The Pueblo Chieftain editorial staff comes out in support of H.R. 3189, ‘…important and reasonable bill’

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

From The Pueblo Chieftain:

THE U.S. House of Representatives has passed an important and reasonable bill that prohibits the transfer of private water rights to the federal government as a condition of permits it issues. But the bill’s future is in doubt, according to sponsor U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., because a majority in the U.S. Senate and President Barack Obama appear opposed to the legislation.

The Water Rights Protection Act (HR3189) is designed to protect Colorado water rights from federal encroachment. The proposal was developed in response to U.S. Forest Service contracts with Colorado ski areas that require the transfer of water rights as a condition of permit approval.

Most ski areas in the state operate on federally owned land, which requires them to secure permits and pay an annual fee. To make snow, however, the ski areas must secure water leases or rights through the state.

Federal authorities claim the management of water resources used by ski areas is important so that rivers and lakes can be protected for their recreational and environmental value. Bill backers suggest that the federal government’s attempt to collect water rights is a serious threat to long-standing water law that puts states in charge of regulating their own available resources.

The concern about making water right transfers a condition of federal permits goes well beyond ski areas. Grazers and other agricultural producers who lease federal land are worried that the surrender of water rights might apply to them as well.

That’s why passage of HR3189 makes sense. Colorado water law has worked well for more than a century and we don’t need the federal government to get involved.

We urge our U.S. senators — Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Mike Bennet, D-Colo. — to jump on board and help guide the bill through the Senate. It will take a bit of work to educate congressional members from other parts of the country about the importance of state water laws and about the impact of having large tracts of federal land in your state.

But if given the opportunity to debate the matter on the floor of the Senate, we’re confident that a majority of those elected officials will recognize the need to approve this simple measure.

More water law coverage here.

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