H.R. 3189: Water Rights Protection Act (Reps. Tipton and Polis, NSAA vs. USFS)

Trail map for Powderhorn Ski Area via liftopia
Trail map for Powderhorn Ski Area via Liftopia

Here’s an update for H.R. 3189 from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. The bill is a result of new permitting requirements currently being litigated in a lawsuit between the NSAA and USFS:

A bill to protect ski area water rights from federal water claims is advancing in Congress. The bill, HR3189, is sponsored by Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., who is alarmed at federal encroachment on water rights in Western states. Tipton questioned witnesses in House Natural Resources Water and Power Subcommittee hearings last week.

The legislation is cosponsored by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and has received strong support from a broad coalition of local, state and national interests concerned with recent federal attempts to tie up privately held water rights.

“Recent federal attempts to manipulate the federal permit, lease and land management process to circumvent long-established state water law and hijack privately held water rights have sounded the alarm for all non-federal water users that rely on these water rights for their livelihood, and have already hurt stakeholders in Colorado and in other Western states,” Tipton said.

The U.S. Forest Service is attempting to require the transfer of privately held water rights to the federal government as a permit condition on National Forest System lands. There is no compensation for the transfer of these privately held rights despite the fact that many stakeholders have invested millions of their own capital in developing them, Tipton said. During the hearing, witnesses from Colorado and Utah testified on the need for legislation to protect privately held water rights from federal takings.

The Forest Service permit condition already has hurt a number of stakeholders in Colorado including the Powderhorn Ski Area in Grand Junction and the Breckenridge Ski Resort.

The state Legislature passed a resolution in April opposing the Forest Service requirement to tie up water rights in land leases for ski areas.

More NSAA vs. USFS coverage here. More water law coverage here.

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