MONTROSE – State Sen. Bruce Whitehead spent the day in Montrose on Friday, speaking with constituents, visiting a nonprofit and strolling down Main Street downtown.
Whitehead first made at stop at the Voices for Children office of Court Appointed Special Advocates, meeting with the board and hearing about the work of the nonprofit that helps abused and neglected children through the court system.
At noon, he spoke to about 20 constituents at Friendship Hall at the Montrose County Fairgrounds where he gave a legislative update, going through about 15 bills that recently went through the Colorado General Assembly, including many concerning agriculture and water resources.
One bill that may have local implications was Senate Bill 19, of which Whitehead was a co-author, that supports updating laws to give small hydroelectric facilities the same tax breaks as wind farms and solar installations. Gov. Bill Ritter signed the bill into law in June.
Whitehead mentioned two local hydroelectric projects, the newly completed mini-hydro plant near the Ouray Hot Springs Pool that will generate 10 megawatts of electricity, and a small hydroelectric plant proposed by the Delta Montrose Electric Association on South Canal in Montrose County.
The bill specifies that for purposes of property taxation, small or low impact hydroelectric energy facilities that began production after Jan. 10 will be valued using the income approach, with certain conditions, as opposed to the valued based on the cost approach or market approach. The cost approach was used in the past, according to the bill.
Just how the bill might affect the South Canal hydroelectric plant is uncertain, and work has yet to begin, said DMEA spokesman Tom Polikalis. DMEA staff is studying other hydroelectric facilities and working with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamations in the slow process of coming up with a final plan, he said.
Whitehead also talked about legislation that failed, such as the “right to float,” House Bill 1188, which was the subject of contentious debate, but which he opposed because it only addressed licensed outfitters and guides.
“It didn’t include private boaters and had implications for private property rights, so right now, there’s no change in the status quo,” he said. He said he also objected to the proposed bill being based English common law.
But a task force has been set up to study the boating issue, and Whitehead said he expects another bill to be introduced.
Even though Whitehead, a Democrat, is running against Republican Ellen Roberts for this District 6 seat, he didn’t mention the campaign and said he’ll be back to Montrose in two to three weeks to talk about state senate issues.
“I’ll be a lot busier in October,” was his only reference to the election.