NSAA litigates USFS water rights clause

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From the Vail Daily (Laura Glendenning):

[Boulder-based attorney Glenn Porzak] said he’s been to Washington four times in the last three months to try to work out a solution with the Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to no avail, which is why the association filed the lawsuit against the Forest Service in federal court Monday.

“The Forest Service does not have the authority to take the ski industry water rights they’re seeking,” Porzak said. “Vail Resorts is closely monitoring this entire lawsuit and the whole issue that is being raised.”

Vail Resorts, a member of the National Ski Areas Association, has private water rights at both Vail and Beaver Creek, as well as the company’s other mountain resorts. The Forest Service’s new regulations are to take back private water rights from the resorts and tie those water rights to the land, but Porzak said the association wants the 2004 water rights clause to remain in effect.

In that clause, any on-mountain water rights acquired after 2004 have to have a joint ownership between the ski resort and the Forest Service, however the ownership of water rights obtained before 2004 would remain solely with the entity that initially obtained those rights. The off-mountain water rights — which for Vail Resorts includes off-site reservoirs such as the Eagle Park Reservoir, among others — remain in the hands of the ski resorts that obtained them under the 2004 clause, however the new regulations would change that.

There was a lot of negotiation done before the 2004 clause went into effect, Porzak said, to protect those off-site water rights. The new Forest Service rules would give those off-site water rights — rights that ski resorts have paid millions for — to the Forest Service without any compensation to the ski resorts, Porzak said.

More water law coverage here.

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