the middle of the street.
And when the city plows are leaving snow, it's actually a taking.
When it comes to white stuff, there sure are a lot of gray areas.
E-mail questions to actionline@
durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request
anonymity if you put down your shovel and celebrate winter this week; after all, it's Snowdown!