New USFS rules that would keep water rights with the land at ski areas are spawning a lawsuit

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From the Associated Press via The Aspen Times:

The Denver Post reported Saturday that the 121-resort National Ski Areas Association plans the lawsuit because it objects to a new permit clause that assigns water rights at a resort on federal land to the federal government.

The industry argues that the change takes away tens of millions of dollars in private water rights. “Water rights in the West are part of the asset base of the ski areas that they have acquired in the marketplace and they are an important part of the balance sheet of a ski area,” said Association president Michael Berry.

The Forest Service, which has already issued three new ski-area permits with the new water clause, contends the clause protects the long-term viability of ski areas by keeping water resources tied to the land, not the operator. The new clause changes a 2004 agreement reached between the agency and the industry that allowed for co-ownership of water rights inside a ski area’s permit area. “If they establish water rights on the national forest, those rights need to remain with the federal government to protect the public’s right to the land,” said Jim Pena, acting chief deputy for the Forest Service.

More water law coverage here.

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